Heavenly Father, as we approach Your word even though we are flying over it, and not going to every single verse, every phrase, but we are considering how it all fits together and what is the grand theme of this book, the big idea, the big message for our lives.
You have written this and allowed it to be written by Solomon for our purpose, Paul told us that. Paul said all of these things were written before hand for our admonition. We pray that You would allow us to have hearts that are not only open, but willing to hear, and willing to practice, and apply what we hear. You said, "How much has been given much shall be required". So thank You that we have the freedom in this country to gather, and to learn, and then to practice. We just pray that You would help us tonight Lord to understand this Book, and to enjoy the learning of it. In Jesus name, Amen!
It was Mark Twain who once said, "life would be whole lot better if we could be born at age 80, and then gradually approach age 18." Now just imagine that, imagine being born with all the wisdom and experience of the age, and then moving to whim and vigor of youth, after you have all of that wisdom behind you? Life doesn't work that way, we know. What happens is the opposite, we come into this life, we look around, we experience things, we ask questions, we probe the meaning of life, and then over a period of time we derive wisdom from learning, and wisdom from experiences, and then we are already in older age by that time. That's real life, that's how it happens. We can also learn however from others mistakes, their journey, and we have a journey that Solomon writes about that we can learn from.
One of the big questions that people have, in fact, I think everybody has, it is the big question, and that is, why am I here? What is the purpose and meaning of life, everybody asks that question, everybody wonders. Every thinking person want to know why am I here? Philosophers, Theologians, Professors, Students, even Bible writers like Solomon asked that question, what is the purpose of life?
To anyone who may be here who wonders if the Bible is current and relevant needs to read the Book of a Ecclesiastics, because the guy not only ask that question, but he deals very honestly with what he uncovers, surprisingly so. It's a very open vulnerable book. Now this Book of Ecclesiastes in the English Cannon, and when I use the term Cannon, I don't mean weapon. I mean list of books. In the English Cannon, the Book of Ecclesiastes is the fourth of the five poetic books of the Old Testament, by now you are familiar with those.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, fourth is Ecclesiastes, and number five is the Song of Solomon, that's all Hebrew Poetry. So it's the fourth of five poetic books. In the Hebrew cannon, it's one of the books called the Megilloth, we would spell it, Megiloth with a 'th,' with means the five scrolls. These are five little book that comprise a section in the Hebrew cannon, the Megilloth, the five scrolls, and they are: Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther and Lamentations, and those five scrolls are read throughout the year for special festivals, special feasts.
And this one, this little book is read in the fall every year in Synagogues in Israel at the feast of Tabernacles. I want to give you an outline of the book, because the outline of the book is sort of critical to understanding a very meandering book, it would seem like. Number one is Solomon's Search that comprises Chapters 1-4. Solomon's Search, he is very open and honest about the questions in life, and he is searching, and he explains where he looks to find the answers, that's Solomon search.
then Solomon's Sayings, comprise Chapter 5-10, and then Solomon's Solution is Chapters 11 and 12. So his search, his sayings and his solution. In his sayings, there is sort of along the lines of a search, but he gives pearls of wisdom, many of which we are going to look briefly at, and sum up tonight, because it's echoed in the Book of Proverbs.
The words of preacher the son of David, King in Jerusalem. Now when you hear the word preacher, you're probably apt to think of somebody standing behind the pulpit, giving a sermon, that's not the idea of the word. In fact, I don't think it's a good translation, the words of the preacher. The Hebrew is Cohelet, and it means one who gathers or one of who convenes. It's really not a preacher per se, it's a whole different idea of somebody who collects, or gathers, or assembles people.
The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Cohelet would be ecclesiastic or a cleric. The New Testament word for Church, Ecclesia, has that idea. That means a gathering of people. So perhaps a better word is the collector, because what Solomon does here is, he collects various philosophies from his own personal experience, and from interviewing other people, and observing other people, he collects different ideologies about life. What is the purpose and meaning of life? So may be a better translation of preacher would be searcher.
In fact, I would love to say right next to Ecclesiastes on page one of your Bible, write, the search, that's the theme of the book, The Search, or The Grand Search. He is searching for the purpose of life, the words of preacher, the searcher, the son of David, the King in Jerusalem.
