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“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction - Wisdom”

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Learning. Education. Our quest for knowledge. It is something many, like Socrates and Aristotle, have said is the actual meaning and purpose of life. Analytics and Statistics. Examination and the accumulation of knowledge is foundational to what it is to be rational beings, to being human. The thirst for knowledge by many can and has become an obsession for some, but the interesting thing is that satisfaction still does not come. We can’t get no satisfaction through wisdom. Moreover, the increase in knowledge only brought more frustration and confusion. That is why many even say ignorance is bliss. Some have done the bizarre things like read encyclopedias (i’m guilty of it) and still feel like I’m no better off than someone who has not read it. Maybe more depressed though.
Some have done the bizarre things like read encyclopedias (i’m guilty of it) and still feel like I’m no better off than someone who has not read it.
Confusion with the apparent potency of knowledge continues… Misguided. Education is not bad, but the obsession of it leads to idolatry. Many in our world continue to follow what Voddie Bauchman calls the God of Education. Even in Christian communities, the goal of getting our children into a good college outweighs the child’s need for discipleship. Smart well educated students instead of mature and faithful christians. We do not raise our kids to be good people, we raise them to be good christians.
They got into Harvard, but in the end they are going to hell. What good is that? We teach all work and no play. My friend got a job at a prestigious law firm in California over two graduates from Harvard. He went to University of Hawaii law school which is one of the lowest ranked law schools. He didn't even get that great of grades, but he still graduated passed the bar. But he spent much of the time going out and partying with others at the school. He played alot. Now how in the world did he get the job over two Harvard law school grads who said all work and no play? One of the guys who he hung out partying with, was the guy who was in charge of hiring. This is why I tell people today… study yes, but do not neglect networking. In this case it was not what you know, but who you know. And that is how we can have hope today. We see the meaninglessness of life under the sun, but the scriptures show us how we can truly have life under the Son of God. We cannot get no satisfaction through wisdom yet we do not need to despair, hope is not about what you know, but who you know.
Learning. Education. Our quest for knowledge. It is something many have said is the meaning and purpose of life. Examination and the accumulation of knowledge is foundational to what it is to be rational beings, to being human. The thirst for knowledge by many can and has become an obsession for some, but the interesting thing is that satisfaction still does not come. Some have done the bizarre things like read encyclopedias (i’m guilty of it) and still feel like I’m no better off than someone who has not read it.
Ecclesiastes 1:12–18 NLT
I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered. I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.
The Quest
The Tragedy
The Inability
The Sorrow
The Gospel
The first thing we will explore is the quest of the preacher to find the meaning of everything in the universe. The second thing we will uncover is the unfortunate tragedy of the bad business God has given to the human race. Third, we will see the bad business and how we are unable to do anything to fix it. Fourth, we will bring to light the actual sorrow that comes from the increase of knowledge. Finally, we can rejoice in the beauty of the good news of the Gospel for knowledge of the Son is so much more than knowledge under the sun.
Thesis: Though sin and the pattern of this world cause us to be deceived into thinking that worldly wisdom will bring purpose and meaning to our lives, it is the light of the Gospel and the power of the Spirit that will show us that true boasting should not be in wisdom, but in that we truly know the Lord. It is not what we know, but who we know.
I. The Quest
- He wanted to know everything about everything under the sun.
A. He opens this section with a description of himself. Again we see a good description that strengthens our assertion that the author is Solomon. Solomon is the preacher. After Solomon the kingdom was split. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son ruled in Jerusalem, but this was not over Israel, but Judah.
B. Just a bit of Hebrew grammer… he speaks in the perfect tense when he says “I … have been king.” This tells us that he is writing near the end of his reign, after he has been king for some time. Writing from the vantage point of age and experience, he is telling us the story of what he has learned about life.
C. He is on a quest for wisdom and knowledge. He is asking the ultimate questions. Again he wants to know the meaning of life. Qoheleth was a Renaissance man. He wanted to know or to examine as much as he could about as many things as he could. He wanted to examine it all, take it all in, he wanted to leave nothing out, he wanted his conclusions to be as definitive as possible. He wanted to investigate and examine every area of human behavior and endeavor—“all that is done under heaven” (). In short, he wanted to know everything about everything under the sun.
