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"The Pursuit of Wisdom" (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)

Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:29
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It is not that the pursuit of wisdom is completely pointless or useless. Wisdom has many advantages and can result in many positive outcomes. But… If your pursuit of wisdom is in order to find life’s ultimate “profit” or “advantage” or “value,” then your pursuit is misguided and will ultimately leave you disappointed.

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Where Are We?
Title (1:1)
Theme Word: “Hebel” (1:2)
Programmatic Question: “Where is ‘yitron’ or ‘profit’?” (1:3)
Poem about the Enigma of Life (1:4-11)
Life keeps moving. Round and round it goes. Where can we find ultimate meaning and significance if there is nothing really new and we are so quickly forgotten? This ultimate meaning and significance cannot be found ‘under the sun.’ It must be found in eternity with our Creator (1:4-11).
Where Are We Going?
First Discourse: Observations on Various Areas of Life in Order to Demonstrate Finite Man’s Lack of Ultimate Gain (1:12-6:9)
Personal Observations on Various Life Situations (1:12-3:22)
Observations on Human Achievement and Wisdom (1:12-2:26)
The Pursuit of Wisdom (1:12-18)
Ecclesiastes 1:12–18 NIV
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. 16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Ecclesiastes 1:12 NIV
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
Teacher
Qoheleth - קֹהֶ֫לֶת
Solomon?
Ecclesiastes 1:13 NIV
13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!
Mind
Lit. “heart”
To Study and to Explore
Pursuit
Wisdom
Goal of the Pursuit
Under the Heavens
Another way of saying “under the sun” - finite humanity
Heavy Burden
“evil task” or “unhappy business”
Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV
14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Seen
Observational nature of wisdom literature
Under the Sun
Limited, finite perspective
Meaningless
Hebel - הֶ֫בֶל
“enigmatic” and “frustrating”
Chasing after the Wind
Elusive, uncontrollable by finite man
Ecclesiastes 1:15 NIV
15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
What is Crooked Cannot Be Straightened
Finite power or control
What is Lacking Cannot Be Counted
Finite knowledge or understanding
Ecclesiastes 1:16 NIV
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”
Ecclesiastes 1:13 NIV
13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!
Wisdom and Knowledge
The goal of the current pursuit to find ‘yitron’ or ‘profit’
More Than/Much
Superlative pursuit
Ecclesiastes 1:17 NIV
17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
Understanding of Wisdom
Beyond gaining wisdom to seeking to understand it and how it works
Madness and Folly
The other side of wisdom - to look at “both sides of the coin”
Exhaustive Pursuit
This Too - Chasing after the Wind
The superlative and exhaustive pursuit of wisdom is an unsatisfactory answer to the question of 1:3.
Ecclesiastes 1:3 NIV
3 What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
Gain
“Profit” or “Advantage” - יִתְרוֹן
Ecclesiastes 1:18 NIV
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Sorrow/Grief
Frequent attendant circumstances of the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge
The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is not simple.
It is complex.
What Is the Main Point?
It is not that the pursuit of wisdom is completely pointless or useless. Wisdom has many advantages and can result in many positive outcomes. But… If your pursuit of wisdom is in order to find life’s ultimate “profit” or “advantage” or “value,” then your pursuit is misguided and will ultimately leave you disappointed.
“Human accomplishments are as insubstantial and fleeting as a puff of air; trying to find ultimate meaning in them is as futile as trying to catch the wind.” - Edward Curtis
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