We were in Jerusalem couple weeks back, or this last week, and couple of the guys that weren't on the tour, and didn't have the opportunity to hear the explanation for about an hour I walked them down toward the Kidron Valley and pointed to where the ancient wall stood in David's time, it's still there in part. And the palace remains of Solomon, while he was King in Jerusalem, still can be seen today. This was the king in Jerusalem, because after Solomon was reborn and then the Kingdom splits. So this really is written by King Solomon. Verse 2, and that first word and second word that is repeated, is one of the great themes of this book.
"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity." Your translation may say emptiness or meaninglessness.
You could even translate it, soap bubbles, but you will never find a translation that says that, you know what I am talking about. When we were in Israel, we went to a one little park, and I noticed this kid with soap bubbles, and I thought of this. It appears for a second, but there is really nothing there, it's just a little envelope of soap, and pup, it's gone, it's empty it's vanity. Soap bubbles, soap bubbles, says Solomon, everything is just a bunch of soap bubbles. What profit has as man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? Now this sums up, these two versus, Solomon's thinking, at least doing this period of his life. 37 times in this book you are going to read the word vanity or emptiness, 37 times.
Verse two, five times that word is mentioned in one verse alone. So this is his thinking at this point in life as he is looking around before he comes up with a solution. It's as if Solomon is saying, everything I had ever tasted in life, leaves me no satisfaction, I am empty, it's tasteless. Another key here, in the ancient world and in the Hebrew language, you will sometimes hear words written or you read them written, and then repeat it, vanity, vanity, or verily, verily, and that just is there for emphasis. It's like saying, let me tell you about how empty it is, it's empty, empty. Let me tell you how true it is, it's verily, verily, just all there for emphasis. It's as if he is saying, I am going to describe emptiness to the max. I am going to describe vanity turned up to ten, everything I have tried is empty, vain, senseless.
This really is the view of the pessimist, you certainly don't want this guy counseling you for your marriage. Well, give me some advice. Oh, why bother, it's all meaningless, it's all emptiness. You wouldn't hire this guy to pep up your company. He is a pessimist. I heard about two guys. they were both pessimists. they met one evening for dinner. and instead of shaking hands, they just shook heads. That's how they lived their lives. Now look at Verse 3 a little more carefully, and we are going to focus a little more upfront in this book, and then sum up large parts of it, and end on the solution. But I want you to look in Verse 3, because, even though this is the view of a pessimist, Solomon strikes a chord of truth. There is something true in what he says in Verse 3.
"What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?"
Nothing does satisfy in this life, after you have experienced whatever it is you are in to, after you have sucked life dry of all of its pleasure, in the end you are not satisfied, it leaves you empty. So he looks around, what satisfies, what can fill me? Answer, zilch, nada, nothing, everything is vanity. There is another key phrase, and again, you need to see this upfront, because it's mentioned 29 times in this book. Look at the phrase, under the sun, and you'll see this used a lot in this book. Solomon is looking at life under the sun, that is on the horizontal plane on earth in the material realm only. I gave this book a fresh read, this week I went over it, and over it, and over it. And I thought this, if there was ever a book that anticipated the New Covenant, the New Testament, it's this book.
Here is the guy looking at life through various experiences, various lenses, looking for meaning, but it's all under the sun. it's all on the horizontal, not the vertical plain, not the spiritual plain. We get to the New Testament, Book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and its life under the Son, the Son of God, God the Son, life takes on a whole new meaning, a whole purpose, when it's life under the Son, not just life under the sun. Solomon looks around at life under the sun, and it's all empty.
Look at the next verse, Verse 4, this begins Solomon search. One generation passes away. Now let me just tell you where he is going in the next few verses. For us to see what a happy life is to be like, Solomon first describes what a happy life is not. He goes by the negative, and I don't know if you will be able to hear it, but when I read it I can hear cynicism in his voice, I can hear that cynicism all the way through the book, this fatalistic out look.
As he describes the predictability of life, the tedium of life, all of the cycles, get up in the morning, go to bed at night and just on and on. Yeah, I can hear it. One generation passes away, another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. Today on planet earth, about 365,000 were born in the last 24 hour period. Today on earth, in the last 24 hour period, about 147,000 people died. Tomorrow in the next 24 hour period, about 365,000 people will be born, and another 147,000 people will die, in the next day, in the next day, happen days before, and days before, and fewer and fewer as there weren't as many people on the earth, but Solomon notices this predictable tedious cycle of birth and death. What's the point he asks? Verse 5.
