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“End of the Road pt. 1”

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Ernest Hemingway, born in 1899, was the epitome of the twentieth-century man. At age 25 he sipped champagne in Paris, and later had well-publicized game hunts in Africa and hunted grizzly bears in America's northwest. At the age of sixty-one, after having it all—wine, women, song, a distinguished literary career, Sunday afternoon bullfights in Spain—Hemingway chose to end his life, leaving a note saying, "Life is one [expletive] thing after another."
Today we are still face to face with continued efforts of the world to convince us that life apart from Christ is actually possible. The continued efforts continue to fail. It continues to come up short. There are so many different variations that we all seem to fall for, but in the end we all end up at the same place. Vanity of vanities. But its different now. Because we know better now. Technology is at an all time high. Understanding grows exponentially. We have built upon the foundations of past brilliance. Progress is astounding. Our reach today is global. We have solved many of the mysteries of history. We know better now don’t we? All we are doing is coming to the reality of meaninglessness quicker. This is why today suicide rates continue to climb all over the world. Lifestyle is more important than even life. But everything under the sun is meaningless. That is why we don’t have meaning and purpose. There is only one way and we will look at this today.
Ecclesiastes 12:8-14
Ecclesiastes 12:8–14 NLT
“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.” Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly. The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep. But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.
All is Meaningless
Logical Clarity
The Wisdom of God
The first thing we will look at today is the reiteration of Solomon that all that is under the sun is meaningless utter meaningless. The second thing we will see is how Solomon decided to communicate this truth to us in logically clear methods. Finally, we will uncover, yet again, how all of the wisdom of God is all treasured up in the beauty of the Son of God our Lord Jesus.
Thesis: Though sin and the pattern of this world cause us to be deceived by the promises given by the world that consistently come up short, it is the wisdom and power of God that will shine His light in the darkness and show us that we can have life and life more abundant in union with our Lord Jesus.
I. All is Meaningless
- We should hear this with a whole new perspective.
A. All is just vapor under the sun. It is the preachers first and last words in this book. If you remember, the Hebrew word for vanity or meaningless (hevel) is Solomon’s multipurpose metaphor to express the futility of life in a fallen world. Taken literally, the word refers to a breath or vapor, like the steam rising from a boiling kettle. Such is life. It is impossible to grasp, and before you know it, life is gone; it vanishes into thin air.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
B. The vapor of our existence is dramatically expressed in Breath, a play by Samuel Beckett in the 60’s that lasts seconds. (VIDEO)
- As the curtain opens, there is a pile of rubbish on the stage, illuminated by a single light. The light dims and then brightens a little before going completely out. There are no words or actors in the drama, only a sound track with a human cry, followed by an inhaled breath, an exhaled breath, and another cry. The play thus depicts what King David wrote in the psalms...
The vapor of our existence is dramatically expressed in Breath, a play by Samuel Beckett that lasts a mere thirty-five seconds. As the curtain opens, there is a pile of rubbish on the stage, illuminated by a single light. The light dims and then brightens a little before going completely out. There are no words or actors in the drama, only a sound track with a human cry, followed by an inhaled breath, an exhaled breath, and another cry. The play thus depicts what King David wrote in the psalms: “mankind is a mere breath” (, ).
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Psalm 39:5 NLT
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
C. By beginning and ending with the same statement, the structure of Ecclesiastes reinforces one of its main points—namely, that “there is nothing new under the sun” (). As it was before, so it is now, and so it will ever be. Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, all the time. Thus we end up right back where we began.
By beginning and ending with the same statement, the structure of Ecclesiastes reinforces one of its main points—namely, that “there is nothing new under the sun” (). As it was before, so it is now, and so it will ever be. Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, all the time. Thus we end up right back where we began.
D. We should not think, however, that the Preacher merely repeats himself. does bring us back to the same place where we began, but we are not the same people. Reading Ecclesiastes has given us a bigger perspective on life. The Preacher has shown us how vain life is; so when we hear him make the same statement at the end of his book, it strikes us with much greater force.
We should not think, however, that the Preacher merely repeats himself. does bring us back to the same place where we began, but we are not the same people. Reading Ecclesiastes has given us a bigger perspective on life. The Preacher has shown us how vain life is; so when we hear him make the same statement at the end of his book, it strikes us with much greater force.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
E. Now we know that work is vanity, that there is nothing for us to gain from all our restless toil under the sun (e.g., ). It is all “vanity and striving after wind” (; ). We know that human wisdom is vanity, that it only increases our “sorrow” and “vexation” (). Whether we are wise or foolish does not even matter because we will all die in the end (). We know that pleasure is vanity. Wine, women, and song; parks, houses, and vineyards; gold, silver, and treasure—there is “nothing to be gained under the sun” ().
