Last week begin looking at the book of Ecclesiastes, which I believe was written by Solomon. In this book, Solomon spends much of his time trying to find the meaning of life without God in the picture. As he does his research and considers the labors of his hands and all that he accomplished, he views it as all vanity. While much of this book has a negative outlook on life, it does its job in showing us that life with out God and what He has to offer is a useless worthless life. Let us continue our journey through eyes of Solomon as pick up in Chapter 2.
Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure"; but surely, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter -- "Madness!"; and of mirth, "What does it accomplish?"
Solomon is now going to test out the pleasures of life to see if they have anything of value to offer in this life, but before he begin test them, he is pretty sure they will all be vanity as well. The word mirth also means pleasure, and he asked the question, “What does it accomplish?”
It does not matter what the pleasure is, it always temporary because it comes to end, then you are left wanting to seek out a new pleasure or repeat the pleasure you just enjoyed. The point is that pleasure only brings temporary satisfaction, but God offers us everlasting satisfaction.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
As Christian, we must continue to learn the lesson that Solomon learned from seeking out the pleasures of this life especial those that are sinful pleasures. We must not try to find the meaning of life in them or rely on them to bring us lasting satisfaction. For those pleasures that are sinful, we must learn to avoid them and keep from indulging in them because no pleasure is worth missing out on eternity in heaven.
As Peter points out, we must turn away from our former ways before we became Christians and stay focused on God.
1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
Solomon also said that laughter is madness. It always fun to have a good laugh, but not even laugher can last. While laughter can make you feel good for a moment, it cannot take away your sorrow forever.
Proverbs 14:13 Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief.
Ecclesiastes 2:3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
Solomon tried finding pleasure in drinking wine. I promise you one thing, that if he was trying to guide his heart with wisdom at the same time he was drinking, he would have failed miserably because the first thing to go is your mind when you become intoxicated.
There are many that seek gratification from drinking, and when they are intoxicated they think they have their wits about them, but the truth is that they cannot even walk a straight line. Many of them get behind the wheel and end up killing people. Yes, strong drink can make you numb and think you feel good, but it all does is destroy lives, destroys your health, causes you to sin, and most do not feel good after the alcohol wears off.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Proverbs 23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things. 34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 35 "They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?"
Next, Solomon talks about many of things that he accomplished and what he possessed:
Ecclesiastes 2:4 I made
my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and
orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made myself water pools from
which to water the growing trees of the grove.
7 I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born
in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who
Solomon was known for his great wisdom and his mass of wealth. He had everything that a person could desire. Of course, one of the greatest building accomplishments was the temple itself. We need to keep in mind as we go through study that we are reading what Solomon thought as he was trying to find the meaning to life with things and pleasure.
He even tells us that he rejoiced in his labor, and that he still had his wisdom with him while all this was going on. We don’t have much to go on by what he meant by his wisdom being with him at that time, but if he was referring to his wisdom from God and what God wanted, then he certainly wasn’t listening to it; otherwise he would not have let himself get wrapped up all these things he was indulging in.
One of his biggest
downfalls that lead him down the wrong path was his 700 wives and 300
concubines that he had. These women came from different backgrounds and
worshiped false gods, and Solomon allowed them to influence him to build them
structures to worship their false gods. All that Solomon was suppose to have
was one wife. Long before there was king over
Deuteronomy 17:17 "Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away;
Just as God warned, Solomon heart was turned away by these 1000 women. In our text, you will notice something else about Solomon because he continues to talk about what he did. He says, “I” “me” “my” and “mine” over 30 times in just a few verses. He was not giving God the glory for what he had done, he was boasting about it as if it was all done by him.
Solomon’s attitude reminds me of the parable Jesus spoke in:
Luke 12:16 The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." ' 20 "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
We have to be careful that we don’t find ourselves getting wrapped up in what we accomplish in this life and leave God out of the picture. He is the one that created us and made all that we enjoy and can do.
