Ecclesiastes 1-12 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight ECC01
The Bible from 30,000 feet. Soaring through the scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Father, thank you. Thank you you've drawn us together as a group, an assembly. The very name of this book draws from that word, an assembly or one who assembles. And Father, as we have assembled together, we would be the first to admit we have room to grow.
We don't know all there is to know, and even if we know certain things, we need to be reminded of them. Like Peter said, I will not neglect to remind you of these things even though you already know them and are persuaded in them. So Father, we pray that we would be awakened by this book into the reality of life in the Son of God versus life under the sun in the normal mundane behavior of life.
Lord, I pray that you would put a real joy and a spring in our step so that people who know us and see us who have been raised with us, work with us, would see that there is a difference in us because of you. Instruct, inspire, encourage your people, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
So the book of Ecclesiastes. You probably know it, you've read it, you just saying some of the lyrics that derive right out of this book in chapter 3 in that old birdsong from the 1960s. Dissatisfaction is bred in us from the time we were very young. I don't know at what age it comes, but it comes pretty young, where people get dissatisfied with who they are and what they have. And advertisers are very clever in making you feel dissatisfied.
They have studied human nature, they have gone to school for it, and they capitalize on it. So you're a kid, you have a toy but not that toy. That toy on the TV commercial is what you need to complete your existence. You will be fulfilled for the rest of your life if you buy that toy or if somebody buys it for you.
So you get the toy, and you are indeed fulfilled until the afternoon. By the end of the day, it's not as great as you thought. Oh, but that bicycle that your friend has down the street. If you could only have that kind of bicycle, then you would be satisfied. And then you grow up a little more, and it's something else. It's a certain relationship.
If I could only have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or if I could only have that girlfriend, that boyfriend. Or if I could only be in that career, then everything would fall into place. If I lived in that city, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, so it goes, and so people are searching the world over for the meaning of life and for satisfaction.
Something happens along the way. It happens to all of us. Those things don't produce joy and satisfaction, but we, like the proverbial rabbit, chase the carrot and we think that something else will indeed give us satisfaction. And we get enough of those experiences and life seems to sour.
People become apathetic, jaded, even angry. And so that sense of happiness, that promise of joy is so elusive. We have even built into our Declaration of Independence, you know it well. The promise of life, liberty, and the--
Pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness. You are free, according to our own document of our own nation, to pursue happiness all you want. The thing is, I don't find very many people who have found it. The guarantee is not you find, just that you can pursue it. But I've discovered that happiness is never found by direct pursuit. Happiness is a byproduct of pursuing something else, actually someone else.
We have, as part of our church culture, we pursue the God who is passionately pursuing the lost world. When you pursue that God, happiness becomes the byproduct or the result. When you pursue happiness, you will find neither happiness nor God. When you pursue God, you'll find him, you'll find he's been pursuing you, and, as a byproduct, you will find that satisfaction.
Every person throughout life asks the big questions. What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is the meaning of the years I call existence or life, and it's sometimes just put, what's the point of it all? Philosophers have asked that, professors ask that, students certainly ask that, and even some of the writers of scripture have asked that.
One of them gives us the book in front of us, Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Anyone who thinks the Bible is out of touch, has never read this book. If you think it's irrelevant, read this book. You find echoes of it in the daily paper, in conversations at Starbucks, in the grocery store. It is the stuff of life, real life. Now the book of Ecclesiastes is one of five books-- I mentioned this last week-- five books. This is the fourth of the five books of wisdom or poetry in the Old Testament.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, number four, Song of Solomon. So it's one of those five books. That's in the English canon. In the Hebrew canon of scripture or listing of books, in the Hebrew canon, the book of Ecclesiastes one of the five scrolls or the five books called the megilloth. The megilloth. If you have a Hebrew background, I'm speaking your language. You know that already.
Megilloth. M-E-G- if you're taking notes-- I-L-L-O-T-H. Megilloth. The five scrolls, or the five books that are read at the festivals of the Jews. The book of Ruth, the book of Esther, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations. Those are the five books. And this book, Ecclesiastes, is read every fall for the Jewish feast of Tabernacles.
I've outlined the book in three simple sections. Chapters 1 through 4 is Solomon's search. You are probably most familiar with those chapters. Then, the second section is Solomon's sayings. Chapters 5 through 10, and then the book concludes the last two chapters with Solomon's solution. Solomon is the author, so we have his search, his sayings, and his solution.