F. It is all vanity. Power is vanity: there is no one to comfort the tears of the oppressed (). Money is vanity, too, because it causes no end of trouble as we look after our possessions, which may all be lost at a moment’s notice (). But even if we manage to hold on to our money, it cannot satisfy our souls ().
Now we know that work is vanity, that there is nothing for us to gain from all our restless toil under the sun (e.g., ). It is all “vanity and striving after wind” (; ). We know that human wisdom is vanity, that it only increases our “sorrow” and “vexation” (). Whether we are wise or foolish does not even matter because we will all die in the end (). We know that pleasure is vanity. Wine, women, and song; parks, houses, and vineyards; gold, silver, and treasure—there is “nothing to be gained under the sun” ().
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 274). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
It is all vanity. Power is vanity: there is no one to comfort the tears of the oppressed (). Money is vanity, too, because it causes no end of trouble as we look after our possessions, which may all be lost at a moment’s notice (). But even if we manage to hold on to our money, it cannot satisfy our souls ().
G. Then there is the last of all vanities, which is the vanity of death. Nearly all of us will have to endure the indignities of growing old (.), and after that, the final vanity of returning to the ground from which we were made. Dust we are, and to the dust we shall return ().
H. Not that we never have any joy, of course. In spite of all the vanity, we can still rejoice in life’s many blessings. The Preacher has encouraged us to eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work (e.g., ). He has told us that there is a time for healing and harvesting, a time for laughing and dancing, a time for loving and making peace (). He has told us to rejoice in the prosperity that God so richly provides (; ) and to enjoy life with the one whom we love (). There is joy in the world under the blessing of a faithful God.
Not that we never have any joy, of course. In spite of all the vanity, we can still rejoice in life’s many blessings. The Preacher has encouraged us to eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work (e.g., ). He has told us that there is a time for healing and harvesting, a time for laughing and dancing, a time for loving and making peace (). He has told us to rejoice in the prosperity that God so richly provides (; ) and to enjoy life with the one whom we love (). There is joy in the world under the blessing of a faithful God.
I. Yet what the Preacher mainly wants us to see is how meaningless life is without God, how little joy there is under the sun if we try to leave our Creator out of his universe. By the time we get to the end of Ecclesiastes, we have to admit that he has proved his case. “Nothing in our search has led us home,” says Derek Kidner; “nothing that we are offered under the sun is ours to keep.” Vanity of vanities! It is all vanity.
II. Logical Clarity
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 275). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- Yet “vanity” does not get the last word, either in the Bible or in the Christian life.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 275). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
A. Ecclesiastes has told us what the Preacher said. Now the book tells us how he said it...
Ecclesiastes 12:9–10 NLT
Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.
B. The Preacher wrote with logical clarity. He took the time and trouble to evaluate all the wise sayings that he had heard and then included only the ones that were weighty enough to demand our full attention—proverbs like “anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (), for example, or “who can make straight what he [God] has made crooked?” ().
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (pp. 275–276). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
The Preacher wrote with logical clarity. He took the time and trouble to evaluate all the wise sayings that he had heard and then included only the ones that were weighty enough to demand our full attention—proverbs like “anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (), for example, or “who can make straight what he [God] has made crooked?” ().
C. King Solomon heard many wise sayings over the course of his lifetime but only included in the Bible the ones that were wise and true—some three thousand proverbs in all.
1 Kings 4:32 NLT
He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs.
D. Not only did the Preacher assess these proverbs studiously, but he also arranged them carefully. There is a logic to the way this book is put together. It is not the logic of a history or an epistle but of a collection of proverbs. Ecclesiastes was not thrown together but constructed as a complete work of literature. After an opening statement of theme (), the Preacher told us the story of his quest to find meaning in life (). Then, to help us know how to live for God in this vain world, he showed the difference between wisdom and folly (). He ended, appropriately enough, by talking again about death and dying (), before restating his primary theme—the vanity of all vanity ().
D.
