There’s a remarkable little book in the Old Testament called, Ecclesiastes. It’s contents are applicable to our culture today, despite being written nearly three thousand years ago. It’s widely accepted amongst scholars, the ‘preacher’ or ‘teacher’, referenced in this book is King Solomon. He laments of life, “under the sun,’ which is a common euphemism for life ‘without God.’ His lamentation focuses upon the mundane and purposeless futility of human toil soon forgotten.
Solomon pens this lamentation in his old age after following the Lord faithfully for most of his life, albeit he backslid heavily in his latter years. Ecclesiastes is a chronicle of Solomon’s life experience on both sides of the moral fence, during his reign of the Southern Kingdom.
Solomon’s opening sentence alludes to the futility of a life, lived without God, stating “all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14). Ecclesiastes exhibits a skeptical tone from a man, who has experienced, firsthand the many injustices of living apart from God. Solomon thankfully provides the answer to man’s woes in the very last sentence of his book.
As the King of Israel, Solomon had vast resources at his disposal and began to experiment with many earthly pleasures to fill the gaping hole in his heart. This is the inevitable path many choose today when they’re disconnected from the God. Yet spiritual hunger cannot be satisfied by physical means.
Solomon’s perspective is unique in many ways because he already possessed wealth, riches and fame, prior to his pursuit of the meaning of life. For those of us who aren’t as fortunate, this is the very bait Satan offers as a means for attaining happiness, but this is a lie. Solomon’s fleshly pursuits included avarice, power, property acquisition, sexual gratification and entertainment…sound familiar? No stone was left upturned in his search for true meaning.
Lasting fulfillment is elusive without God
Today the world still seeks these forms of gratification and other futile pursuits which only lead to unhappiness, depression and ultimately damnation. People seeking lasting fulfillment in the pleasures and pursuits of this world, will always end up disillusioned. Drinking in excess, drugs, sexual perversion or entertainment may be a means of forgetting the ‘cares of this world’ for a season but they offer no lasting contentment. These temporary fixes only provide short term remedies for a terminal condition. Man’s existence is terminal. None of us are getting out of here alive. If the wages of our sin are not paid by Christ, we will spend eternity paying for them in Hell.
Don’t believe the lie!
There’s a lie sown into our Western culture that if we could only be ‘rich or famous’, then all our problems would go away. Clearly the Hollywood celebrities today and in bygone eras do not validate this premise. Their lives are a litany of sexual promiscuity, addiction, divorce, bankruptcy, mental instability and sorrow but celebrities are no different from the rest of us. Their mistakes are magnified due to their vast media exposure. Wealth or fame often provide more avenues for sin only compounding their problems. Having more ‘toys’ to play with is akin to adding fuel to the fire of discontentment, not a means to put the fire out.
Only the blood of Christ can quench the raging fire in our hearts, a heart that rages for Him.
A Synopsis of Solomon’s Wisdom
The basic philosophical questions of ‘who am I?’ and ‘what am I doing here?’ have plagued every generation. Solomon’s wisdom provides answers for these questions. He concludes that without God, life is indeed meaningless and unfulfilling.
There are several consistent themes discussed in Ecclesiastics:
- The futile pursuit of riches: Echoed by Christ himself in Matthew 6:19-21, Solomon has much to say concerning ‘mammon’. Making dishonest gain at the expense of others and acquiring a lifetime of wealth, only to have someone else spend it after your death, is futile. Riches do not satisfy the soul or bring happiness. Those who love silver and gold will never be satisfied, they will always want ‘just a little bit more’. Take it from the author, the richest man who ever lived (Eccl 2:1-11, 18-26; 4:4-6; 5:8-14).
- The cyclical nature of timing and events: “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 (Eccl 1:9).” There is nothing new today as God has seen it all before. Even with the advent of technology man finds new ways to sin because his heart remains corrupt. The saying that ‘History often repeats itself’, has some merit based on scripture and students of history can testify to this.
- Salvation through knowledge is vanity: Many think if they’re smart enough, they’ll escape the fires of Hell. The Gnostic’s introduced this false teaching during the formative years of the church and it continues today with cults such as Theosophy, Freemasonry, Kabbala etc. However, Solomon saw that although wisdom far exceeded madness and folly (2:2-13), death pays no deference to the wise over the fool. Man has eternity in his heart and temporal earthly desires of the soul cannot satisfy our yearning for eternal redemption through Christ.
- The temporary nature of ungodly men: Man fades away like the grass and all his pursuits of fame and fortune will be forgotten within one or two generations. There is no permanency to the accomplishments of man without God. Only that which is accomplished for God will be remembered (Eccl 1:3-8). No generation is different from the rest and man will one day be blown away like “dust in the wind” (1:11), as Kansas reminded us.
- Air circulation and Water Vapor Cycle: The evapotranspiration cycle is discussed within these passages (Eccl 1:6-7). The pressure differentials between the warm air at the equator and cooler air at the poles causes a differential producing a cyclical flow of air currents southward and then northward in an ever continuous cycle. This is known as the ‘Jet-stream’ and Solomon was aware of this, three thousand years ago by the Spirit of God.
6. Justice and equality are elusive: We only have to read the latest news headline to know this is true, yet God promises to vindicate those who are His (Deut 32:43 & Ps 18:47). Man expects fairness and justice, however since the introduction of monarchies (I Sam 8:6) justice has been elusive. History records that fascists and communist governments in particular, have killed 260 million people in the 20th century alone, under despotic rulers like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. Freedom is contended for in every generation and should never be taken for granted.
7. The secret is to be content: Man’s spiritual appetite cannot be satisfied with soul-ish endeavors. Labor is its own reward whether we have much or little (5:10-12). To be content is to be rich, yet the rich man is never content. The Apostle Paul revealed contentment must be ‘learned’ (Phil 4:11); it doesn’t come automatically. Yet, even if the rich man learned to be content, he could not be fully satisfied, as a spiritual problem cannot be solved by physical means. Money is a poor master but a great servant. We serve God and let money be our servant, not vice versa. Only in Christ can we be truly content.
God’s word is applicable for our times
The vast insight contained within Ecclesiastes cannot be surmised in one article, suffice to say the wisdom found within it’s pages, is as applicable today, as the day it was penned. In his closing statement, King Solomon reveals the secret to living a life of contentment. He ends the book by declaring:
The essence of Ecclesiastes, is that life can only be truly enjoyed in fellowship with God, having a reverential fear of Him, with a desire to keep His commandments.
By obeying His commands, we are kept within the boundaries we were designed for and only by living within these protective limitations, can we truly enjoy a fruitful life.
Solomon lived in a vulnerable epoch of time, in which there was no intercessor to mediate, on man’s behalf toward God. Christ had not yet come, and humanity simply sowed and reaped in futility. We however enjoy the many spoils of Christs victory on the cross. It’s a finished work and one we thankfully partake of. To find out more about these spoils click here.
We live in a very privileged time frame, as we welcome Christ’s imminent return. Please take time to read the book of Ecclesiastes for yourself. You have more to thank God for than you realize.
Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, click here to find out more…
Author – Carl G.M. Joseph
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