ECCLESIASTES-SERIES NR 2
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 2
Theme: Gifts of God or God of the gifts?
In Ecclesiastes 2 we hear something that sounds almost impossible. Here is a man who is living in the Lord’s world and is busy with all the Lord’s gifts, yet the Lord is apparently not the primary role player in his life. He is busy with all the Lord’s gifts, but he does not have a clear view of the Lord of the gifts.
The man is of course king Solomon.
We must remember that in Solomon, the OT church of God is represented. Although we read here of the struggle of one man, Ecclesiastes is at best describing the struggle of the church. This brings the book Ecclesiastes to us right here in the Lord’s church in the centre of Cape Town. All of us know that we also have a struggle not to end up in a dead-end street sensation.
When do you end up there? When you focus on the Lord’s gifts instead of on the Lord himself. Dead-end sensation (last week). A chasing after wind.
Solomon is trying to find out what the meaning of life is. And to do that, he tested all the gifts of the Lord, but he misunderstood the Lord completely. Therefore: One conclusion: Everything is a chasing after wind. Is that not the most tragic thing that can happen to the Lord’s people? Completely lose direction. No longer discover who the Lord truly is.
Theme: While we are busy with the things of the Lord, we can overlook the Lord of the things
1 Solomon enjoy the Lord’s gifts, but finds no satisfaction in it
2 Solomon does not fully understand the Lord’s works
1 Solomon makes full use of the Lord’s gifts, but does not find any satisfaction in it
In verses 1-11 we see a striking picture of the average person when we observe how Solomon literally surrenders himself to all the pleasures of life. Of course, he had the money and ability to do it to the utmost. He was determined to find the meaning of life. There has to be something that is not a chasing after wind! He will now find out what it is. Ten to one it is found in the pleasures life has to offer. The joy of life.
First he tried cheering himself with wine. But he does not drink enough to become intoxicated. Verse 3 says that his mind was still guiding him with wisdom. He wanted to see what was worthwhile for a person to be occupied with in this life.
After that he undertook great projects (verse 4). Built houses. Planted vineyards. Planted orchards, trees, gardens and established parks. Made reservoirs to water the trees. Owned great herds and flocks. Bought a great number of slaves. He amassed gold and silver more than anyone in Jerusalem before him. He was more powerful, influential and wealthy than anyone.
In addition he was not satisfied with only one wife. No, he had many wives and a harem. “Delights of the heart of man”. He also brought music into his life. Men and woman singers. He says that he allowed himself everything. Everything that he desired, he gave himself.
Is that not a good description of the average 21st century person?
Just think about how the pleasure-god exerts itself daily to fill our lives. Think about how the sport-idol exerts itself to crowd the true God out of our lives. We will give/sacrifice everything for the sake of enjoyment/pleasure/entertainment. With the excuse that life is so stressful and that we need the diversion. How many of you have not watched sport on TV, or actively took part in it on the Day of the Lord during the time of the church services? With the excuse: “Well, I can hear the Word again, but I cannot miss this match”. And in that way we strive to put a little kick into our lives.
Just think how much time is spent with glossy magazines and TV soapies, which are basically meaningless. A chasing after nothing. Empty life. But, on the other hand, how poorly do we know the Word of God? Spend a couple of minutes to quickly read a few verses. The Word and prayer, the things that really matter, we neglect or spend only a little spare time with. But the enjoyments of life take up most of our time.
For our fallen human nature it is much easier to sit in front of the TV than to walk around and try to share the Gospel-message with people, and with exertion try to share the love of the Lord with strangers!
But, after all, what is it that gives us a feeling of sense and meaning? What is empty, and what is meaningful? What does it help us to spend our lives with the gifts of the Lord’s creation, but we overlook the Lord himself?? Then it will indeed feel like a meaningless chasing after wind. Meaningless…
You can count in verses 1-11. The word “I” appears 18 times. No “us” in Solomon’s picture. Not the Lord and neighbour. Why? Because pleasure became the focus of Solomon’s life. More love for pleasure than love for God. (2 Tim 3:4).
And what is the result?
It is like drinking saltwater. You just get more and more thirsty. That is what happens when pleasures/things/the Lord’s gifts become the purpose of one’s life. You are never satisfied. When we are centred upon satisfying our own desires, we always feel : It is a chasing after wind. 1 John 2:16-17. World goes by. Desires. Centred upon ownership.
