Message Text: Ecclesiastes 1:1-3
The book of Ecclesiastes is an Old Testament book that falls under the category of wisdom literature just like the book of Proverbs or Job. Wisdom literature refers to a number of things but at a minimum what it teaches is that the best choices in life are the ones that honor God. Life lived in the here and now (i.e., under the sun) cannot compare to a life lived under the Son (Jesus Christ). A life of submission to God, as opposed to simply life under the sun, is the most fulfilling. Nothing else can sustain through all the heartbreaks of life. We demand of this world more than it can deliver. God made you so you couldn’t be satisfied with this world only. Enjoy this life, but know who gave it.
Life Lab Rat
The writer of Ecclesiastes undertook a hugely ambitious life experiment and he made himself the guinea pig, the lab rat. King Solomon had the time, money, and power to pretty much pursue any avenue of life he thought would bring pleasure or satisfaction. Solomon decided to conduct a massive experiment in human happiness and meaning. He became his own test subject, his own lab rat. “I know there is a God, but I’m going to live as if there isn’t and see what that’s like.” At the root of this question is a core belief: “God doesn’t really make much of a difference in life.” Have you ever decided to be your own life lab rat? That’s what King Solomon decided to do. “Why make your own mistakes,” the Preacher is saying to us, “when you can learn from an expert like me instead?”
“What will fill this hollow place inside of me?” And so, he searches for the Next Thing. He didn’t’ just dabble into stuff – he went all in. The phrase “I applied myself to / tried / tested…” pops up in his book. He threw lavish parties. He surrounded himself with parks, gardens, vineyards, art collections, comedy routines. He had a palace built that took thousands of workers thirteen years to build. He acquired hundreds of tons of gold. He didn’t have Spotify, so he drafted an orchestra to entertain him at mealtimes. He had 700 wives and 300 girlfriends. He indulged every appetite, chased every pleasure – wealth, women, and wisdom. The intellectual. The sensual. The carnal. He became this mad scientist in search of serum, an antidote to fix him. But nothing was ever enough. He lost sight of the Giver of the Gifts.
Been There, Done That
After Solomon spent a long season of his life “wanting” things or people, he could say to almost everything: “I’ve been there, done that, but I’m still empty.” “Been there, done that!” Meaning the thrill is gone. Solomon found himself asking: “Is life worth living?” Now that he was older and looking at life through the rear-view mirror, he wanted to caution his own sons and anyone else who would listen about going down this path. That essentially is the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is his memoir—an autobiographical account of what he learned from his futile attempt to live without God; a diary of all the ways we can lose our life by trying to save it on our own. If Solomon can’t find meaning without God; if he can’t find happiness, then it can’t be done.
The Ongoing Questions and the Take-Aways
We should study Ecclesiastes because it asks the biggest and hardest questions that people still have today. The Preacher addresses the questions that people have had in every generation: What is the meaning of life? Why am I so unhappy? Does God really care? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why is there so much injustice in the world? Is life really worth living? Is this life all there is? These are the kinds of intellectual and practical questions that the Preacher answers. Ecclesiastes, “… addresses the questions that people always have. These are the kinds of intellectual and practical questions that the writer wants to ask.” (Ryken). Do these questions feel familiar?
There are satisfying answers to all of these questions, but let's focus on some take-aways for today. Charles Swindoll helps us with three observations from Solomons journal that offer relevant insight even today.
1. The sensual lure of something better tomorrow robs us of the joys offered today. You only find life when you stop wanting a better one and embrace the one you have. Life is never enough for so many.
2. The personal temptation to escape is always stronger than the realization of its consequences. We don’t see the wasted time and opportunity nor the toll it takes on our bodies to chase after the wrong things.
3. The final destination, whatever that is for you, if God is absent from the scene, will not satisfy. The Rolling Stones sang a song titled, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Mick Jagger’s song perfectly describes the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes.
Why don't you come to Christ today? He is the only One who can complete you.