Now, I think you will agree, the name Ecclesiastes this is a weird name for a book, but you're familiar with it. Ecclesia. Some of you know what that word means. It's a Greek word. It's the Greek word for church, and in English, we have a word Ecclesiastic, and Ecclesiastic is a clergyman, a priest, a pastor. Someone who works with the assembly of believers, that's where the term Ecclesiastes has come from.
It means a preacher or one who assembles or one who speaks or preaches to an assembly, or perhaps better yet, the Speaker of the House. This is the speaker of the house of life. He is speaking about the meaning of life to anyone who will listen. Verse 1. "The words of the preacher, The son of David, King in Jerusalem." So we know by verse 1, the author is Solomon.
He calls himself a preacher. The Hebrew term qoheleth. Qoheleth. And as I said, the Greek equivalent is Ecclesiastic. Now literally, the term in Hebrew, qoheleth, translated here preacher, refers to someone who collects something. A collector.
It refers to Solomon here, because he is somebody who has been collecting and examining a collection of the philosophies of life. He collects them, he drills down on them, he examines them, the different philosophies that people live by. So it says the preacher, but you may want to write in your margin or in parentheses around that word, the searcher. That would be, I think, a better idea here. He is searching.
It describes a period in his life where Solomon was searching for the meaning of life, though rooted in God by his father David, he seems to abandon that, but I'm really glad it's in your Bible because it's like you're reading his private journal. I don't know how you would feel about your journal being published, especially read by the entire world, generation after generation.
But Solomon thought it important to publish his journal because it's not him abandoning God as much as he, at the end of his life, saying, I was searching, but this is what I have now discovered. This is what I found, this is the solution to all my search. So that if you are tempted to search through life by all of these different means, it's better if you just read his solution, and bypass all the trouble.
I remember a kid who was in an early Maranatha band that I was a part of back in the day. He was a gifted young musician, raised in a Christian home, brilliant composer and keyboardist, brilliant. At the age of 16, he could play like anything. But because he was raised in a Christian home and he heard all of our testimonies, the rest of the band, I was a drug addict, I was a murderer, I was an astronaut, whatever people say before they come to Christ. Then I found meaning in life.
He would hear our testimonies, and think that-- he said, I have a boring testimony. My testimony is I was raised in a Christian faith in a Christian home. I never strayed, and how boring is that? So he thought he needed to go taste some of the stupid things we did, and we who saw that tendency said Johnny, don't be stupid. It's emptiness, it's vanity, man. We're giving you our testimony so you don't have to do that. You can skip to this solution, which you found way before we did, and skip the mess.
Look at verse 2. "Vanity of vanities." Because it's mentioned twice, it's like saying, this is super vain. This is the most vain you could ever get. This is as empty as you could ever possibly want to get to. Vanity of vanities says the preacher says qoheleth. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." It's empty. Its soap bubbles. They're iridescent, they shine, they get your attention, ooh, and then pop. Nothing there, no substance.
Verse 3, "What profit is a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun." 37 times in this book is the word vanity or vanities. Sometimes put together as we read here, vanity of vanities. Now this little phrase mentioned 37 times, sums up Solomon's mode of thinking during this period of his life. Everything in life seems tasteless, Solomon would say.
This is a very pessimistic part of the book. You who know the book, know how pessimistic Solomon can get. I've tried that, I've tried that, ah. This is the view of the pessimist. You don't want this guy counseling you and your wife.
You don't want this guy as the guest speaker for the office Christmas party, just saying. Don't get Solomon, at this period of his life, to say any words of encouragement. He ain't got none. It's all vain. It's all empty. You may have heard about the two pessimists who met each other at the party and instead of shaking hands, they just shook heads.
It's like, yeah I know.
You know some probably, right? A pessimist is someone who get seasick during the whole voyage of life. The whole thing is always-- you say something's good, there's always something bad. But look at verse 3. There is a court of truth here I want you to see. He says, what profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
He realizes that all of the experiences of life, all the things life offers, all the things you try in life to make yourself happy, the pursuit of happiness never ends in satisfaction. Never delivers what they promise. Try any experience. Suck life dry of all the pleasure you can find, and in the end, you will not find satisfaction. What will you get? He says, zip, zero, zilch, nada, nicht, nothing at all.
