Category Archives: The Search for Meaning

The Missing Theology of Ecclesiastes (2)

Introduction

We saw yesterday that Solomon thought about sin and righteousness in terms of avoiding judgment. We contrasted that with David’s desire to do right in order to maintain his friendship with Jehovah.

Today, we’ll contrast David’s view of his sin and God’s mercy with the view Solomon expressed in Ecclesiasted.

Bible Reading

Psa 25:6-7 Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. (7) Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.

Psa 25:11 For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.

Psa 32:1-2 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (2) Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psa 51:1-4 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. (4) Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Psa 86:5,15 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. 15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

Psa 103:10-14 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (11) For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. (12) As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (13) Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. (14) For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

A Sense of Sinfulness

David was keenly aware of his personal sinfulness. He knew that he had sinned as a youth. He knew his iniquity was great. He also saw his sins as, first and most, against God. Any sin was an act of disobedience to the Lord he loved.

In contrast, Solomon’s view is sin is much less personal. He acknowledges it, but his main concern is the judgment sin brings, not the fact that his sins grieved the Divine Lawgiver.

A God of Mercy

David often appealed to God’s mercy and lovingkindness in his prayers for forgiveness and help. It was a central part of David’s theology. Solomon, on the ohter hand, never mentions God’s mercy or kindness. If all you had was the book of Ecclesiastes, you wouldn’t know God was plenteous in mercy.

What About You?

  • Do your sins grieve you because they grieve God?
  • Do you believe that God is merciful and kind?

The Missing Theology of Ecclesiastes (3)

Introduction

Yesterday, we saw how the difference between how David and Solomon viewed their sin and God’s mercy. Today, we’ll constrast their views of how God hears prayer and helps the oppressed.

Bible Reading

Psa 3:3-4 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. (4) I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

Psa 4:3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

Psa 5:2-3 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. (3) My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

Psa 34:6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

Psa 9:9-10 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. (10) And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Psa 28:6-7 Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. (7) The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

God Hears Prayer

David was hounded and hunted by King Saul. The leader of his nation was out to get him, and few would stand up to him. David learned through hard personal experience that God is the best friend a man can have. David cried out to God over and over for help, strength, deliverance, provision, etc.

Solomon lived in a time of peace and prosperity. He was powerful. He was wise. Solomon didn’t need to cry out to God because he had everything he needed. As a result, prayer wasn’t a big part of his life. There is no record of him asking God for help fulfilling his quest for meaning. In fact, the words pray and prayer do not even appear in the book of Ecclesiasted.

God Answers Prayer

Prayer wasn’t just a religious ritual to David – it was a lifeline. He prayed because he needed, and expected, help from God. When God help, David thanked Him and proclaimed His goodness to others. Solomon doesn’t recommend prayer as a way to find meaning. In Solomon’s theology, man is pretty much on his own.

What About You?

  • Do you pray?
  • If so, is a ritual, or a reality, for you?
  • Do you expect answers?

The Missing Theology of Ecclesiastes (4)

Introduction

Bible Reading

Psa 23:1-3 (A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psa 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

Psa 139:1-6 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.) O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. (2) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (3) Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. (4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. (5) Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Psa 9:1-2 (To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David.) I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. (2) I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psa 18:2-3 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (3) I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

Psa 103:1-4 (A Psalm of David.) Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (2) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (3) Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (4) Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Personally Involved

To David, God was not just the Creator, or the Judge, he was a Friend who took a personal interest in him. The Lord was his Shepherd, so David would not want. The Lord ordered his steps. The Lord knew when he sat down and when he got up, where he was going and what he would say next. The language he uses to express these ideas also indicates that the Lord’s watch care over David was a matter of tenderness and personal involvement in his life.

Worthy of Praise

David also considered God worthy of praise for his many acts of kindness. He praises the God who was his Rock, his Fortress, his Deliverer, and his High Tower. He blesses the Lord for all His benefits. When mentioned earlier that the word “pray” never appears in the book of Ecclesiastes, The only time the word “praise” appears is when Solomon praises the dead.

What About You?

  • Do you experience and appreciate God’s personal involvement in your life?
  • Do you give God the praise and thanks He deserves for His many acts of kindness to you?

The Missing Theology of Ecclesiastes (5)

Introduction

As we finish out our week-long look at the missing theology of Ecclesiastes, we’re going to consider God’s word and God’s way as the source of happiness in life.