Not only did the Preacher assess these proverbs studiously, but he also arranged them carefully. There is a logic to the way this book is put together. It is not the logic of a history or an epistle but of a collection of proverbs. Ecclesiastes was not thrown together but constructed as a complete work of literature. After an opening statement of theme (), the Preacher told us the story of his quest to find meaning in life (). Then, to help us know how to live for God in this vain world, he showed the difference between wisdom and folly (). He ended, appropriately enough, by talking again about death and dying (), before restating his primary theme—the vanity of all vanity ().
E. In addition to writing with logical clarity, the Preacher also wrote with literary artistry. He sought to find “words of delight” ()—a marvelous phrase that expresses the beauty of the Bible. Whether people agree with the Preacher or not, no one criticizes his writing style. The famous American writer Tom Wolfe described Ecclesiastes as “the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth”—“the greatest single piece of writing I have known.” This is the book that gave us phrases like “the sun also rises” (, nkjv), “to everything there is a season” (), “eternity in the hearts of men” (, niv), “cast your bread upon the waters” (), “the almond tree blossoms” (), and “man does not know his time” ().
In addition to writing with logical clarity, the Preacher also wrote with literary artistry. He sought to find “words of delight” ()—a marvelous phrase that expresses the beauty of the Bible. Whether people agree with the Preacher or not, no one criticizes his writing style. The famous American writer Tom Wolfe described Ecclesiastes as “the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth”—“the greatest single piece of writing I have known.” This is the book that gave us phrases like “the sun also rises” (, nkjv), “to everything there is a season” (), “eternity in the hearts of men” (, niv), “cast your bread upon the waters” (), “the almond tree blossoms” (), and “man does not know his time” ().
F. Praise God for the beauty of Ecclesiastes—not just what the book says, but also the way the book says it. This is one of the many ways that God reveals his character and shows us his grace. He is a God of exquisite beauty. It is only appropriate, then, for the book that tells the story of his salvation to please the ear, inspire the imagination, fascinate the mind, and delight the soul.
Praise God for the beauty of Ecclesiastes—not just what the book says, but also the way the book says it. This is one of the many ways that God reveals his character and shows us his grace. He is a God of exquisite beauty. It is only appropriate, then, for the book that tells the story of his salvation to please the ear, inspire the imagination, fascinate the mind, and delight the soul.
G. The Preacher also wrote with intellectual integrity. Once he had found words of delight, “uprightly he wrote words of truth” (). To be of real spiritual help, it is not enough for someone to write clearly and stylishly; he must also write truthfully. If there is one thing we can always count on the Preacher to do, it is to tell us the truth—not just the truth about God but also the truth about life in a fallen world. This is why Moby Dick describes Ecclesiastes as “a fine-hammered steel of woe.” Whether he is talking about the agonies of old age or the anguish of losing a fortune, the Preacher never holds back from telling us what life is like under the sun.
H. The author of Ecclesiastes wrote with clarity, artistry, and integrity. Thus his book instructs our minds, touches our hearts, and guides us in the wisdom of God. And what is the wisdom of God? Better yet…who is the wisdom of God?
III. The Wisdom of God
The author of Ecclesiastes wrote with clarity, artistry, and integrity. Thus his book instructs our minds, touches our hearts, and guides us in the wisdom of God.
Ryken, P. G. (2010). Ecclesiastes: Why everything matters (p. 277). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
- In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
A. All of this truth and wisdom given to us in this book and other wisdom literature is clearly pointing us to the wisdom of God, but let us not lose the beauty of wisdom literature. We do not look at the totality of the wisdom of God as a statement, but a person.
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.
Colossians
Colossians 2:3 NLT
In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
B. It is Christ and Christ alone. Our problem is that we have been searching for life under the sun, but life and life more abundant can only be had with life under the Son of God.
John 10:10 ESV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
C. Christ came to bring us life. He came to bring us actual life. The Word of God declares there is nothing in this world that will satisfy. We have seen the truth of this throughout all history and in modern culture today. Nothing in this world will satisfy. But the news gets worse.
D. Not only will the world not satisfy but a life away from God is a life in rebellion to God. And a life in rebellion to God will bring the judgement of God. The end will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Eternal darkness. So not only will chasing the world under the sun not bring you any satisfaction, it will bring the judgement of the living God. The wages of sin is death.
E. But the good news is that Christ not only came to bring us life, but eternal life. This is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus came to save us. Jesus died for our sins… the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full...
F. Not only is there life for us today, but life more abundant. All who call upon the name of the Lord… If you confess with your mouth...
G. The beauty of the end of the road in Ecclesiastes, is that is points us to Christ in all things and coming to Christ is not the end of the road, its just the beginning of eternity.
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