Life is a Short, Painful Heartache
1 March 2020 AM – Ecclesiastes 1:3-18 – Ecc20 – Scott Childs
Introduction: Last week, we learned that Solomon probably wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to a young philosopher. In it, he gives frustrating examples of how life under the sun (earthly life) does not make sense. It is vanity or empty. These frustrating examples or disturbing reflections act as goads that poke us to get us to think about life. As he progresses, Solomon indicates that the missing ingredient is God.
Transition: This morning, we are going to examine three goads that Solomon identifies to get us to think about our need for God.
The first goad is …
1. All Labour on Earth is Short-lived (v.3-11)
a. Labour under the sun is unprofitable (v.3)
1) This is not a statement to discourage work.
2) It is a goad that any profit gained in this life is short-lived at best. You cannot take it with you when you die. Jesus said, (Matthew 6:20) “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”
b. Life is brief, but the earth plods on
1) Life is just the dash between two dates on a tombstone (v.4) Life is here today and gone tomorrow. The earth has been here for 6,000 years and is still going strong.
2) The sun follows its daily cycle of sunrise and sunset (v.5). It has followed that cycle since 4th day of Creation.
3) The wind follows its repeated cycles (v.6). There are basic patterns of air circulation. Warm air that has been heated at the equator rises, and at high altitudes flows north or south. As it cools, it drops to the earth and flows towards the equator again. Solomon was a wise man!
4) The sea water cycles continually (v.7). God gave Solomon wisdom to understand the evaporation cycle long before “modern man” figured it out. It is foolish to think that such a complex cycle evolved by chance.
5) Reflecting on nature is designed to humble man. (Berg)
c. Life is full of labour (i.e., weariness) (v.8)
1) Man cannot explain the wearisome cycles of the sun, wind and water. Man cannot utter it. Solomon is saying, “My examples are just the tip of the iceberg, we could never exhaust this subject.” (Dunagan)
2) Eyes are never satisfied with what they see. One beautiful sight increases the desire to see another breath-taking sight. You will never see all that God has created.
3) Ears are never filled with what they hear. Nature contains endless things to hear, singing birds, humming bees, chirping crickets, rushing water, pounding thunder, etc.
4) Nature continues but man is very limited.
d. Nothing is new in all the life cycles, (v.9-11)
1) God’s creation has been operating for 6,000 years (v.9). Though man has discovered many secrets about God’s creation, none of them is new to God.
2) Nothing is new under the sun (v.10). God is not saying that man has not made new discoveries and new advancements in technology. He is saying that none of those so-called “new” things is really new. God created the elements, materials, and intelligence behind every one. In addition, ancient history hides many mysteries that modern man cannot comprehend. Man cannot explain the erecting of thousands of pyramids around the world, the huge megalithic stone jars in Laos, the giant rock spheres of Costa Rica, the incredible Sajama Lines of Bolivia and many other mysteries. Ancient civilizations were far from ignorant. Sometimes we just rediscover things they knew thousands of years ago.
3) As things cycle, the past is forgotten (v.11). Even man’s good efforts are soon forgotten.
All labour on earth is short-lived. The second goad is …
2. Seeking to Understand Life is Painful (v.12-15)
a. Examining life is an unpleasant task (v.12-13)
1) Solomon should know.
a) He was king over Israel.
b) He was the wisest man ever to live.
2) Solomon found searching to understand life to be a sore travail (i.e., an unpleasant task, a painful duty). His search led him through many unpleasant experiences.
3) God has given this painful task of trying to understand life to all the sons of men to be exercised (i.e., occupied) therewith. “Pain in the soul says that life is not the way God intended it to be.” (Berg)
b. Examining life is an empty task (v.14)
1) Solomon viewed all the works done under the sun.
a) Remember, he had great wisdom from God.
b) He had abundant resources. He was a very rich king.
c) He looked at all the works that are done “under the sun”, that is works done on this earth, mortal life as opposed to eternal life. These works were the deeds, accomplishments, business and acts of man.
2) Solomon concluded that all those works were vanity and vexation of spirit.
a) They were empty and unfulfilling. They were like a vapour, here one moment and gone the next.
b) They were vexation or unfulfilled desires. These words could be translated chasing the wind.
c. Examining life is a futile task (v.15)
1) If God makes something crooked, you cannot make it straight. God created man to find joy and fulfilment in walking with God. If we are not walking in harmony with God, nothing in life will truly satisfy. We cannot change the way God made things to work.
2) If God does not make something, you cannot count it. We cannot create our own ways to find fulfilment and satisfaction in life. Our ways will never work because they are not what God designed. Leaving God out of life is like leaving the batteries out of your torch. It will not work.
The third goad is …
3. Pondering Reveals Life’s Heartaches (v.16-18)
a. Solomon gave his heart to examine wisdom, madness and folly.
1) This was a passion, not just a passing thought.
2) Solomon made a thorough study of wisdom, madness and folly. He carefully looked at all three philosophies of life.
a) Wisdom is a word that can describe either the God-given ability to make right choices or human logical wisdom. Context leads us to believe that Solomon examined human logical wisdom, the conclusions of earthly wise men who leave God out of life.
b) Madness is perhaps the opposite of logic. It is the lack of sense, the irrational unwise actions of the self-confident. Some describe it as proud extravagance.
c) Folly refers to foolishness. It includes vice, pleasure, and wickedness, the opposite of godliness.
b. Solomon’s conclusion
1) After examining human wisdom, madness and folly, he concluded that they are all vexation of spirit; they are like chasing the wind. They offer no true lasting answers, fulfilment or joy in life.
2) He concluded that in much wisdom is much grief (v.18). The closer you look at man’s logical wisdom, the more it leads to grief. Man’s best attempts to find fulfilment and happiness in life end in grief or frustration.
3) He also concluded that if you increase knowledge, you also increase sorrow. The more man searches for ways to find fulfilment without God, the deeper he plunges into sorrow. Berg states that, “Sorrow is an emotion of loss.” Sorrow ought to goad us to turn to God for comfort.
Conclusion: Review again the three main goads in this chapter (main points). For many people, life is a short, painful, heartache. That is not the way God intended life to be. Jesus Christ came to earth, paid sin’s debt for us, and now offers us a new eternal life. His new life will be eternal, pain-free and heartache-free. If you trust Christ and let him lead your life, he will give you a right perspective on life here under the sun as well.
If you are not positive that Christ has saved your soul, I would like to talk with you about it. If you are a Christian, give Christ first place.
Song: Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord – 337