Faithlife Sermons

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18


Teaching the Gospel thru Ecclesiastes

The Bible is broken down how? We have the Pentatuch, which are the first 5 books of the Bible, the Law. Then we have the Historical books, Joshua thru Esther. Then the Wisdom books, Job thru Song of Solomon, the Prophets Isaiah thru Malachi, then the Gospels, then Acts, another Historical book, then the Epistles or the Letters, then the Revelation of Jesus.
Ecclesiastes is one of the Wisdom books. Let’s break those down quickly, Job, we don’t know who wrote it or when exactly. Psalms was written mostly by who? King David. Then Proverbs, mostly by Solomon, who also wrote Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon or Song of Songs. These books aren’t exactly in chronological order. Song of Solomon was written in his younger years, talking about the love of his life, a farm girl who he made queen the Shulamite. Beautiful description of how a man should cherish his wife. I actually wrote a study for my wife a few years ago while she was on a fishing trip with her dad thru it, and how I see her in it.
Proverbs was written thru out his life, but Ecclesiastes was written by an old man in the twilight of his years. Can someone describe it to me? The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible starts it’s introduction like this: Ecclesiastes is a DIFFICULT book. Exactly. It’s one of those things if you stop before getting into chapter 7 you start to wonder why this is in even in the Bible. Knowing, however, that it’s Solomon reflecting on his life, and the fact that he had the resources to try to seek for himself if he could fill his life with meaning. What he found shouldn’t shock you, but in the light of the world we live in now, I find this book is a treasure trove for an evangelist. As I’m reading thru it, I start seeing the dots connecting. With this book, I’m not only going to teach you what it’s about and it’s application to our lives, I’m also going to teach you how to recognize conversations you’re having in real-time with people and how to turn those opportunities and conversations into a Gospel message.
A good friend of mine stopped me once after listening to one of my first messages and told me that every sermon should be 20-30% instruction, and 70-80% application. I’m going to try to live up to those percentages. Today, I’m going to set the stage for you, I’m going to start the book, THEN rush to the end to make sure you understand where we’re going.
Ecclesiastes 1:1–3 NKJV
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” 3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
The words of the Preacher - the word is Quohelet which means preacher, teacher, or more concicely “Speaker of the Assembly.” The son of David, and king in Jerusalem. Although not specifically naming himself Solomon, we can assume with some confidence this is him.
Vanity - the word means vapor or smoke. It occurs 37 times in this book alone. It’s used like a woe.
Under the Sun - This phrase is used 29 times in this book, referring to the things we do for our own purposes.
As a young man, Solomon was focused on doing God’s will, fulfilling the call of his father from 1 Kings 2:1-4 “1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”
Solomon built the temple, and in 2 Chronicles 6 we get the longest prayer in the Bible from him dedicating it to God. After that…things get out of hand for Solomon, right? Then we read this in 1 Kings 11:3 “3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.” As the world is marveling at this man’s wisdom, he starts wandering around “under the sun.” Do any of you get bored doing the Lord’s work? Just want to have a little fun? Well, let’s have Solomon tell you what he found? He found smoke. Beautiful, intricate, mesmerizing…it draws us in. It’s amazing to watch in slow motion. the turbulent flow and the interaction of the air with the smoke and dust…but you try to reach out and grab it and you grab nothing, you just watch it dance around you, mocking you. Then it’s gone, and you’re empty.
What was Solomon’s conclusion you ask? I’m glad you did? Let’s turn to the end of the book now:
Ecclesiastes 12 NKJV
1 Remember now your 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”: 2 While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain; 3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; 4 When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low. 5 Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. 6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. 7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. 8 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.” 9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.
Remember NOW your Creator in the days of your youth. Do as I say, not as I did. Solomon followed his heart. Idiot. Follow your heart. That’s dumb. What does the Bible say about that? Jeremiah 17:9 “9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Follow your MIND right? Proverbs 3:5-6 “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Wait, trust the Lord with your what? 1 Sam 16:7 “7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” Wait, which is it Lord? Matthew 22:37 “37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” Proverbs 21:2 “2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” Um…Proverbs 27:19 “19 As in water face reflects face, So a man’s heart reveals the man.” Wait…there it is.
Solomon was looking down and within himself, at everything where? Under the Sun. He was tired of looking at the Sun right? He spends this whole book explaining his downward and inward look, that he starts the final chapter here talking about what? What’s OUT and UP! As in water, who you look at is who you look like. Who you ARE though, comes from WHY you do what you do.
