Have you come to a point in your life when you are asking “Is this all there is?” “Is there nothing more?” A very rich and powerful king asked the same questions and recorded his pursuits for our reading. This man’s vast wealth allowed him to try anything his heart desired in his quest for the meaning of life. I hope you will join me as we look in on his journey to the meaning of life.
What we find in the book of Ecclesiastes is not God’s conclusions but rather man’s conclusions about the vanity of life when God is not the driving force. I am going to spill the beans a bit and let you in on the main theme…Life without a relationship with God is empty.
What do we really want out of life? I suspect I would get many answers to this question but they usually boil down to a few things: we want to feel secure, we want a purpose, we want to be happy and we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
There is a reason why we feel incomplete; we are God’s creation and designed to have fellowship with him. The emptiness felt inside by so many is a real tangible thing; it is where God belongs. It’s the place God created to indwell us. Each time we try to fill the void with something other than God we fail. The world’s treasure brings moments of happiness followed by the return of emptiness.
In the early days of King Solomon the riches of the kingdom were unmatched not only in his day but throughout all recorded history. In 1 Kings 10 we get a picture of the enormous wealth to the point that in verse 25 the silver was as stones because of their abundance. Did this set the stage for what we read here in Ecclesiastes? No, I don’t think so. 1 Kings 11 tells of Solomon’s downward spiral. He took wives from nations who served idols. Not only did he condone their continued practice of idol worship he joined them in offering sacrifices to false gods.
Back up to 1 Kings 10:8 and see the state of peace and contentment. You might say sure they were happy, everyone was rich. They were at peace because God was an intricate part of every day life. Now let’s fast forward a few years to something Solomon’s son said. Solomon is now dead and his son just took the throne. The people were asking for some relief and Rehoboam answers in 1 Kings 12:13-14. They went from happy hearts to heavy burdens and from hearing wisdom to feeling whips. What happened? It is rather clear what happened; Solomon started worshipping idols and his fellowship with God was severed. The emptiness inside called out to be filled and he tried, quite literally, everything under the sun to fill it. When the blessings from God ceased then the money started drying up and so the burden was placed upon the people to fund his ever increasing appetite for the world’s treasure.
There was not a richer man that ever lived, or ever will, and he was absolutely miserable. Our scripture verse states emphatically Solomon’s disdain for life. Ecc 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Is this all there is?
While not saying these words exactly I get the sense of him crying out here: Is this all there is? Is there nothing more? Are there no more monuments to build, places to go, or women to marry? When you look at the sum of a man’s life in a few chapters then it is easy to spot good and bad decisions. In Solomon’s case the answer to his question is yes, there is more. That personal relationship God that he had shelved in favor of his own pursuits is what he lacked.
We all inwardly know that God holds the answers but this desire to fulfill the lusts of the flesh is great. Back up a verse to 2:10. It is hard to imagine everything and anything in relation to this world’s goods but Solomon tried it all. We now have a witness who tried every single thing and was still empty. Let that sink in…Solomon tried everything this world has to offer and was still empty inside.
Ecc 1:12-16 Solomon tried to expound on his God given wisdom and he ruined it. He traded away his wisdom to increase in worldly knowledge. If architecture interested him he learned how to create great structures; he created beautiful gardens; he collected exotic animals. Each successive attempt to find peace brought him grief 1:18. Solomon’s head was full of facts but devoid of wisdom.
In 2:1-2 Solomon sought after pleasure. Think about that for a minute. What brings you pleasure? Did one of those things that come to you include God? The world says… If it feels good do it! Don’t stress yourself! Lay off the guilt trips! Sometimes we have to deal with unpleasant things. I do not remember the town but a newspaper decided they were only going to print good news so their paper would be uplifting. Their circulation dropped off and they changed their mind. Pleasure looses its meaning when no opposite exists. Solomon sought after pleasures but his heart was empty.
In Ecc 2:4-6 Solomon put his hand to creating things. We have already talked about his building campaign, his vineyards, gardens and orchards. Solomon also constructed lakes used for irrigation. In 1 Kings 10 he even built a navy. He went on a building binge. This brings us full circle to our scripture verse in 2:11. I’ll let you guys finish the lyrics to this one. He worked his fingers to the bone and what did he get? “Boney fingers”
Did you know church attendance can make you empty? Sure it can. The pursuit of things, even church things, instead of that personal relationship with God can leave you just as empty as the pursuit of worldly things. That is why we see people come and go in churches. They come to church, they might even get involved, but soon the new wears off and without that personal relationship with Jesus Christ they are still empty. Eventually they find an excuse and leave.
I keep using the term personal relationship so let me further define it. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ starts with salvation. Some use the term saved or born again. It is that point in time when you realized you were a sinner and that there is a penalty for sin. However, Jesus paid that penalty for all those who will believe and call upon the name of Jesus for pardon of those sins. The relationship starts, and only starts, with salvation. This is only the beginning; we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ. As we grow we learn more about God and what is pleasing to Him. We then change our behavior in order to draw closer to God. This process continues until death calls or the trump of God sounds marking the end of time.
How would you rate your life thus far? Pause and just think with me for a moment. By this time you will have considered a few noteworthy accomplishments. Do they have anything to do with your personal relationship with God? Why don’t we jump ahead in our study and see what Solomon’s conclusions were. Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Solomon’s conclusion to life did not even mention bank accounts, monuments, travels, knowledge, libraries, exotic animals, ships or even wives. Our personal relationship with God is the only true treasure worth pursuing. This treasure will last for an eternity.