Do you remember what happened to Herod when he would not give glory to God? He was struck dead and was eaten by worms (Acts 12:23). We must follow the advice of Paul who said:
1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
While Solomon found temporary pleasure in his labors and the things he had, the more he thought about it, he came to this conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.
Nothing on this earth can bring lasting satisfaction because it is short lived, grows old, disappears, or dies. Without God and what He offers us, life is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 2:12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly; For what can the man do who succeeds the king? -- Only what he has already done. 13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly As light excels darkness. 14 The wise man's eyes are in his head, But the fool walks in darkness. Yet I myself perceived That the same event happens to them all. 15 So I said in my heart, "As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, And why was I then more wise?" Then I said in my heart, "This also is vanity." 16 For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! 17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Once again, Solomon is honing in on wisdom, madness, and folly. He knows that he had done extensive research in these areas. He cannot imagine any other king after him that could have the resources or the wisdom that he has, which is why he asked, “For what can the man do who succeeds the king?
After comparing wisdom to folly, Solomon can see the benefit in wisdom, because those that are wise can actually see what they are doing and understand why they are doing it, but the fool just walks around blindly without taking any thought it what he is doing.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.
Solomon also point out that whether you live you life like a fool or walk with wisdom, the same fate awaits you because all will die. When God is not in the picture, who rewards those who walk in the wisdom of his commands, then what Solomon says is true, there is no different outcome depending how we live our live. We could be saint or as evil as we want to, without God and the promise of eternal life, all we have to look forward to is short life on this earth and then death.
Just like the foolish will eventually be forgotten, so will the wise. Now this is a general truth because there are plenty of fools and wise people whose legacy has been recorded and still is remembered today. Of course, the only remembrance of them is what is found written down, which is not the same as if you personal knew them.
As Solomon thought about this, he hated his life because it disturbed him that he would go to the grave just like the fool and he felt that what he had done would be forgotten, so he considered life itself as vanity. Little did he know that his acts of wisdom and acts of folly would be preserved for all to read in the Bible.
Ecclesiastes 2:18 Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
Solomon was making himself miserable as he thought about having to leave everything he had acquired to a fool. He vexed himself about what kind of person he would be and how he would handle all that he had labored for. He didn’t like this idea at all and considered it vanity as well.
There have been many children that have been born into this world that have inherited great wealth from their parents even though they did not lift a finger to help make the fortune. Sometimes these children will use this fortune wisely, and other times they do not, but that should not be our concern as Christians, but it is a general concern of those who live their life without God in the picture.
As Christians, our treasure should be in heaven. That should be our main concern. Whether our children use the money we left to them wisely or foolish is not even important compared to whether or not they live their lives for God or not. Again, as Solomon is giving us the insight to how he was thinking at the time when he had fallen away from God, we can understand why he had this worldly attitude about his riches.
So far, Solomon has lead us down a depressing negative path, but now he is going turn things around for us and show us that life does having meaning and purpose for the righteous when God is in the picture.
Ecclesiastes 2:24 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? 26 For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Some view this text as continuation of the negative, but what I see is Solomon bringing God back into the picture and explaining that man can enjoy his life and his labor when he understands that God has provided this life for us. We should be thankful for what we have. Solomon recognizes that he has been blessed with much, which is why he asked, “For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?
Up to this point, God has only been mentioned once before (1:13), and He was mentioned in a negative way, but now he speaks of God in a positive way. He is saying that God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who are good in His sight. God has always been very generous with those who love Him and follow after His ways. As God told Joshua:
Joshua 1:5 "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
However, the sinner will continue to toil and labor with no hope in sight. This general truth that the sinner will end up giving his wealth the upright is repeated in:
Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
Though Solomon has acknowledged God and pointed out how He is with the righteous and against the wicked, he still says it all vanity. Why does he say this? Well, I believe he saying this from the perspective of the person who lives as if there is no God. When someone lives their life in this way it is all vanity.
Of course, the main point of this chapter is to show a life without God in it is a life of vanity, but thankfully God is our lives. He is the reason we can find joy in what we do because we know what we get to look forward when we stay faithful to Him.