A The Problem Stated (Everything is empty)
Everything is empty
1: The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2: Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3: What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
B The Search for fulfilment
4: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 5: The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. 6: The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7: All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. 8: All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10: Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11: There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
Wisdom & Philosophy
12: I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13: And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. 14: I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15: That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16: I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17: And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18: For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
1: I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. 2: I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? 3: I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. 4: I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: 7: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. 9: So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. 10: And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. 11: Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
12: And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. 13: Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. 14: The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. 15: Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. 16: For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. 17: Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 18: Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. 19: And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. 20: Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. 21: For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22: For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? 23: For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. 24: There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. 25: For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? 26: For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
1: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5: A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6: A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7: A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8: A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. 9: What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? 10: I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. 11: He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. 12: I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. 13: And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. 14: I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. 15: That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16: And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17: I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. 18: I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19: For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20: All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21: Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? 22: Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
Today we are reading the interesting book of Ecclesiastes and we are reading the first three chapters. This book as its title states was written by Solomon. From ch 1v2 - 6v9 Solomon speaks about that is the chief good – What it is not and then in the second part from ch 6v10 – 12v12 he takes the same theme but he describes what the chief good is. This book is often rejected by theologians because it does not match their theology. It is the scriptures that is our lighthouse and the course we set, must be set in relation to it. The lighthouse always stands firm and our navigation is only accurate in the measure that we allow the lighthouse to determine our bearings. The word Ecclesiastes sometimes is said to mean ‘the preacher’, but the Hebrew word ‘Koheleth’ does not include the idea of preaching. So Solomon writes to describe the chief good of man and before that, what it is not.
A. Man – his labour - vanity 1v2-11
B. Man – his personal search 1v12 – 2v26
A. Man – his times of labour 3v1-9
B. Man – his personal observation 3v10 – 4v16
A. Man – his works 5v1-12
B. Man – his personal observation 5v13 – 6v9
In verse 2 he begins to describe the labour of man and he declares without hesitation that mans labour is in vain. He then asks, what is the ultimate profit of all a man’s hard work? and he compares the fleeting nature of his generation to the permanence of the earth itself. It is this insight that bursts the bubble of godless men. When we think of eternity, time comes into a new perspective. He speaks of the ever turning earth and of the continuous cycle of the winds. He describes the water cycle. Solomon says that everything is full of meaning and it would be very hard word to find out the meaning behind everything. There would be no end to the discoveries. There is ultimately no new thing in the world. Whenever we think we have found some new thing we then discover it was known before. Nobody knows what the ancients knew and what we know no will one day be forgotten. In v12 Solomon begins to describe his search for knowledge and wisdom. He was king over all Israel in Jerusalem and so he had the facilities and time to set out on great journeys of discovery. And after he had heard and seen everything he found his heart remained unsatisfied. He found he could not make crooked things straight and that the search for knowledge was limitless. Solomon set out to know everything but in the end he found that the more wisdom he had the more he became aware of foolishness and it brought him a lot of grief. And he found that more knowledge increased his sorrow. So Solomon turned to pleasure as a means of satisfying his soul and to frivolity to make him happy. Then finding nothing in that he turned to wine. Then he set out on a course of building and gardening. So he made gardens and orchards. Then he got into landscaping. Then he increased in servants and his wealth increased immensely. Then he sought out entertainers men and women who could sing. Then he found musicians of every sort. Everything he did made him temporally happy but in the end it all seemed to be pointless. He saw that wisdom so far excelled folly as light does darkness. Then he discovered that even his wisdom did not satisfy his soul. Nobody remembers the wise anymore than the fool. Wise men and fools die together. Then he came to a point in which he hated being alive because everything was pointless. He says, I hated all my wealth because I was going to leave it all to another man. And who know whether he would be wise or a fool? Yet he would be king over everything I have. He says men cannot find their true rest of soul. So he says why not just eat food and enjoy it and drink wine and get drunk? In Ch 3 he describes the times of a mans life. There is a time to everything and everything has its season.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to execute, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to buy, and a time to sell;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
And what is the benefit in anything that a man does?
Then Solomon makes personal observations and they continue to 4v16. He says he has seen the discipline of the LORD which was designed to make men think. God has made every thing beautiful in his time and he has put the world into his mind so that no man can find out everything that God does from beginning to end. There are two great subjects man is interested in – creation and the end of the world and no man is able to find out everything about either and everything between these two events man searches out. In the end he sits down to enjoy a meal. Whatever God does is eternal. No-one can add to it or take away anything from it and he does it so that men might fear him. He describes eternity saying, that which hath been, is now; and that which is to be - has already been; and God requires that which is past. Then Solomon says that I saw the place of judgment on earth and wickedness was there and it was a place of righteousness, but iniquity was there. And he said to himself God will judge the righteous and the wicked. There is coming a time for this. I said to myself, that one day men will see themselves as beasts. Men die, like cattle die. Who know whether the Spirit of man goes upward or downward? And so in the end, says Solomon, he understood that a man should rejoice in the works of his own hands.