Now notice a phrase. I want you to notice it because it's mentioned 29 times in the book, look at the phrase, under the sun. Now if you put that phrase together with vanity or vanity of vanities 37 times, 29 times under the sun, you have the book summed up. Everything under the sun that you try, all the experiences are vanity, empty, or vanity of vanities.
It was CS Lewis who once said, "If we find in ourselves a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, it must mean that we were made for another world." Under the sun is this life. It's life on the horizontal plane. If ever there was a book that anticipated the New Testament, it is the book of Ecclesiastes. Life under the sun is boring life. Under the Son. S-O-N, capital S-O-N, the Son of God, the Son of man, Jesus Christ is delightful.
It anticipates the New Testament. So Solomon's search, chapters 1 through 4. Now to see what a happy life is, he first tells you what a happy life is not. And you can hear it when you read it a sense of cynicism in his voice. Fatalism running through the whole set of these chapters. He's speaking about the tediousness of life, the predictability of life. Verse 4, "One generation passes away, another generation comes. But the earth abides forever."
Solomon is observing the cycle of life and death. Birth, life, death, birth, life, death, birth, life, death, on and on. Today, just this day, last 24 hours, 360,000 people were born. Today, on this day, last 24 hours 151,000 people died. Tomorrow, 360,000 people will be born and tomorrow 151,000 people will die, and the next day I won't repeat it.
But I should just-- I get it, I get it. It's just tedious. It's predictable. Verse 5, "The sun also rises, the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rose." There is a predictability in life. We even know tomorrow morning that sunrise will be at 6:02 AM, and sunset will be at 8:03 PM. You can Google it. Though, I would say don't do it now. I did it before the service, those are accurate numbers. 6:02, 8:03, that's when the sun rises. That's how predictably it happens. Every day.
"And it hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south and turns around to the north, the wind whirls about continually and comes again to its circuit." So Solomon is observing something that we, as believers, would offer as an argument for the existence of God. Something known as the teleological argument. That there is an ordered universe in which we live, a design, it appears to be designed by a designer, and you can see that in looking at all the different cycles of life around you. There is a consistency to it.
"All the rivers."-- verse 7-- "run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again." Solomon rightly observed the hydrological cycle. That clouds form out at sea as moisture rises, and then winds blow it on shore and then it rains and the rain falls on land into the rivers and the rivers go back into the sea, and it happens all over again. That cycle just goes on and on and on and on.
Verse 8, "All things are full of labor. Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." Boy isn't that true? We're glued to those little phones. Look at that post. What? You've seen something like that before, that's not new. I know, but it's new right now. Yeah, but you've already seen that. Yeah, but I want to see more.
The eye is never filled with seeing or the ear with hearing. You've heard that song how many times-- oh, but I'd love to hear it again. One of my favorite songs. Even though you can sing it, you don't even need the song-- oh, but I want to hear it. Ears in full of hearing the eyes in filled with seeing. "That which has been is what will be. That which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
He's picturing the utter monotony of life and predictability of various life cycles. Now understand this. Solomon is correct in his observation, but he is faulty in his conclusion. He's right about what he sees. He writes down that life is, in many cases, predictable, but there's something missing. And what is missing-- the gap is filled in and answered actually by Paul the Apostle in Romans chapter 8, verse 20, when he says, all of creation has been made subject to futility. Not because it wants to, not on its own, but by reason of him who subjected the same in hope.
Paul is noting what Solomon noted, but there's a different twist to it. Solomon said, life is empty. Paul is saying, life is empty and God designed it to be empty on purpose. Let me loosely translate it. God put a hole in your soul on purpose. It can't be filled with anything on the horizontal level. Anything you put there, any experience under the sun won't fill it. It has to be filled with something on the horizontal plane, not the vertical plane or not the horizontal plane the vertical plane. Sorry, mixed that up a little bit.
It has to be something spiritual. If I find a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, it must mean I was made for another world. So he gives us Romans chapter 8, verse 20, the missing element. Verse 12, "I the preacher was King over Israel in Jerusalem." Boy, was he. 40 years of peace and prosperity. 40 years of great prosperity economically for the nation and personally for Solomon.
He had a lot of money, he had a lot of items, and he had time on his hands for the search. To be the searcher, the preacher, the qoheleth. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom, concerning all that is done under heaven. This burdensome task that God has given to the sons of man. Boy, this guy's burnt out. He calls life a burdensome task. He didn't get up every morning and go, it's a new day! He goes, it's another day-- he's like the Eeyore of the Old Testament.