The fact that he speaks in the perfect tense (“I … have been king”) tells us further that he is writing near the end of his reign, after he has been king for some time. Writing from the vantage point of age and experience, he is telling us the story of what he has learned about life.
II. The Tragedy
- The quest successfully ended in tragedy.
A. What did Solomon discover? What will we discover if we embark on a similar quest? Well, the preacher came up empty. We will look at this even more, but first... something astonishing.
B. It is tragic.
Ecclesiastes 1:13 NLT
I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race.
Ecclesiastes
C. Sooner or later it hits us. Life hits us with its best shot…fire away. Many things in life make us feel unhappy and we have no control over it. Growing up and seeing the bad relationship that our parents have or had, unkind comments that people make about us, things we do not have but wish we did, the recognition we think we deserve but never get, the job, the position, even the ordinary frustrations of daily life—all of these circumstances make us feel unhappy. It can be so frustrating.
Sooner or later most people end up feeling the same way. Many things make us feel unhappy. The bad relationship that our parents have, unkind comments that people make about us, things we do not have but wish we did, the recognition we think we deserve but never get, even the ordinary frustrations of daily life—all of these circumstances make us feel unhappy.
D. But Solomon is giving us something worse. His word for unhappiness (Hebrew ra’) is more negative. Properly speaking, it refers to something bad or evil. And existence is the Hebrew in-yan … more literally… business.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
But Ecclesiastes is saying something even more depressing. His word for unhappiness (Hebrew ra’) is more negative. Properly speaking, it refers to something bad or evil. Thus it describes a moral category rather than an emotional state. The problem is not simply that life makes us unhappy, but that it is evil in itself. It is not just an unfortunate business, but a bad business.
Dr. Ryken - The problem is not simply that life makes us unhappy, but that it is evil in itself. It is not just an unfortunate business, but a bad business.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
E. When the Preacher talks about “the business,” he’s referring to everything that people do—human activity in general and their quest for knowledge. Ever since the sin of our first parents, work has been a bad experience. The land and the man came under judgement and given to frustration.
There are at least two different ways to understand this statement. When the Preacher talks about “business,” he may be referring to everything that people do—human activity in general. If so, what he says about that business is certainly true. Ever since the sin of our first parents, work has been a bad experience.
Genesis 3:17 NLT
And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
F. Leonard Woolf, the British publisher and political theorist who helped begin the Bloomsbury Group (also the husband of Virginia Woolf), had this to say about his life and work: I see clearly that I have achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the past five to seven years would be exactly the same as it is if I had played Ping-Pong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make a rather ignominious confession that I must have, in a long life, ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.
Leonard Woolf, the British publisher and political theorist who helped begin the Bloomsbury Group (also the husband of Virginia Woolf), had this to say about his life and work:
G. His brilliant wife who pursued knowledge to geneis levels. Struggled with depression and eventually comitted suiside in hoplessness.
I see clearly that I have achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the past five to seven years would be exactly the same as it is if I had played Ping-Pong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make a rather ignominious confession that I must have, in a long life, ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.
G. In addition, it is the pursuit of knowledge itself that turns out to be such a bad business as well. The longer he looked for answers and the harder he tried to understand life, the more burdened he became. Sometimes the more we try to know, the more frustrated we get with life and all its unanswerable questions. This does not mean that wisdom and knowledge are not good things, it is shows us that is troublesome.
It is the pursuit of knowledge itself that turns out to be such a bad business. The longer he looked for answers and the harder he tried to understand life, the more burdened he became. Sometimes the more we try to know, the more frustrated we get with life and all its unanswerable questions.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 38–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
H. Even people who deny God’s existence search for the meaning of their own existence. The famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking was grasping at this truth when he said, “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe.” Or at least we can try to understand the universe. Yet the very business of that quest leads to unhappiness.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
The Preacher was an ancient-day Renaissance man. He wanted to know as much as he could about as many things as he could. He wanted to take it all in, leaving nothing out, so that his conclusions would be as definitive as possible. He wanted to investigate every area of human endeavor—“all that is done under heaven” (). In short, he wanted to know everything about everything under the sun.
