BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday October 20, 2013
CAN I FIND MEANING?
(People can find meaning in life, only through a right relationship with GOD)
Ecclesiastes 1:1-14 & 2:1-26
In the Greek, the word used for “preacher” is “ecclesiastes”, and in the Hebrew it is “qoheleth” (ko-heh-leth). In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth is the name by which King Solomon, who is the author, identifies himself in his original writings. In this book, Solomon attempts to display the dark philosophy of a person, who, looked for peace and meaning apart from GOD, and in the end, realizes how futile that is.
The pessimistic tone of this book seems somewhat out of place in the bible, which is, for the most part, a book of vibrant hope and inspiration. Here however, Solomon is teaching us a valuable lesson by brilliantly showing us just how unproductive it is to search for life’s answers “through the senses”, or, “through the material world”. This fact is reflected, over and over again, by his use of the phrase “under the sun”, which he refers to 29 times. He also attempts to show us what it is like to rely on “human reason”, as that is reflected is his use of the phrase “communed with my own heart” 7 times.
This beautiful poem has been long celebrated, and has even been “set to music”, in our lifetime. In these “wisdom writings”, Solomon shows us how GOD has created a stable universe, marked by reliable patterns. In verses 1-11 of chapter 1, he seems to sense the frustrating effects of time on human life and labor. Here we see that the “invariable calendar of the seasons” and “the flow of time”, seems to impose its own order on our lives. Here Solomon realizes that “time”, not man, is master, and that GOD, WHO is the master of time, allows “time” to ridicule our innate sense of importance, thereby, showing life to be meaningless, in and of itself, without HIM.
In verses 12-18 Solomon speaks of how he devoted himself in search for understanding of everything, and to explore by wisdom, everything that was going on in the world around him. However, it wasn’t long before he discovered that GOD had dealt a tragic existence to those who choose to live without HIM. Here are his findings;
· Everything under the sun is meaningless without GOD. It is like chasing the wind (v.14).
· Nothing that is wrong can be righted without GOD (v.15).
· Nothing that is missing can be recovered without GOD.
· The greater the “human wisdom”, the greater the grief. To increase human wisdom is to increase sorrow (v.17).
The burden that those who are lost in this world have to carry is the awareness that “something more” exists in this life (GOD), and, their frustrating inability to figure out just what that “something” is. We are created with a capacity for eternal things (We share GOD’s nature), and, with a realization that, this life cannot be all that there is. Sin, is what has cut us off from eternity and darkened our understanding and will to obey GOD. Most of us will come to know what a burden it is to yearn for eternity, and yet, not know GOD. GOD has already done all that can be done to the design of the universe. No matter what a man does, he cannot add anything lasting to the design of this world, nor can he take anything away from it, when he departs.
In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon shifts his thoughts to the futility of seeking only pleasure in this life (Vs.1-11). He tells of how he went on a quest for “good times” seeking after all of the, so-called, “good things” in life. Soon he discovered that “it was silly to be laughing all the time” (v.2), and he saw no advantage to seeking only pleasure in life. He even turned to drunkenness, seeking “wisdom”, while clutching at “foolishness”, hoping to experience the only happiness that some people will ever find during their brief lives here on earth (v.3).
Then Solomon tells us of his pursuit of “material things”, agricultural wealth, slave trading, livestock, silver and gold, musical entertainment, and beautiful women (Vs. 4-8), and he pursued them to the point where he became greater than any king before him. He became, quite literally, the “King of Excess”, and he remained sober at that point, so that he could clearly evaluate his great wealth.
Like the “pagan kings” around him, he denied himself nothing that he thought would bring him joy. He even indulged in physical labor so that he could experience the added reward that lesser people received for their hard work, but still, without GOD, it was all meaningless (Vs.9-11).
The wise and the foolish share the same fate, in that they are both under judgment from GOD. And while wisdom is far more valuable than foolishness, wisdom cannot exempt us from facing physical death, and both, the wise, and the foolish, will one day have to make an account to the GOD WHO created them, and gifted them. All people are born with the “wisdom” that is found in GOD’s “shared nature”, however, most will choose not to ever use it, or, tap into it. Fortunately, the wise person comes to understand their purpose in life, and unfortunately, the foolish person does not (Vs. 12-16).
In verses 17-26, “the futility of work” comes into focus. Here Solomon says that he became disgusted in the thought that one day he must leave the fruits of his labor behind to others (v.18), and there is no telling what they might do with them. Will they be wise in their use of them? Or will they foolishly squander his wealth away (v.19)? That is a scenario that all responsible parents, and every financially successful person must ponder during their lifetime. The thought of this is perhaps enough to make any person turn in despair, as Solomon did, regarding his hard work. Many people will have to leave the things that they have worked so hard for, to people who didn’t work at all to earn them. Errantly, Solomon thought that this was not only foolish, but also, unfair (v.21).
However, in verses 24-26, we see the wise king coming to this conclusion; there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink, and to find satisfaction in one’s work. For this pleasure comes from the hand and largesse of GOD. No one can eat or enjoy anything apart from GOD, WHO made all things. GOD gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please HIM, and even if a sinner becomes wealthy, GOD takes that wealth away, and gives it to those who please HIM. And even wealth from “honest hard work”, Solomon says, is meaningless without GOD.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website