What’s the Point
Pleasure • Message 2
January 2, 2022
- Welcome back to our series entitled, What’s the point?Last week we discussed how Solomon wanted his readers to understand that their life on this earth was limited.
- If you realized you only had a limited amount of time on earth, how would you react?
- When you face uncertainty, an unwanted conflict, a disastrous health prognosis, what would you do? What have you done?
- Today we will see Solomon’s different attempts at getting the most out of this life.
- Here are a few of the approaches that Solomon tries and then we see what he discovers after all those attempts.
A. Life’s disappointing pursuits include...
1. PRACTICALITIES. (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18. C/R: Proverbs 3:5-6)
- Solomon’s first attempt at understanding life is its practicalities or wisdom.
- Ecclesiastes 1:12-15 (NLT) - 12 I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. 13 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. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. 15 What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered.
- Solomon lets his readers know that he determined to pursue wisdom. He wanted to understand everything there is to know about life.
- That’s an extremely bold claim. It’s the kind of claim we make when we have discovered something that invokes fear, anxiety, or an awareness that we are not in control.
- You ever resolve something like this. It generally is stated like, “I’m never going to blank” or “I’m going to make sure that blank”
- Solomon being confronted with an existential crisis devotes himself to finding out everything he can about life and it disappointed him.
- “Dealt a tragic existence”, “sore travail” “heavy burden” are the phrases different translations use to describe the plight of human beings.
- We also see in this section of Scripture we see Solomon’s first mention of God. God is the one who separates and makes distinct human beings apart from the rest of creation.
- We are different from animals, we have transcendent desires, a will to choose something other than survival, and
- We, as humans can make sense of the world. We do not just exist. We can look at our life and contemplate or think about its purpose, significance, or more.
- Ecclesiastes 1:16-18 (NLT) - 16 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.” 17 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. 18 The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
- Then Solomon discovers that when relying only on his intellect, he will be disappointed.
- In fact, while he learned a great deal, one of the things he learned is that his life is the same as someone who learned nothing. Wisdom did not keep him from sorrow and it does not keep him from disappointment.
- Learning could in fact lead to more sorrow.
- Degrees or skill do not result in a better life. Solomon would argue, the more he learned the more sorrow he experienced.
- We will never be wise enough to truly understand the mysteries of God and this universe on our own.
- But God does reveal truth to us.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) - 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.
- APP: How has your pursuit of wisdom or an overabundance of information not lived up to your expectations?
Life’s disappointing pursuits include...
2. PLEASURE. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-17. C/R: 1 Kings 2:22-23)
- Solomon also describes another pursuit in trying to ascertain meaning in this life: pleasure.
- He seeks pleasure in a few ways.
- Laughter (v. 1-2) Good drink and food (v. 3) projects (v. 4-7) and sensual pleasures (v.8)
- Solomon surrounded himself with good friends who made him laugh.
- Solomon also became a connoisseur of fine food and drink. Solomon writes that he kept his head about him while pursuing happiness through wine, but instead if you could imagine someone who dives into knowing perfect pairings, the best vineyards, and the stories behind them all and again, money is no object for this king to find the best of all of these things.
- He also used his wealth and wisdom to build homes, vineyards, gardens and to gather all the gold and silver. He paid many people to do work on these projects as he was a supervisor. These workers would have either been purchased, conquered, or given by other kings or governing officials in negotiations. Those slaves also had children as a part of the family and Scripture distinguishes between the two groups. Often these children born into the family would have held a higher regard from kings in ancient history.
- Again, Scripture shows us what really happened and does not condone what happened, we are getting Solomon’s picture of his life.
- V. 8 is very interesting because the word is not used anywhere else in Hebrew. It is why reading different translations you will get widely different meanings. Tell me what you have, the NLT has concubines, KJV has musical instruments.
- I think concubines is probably the best guess based on what we see in the phrase “delights of the sons of men” which is found in Song of Solomon and is used in a sensual nature.
- So while, Solomon was proceeding in this pursuit, he wasn’t pursuing only godly pursuits. He was pursuing all of the things that people with or without faith in Christ pursue. Which I think brings an interesting evangelistic opportunity alongside his inquiries.