III. The Inability
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- Life is what it is and there is nothing we can do about it.
A. He concludes that all is vanity, a vapor, just blowin’ in the wind, meaningless, then he will add to this. Chasing the wind. More literally is shepherding the wind. Ever hear of the saying… its like herding cats? Try herding the wind. This is the conclusion of the quest. This is where chasing knowledge with wisdom led the Preacher, the king of Israel.
B. Its not just Solomon.
- Before he died, the modernist poet Ezra Pound said, “All my life I believed I knew something. But then one strange day came when I realized that I knew nothing; yes, I knew nothing. And so words became void of meaning.”
- Similarly, the infamous atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins has concluded that human existence is “neither good nor evil, neither kind nor cruel, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
C. Then Solomon gives us a proverb. A vivid picture of it.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 ESV
What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
D. Since the fall, life has become so bent out of shape that we just cannot fix it. Is there not so many things in life that is just so messed up that we just cannot seem to straighten it out. Sometimes in life when we try to straighten it out its like it almost gets worse? Like things our mouths say that we cannot take back. Things we do that cannot be undone? Arguments at home with our spouses that cannot be undone, conflicts in the church that cannot be undone, wrongs done in the workplace that got you fired or someone else, mistakes made by the government or corporations, our own moral failings, our sins, relational troubles, simple conversations that you wish you could take back what you said, physical and mental disabilities—the list goes on and on. We so badly want to bend it back into shape but we can’t. No matter how hard we try it will not go back. Solomon is on the money here.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 40–41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
E. Also, We cannot count what is not there. We do not know what we are missing if it is actually missing. So all this to say that the world is crooked and lacking. In other words… the world is what it is, and there is nothing we can do about it. WOW!!
F. Attention motivational speakers and life coaches…did you hear that! There are so many things that we are powerless to change: people we cannot manage, problems we cannot solve, longings we cannot satisfy. We certainly cannot bend life to our own will simply by the exercise of human wisdom. All the therapy and coaching in the world cannot fix it, it can help us kinda artificially cope with all thats bent out of shape, but it changes nothing. And the coping will only last so long.
G. This is why all the pursuit of knowledge will end in despair. This is why Socrates’ and Aristotle’s ultimate purpose of knowledge does not work. This is why we have seen countless suicides of some of the smartest people in the world.
There are so many things that we are powerless to change: people we cannot manage, problems we cannot solve, longings we cannot satisfy. We certainly cannot bend life to our own will simply by the exercise of human wisdom.
IV. The Sorrow
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- Ignorance is bliss.
A. Not sure this is right? Solomon was the wisest person in the world. There was no one smarter or will ever be. So what does this mean … If Solomon was unable to figure out the meaning of life, then no one can.
B. He showed that the quest was not even just wisdom, but madness and folly. Ho-le-lo and sik-lut … This is not insanity, but immorality. Delusional and rash behavior, foolish or senseless behavior. Solomon was not trying to see if losing his right mind would help him understand the meaning of life. He was trying to understand the difference between right and wrong. Solomon did alot of foolish things (concubines and idolatry) as well as wise things… and in the end? Chasing the wind. Like herding the wind.
If Solomon was unable to figure out the meaning of life, then no one can.
Solomon was not trying to see if losing his right mind would help him understand the meaning of life. Rather, he was trying to understand the difference between right and wrong.
C. The smarter I became, the more frustrated I became.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 41). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- H. C. Leupold puts it, “gaining wisdom leads a man to find out many disturbing things that may militate strongly against his peace of mind.”
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 43). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
D. The more we know the worse it gets. It is because the deeper we go, the deeper it gets. The higher we climb the greater the fall. Don’t believe it? An article in the times show an analysis that intelligent people commit suicide at higher rates than others. It is said that 25% of people with an IQ of 160+ kill themselves. Van Goh, Sigmund Freud, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, and the wife of publisher Leonard Woolf, the genesis Virginia Woolf.