"The sun also rises, the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose, the wind goes toward the south, turns around to the North, the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit.
Solomon does recognize that life is not haphazard that there are consistent predictable cycles in the biosphere under the sun, where he is looking. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full, to the place from the which the rivers come, there they return again. What's he describing? Solomon is describing the hydrological cycle. See, the ocean puts moisture in the air that vaporizes the wind and takes the moist air that is produced by the large body of water, the ocean, and pushes that moist air inland, and clouds form, and it rains over the land, the land then collects the water in little rivulets, and the rivers dump the water back into the ocean, and the cycle starts all over again. And Solomon goes, what's the point, all things are full of labor the verse says.
"All things are full of labor; man cannot express it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that will be, and which is done, is that will be done. And there is nothing new under the sun."
I will say this about Solomon, I certainly don't want to contradict him too much, after all God said he is like the wisest dude on earth, right at the time God gave him wisdom. Solomon is absolutely correct in his observations, but I take issue with the conclusions of those observations. The observations are correct, and yet there is something missing in his thinking. In fact, it doesn't really get answered fully until the New Testament. Listen to this verse, and see if it doesn't fit what Solomon is struggling with perfectly. This comes to us by Paul the apostle in Roman Chapter 8 Verse 20. Paul writes:
"For all creation has been subjected to futility, emptiness." All of creation says Paul, has been made empty, not willingly, not because we wanted it, but because of Him, capital H in verse God, who subjected it in hope.
Let me re-translate that to you. This is what he is saying, "God put a hole in your soul," if you ever wonder why is it that people ask these question, why is it that we are looking for satisfaction and purpose and meaning? God put a hole in your soul. He created you empty, He created you empty, why? Because -- and we are going to discuss it later on in a study coming up, because God put eternity in your hearts, Solomon will tell us in Chapter 3. You see, we are creatures made by God for eternity. and nothing on the horizontal level can satisfy us. Material stuff, stuff on the horizontal never fills us. Only stuff that is eternal fills us, satisfies us, it's the way God made us.
Solomon is recognizing observations of what he sees, but the conclusions are inadequate. Verse 12:
"I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem." Now there was a period of time about 40 years where Solomon was king, and there was piece and prosperity in the land, which means you got a king who has got a lot of time on his hands. He is not fighting wars, he is not struggling to rebuild the kingdom, everything is rebuilt, his father left him a solid kingdom, he stabilize it even more, he has got a lot of time on his hands, and he goes on the search. And I set on my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven: this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised."
Now, there is a shift, Solomon takes off his scientific observer hat at the cycles of life, and puts on his philosopher hat. Right now I am going to philosophize about the purpose of meaning of life apart from the material universe. I think of Solomon, when I read a little clip by Socrates, he was talking about philosophy, and he said, Tongue-in-cheek. He said, by all means get married, because if you find a good wife you will be very happy, and if you don't, you will become a philosopher. The reason I think of Solomon is because of the number of wives and concubines he had and with all of his wealth and all those relationships, he becomes quite a philosopher, and at this point in his life, a very unhappy one.
"I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and indeed, all is soap bubble, and grasping for the wind." "What is crooked cannot be made straight, what as lacking cannot be numbered, I commune with my heart." So he is thinking internally now, saying, "look, I have attained greatness and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart had understood great wisdom and knowledge."
Notice something back in Verse 13, he uses the phrase, "I set my heart," in Verse 2 of the next chapter, I said in my heart, in Verse 16, which we just read, "I communed with my heart." Look at Verse 17, "and I set my heart to know wisdom to know madness, and finally I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind." Notice what his gaze is. At this point his gaze is not upward, it's all inward, which helps us understand his depression.
Somebody wants to put it this way, look around and be distressed, look within and be depressed, look to Jesus and be at rest. His gaze is all on the horizontal, and then from the horizontal to the internal. It's all inward, he doesn't have the right perspective. You cannot take a natural man alienated from God without the life of Christ, educate that person -- I don't care how you educate him, and then expect that person to unravel the mysteries of life. It will be an inadequate conclusion, because it's more than just observation, it's more then just information, there has to be a spiritual revelation, which he has gotten in part, God has given him wisdom, and he will get by the end of this book a more adequate explanation of life.