Bible Reading

Psa 12:6-7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (7) Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psa 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (8) The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (9) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. (10) More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (11) Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Psa 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Psa 36:5-9 Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. (6) Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. (7) How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. (8) They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. (9) For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

The God Who Has Spoken

From today’s reading, it’s obvious that David believed that God has spoken. David speaks of the purity and preservation of God’s Word. He lists many positive benefits that the God’s Word provides to those who read and heed it. David believed that God’s Word was more precious than gold. As we’ve mentioned, Solomon doesn’t refer specifically to any of God’s Word. He doesn’t quote it, speak of the benefits of it, or extol its many virtues.

God As the Source of Happiness

David knew that obeying God’s Word was a source of “great reward.” The God who had spoken was the source of abundant life. David knew Him as One who was merciful, righteous and faithful. He saw God as the source of life and light. Solomon, on the other hand, was still searching for what his father had already found.

God moved Solomon to record his futile search for meaning so that we wouldn’t go down that same dead-end road. Solomon ignored everything but his own personal experience, observations and meditations in his search for meaning. By neglecting the faith of his father and the Word of God, he wasted a lot of time and came to some pretty depressing conclusions.

What About You?

  • Are you stubbornly refusing to consider the wisdom of those who have gone before you as you search for meaning in life?
  • Are you neglecting God’s Word, the Bible, in your quest for truth and meaning?
  • Will you humble yourself and look to these sources of widsom?

The Pursuit of Pleasure (1)

Introduction

This week, we’re going to look at Solomon’s pursuit of pleasure. We’ll see what he tried and look at his conclusions about living for pleasure.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 2:1) 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.

Solomon’s Passionate Pursuit of Pleasure

Solomon pursued pleasure to see if that was what men should spend their lives doing (2:4) He put himself to the test with pleasure and laughter. He gave himself to wine. He built houses and planted vineyards, gardens and orchards. He got servants, so he didn’t have to do anything tedious or difficult. He was rich in livestock, silver and gold. He had the best of vocal and instrumental musicians. He fully enjoyed the best pleasures this life has to offer. In summary, whatever he saw that he wanted, he took. Solomon didn’t resist anything his heart desired.

Solomon asks an interesting question at the end of this passage: “…What can the man do that cometh after the king?” His point is, that Solomon has fully exhausted the realm of pleasure. He has thoroughly investigated it, and no one coming after him will add to what he has done, and what he has found. Solomon was in a better position than anyone in history to enjoy everything that this world say makes life worth living. His conclusion is that “all was vanity and vexation of spirit.”

What About You?

  • Are you trying to find fulfillment in the pleasures Solomon tried?
  • Will you believe his testimony that a life spent chasing pleasure is wasted?

The Pursuit of Pleasure (2)

Introduction

We saw yesterday that Solomon tried all the pleasures the world has to offer. Today, we’ll look at the Solomon’s rational for enjoying pleasure.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 2:24) 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?

(Ecc 3:12) 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.

(Ecc 5:18) Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. (19) Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (20) For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

(Ecc 8:15) Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

(Ecc 9:7) Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. (8) Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. (9) Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (10) Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

The Fruit of Your Labors

Obviously, Solomon view pleasure as the just reward for his hard work. He didn’t see the work as an end unto itself – something in which to take joy for its own sake. Rather, it was a means to an end. Work provides the means and the justification for enjoyment.

It’s ironic, though, that the pleasure Solomon experienced didn’t satisfy. He say, in effect, “Enjoy the fruit of your labor, your pleasure is meaningless, but it’s the best you can do.” Doesn’t seem like much of a life, does it?

What About You?

  • Do you justify your pursuit of pleasure by hard work?
  • Have you caught on yet to the fact the the pleasure is pointless without a relationship to God?

The Pursuit of Pleasure (3)

Introduction

Today, we’re going to look at the need for balance and reality in the pursuit of pleasure.

Bible Reading

Ecc 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

(Ecc 7:2) It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. (3) Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. (4) The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (5) It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (6) For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

Ecc 11:7-9 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: (8) But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. (9) Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

Balance

Solomon wrote that there is a time for everything. Weeping and laughing have their place in life. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. These words suggest the need for balance in life. A life that is only about having fun is out of balance and will be empty.