Burdensome tasks God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. Now what Solomon does is he takes off the scientific observers hat and puts on the philosopher's hat. He's going to philosophize for a while. Socrates is one of the world's most famous philosophers. He said to his students, by all means, marry. Get married, he said. If you find a good wife, you'll be very happy. If you find a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
How many wives did Solomon have? 700 wives. He was quite a philosopher, and 300 porcupines-- concubines.
"I have seen all the works--" verse 14-- "that are done under the sun, and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, what is lacking cannot be numbered or counted. I commune with my heart saying, look, I have attained greatness, I have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge." So he's talking to himself. My dad used to say he loved to talk to himself because he loved to hear a wise man talk.
Solomon was wise and here he is communing with his heart. But notice something in verse 13. He said, "I set my heart." Notice that phrase in verse 13. "I set my heart." Then you'll notice in chapter 2 verse 1, "I said in my heart." Why is that important? It shows you where he's looking. He's not looking upward, he's looking inward. He's not searching outwardly or upward toward the Lord, he is searching, at this point, philosophically, inward, based on what he has learned. He is communing with himself.
"I set my heart--" verse 17-- "to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived this also as grasping for the wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." Man, Eeyore, give it a rest. Somebody noted that philosophy is the study that enables people to be unhappy more intelligently.
There's a reason I'm so unhappy, cause I know so much, and they come up with all these philosophical postulates and most of it boring. I think it was Corrie ten boom who said, "Look around and be distressed, look within and be depressed, look to Jesus, be at rest." You need to look-- you need to consider the horizontal, but then end up by looking at the vertical.
If you look around, you will be distressed. If you look within, oh my goodness, the paralysis of self-analysis. You just get stuck because you're playing that tape over and over and over and over again. You cannot take natural man alienated from God, educate him, and have him solve the meaning of life. It won't work. Jesus put it this way, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit."
Now Solomon goes on, chapter 2, starts looking for the meaning of life through pleasure. He didn't just have time on his hands, he has money in his pocket, and he has friends to party with. Of course when you have money in your pocket, you can buy your friends quite easily. Chapter 2, verse 1, I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with mirth. Therefore, enjoy pleasure, but surely, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, madness, and of mirth that is humor, what does it accomplish? I search in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom."
Usually wine and wisdom don't mix. They don't mix well. You'll be wise for about 10 minutes. After that, you just get dumb. "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 life." Nobody says I tested it with wine. Don't picture a dude with Boone's Farm in a paper bag. You have to picture a sophisticate, an elite with the best champagne, the private bar in his chariot. This guy is the Richard Branson of 1000 years BC.
Verse 8, "I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of provinces." He has unlimited resources, undiminished curiosity, and absolutely no accountability. He can do whatever he wants. "I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men--" and notice this-- "and musical instruments of all kinds. The term musical instruments is probably a poor translation. It's an unknown Hebrew word, and the NIV and other translations, I think, correctly render it a harem. A harem of women.
So we know Solomon had 700 wines-- wives and 300 concubines, which were women for sexual pleasure. So he did have a harem. So this dude had it all. Tried it all. Wine, women, and song. Let's see how it fulfilled him. Verse 17, "Therefore, I hated life."
Mark this. If you think, oh, I just need wine, women, and song. 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." What Solomon is disclosing is that after all this personal experimentation, the hole in the soul just got bigger and bigger and bigger. It didn't fix it. It did temporarily, but then when I woke up the next morning after the experience, after the relationship, after the fling, bigger hole. And the emptiness is more profound than ever before.
Then verse 18, "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." We know who that was. It was Rehoboam, who took a hard stand with the people and taxation, and the kingdom split between Rehoboam in the south and Jeroboam in the north. The kingdom split from 12 tribes to 10 and 2, divided kingdom.
"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, therefore, I turn my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun." you get his drift? Life on the horizontal is flat, tasteless. It's the insipidity of life without God. Boring, without meaning.
Now chapter 3, verse 1, "To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven." These are familiar words. They're not familiar because it's in the Bible, they're familiar because it was in that song we sang. To our generation and the generations that have followed, The Birds popularized this text, to everything
We know that because of the song. It was for the birds, I mean, the band The Birds. They sang that song. It's also found in greeting cards. What's interesting is it though it's found in greeting cards and is quoted often, what Solomon is writing about is a sense of boredom, that's what he's trying to convey.