Next Chapter 2, he tries pleasure off of the science kick, off of the philosophical bent, he is going to try pleasure. Keep in mind he has time on his hands, he has money in his pocket, and he has friends at his side, that's because when you have a lot of money, and a lot of time, you will have a lot of friends. Lot of people will want to be your friend.
I said in my heart, come now, I will test you with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure, but surely, this also was emptiness. I said of laughter madness, and of mirth, what does it accomplish? I searched in my heart to know how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of man to do under heaven, all the days of their lives? So he got into fine wines, and don't picture this guy as an alcoholic with a brown bag and a bottle of Boone's Farm. This is the King of Israel. He is sophisticated man, he is elite, he has got the champagne, it's all about the -- he had it all, and he wanted to see, may be it's in, in the tasting of various wines, I'll become a connoisseur of the stuff. Parties were held at his house in Jerusalem.
Look at Verse 17, listen to this Hugh Hefner party animal with unlimited resources.
"Therefore I hated life, I wished people who are wondering about happiness, wondering about satisfaction, and about to embark on a journey, like happinesses in relationships, happinesses in alcohol or drugs, or sex or whatever it is. I wish they would read this book firs,t and take it from a guy who has been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, wrote the book. Therefore, I hated life he says. Because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind." Do you see what's happening? After this period of personal experimentation in Solomon's life, however many years it was, the hole that Paul says God put in us, the hole gets larger.
That feeling of emptiness is more accentuated, temporarily it was taken away during the buzz of the alcohol, or the buzz of the new relationship, but after a while the hole gets larger, more noticeable. I hated life, Verse 18.
"Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I am must leave it to the man who will come after me." And who knows whether he will be a wise man 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. So he tastes all of these different areas in life, and his conclusion is this: After tasting it and drinking from the goblet of science and philosophy and observable reaction and parting, etcetera, etcetera, life is flat, tasteless, and insipid under the sun, on the horizontal level, under the s-u-n, tasteless, I hated life.
Takes us to Chapter 3, again this is all Solomon's search. To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven, if you grew up in the `60s, you are thinking, ha, they stole this right out of that Byrds song. Solomon took this from the Byrds. If you remember that group Roger McGowan did a song based on this, it's called "Turn! Turn! Turn!" to everything – what? sing it?
Is this a Bible study? with the Lord have me sing this? To everything, forget it. Okay, so instead of going through this, since it's familiar territory, know this, Solomon, in next several verses lists 28 various activities, and he couples them together, and they are opposites, live, die, gather, scatter etc. 28 life activities, and it's to summarize all of the activities of life. It's to say this is the stuff that life is made out of, and though it's become a song, and though we put this on greeting cards, really, the purpose of this section is to convey a sense of boredom, anxiety, fatalism, in all of these activities of life.
But go down to Verse 14.
I know that whatever God does -- notice now he puts God as one of the important subject matters in consideration points in this thinking. I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever, nothing can be added to it, nothing taken from it. God does it that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been, and God requires an account of what is past. 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 for every work." Now we are starting to get just a little glimmer of light as this horizontal thinker looks at life under the sun, adds God to the equation. And as Solomon brings God into his thinking more and more, and you can follow that journey throughout this whole book, as he brings God into the equation, his outlook changes, because your outlook is changed by your up look.
He brings God into it, and it goes from bewilderment, to beauty, order, purpose, God's sovereign nature, God's control. Though he doesn't understand all of life even at the end of this journey, as God has brought into the equation, things start to make much more sense.
That's how life is. You place God into your outlook, God into your philosophy; you have a cogent, coherent theology that is true and right, and life does start to make sense. You start to see life on earth and life beyond this earth in a whole different way. The confusion goes away. You see, without God life is confusing. Without God, life doesn't make sense. Without God as a special creator who has a plan for His creation, life is a random set of events. It's a bunch of dots that don't connect. Nothing makes sense. So all you are left with, if that's your outlook is, I don't know dude, why we are here, but just make the best of it, do your best. That's the best the world can come up with. Enjoy it now, do your best.