Ecc 12:6 “6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.” What is Solomon foreshadowing here? The sliver cord is loosed Our death, right? All we are is dust in the wind dude. Solomon is saying BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, what? Ecc 12:13-14 “13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” Fear GOD and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. The Message Bible says FEAR GOD, DO WHAT HE TELLS YOU. Why?
With that in mind, that Solomon has realized that looking inward and downward at everything under the sun is meaningless without God’s meaning. How awesome is it that the God of the Universe that made everything, saw it fit to make you, and want to know you, and want you to know Him. I think that’s pretty amazing myself.
Ecclesiastes 1:3–11 NKJV
3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? 4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. 5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. 6 The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit. 7 All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again. 8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 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. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.
The word forever means, for all intents and purposes prior to the events of Revelation, describes a very long duration, perpetual. So, in a nutshell, what is Solomon saying here? He’s saying that history repeats itself, AND, that we will forget about that history (or it’ll be rewritten, or removed right?)
Every generation, day in, day out, all we do is work. I hear it all the time…”I wish there were more hours in a day.” Nope, not me man. I don’t want more hours in a day. I need to get more focused on what I do with those hours though. Otherwise, this is the cycle of our lives, right? We get caught up chasing the wind, wondering about why the sea doesn’t get filled up. Why nothing satisfies my life, so I get up in the morning and I go to my job, argue with people about what is fair, what is right, and what is expected. I get advice from people who have been there, and done that, because THAT’S WHAT WORKS right?
When are we going to realize, THIS WORLD WASN’T MADE FOR US? When are we going to see WE WERE MADE FOR THE WORLD? To bring HIS Glory to the eyes of unbelievers? You were made for THIS WORLD, for THIS TIME, and no other point in time was someone like you here to do what you can do. Nobody. Have you ever wondered why, when they run fingerprints, they don’t have several matches for the century they’ve been collecting and analyzing them?
That’s what people need to hear. When you hear people talk about the rat-race of life. Who moved my cheese? How to win friends and influence people. They need to hear from YOUR MOUTH that THEY have a purpose. What is that purpose you may ask? Well, what have you been listening to? Do you hear someone who’s empathetic? Driven? Creative? Thoughtful? Passionate? Seeking? Pondering?
Ecc 1:10 “10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.” Is there anything new? Yes, You. Them. You aren’t a re-hash of an old algorithm. You’re new code. Don’t waste your life looking inward, preparing for everything, carefully planning…invite The Holy Spirit into your life and let Him direct your steps. Leave Him room to change your plans and let Him wreck your life and rebuild upon the Rock. What then, should we seek? Let’s see what Solomon says:
Ecclesiastes 1:12–18 NKJV
12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set 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. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered. 16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
This BURDENSOME TASK God has given us, to seek wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied. You see what Solomon is saying…we get knowledge, then we test it to gain wisdom…that’s a long, drawn out process.
Ecc 1:16 “16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.”” Communed with his heart, set his heart to attain wisdom, and the Lord gave it to him and it was madness, because he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
My advice, put away the self-help books. Realize that there is no self-help section, because if we look inside we find it’s empty. There’s no helping me inside me. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants with their collective knowledge and wisdom pressed against the lint in our pockets. Where does it get us if we’re only helping us. Listen to this man. He’s searched inside the bottle, inside the boxes, inside the relationships, he’s spent the money, and he realizes he can’t attain anything, and as we know from looking at the end of the book, what is the wisest man to live besides Jesus say? Do what God says to do.
Shut your mouths and listen to people. Ask how someone is doing and when they give you a short answer, dig a little deeper. Jesus listened to people, and when it was prudent, spoke few, but meaningful words. I’m teaching myself that, to ask the question and listen. You can poke pins in people’s ego very delicately, let that air out, and then drop in the truth without them knowing it and the light goes on.
What is this lesson? Chapter 1, you can’t embrace the smoke. It pulls you in with it’s beauty and will mock you when you try. There is nothing new under the sun, stop looking inside for satisfaction. History repeats itself, but YOU are the one and only, ever. And finally, when we commune with our heart and reflect on our lives, everything is meaningless if we don’t have the right motivation behind what we do. Everything we do for ourselves will be gone the moment we pass, or it will go to someone and get spent. If you want to build a true legacy, start doing everything for the Lord. Every one of our service techs are in people’s homes for a reason. Listen to them. You’re not there to fix their appliance, you’re there to build a bridge. There are only so many hours in the day. Guard the time you have. This world reminds us all the time, take the time to yourself. The Lord will give you rest when you are fully engaged. The WORLD NEEDS YOU.
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