The monotony of life and the cycles of life. He lists in this chapter, 28 different activities. Often opposites. Time to live, time to die, time to be born, et cetera. Time to mourn, time to laugh, time to dance, time to not dance, it's a set of opposites. It's the stuff that everyday life is made of, but he's just simply trying to convey the boredom of life, the monotony of it.
But look at verse 14. After all that list. I won't go through it, we already did in the song. Verse 14, "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, nothing can be taken away from it, God does it that man should fear before him. That which has already been and what is to be has already been and God requires an account of what is passed."
What Solomon is stating here is the immutability of God. It's an attribute that God doesn't change his mind or change his ways. There is no abrogation of God from what he did before and said before, he didn't change his mind. This is the immutability of God. His character doesn't change. Also the accountability of man before God, that is also stated.
Verse 17. "I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and every work." Now we notice something here. He's talking about life, he's talking about the cycles of life, he's talking about the predictability of life, but now he mentions God. Now he is starting to look upward. He's starting to consider God.
It's a glimmer of light because he's adding God to the equation. Now when you add God to the equation of your life, the scales begin to tip in the other direction. Over here, it's flat, boring, insipid, predictable, what a drag. There's no really point to life, then all of a sudden, God, you look upward, and the scales begin to tip the other direction. You move from cynicism to optimism.
Your outlook is different because it's an uplook. Your uplook changes the outlook. By placing God into his philosophy, life on Earth begins to make much more sense than just looking at life apart from God. Apart from God, life is a bad joke. Makes no sense whatsoever. With God, it makes a great deal of sense.
This is why human philosophy or science, medical research all by itself cannot account for the meaning of life. Medical science can add years to your life, only Jesus Christ can add life to your years. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." that's life under the S-O-N, not just the S-U-N. Life under the S-U-N, boring. Life under the S-O-N, awesome. Much better that way.
Now chapter 4, he continues. The vanity of oppression, the vanity of domination, of competition, the vanity of political power. It's all written about in poetic form, but there's a gem tucked in this chapter. In verse 9, he begins to show the value of friendship, partnership. He's echoing what it says in the book of Genesis, that is not good that man should be alone. Verse 9, "Two are better than one. Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion, but woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up."
Fellowship with people is a basic human need. You are hardwired for that. You are hardwired for interdependence not independence. "Isolation is not good." Proverbs 18, we saw last time. You are meant by God to be in community and fellowship with other people, meaningful community. It's something that adds spice and spunk and vigor and completes one's life.
Again, verse 11, "If two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Solomon is making an observation but he is making now a relational one. But he is doing it in mathematical terms, one, two, and three.
One, is a bummer. Not good the man should be alone. Two is better, but even better than that, three, the more friends you have, the better life is. The more people you have in your network holding you up bearing the burdens of life, dividing the stress and the pain, the better it is. Now, I always like to bring this scripture up. I do quite frequently. I take it slightly out of context but not much. Oh no, let me rephrase that. I don't take it out of context, because in a marriage, a husband and wife are to be best friends.
It is a ode to friendship, and almost every husband and wife, at least in the beginning of their marriage, they were the best of friends. This is my best-- I'm marrying my best friend. Would to God that would continue throughout their life. It too often doesn't. But I always like to bring this up. Two are better than one, but three is better than two, and I look at the husband and wife, and I said, Solomon is saying that it's not good that they should be alone. It's better to have two to divide sorrows and complete joy.
And so you have this groom and you have this bride, and they both are agreeing that it's not good that they should be alone. That's why they're here. They're getting married because they believe it's not good that I should be alone. I want to be together. So they're saying, two's better than one, but I'm here to tell you, three is better than two. People always give me a weird look like, what are you insinuating, three is better than two?
I said, this bride and groom, they're going to wrap their life together, their life experiences together like a rope, like a cord. They're going to weave together a whole set of choices and experiences from here on out, but just like one strand can only hold so much weight, you add too much weight, it'll break. It's better to be with somebody else. Even two together can only take so much weight before the rope breaks and too many marriages, there's so much weight, so much stress, so much anxiety that that rope breaks.
But a three-fold cord, or a cord of three strands is much stronger. So in a Christian marriage, you have this groom, this bride, and the Lord Jesus Christ all committed to weaving their lives together to make something inseparable, a threefold cord. Now that Solomon's search. Solomon's sayings begin in chapter 5.