E. In Psychology Today there was an article questioning if there is a link between intelligence and depression because of the high rate of depression among those with high IQ scores. So is there a link… Solomon said so.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 NLT
The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
D. Solomon the preacher did it again did he not? Did he not once again show us how life under the sun is meaningless. Made us feel worse about life than we did before. Now if right now you feel like like is hopeless, then Qoheleth is accomplishing his mission. We cannot get any satisfaction in life, not even by increasing knowledge. The bad business of the world is a real thing. So real after the fall. And all knowledge does, is show us that there is nothing we can do about it. It all seems so hopeless. Even the smartest people in the world throughout all of history sees this reality and despair. Hopeless.
E. And again, if you are feeling like like is hopeless and there is no point and there is nothing we can do about it, then the Preacher did his duty. And I did mine. So now I can’t tell you some of the best news we will ever hear. It is called the Gospel of Jesus
V. The Gospel
- He has come to give us life and life more abundantly.
A. If we continue to search for significance in light of the worlds terms instead of Christ’s terms then we will have nothing but vapor and spend our lives just chasing the wind. Human wisdom will only take us so far.
B. Take all the philosophy courses you can (I did). Study all the religions of the world. Take all the self help improvement and coaching classes you can. Take all the world view perspective courses, lifestyle adjustments, read all the you can do it books written. In the end it will all end in vexation and frustration unhappiness and despair. The wisdom of man will only go so far and it will only reveal the tragic existence given to us by God.
C. This why if we boast we boast not in our wisdom but that we know the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23–24 NLT
This is what the Lord says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!
D. The reason for it all is this thing called sin. The fall of Adam and Eve curse the world and everything in it. All of this is the result of sin and there is nothing we can do about it. We cannot make it right again. We cannot make straight what was made crooked. Sadly, we do not have the ability to fix the tragedy. Not with wisdom anyway.
E. Because of sin we are all under judgement. Sometimes I think we forget that. All that we do apart from God is rebellion. And wisdom apart from God is rebellion. We think we know better than the Lord...That is why the scriptures declare.
Isaiah 29:14 NLT
Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.”
F. And boy does He do this with Ecclesiastes. It is one of the sources that demonstrate God destroying human wisdom by showing how empty all our learning is without him. Sadly we can get no satisfaction because we have no ability to fix the tragedy. Hopeless in sin. But though we are under judgement in a cursed land our God is merciful, slow to anger, and abounding is steadfast love and He will not leave us in despair.
Ecclesiastes is one of the sources that demonstrate God destroying the pretensions of human wisdom by showing how empty all our learning is without him.
G. Jesus came into this fallen world of frustration and showed us the power of the wisdom not of man but of God.
1 Corinthians 1:24 NLT
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 43–44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
H. Though Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we will no longer try to bend back all that has been made crooked, but sit back and watch Jesus make all things new
Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we will no longer try to replace all that is missing, because we know that our God has promised to restore all that we have lost.
Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we will find that to increase knowledge of God does not increase sorrow, but increases faith which will enable us to even move mountains.
Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we will find that to increase in the wisdom of God it will not produce grief, but will soar on wings like eagles, we will run and not grow weary...
I. Salvation is here family. It does not matter if we know the ins and outs of the law of thermodynamics, but what matters is that we know the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Christ Jesus. Forgiveness for our rebellion is here. Mercy for the guilt and condemnation in our souls is here. He has come to bring life and life more abundant.
J. Jesus died for our sins and he was buried… the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance…
K. All who call upon the name of the Lord… If you confess with your mouth...
L. In Christ we realize that life makes sense. It all adds up.
M. Family, our present frustrations and lack of satisfaction will not last forever. Im talking about all the struggles we have trying understand the meaning of life.
N. One day soon all our sorrows will be over. The wisdom of God brings everlasting joy and we will be with Jesus forever, and we will find in him the answer to all our questions.
Thus our present vexation will not last forever, including all the struggles we have to understand the meaning of life. Soon all our sorrows will be over. To our everlasting joy, we will be with Jesus forever, and we will find in him the answer to all our questions.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 44). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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