But you bring God into the equation, and things change. Jesus called the process, abundant life. I have come that they may have life, and they might have it more abundantly or to the max. Life, life, just like there is vanity, vanity, you can have life, life, a quality of life. Yes, medical science can add years to your life, but only Jesus Christ can add life to your years, and Solomon though his Old Testament is considering God in his thinking.
Chapter 4, Solomon views a variety of things, and he calls them all vanity, oppression is vanity, working and getting money is vanity, even political success he says is vanity. Interesting, during this selection here to hear that, and read Chapter 4 on your own. Now he was the King, he had the ultimate political position. He was the Monarch over the land. Empty, useless, but there is a gem that's tucked away in Chapter 4, I don't want to just pass it by quickly, but let me just take you through his thought process. Solomon would say, "Because oppression is empty and because competition with other people is empty, both oppression and competitiveness lead to loneliness," and that's Solomon would say, is where friendship comes in. One of the most important things Solomon says in life, is to have a unique group of friends around you to hold you up when life gets tough, a partnership, relationship. Look at Verse 9.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor." Now, by the way that's not just a Solomonic principle, that's a long standing Biblical principle, even before Solomon wrote this as an author of another book of the Bible. Remember what God said in Genesis 2, "it is not good that man should be alone". In fact, since we are speaking about repetition in the original Hebrew, you know what it says, "not good, not good for emphasis, that man should be alone" God built us not only with a hole in our soul, but got built people, not to be Marlboro man, not to be independent, and I am cool enough without you, we need each other.
He build us to be interdependent in relationship, as sticky and as hard that is. So two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will help lift up his companion, but woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Fellowship is a basic human need. Again, if two lie down together they will keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? The one maybe overpowered by another, two can withstand him, and a threefold chord is not quickly broken. Notice the mathematical progression, one, two, three. One isn't good, two is a lot better than one, but he would say, three is even better than two. Not just a friend, have more than one friend, and have a network. A threefold chord is not quickly broken.
Now I think you are going to understand the analogy very easily, it's a great analogy by the way. If your life is represented by a thread, and you take another life that's represented by a second thread, and you weave those together, you have doubled your strength. You can hang more on it. you can hold more together with it. You add a third chord, and you will not just triple, you will more than triple the strength by binding all three together as one chord. A chord of three strands is not easily broken. So when life lays heavy things on you, and you feel weighed down by trials, you need friends. You need people to help you. You need interdependence, not independence at that point, and yes, you trust in God, but according to Solomon, one of God's blessing is to provide you with a network of people during those times.
Now I have taken liberties with this text at most every weeding I have done for the past 20 some years, and I love to see this as also working in a great level in a Christian relationship. As two come to the altar to be wed, as two walked down the isle, and they stand here many times, and they are about to weave their lives together, I encourage them to make that rope not a chord with two strands, but a chord with three strands, that the life of Christ Himself would be wound and bound together with their lives. That the husband and wife would seek the Lord, love the Lord, keep Him first and derive strength from that relationship of a married couple, given the strength and the power of God as He takes their lives and holds them together with that third chord, which is Christ. It's a beautiful example of friendship.
So that's Solomon's search, Chapters 1 through 4. Now Chapters 5 through 10 are Solomon's Sayings, also based on that keyword, vanity or emptiness, and life under the sun, but it's more of his proverbial statements that are mentioned in this book. Various circumstances in life, Chapters 5 to 10. So, in Chapter 5 the vanity of false worship, in the rest of Chapter 5 and on to Chapter 6, the vanity of wealth or hoarding wealth for one son, no nobody would know that better than Solomon.
Look at Ecclesiastes 5:10.
"He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with increase: this is also is soap bubbles. Vanity, now understand something about wealth, it is not evil. In fact, did you notice the phraseology used by Solomon here? Notice what he says, "He who loves silver". You might not even have silver, but you can be someone who doesn't have it, but who loves it, and would do anything to get it, and turns over in his bed at night, wondering how can I get my silver?
You see Paul said, "It's the love of money that's the root of all kinds of evil". It's just not money itself. Abraham was rich, Joseph became very wealthy, and there are others in the Bible who had wealth, it's the hoarding of it, and the loving of it, and being dominated by it, that becomes idolatry. And one of the reasons we want to bring crown financial into our Church life is to help people understand, I am steward, how can I be responsible with it, how can I get out of the bondage of loving it or being controlled and dominated by it?