He moves from the philosophical to the proverbial. He gives Proverbs like we noted last week. Chapters 5 through 10, he's basically going to give Proverbs of, guess what? Vanity, emptiness, and in several different areas of life. False worship, chapter 5, hoarding wealth, chapters 5 and 6, living foolishly, chapter 7 and 8. I'm only going to show you a couple.
Chapter 5, verse 10. "He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver." I've never met a person who has a stated goal is after making money, whoever says, I'm done. I'm satisfied with this. A guy who has 1,000 wants 2,000, a guy who has 10,000 wants 20,000, somebody who reaches a million wants 2 and 5 and 10, and they're never satisfied.
He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with increase. This is also vanity. You need to know something. Wealth is not evil. Money is not evil. I've heard that so often suggested by Christians, well, money is evil, and rich people are bad. No, those are dumb people in society who think that. People who have a lot of wealth can employ a lot of people like us.
Wealth isn't wrong, riches aren't evil, it's the love of it that is. It says in 1 Timothy chapter 6, "The love of money is a root, not the root, a root of all kinds of evil. Notice what it says here, Solomon says, "He who loves silver, not he who has silver." I was once in Las Vegas and a taxi driver said, of the people that come to Las Vegas, only 2% win. 98% of the people who come here are all losers. What he meant was, they put money into the machine, 98% of it ends back in the machine. Only 2% walk away with any winnings.
Solomon says, "I've noticed this, it's empty." Now, money for an unbeliever, is much like what Jesus Christ is for a believer. Unbelievers trust in money for their security. They look to money as refuge during their storm. Believers, look to Jesus as refuge for their storm. He is their security. Jesus said, "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses."
Now in chapter 6, I'm going to have you look at one verse, because the soul is brought into the discussion of this man of Proverbs. This philosopher turned proverbial observer would say, the horizontal can only satisfy the flesh, but if you want your soul satisfied, your spirit satisfied, you have to look to the vertical. Look at chapter 6, verse 7, "All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied."
Now if you live only for fleshly satisfaction, if that's your life, your life is all about feeding yourself, the right menu, you're a foodie, you're a fashionista, it's all about how you look and what you taste, it's all about life on that level. You're no different than an animal. An animal lives simply for satisfaction. Now, granted it takes much less to make an animal temporarily satisfied, but that is an animal's existence. Life on that horizontal plane only.
Now, I'm going to take you to chapter 7 because there's some strange advice in it, and let me summarize by saying here's what he's going advise. If you're invited to a wedding, and on the same day you're invited to a funeral, go to the funeral. You'll be better off for it. Chapter 7, verse 2, "Better to go to the House of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance, the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
Taking a stroll through a cemetery will sometimes pay off greater dividends than taking a weekend away at a resort. Because you'll consider your end. You'll consider what choices you're making in your soul. You'll consider the meaning of life.
Yesterday, I had an interesting meeting with a couple of the directors at French Mortuary. I met with funeral planners, and I called them because I said, I want to plan my funeral. Now, I'm not expecting that anytime soon, but you never know. You never know. And it's good to think in advance, what do you want it to be like, what songs you want to be sung, what you want said, who you want invited, and then to pay for it in advance, so it's not a burden on the family. That was the reason I wanted to meet. I wanted to talk about how do I prepare, so that when we die, Lenya and I die, that my son doesn't have to bear the burden of all those decisions, it's taken care of.
So we had about a two-hour meeting. Fascinating discussions about death and caskets and cemetery plots. Some of you looking at me like, dude, that's weird. Let me say back at you, no, that's wise. Better to go to the House of mourning than the house of feasting. Death reminds us of what is important, of what is inevitable, and notice verse 3 again. Take that to heart. "Sorrow is better than laughter."
Let me put it to you another way, the trouble-free life is a shallow life. Somebody who is just idealistic and has not suffered to any depth at all doesn't really have much there for you. A trouble-free life is a shallow life. The Arabs put it this way, all sunshine makes the desert. Solomon would just say, "Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance, the heart is made better."
It's during those times that you learn, you grow, your roots go down, you become deeper, better, more valuable. Robert Browning had a little poem. "I walked a mile with pleasure, she chattered all the way but made me none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow and ne'er a word is said she, but oh the things I learned from her as sorrow walked with me."
The people that I really want to spend time with and listen to to get good advice and counsel in life are people who have gone through life, they've weathered the storms, they've suffered deeply, but they've come out better, not bitter. Those are the people that have something to share. Chapters 8 through 10. Solomon voices what David voiced in the psalms as he looked at life and he noticed that righteous people suffer, and ungodly people sometimes don't suffer. He saw that as an injustice.