- This is a great perspective to share with those who are pursuing these things without any faith in Christ.
- These projects gained him nothing that would last forever, but he did gain something. He gained a reward.
- Ecclesiastes 2:9-10 (ESV) – 9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
- Solomon discovered that he found pleasure in his work. This is important because work is not something we do because of sin’s entrance into the world, but we work because God made human beings to work and we gain satisfaction from it. Genesis 2:15
- Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT) - 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
- But this pleasure from work did not fully satisfy him. The accomplishment of his work was meaningless. I think that is important for us to note.
- There was a reward in the work, but not in the accomplishments. The work itself was the reward.
- Young people there is wisdom here for you, do not avoid work, find work and find ways to enjoy it. But meeting your goals or reaching the crest is not what you should enjoy, but the work itself is what brings a reward.
- APP: In what ways are you pursuing pleasure apart from a life of Christ? In what ways have these things truly satisfied you?
Life’s disappointing pursuits include...
3. PRODUCTIVITY. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23. C/R: 1 Kings 7:1-12; 9:15-23)
- Solomon continues in his observations of his pursuits.
- He comes face to face with the same takeaway in Chapter 1.
- Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 (NLT) - 18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. 19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! 20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.
21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. 22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
- Solomon here is speaking to a blunt reality of our world. The work you do here on earth without Christ is left to someone else. When you pass, they determine how they use it.
- Will they honor your request? Will they work as passionately or as intuitively as you do? Will it actually get to your children or grandchildren or will it be taken by some other entity?
- These questions create a lot of strife and unrest. Pain and grief and trouble sleeping.
- But the takeaway from our pursuit of these things is important. A life lived apart from God, results in agony eventually.
- APP: Is your life’s efforts resulting in more peace or more anxiety?
- But a life lived with God, even with less than others is different.
B. But God gives…
1. JOY. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. C/R: 1 Cor. 10:31)
- Solomon then goes on to explain why this is ok.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NLT) - 24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him? 26 God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please Him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
- It is important to note that the context of what Solomon says here is so important. He is not advocating for throwing caution to the wind, but instead he is embracing what God gives to ordinary human beings in normal situations.
- The Wisdom writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon) all speak of society carrying out the will of God.
- Solomon’s main takeaway is discovering that life’s gifts are from God.
- Without faith in God, all things are futile. They will result in a lack of enjoyment, but joy is a gift from God.
- Even in this life if someone who is a sinner, makes lots of money and uses it to pursue things that are unrighteous,
- God will redistribute their possessions elsewhere in the way that He sees fit.
- This can seem very similar to the Nihilistic phrase, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”. But it is very different.
- Solomon shares instead to “Eat, drink, and be merry because God has given us those gifts”.
- The author has left God out of his writing for the majority of it, but now he mentions God 3 times very quickly.
- He wants us to see that God doesn’t just give us the gift, he also gives us the proper attitude to enjoy the gift.
- So don’t just pray for more or different gifts, but in addition pray that God gives you enjoyment of what He has given to you.
- APP: When is the last time you prayed and asked God to help you enjoy what you have?
- So, the point is to enjoy whatever God determines to distribute to you.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT) - 31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
- Paul explains that we should live our lives, in every way with an orientation to living for God’s glory and not our own.
- Solomon gives us this insight into life, “We can’t grab joy, it can only be given to us by God.” I’ll say that again, We cannot grab joy, it can only be given to us by God.
- One of the joys given to us by God is an opportunity to receive forgiveness, eternal life, and true love through the sacrifice of Jesus. Today we have an opportunity to remember His sacrifice for us and experience His presence with us as we observe the Lord’s Supper.
- If you can take out the elements. Raise your hand if you need the elements.
- I’d like to take a moment for us to reflect on the gift of Christ’s sacrifice for us. I would also like you take pray that God would grow you closer to Him, feed you with the elements and unite you more closely with the body of Christ.
- Let’s pray.
- Take your bread.
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (NLT) - 23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord Himself. On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then He broke it in pieces and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
- Take your cup.
- 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 (NLT) - 25 In the same way, He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His people—an agreement confirmed with My blood. Do this in remembrance of Me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until He comes again.