Just think for a moment how intensely this passage of Scripture also concerns our existence as church. When the things of the Lord receive more attention than the Lord himself. When it is not concerned mainly with the love for the Truth of the Gospel, but also about the non-essential accessories. Then people say: “Yes, íf there are more accessories, then we will be faithful in attending the church services… THEN the children/young people will again be interested…” The latest trend is to arrange church services in a way that “post-modern man” can feel comfortable with. And in that way the focus moves away from the essentials, and BEING CHURCH becomes a chasing after wind…
2. SOLOMON DOES NOT CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THE WORKINGS OF THE LORD
In the second part of chapter 2 is seems as if Solomon has suddenly discovered the missing link. Suddenly he mentions the Lord. And he is also saying a fine thing. He is saying that a person can do nothing if God hasn’t granted it. You can not even eat, drink and be merry out of your own goodness (2:25).
That is the truth, is it not? Indeed, we should so live by God’s grace that we cannot even eat and drink out of ourselves. So deep should the realization of our dependence upon God’s grace be ingrained into our lives. Full marks, Solomon! Well done!
But wait a minute, if we look a little deeper, we will notice that Solomon does not really see the Lord in the true sense of the word. Not the true Lord. He sees the Lord, but as through a cloud of mist. He sees the Lord, but he sees a distorted image.
Yes, he begins to see that the Lord is involved in his life, but he cannot perceive that the living God is the LORD. That He is the director/highest in rank/supreme commander. He still thinks that he, Solomon, is the director and that the Lord must do what he, Solomon, wants. Quite a distorted image of who God is!
We see that Solomon is blaming the Lord that he has to work so hard. He asks himself: “Why should I put so much effort into everything I do? Other people who will come after me, will have everything I have worked so hard for”. The irony is that his son Rehoboam who followed him to the throne, did indeed waste all he had inherited from Solomon. Besides, he caused his father’s kingdom to be torn in two. This thought greatly depressed Solomon. He blames the Lord for everything. He says it is because the Lord is displeased with him (2:26). That is the reason he has to toil so hard.
You see: Solomon does keep the Lord in mind, but he is out of step with the Lord’s works. He misunderstands the workings of the Lord. He does not understand the heartbeat of the Lord. He looks at the Lord through the lens of his own feelings/experience of life. A disastrous thing to do.
Solomon thinks that the Lord blesses someone with whom He is pleased, and He does not bless someone with whom He is not pleased (2:26). Almost the way that Job’s friends reasoned: “You have lost everything because you have sinned”.
That is the way Solomon’s mind also reasons. Typically human: one gets what one deserves. While the Gospel-message turns it right around. You get what you certainly do not deserve. You deserve eternal condemnation of hell, but you receive heaven, only because Christ paid the price. Solomon’s reasoning is the opposite. He thinks that the Lord is punishing him because the Lord is not pleased with him. That is why he has to wear himself out for nothing. Therefore, all is a chasing after wind.
How deep is Solomon’s reasoning not imbedded in our own thinking? We know the Lord, but our thinking/reasoning about Him is wrong. Our thoughts about Him are based on our feelings/experience. Because we feel that we do not deserve the Lord’s blessings, we do not expect His blessings and doubt answer to our prayers.
Our reasoning is like this: “I am too full of sin, He will not accept me. I have done wrong, that is why He is punishing me. Look at my life, I cannot go to Him”.
Or the opposite way: ”He gives me all I ask for, because I serve Him. He cares for me, because I lead a good life. He is blessing me, because I pray” etc. etc. Is He in opposition to me or next to me? Is He friend or enemy? When does He discipline me, and when does He comfort me?
Why does Solomon reason like that? Why do we think like that? It is because we always put ourselves in the centre and we struggle so hard to understand grace. We always want to make the works of the Lord contingent upon our merits. While the Lord acts/works by His GRACE alone.
Out of His rich grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus, He is and remains involved WITH us, only because He wills, and not because we do this or do that. When we do this or do that, it is the result of pure gratitude! Whether we experience blessings or not. Whether our prayers are answered or not. Whether it rains or whether it is drought. Whether we try our best or whether we fail – it does not have an influence on the Lord’s gracious involvement!
It is only when we begin to understand something of this, that we begin to see the meaning in our lives. However life treats us.
Translated by Marthie Wilson