He basically said, life is not fair. And though life is predictable, in one sense, there are certain patterns of life in the physical world that you can observe that are predictable, sunrise, sunset, hydrological cycle, et cetera, there's much of life that is unpredictable. Things can happen, come out of the blue. You might be a righteous person then sudden calamity. And he says, this is-- guess what word he uses? Vanity. Vanity, empty, vexation of spirit.
Now I think, at this point, if you were to interview Solomon and you said, Solomon, tell me about suffering. What would you say suffering is? He would say, vanity, useless, purposeless. That's where he is wrong. He's wrong. This is his journal, it's honest, but he is wrong in saying that suffering has no meaning or has no purpose because we know from the New Testament, and even parts of the Old Testament, that suffering in the hands of an all powerful, all mighty, all loving God is very, very useful. You grow deep, you grow strong, and Solomon looks at the world of enigmas and puzzles and doesn't make sense of it. Only when he looks up does he make sense of it.
Solomon, you need to know, is using only observable data found in the material universe, which means on a human level, human reason is insufficient. No matter how smart you are, human reason is insufficient to discover the meaning, the purpose, the point, and the satisfaction in life. Why? Simply because that which is finite can never totally grasp that which is infinite. You want to discover what? Why does God do this, why does God do that, you are finite asking why infinite God allows things to happen. That's just ludicrous.
The finite can never totally understand or grasp that which is infinite. And at some point, you're going to have to just let it go. And rest that, because God is infinite and I am not, because God is God and I'm now, I'm OK with him understanding certain things and me not understanding it. Now we come to the last part of the book, chapter 11 and 12, Solomon's solution.
He goes from birth to youth to old age very, very creatively, by the way. Chapter 11, verse 5. "As you do not know what is the way of the wind or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything." Go down to verse 9, "Rejoice--" I like this verse-- "Rejoice, o young man, in your youth." He goes from birth to youth. "Rejoice, o young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and then in the side of your eyes, but--"
But. In other words, have fun, but "Know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment." Now, you know that Solomon was really good at speaking to youth. That's what Proverbs is about. Writing to his son, his children. My son, my son, my son. Young folks need to learn from old folks. We know that. Life is made up of that. You go to school, your teachers are much older than you. They know the subject, they've lived life, they're apt to teach you, they're your instructors.
But adults need to tell them the right stuff. Oftentimes, they tell them the wrong stuff. And sometimes older folks, parent folks, say to their kids who are in their teens and '20s, when are you going to get serious about life? And they say it with anger and a frown. And I got to just tell you, when you say that, your kids are looking back at you and are going, what, and end up like you? Not going to happen, not a good plan.
Solomon would say, hey, if you're young and you've got the energy of life, enjoy your life. Have some fun, but make the kind of choices that, in the end, you will not regret nor be sorry for. Proverbs 17, Solomon said, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Enjoy the energetic years of your youth, especially if you can make others happy in the process, and share with them the joy of the Lord. But verse 9 is the balance.
"Rejoice, o man in your youth, let your heart cheer you all the days of your youth--" The end of it says-- "But know that for all these, God will bring you into judgment." Have fun, but don't forget what's ahead, so make good choices. Chapter 12, verse 1, "Remember--" Now, here's the conclusion to the book. He's narrowing it down. Here's my journal, this is what I found. Here's my search. This is how bummed out I was. This is now my conclusion.
After all the years of experimentation, after trying wine, women, and song, this is what I've discovered. "Remember now your creator in the days of your youth. Make the right kind of spiritual decisions while you're young." I came to faith in Christ around my 18th birthday. Most decisions for Jesus Christ are made by the young, not that you can't come to Christ at any age. We see it every week. People make decisions for Jesus Christ even in older age, but I'm telling you now, if you're younger and you haven't received Christ, do it now.
Well, I want to live a little bit. No, don't waste your life, and then enjoy abundant life when you're going to croak. Live abundant life now. Make a spiritual decision now while you're young.
"Remember now you're creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come and the years draw near when you say, I have no pleasure in them." Solomon said that about everything. I don't want pleasure in nothing, but most people, when they get older, well, we have pains and aches and sorrows after years of experiences.