So the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It's really your response to it. It's interesting, sometime back, I was in a cab in Las Vegas, and I was talking to the cab driver, and we were talking about people who come to his town for gambling purposes, and he said, here's the statistic. 2% of the people in this town who gamble, of all the people who gamble, only 2% get anything back. 98% of all the people who put money in the slot machines that are on the table, 98% lose. So I just want you to think about that. The whole economy of Las Vegas is built on losers. That's how they survive, they are banking on a bunch of losers coming, and losing their money. 98% will lose their money, 2% will get something back. That's how they can do $2 breakfast, that's how they can have tax free city, a bunch of losers, who will do anything to get money, but they get taken.
Okay, and I have said on that. But I will say this; money for many unbelievers is exactly like Jesus for believers. They trust in money, they look to money, when they are going through a trial, their security is from money, they're refuge, they want to be rescued from it. If I can only have enough cushion, that's what they look to, they treat money like Christians should treat and worship Jesus. That's why Jesus said, "You can't serve both, God and Mammon". You can't do it, and Solomon lived that and spoke freely about it. In Chapter 6, I want to take you to a particular Verse because Solomon brings not only God into this equation, he brings the soul of man, and remember, here is Solomon looking at the horizontal, right? Life under the S-U-N.
Now, he brings the soul into the equation, and watch what he says. Verse 7.
"All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied". See, the horizontal, the material world, satisfies the flesh, it doesn't satisfy the real me, the me inside, the who I am deep down in the core. It doesn't really satisfy me, it's all for the mouth, it's all for the flesh, I indulge the physical appetites, like an animal would. So what is the solution? Here is the solution. Soul care, care for your soul. The only part of you that is eternal is your soul. How healthy is your soul? You say, what do you mean, how healthy is my soul? I am saved. But, what's the condition of your -- the health of your soul? You see, you need the right diet for you soul. You might say, you need soul food, which is the word of God, worship, breathing in the breath of heaven, which is prayer. You need that to survive for your soul sake, you need to eat right. Your soul needs exercise, discipleship, fellowship, witnessing obedience to the commands of scripture, all of those will exercise your soul, and make it stronger, and have your soul dominate the flesh. Your soul gets stronger than your flesh. If you feed your flesh, your soul will never will be satisfied, only your flesh will temporarily, and then you will crave more. But if you feed your soul, exercise your soul, care for your soul, then it will become stronger and be uppermost in your life.
Chapter 7 gives us some strange advice. I am going to sum it up and then get into it. If you are invited to a wedding and a funeral at the same time, go to the funeral, not the wedding. Weired advice, isn't it? Look at Verse 2.
"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 take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter. I know you are thinking this guy is way out there. One full awful too many. 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.
Again I'll paraphrase it. A stroll through a cemetery may do you more good than a two week vacation on a cruise ship. Why is that? Is this guy gone loony? Is he a macabre? Is he weird? No, he realizes that when you go through a cemetery, or you go to a funeral, or to a place where everybody is wailing, you get a perspective check. You understand something very crucial about life, it's temporary. It's not forever, it's not just two weeks. Life will one day end for all people, so death reminds us what's important. And so he says, sorrow is better than laughter' and in Verse 4, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.
As Americans, we in the west will do anything to eradicate our lives of any kind of suffering, any kind of pain, any kind of anything that makes us uncomfortable, and we think, life owes that to us. If you think that way, moreover, if you live that way, you are a very shallow person. A shallow person has lived a trouble free life. There is depth that comes, that only sorrow and sorrowful times can bring. There's roots that go down so deep and change a person so utterly that Solomon says, "really this is a perspective check".
The Arabs in the old days had a proverb, and it suits where they live, "All sunshine makes desert, you get a rainfall, gray day, storm clouds, they bring in abundance of green things." I have always enjoyed a poem. It said:
I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her, as Sorrow walked with me!
We hate pain, we hate trials, we hate sorrow, but the question, and I have said it many times, and I will repeat it, yes, one more time. In a trial, don't ask how can I get out this, ask what can I get out of this? Better to go to mourning places, than always at party and pleasure.