Reality

Amusement, entertainment and laughter don’t do much to build our character. The truth is that we grow through the hard times. Not only that, but our earthly life has an end. In the end, it isn’t our amusements that will matter most. You won’t lay on you death bed and wish that you had gotten to watch one more football game on TV. If we live with the end in mind, we won’t waste so much life now and regret as much later. Beyond all that, we have to give an account of our lives to God when the life is over.

What About You?

  • Do you keep a proper balance between pleasure and the serious side of life?
  • Do you live with the end, and impending judgment, in mind?

The Pursuit of Pleasure (4)

Introduction

Today, we’ll end the week by looking at what other Bible passages have to say about a proper view of pleasure.

Bible Reading

(Psa 16:11) Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

(Psa 36:8) They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

(Psa 103:2) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: (3) Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (4) Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; (5) Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Mar 4:18) And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, (19) And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

(Joh 10:10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

2Ti 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.

Jam 5:5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

Tit 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

1Ti 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

(3Jo 1:2) Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Pleasure Principles

A few principles are apparent from today’s Bible readings. First, it’s plain the God isn’t anti-pleasure. He wants us to enjoy the gifts He gives, and to enjoy Him. He wants us to find pleasure in the right things. Some Christians need to aquire better tates in pleasure.

It’s important, too, that we don’t get distracted by the gifts God gives us. He wants us to appreciate the gifts and the Giver, but to not let the fun we have draw us away from God. He doesn’t want our enjoyment pleasure to keep us from doing what we ought to do.

What About You?

  • Are you enjoying the blessings God has given you?
  • Have you become distracted by your desire for pleasure?
  • When you have to decide between enjoying pleasure and obeying God, which do you choose?

The Worth of Work (1)

Introduction

This week, we’re going to consider Solomon’s search for meaning in the area of work. We’ll begin with his conclusion.

Bible Reading

(Ecc 1:3) What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

(Ecc 2:11) 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.

(Ecc 2:22) 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.

(Ecc 3:9) 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.

Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Mar 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

Work is Vexing and Vain

Solomon did all sorts of work, on a large scale. His evaluation was that work is vexing and vain. Vexation refers to the frustrations, setbacks and disappointments that are always part of the working world. Beyond that, it refers to the emptiness of it all when you’re done. From a strictly human point of view, he didn’t see any advantage to his labor. To him, it was a zero sum game that used up lots of energy.

The Dignity of Work

Solomon’s view of work doesn’t line up with other Bible passages. To begin with, God created Adam and placed him in the garden with a job to do. Work was a part of God plan for man, even before Adam sinned. The curse made the work harder, but God always intended man to work on the Earth.

God’s Son spent over a decade doing manual labor. It’s hard to imgine the Son of God coming to Earth and wasting His time. His example is a reminder that work is not empty and meaningless.

What About You?

  • Do you see work as vexing and vain, like Solomon did?
  • Or do you see the dignity of work as a God-ordained responsibility?

The Worth of Work (2)

Introduction

Yesterday, we talked about Solomon’s view of work as vexing and vain. Today, we’re going to see some of the vexations of labor that he observed.

Bible Reading


(Ecc 2:24) 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. (Ecc 2:25) For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?


(Ecc 3:12) I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. (Ecc 3:13) And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.


(Ecc 5:18) Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. (19) Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. (Ecc 5:20) For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.


(Ecc 6:1) There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: (Ecc 6:2) A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.


(Ecc 6:7) All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.

Eat, drink and be merry, if you can, for all the good it will do you…

When we talked about Solomon’s quest for meaning in the pursuit of pleasure, we saw that one of his justifications for that quest was that he had earned it though hard work. The Bible passages in today’s study underscore that point. “Work hard, eat, drink and be merry – you’ve earned it,” Solomon says.

It’s possible, though, that God might not let you enjoy the fruit of your labors. Like the rich fool (Luk 12:20), you may amass great wealth, only to die before you can enjoy it. Financial or natural disaster might come along and wipe out what you’ve gained. Even worse, you might be the kind of person who doesn’t have the capacity for enjoyment, only for the work. And, ultimately, materialism doesn’t lasting satisfaction.

What About You?

  • Are you counting on work, and the prosperity it produces, for ultimate satisfaction?
  • Do you realize how easily it could all disappear?
  • What would your life be about then?