Now, in the next few verses, there is a vivid description of old age. You'll see it, verse 2. "While the sun and the light, the moon, and the stars are not darkened and the clouds do not return after the rain." That is, while you have your mental faculties. As you age, you start waning a little bit in mental powers. One of the marks of age is memory fades. Don't I know it.
I love looking at pictures, oh, yeah, I forgot all about that. Or there's just whole blocks of things I've totally forgotten. Memory fades. "In the day when the keepers of the house tremble--" That's your arms, your hands. You protect the body with those elements. Says the keepers of the house tremble, your body, your hands start shaking. "And the strong men bow down--" your legs that have been like supporting pillars, start to bow and weaken over time. You hobble instead of run with a sprint in your step.
"When the grinders cease because they are few." What would that be?
Your teeth, right? Now, especially in those days before there was great dental care, life ended like it began, toothless.
Or dentures, right? Your teeth are like stars, they come out at night.
"The grinder cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim." That's your eyesight. Thank God for glasses and contacts, right? And as we age, I just went to the optometrist, and he said, well, got to change the prescription. I go, change the prescription? You just change the prescription. I know. Pretty soon the glasses are going to get so thick they could burn ants.
You notice, around 40, something starts to happen.
Well, now I can read it. You start losing the ability to focus up close. Verse 4, "When the doors are shut in the street--" that is, in the ancient days, the homes face the courtyard and there were gates that allowed people in and out of that and protected the home. So this is the gate to the streets. He says, "When the doors are shut in the streets, I think it speaks of the face drawing in and the lips drawing down, and the sound of grinding is low--" takes longer to eat. Mastication, the chewing process, becomes more difficult.
"When one rises at the sound of a bird--" easily awakened because of loss of melatonin in the brain-- "and all the daughters of music are brought low, that's the increasing deafness. Everybody starts to sound like they're mumbling.
What? What? That's a very descriptive, right? A very, very unique description of age, but I like it. I'm starting to feel it.
And they are also afraid of height and of terrors in the way. Older people, afraid of falling, and they should be. You don't want to break a hip at an old age. It could be your life. And so because of that fear, when you're older, you tend to stay inside. My mother, in her 80s, I caught her one day as I came to visit her. I saw her on the roof working on the air conditioner.
I said, mom, you're a nurse. You know better. You could break a hip, it could be the end of things. I thought, whatever happened to I am afraid of heights and I got to stay inside, it's in the Bible. I know that part skipped her. Verse 5 also says, "When the almond tree blossoms--" You know what that means? Your hair turns white.
"The grasshopper is a burden--" this Bible is so heavy-- "and desire fails, for a man goes to his eternal home and the mourners go about the streets." Verse 9, "And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge, yes, he pondered and sought out and said in order, many Proverbs the preacher sought to find acceptable words and what was written was upright words of truth.
The words of the wise are like goads, the words of scholars like well-driven nails given by one's shepherd, and further, my son, be admonished by these, of the making of many books there is no end and much study is worrisome to the flesh." Too many teenagers quote that to their parents about schoolwork. Verse 13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter." What's his summary statement? Here it is. "Fear God, and keep His commandments." That's his conclusion in the book, not vanity of vanities, all is vanity, what a bummer.
His conclusion is, that's how I saw things, but now, my conclusion is this, fear God, keep His commandments, for that is man's all, or that is the summary statement of the purpose of life. Verse 14, "For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." So his conclusion is fear God, obey God, and number three, prepare to give an account of your life to God.
So life is an opportunity. Life without God is empty. Death without God is a calamity. That sums up the book. Life is an opportunity, life without God is empty, death without God is a calamity. Whenever I do the funeral of an unbeliever, I got nothing good to say. I'm not going to lie.
I'm going to preach to the living of why they need to end up differently than that loved one ended up, because that's the truth. Baby Ruth.
Father, thank you for the honest journal of a searching man. Qoheleth, a preacher, a searcher, the Speaker of the House, speaking to any who have the wisdom to hear what the true meaning of life really is. It is not wine, women, and song, it is not science and observation and reason, it is fear God and keep His commandments, for that is man's all.
I pray for anyone who may happen to be here who has never made a decision to make Jesus Christ the center of their life. I'm glad they're here, we're glad they've come, but they're missing that step. They've looked outward, they've looked inward, but they've never truly looked upward in any meaningful way, so as to by faith, establish a relationship with you, the living God.
I pray that would change right now. Would you do a work in the heart to draw men and women to you?
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit Calvarynm.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from the Bible from 30,000 feet.