Chapter 8 describes the vanity of what Solomon sees. how unfair life seems to him when wicked people prosper and Godly people get the shaft, so to speak, when there is injustice.
Chapter 9 and 10 continues the theme of rain and sunshine falling on the Godly and the ungodly alike. Basically Solomon says, "I have noticed something, life is not fair." Certainly not always fair, and there is an unpredictability of life. You could be here one moment, and gone the next. There is no advance warning.
Now Solomon is an interesting character. Up to this point in history, he is the wealthiest guy that ever lived. He was the Bill Gates of the 10th Century B.C. He had it all. He was wise, he was very rich, he had a larger annual income, than any king during that era. But he came to a point in his life, and I don't know when it was, but it's reflected in this book, maybe it was mid-life crisis, I don't know. Where he started looking differently at life and reexamining questions and reexamining his faith, and he saw the world filled with contradictions, filled with enigmas, everything lost its shine, everything lost its purpose. He was a whatever individual.
You know what I mean by whatever individual? How are you doing man? Whatever. You meet people like that? I mean, there is no spark to them, there is no zest for life, and sometimes it happens, and it's happening more and more to the very young, as they are exposed to so many things and experiences, and life loses its luster very quickly. So whatever time that was, this is his search. Now Solomon up to this point, in his search and his sayings, uses only observable data. Do you understand that? It is just by what he can see and touch and experience and feel, only observable data found in the material of the universe. And it shows us, listen carefully, here is the problem mankind has with his own reason, even though God has given us a mind to think.
We are limited, if we only gather information from observable data in the material world. Here is why? The finite can never grasp the infinite. Does that make sense? If something is infinite, has no boundaries, no borders, that which has borders and boundaries in his finite can never totally grasp that. It's like telling a kid, put the Pacific Ocean in that cup. Can't be done, too vast, too small to contain it. So it's only by observable data in the material universe. So it takes us, and we will quickly move and close Chapters 11 and 12, Solomon's Solution, as he goes from birth to youth, to old age and death.
"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 made everything."
"Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know that for all these, God will bring you into judgment. Now I want you to just quickly look once again at the first part of Verse 9. Young folks, you need to hear this, and I believe you need to hear this from older folks. Notice what it says, Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.
I am rather tired of hearing older folks say to young folks, you need to get serious. I know I am going to get in trouble by saying this. But I have heard that a lot, you need to get serious. and I know what the kids are thinking? What, and end up like you? Always serious. I think from time to time adults and kids need to hear adult say this, you are young, enjoy your youth; you have got vigor, you have got energy. There is nothing wrong with enjoying all of that energy that God has given you. Do have a great time with it. I love seeing kids, I say kids, anybody younger than me is a kid. I love seeing people have fun, I love it, especially when it's wholesome Godly fun, and it's interactive, and it blesses other people.
Enjoy your youth, don't grow up too quick. But you balance that out with this. Know this, whatever choice you do make, you are going to be accountable for it in the end, so make smart choices, have a great time, have a lot of fun, don't take yourself too seriously. Yeah, be serious about life, and life choices certainly, but I think far too many people take themselves more seriously. Lighten up, relax a little bit. Verse 9 is the balance, enjoy life, but don't forget what's ahead, God will bring you into judgment.
"Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, what days would those be? Any clue? Yeah, what comes after the days of your youth? Old age, that's the difficult days.
You have heard the old saying, "Old Age Ain't For Sissies". It takes you a lifetime to prepare for old age. And as I read through this, Solomon's observations, my own, your own, life can get very difficult when we get older. Before the difficult days come, and the years draw near, when you say, I have no pleasure in them." So when you are young, have fun, but begin now to setup a pattern of right choices, spiritual choices. Now watch this, very vivid description of old age. I have never ever in literature found a more picturesque description of age, than the next few verses.
While the sun and the light -- Verse 2, the moon, and the stars are not darken, and the clouds do not return after the rain; describes the fading mental powers that comes with old age. It is one of the marks of older people, their memory can sometimes -- I have to say that, sometimes fade.
