Drop files to upload.
Faithlife Corporation

Looking in the Wrong Places

Notes & Transcripts

 TEXT:  Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:4, 8-11

TOPIC:  Looking in the Wrong Places

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama

May 20, 2007

INTRODUCTION

            For many people, Ecclesiastes is nearly a lost book of the Bible.  This is a shame for Ecclesiastes contains many life principles common to all ages and times.  For those seeking life’s answers and real meaning in life, this is a book from God’s library we cannot afford to leave on the shelf.

            Some commentators see Ecclesiastes as a pessimistic book.  While it may seem that way at first reading, its overall message is a positive one.

            I want to spend a few Sunday evenings investigating this book under the theme of “Searching for Life’s Meaning.”  What I think we will discover along the way is that which the author of Ecclesiastes discovered, that those who seek life’s meaning in self-centered living, possessions and pleasures will be disappointed. 

            We must look beyond the material of this world and past the physical realm of life to find life’s true meaning.  To look to this life only for real meaning is to look in all the wrong places.

Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

           

      17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

 

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

           1I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. 2I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” 3I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. 4I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. 7I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.

9So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.

10             Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.

I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,

For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;

And this was my reward from all my labor.

11             Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done

And on the labor in which I had toiled;

And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.

There was no profit under the sun.

I.                   GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH ECCLESIASTES, Ecclesiastes 1:1-2

1The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.2“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

  1. Background

The author of this marvelous book chose not to reveal his name, instead he referred to himself as Koheleth which in Hebrew means “Preacher” or “Teacher.”  Tradition of the Judeo-Christian heritage says that Solomon was the author.

That too is what the book claims in 1:1. 

Ecclesiastes belongs to that genre of biblical literature know as the Wisdom Literature joining books such as Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Job.

  1. The Problem with Adults

Adults are concerned about the meaning of life.  Leaving the carefree years of our youth, adults become increasing concerned for the true meaning of life the older we grow.  We set goals for life and establish our life’s ambitions.  As senior adults, we are concerned both for this life here and the hereafter. 

II.                EXPOSING WRONG CHOICES

When Thomas Edison was trying to invent the light bulb, another one of his thousands of experiments had proven futile.  Someone said to him that he had failed again at which he responded by saying, “No, I have succeeded.  I now know 999 ways how not to invent the light bulb.” 

Solomon began his book by noting his many failures to find life’s meaning in material pursuits, 1:2-16.  He called these efforts “vanity,” “meaningless,” or “empty.”  He often described his effort to find life’s meaning as “chasing after the wind.”

  1. Turning to Human Wisdom, Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

        17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is   grasping for the wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge           increases sorrow.

 

Knowledge is the accumulation of facts.  Wisdom is our ability to apply what we learn or know correctly.

            Solomon had pursued and gained knowledge in his lifetime.  The Bible indicates that Solomon was one of the most knowledgeable, and well-educated men who ever lived.  Yet he soon discovered that with increased knowledge came increased grief.

            Knowledge and wisdom alone does not bring us to discover life’s meaning.  It is one of life’s wrong decisions.

            “Education without salvation is an abomination!” 

            Some of this world’s most brilliantly educated are atheist and agnostics.  They scoff at the concept of God and anything beyond this life. 

1 Corinthians 1:21, For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God,

 

Romans 1:22, Professing to be wise, they became fools,

 

  1. Turning to Pleasure and Wealth, Ecclesiastes 2:1-4, 8-9

 

Next Solomon tried pleasure and wealth in an effort to discover life’s meaning.

 

Pleasure

           1I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. 2I said of laughter—“Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” 3I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.

 

Wealth

 4I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards

 

8I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.

9So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.

John D. Rockerfeller, Sr., “I would give a million dollars for a new stomach.”  He could hardly eat what his money could buy. 

Texan buried in a gold Cadillac, “Boy that’s living ain’t it!” 

Wealth has the power for both good and evil.

Dug from the mountainside, washed in the glen,

Servant I am or the master of men;

Steal me, I curse you,

Earn me, I bless you,

Grasp me and hoard me, a fiend shall possess you;

Lie for me, die for me, covet me, take me,

Angel or devil, I am what you make me.

There is a limit to wealth’s power. 

It can build a university campus, but it cannot educate you. 

It can build a hospital, but it cannot give you health.

It can demand obedience, but it cannot give you love.

It can build a church building, but it cannot save your soul.

  1. Turning to Self-gratification, Ecclesiastes 2:10

           10Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.

I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,

For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;

And this was my reward from all my labor.

 

Solomon confessed that what he did was for self-gratification. 

1 Corinthians 13:2, And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

  1. Finding Emptiness and Futility, Ecclesiastes 2:11

11             Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done

And on the labor in which I had toiled;

And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.

 

            Self-centeredness and secular humanism.  Secular humanism today says, “I did great things today and I will do even greater things tomorrow.”  Secular humanism has a great understanding of the human potential but a weak perspective of God.

            So far we have heard only the pessimism that comes from wrong choices.  It will however lead us down the road to life’s true meaning eventually.

            Next week we will talk about finding true meaning from the final chapter of this great book.

 

RELATED MEDIA
See the rest →
Get this media plus thousands more when you start a free trial.
Get started for FREE
RELATED SERMONS
See the rest →