"And the days when the keepers of the house tremble, those would be your arms and your hands that would defend from anybody trying to attack. The keepers of the house tremble, he starts shaking, your body shakes as you get older. And the strong men bow down, that's your legs, that's like the supporting pillars give way, you hobble. When the grinder cease, because they are few, what is that? It's your teeth. Dentistry wasn't what it is today, and you just lost teeth back in those days. You got two teeth to chew your food, and a meal could take quite some time. And those who look through the window grow dim. What's that? Your eyesight, fades away, glasses are so thick you can burn ants with them.
I notice this as soon as I got into my 40s, I used to do this, then I was like that. And then pretty soon it's like this. The elasticity is lost in the eyes, and you can't focus, so I have always – well, I grew up wearing glasses, then I got contacts, and now as I get older, I have a contact that focuses in for the distance, and then one that focuses for the close, and I have to keep changing them every few years, because this happens. When the doors are shut in the streets, the ancient homes had courtyards, and that gate that led out into the street is what he is speaking about here, but this metaphorically, probably speaks of the face falling inward because you lose your grinders.
Right, make sense? And the sound of grinding is low. Some scholars believe this refers to the digestive system. Enough said, I am not going to describe how that works. Notice what's next. When one rises up at the sound of a bird, you wake up a lot at night, and usually I have heard older people talk, my mom and dad they are like, how many times did you wake up last night? And start numbering how many times as they get older. And the daughters of music are brought low. What's that? Your hearing, it's not as sensitive as it is used to be. Those bones and membrane aren't sensitive as they used to be in your ear. Everyone, sounds like they are mumbling, speak up.
Also they are afraid of height and terror in the way, fear of falling. When the almond tree blossoms. What's that? That's your hair turning white. Almond tree has white flowers in the spring, white blossoms. So, you get older. Of course, again, this was before the days of hair color, but I have got the almond tree happening here on the sides. The grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails, for men goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. You know age is funny, and I know we have noticed this. When you are young, you think eternity is spread out before you, will never die, you will never get old, we have all thought that somehow.
But then as you get a little bit older, the years go faster, they clip by, and so you tell the kid, don't worry we'll do this next year. What? You might as well say, in the eternity that will happen. Now we say, I will do it next year. Good, and you put that off of two years; put it off a while, because it will happen so quickly.
Verse 13 and we will close, Verse 13 and 14. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. So here is the summary statement made by the searcher, made by the man who observed under the sun. Here is the summary statement, here is the basics. Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His Commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
These three things I want you to walk away with, and they are all right here. Here is the summary statement of life from a guy who lived it all.
Number one, fear God. Remember what that means, fear God, when we went through proverbs? Reverential awe that produces loving submission to a Holy God, fear God.
Number two, obey God, keep His Commandments. Don't just get enthusiastic; enthusiasm is a lot easier than obedience. You get worked up and worship and enthusiastic about Jesus, obedience, though harder than enthusiasm should follow a fear of the Lord, obey Him. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My Commandments".
Number three, prepare to give an account.
"God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. Now six times in this course called the Ecclesiastes, Solomon mentions, "One day we are all going to stand before God and give an account for our lives".
Think of this, think of this. If you are a believer tonight, if you are a believer this earth is the closest you will ever get to hell. Now that's good news. If you are a believer tonight, no matter how you have suffered, no matter trials, how many losses you have had, as bad as it is that has ever been, you will never ever see hell. You have been saved from that. This is the closest you will ever get to it.
If you are an unbeliever tonight, and you don't turn to Christ, this earth is the closest you will ever get to heaven. How sad is that? That's like ultra-sad, that's like way sad. Yet I hear unbelievers die, I always hear, when they die, I hear their relatives say, yeah, well, they are in heaven, up in the great golf course in the sky right now. No, they are not. This earth was as good as it got for them, if they don't know Christ. So here's the sum of it all. Give your life to Jesus Christ, fear God, keep His Commandment, for this is man's all.
I will give you three summary statements, life is an opportunity, life without God is empty, death without God is a calamity.
Let's pray, Heavenly Father, I thank You for the struggles and the journal that came from the struggles of Solomon. Thank You that we could learn from it tonight. I pray that these would be abiding lessons that would form our worldview that we wouldn't just look at life under the S-U-N, but under the SON. As You rule and reign in our lives, things makes sense. I pray if anybody here doesn't know You, they'll make their commitment tonight. In Jesus name, Amen!