The Vanity of Righteousness & Wisdom Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 7:15-24

Listen to the sermon here.

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 7:15 | In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ecclesiastes 7:23 | All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.

OPENING THOUGHT

Very few books can even attempt to rival the brutal honesty of Ecclesiastes. Its author, the Preacher, claims to have witnessed the very best that life has to offer, but at the end of it all, all is vanity under the sun. Much of his reasoning comes from understanding the brevity of life. Our time in this life is short and fleeting, especially when compared to the seemingly unchanging mountains and seas.

Yet in the midst of all this vanity, the Preacher continues to extend to us the brighter side of things: enjoyment is possible. Life is certainly full of toil, suffering, and sorrow, but these things do not exclude the ability to enjoy each day that we live. Unfortunately, enjoyment is a possibility, not a guarantee. Many people wander through life chasing after enjoyment without achieving it. The Preacher’s paradoxical answer is that enjoyment is not an achievement to be gained but a gift to be received. Enjoyment comes not through getting more but from simply realizing the beauty of what you already have.

As we continue our study through Ecclesiastes’ seventh chapter, the Preacher takes his understanding that prosperity and adversity are outside of our control and he dives into how that impacts our understanding of righteousness and wisdom. Too often, our pursuit of righteousness and wisdom are rooted a desire for self-improvement or self-exaltation. Only by realizing that no one is righteous or truly wise can we turn to the One who is altogether righteous and wise.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. What is Solomon’s message in verses 15-18? How do these verses relate to verses 13-14? What might application of these verses look like?
  3. If no one is truly righteous or wise, how then are we meant to live wise and righteous lives?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
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The Vanity of Laughter Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 7:1-14

Listen to the sermon here. 

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 7:2 | It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 | In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

OPENING THOUGHT

Ecclesiastes is a brutally honest study of a post-Genesis 3 life under the sun. Because of sin, death entered the scene, and creation has never been the same. Even as we were meant to live eternally with God, we are now forced to watch as generation after generation comes and goes while the earth remains steadfast. After observing all of this, the Preacher arrives at the conclusion that everything under the sun is vanity, nothing more than the merest of breaths.

For the bulk of the book, Solomon strives to show how he reached his conclusion that all is vanity. He describes his near-endless pursuit of pleasure, his sobering observations on time, his firsthand experience that the love of wealth is unsatisfying, and much more. All of this is organized as an philosophical investigation of trying to find something of lasting meaning in this life.

As we enter the second half of the book, the Preacher continues his declaration of difficult and perplexing teachings. In a series of loosely connected proverbs, Solomon points to the good things of life (like laughter, songs, and feasts) and informs us of what is better (namely, sorrow and mourning). These sayings are so difficult because they cut against the very fiber of our being. Pain is unpleasant, so we shirk pain as an evil to be avoided. Yet Solomon’s message is that pain, sorrow, and adversity do have a place in this life: they are teachers, used by God to show us more of Himself.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Why does the Preacher proclaim that sorrow is better than laughter, mourning better than feasting, and the day of death than the day of birth?
  3. How is wisdom an advantage even in a world where everything is vanity?
  4. What commands does Solomon give us for days of prosperity and of adversity? What do times of adversity in life teach us?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

The Vanity of Blessings Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 6

Listen to the sermon here. 

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 6:3 | If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.

Ecclesiastes 6:9 | Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

OPENING THOUGHT

While it isn’t meant to be depressing, the portrait that Ecclesiastes paints of this life is brutal, honest, and bleak. The bleakness of Ecclesiastes is immediately apparent, but it is also real and tangible. This book studies the monotony of everyday life and puts some of those thoughts and feelings into words. It provides a voice to the weariness of life that we all know lurks around each corner.

Thus far, the Preacher has presented before us his investigation to find something under the sun that isn’t vanity. He attempted giving himself to unmitigated pleasure. He studied the rhythms, randomness, and inevitability of time. He observed the necessity of community, while also noting how we each threaten to destroy that community. He has presented what he learned about God and wealth. Yet in each topic, his conclusion is still the same: all is vanity under the sun.

After warning of the vanity of wealth, Solomon now expands his focus beyond the monetary and onto the full breadth of blessings in this life. He soberly declares that even if a man lived two thousand years and had one hundred children, there is still no guarantee that he will actually enjoy the blessings of his life. Like our appetites, our souls constantly crave more, making satisfaction always sought but never gained. Fortunately, there is an answer to the endless desires.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 6 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 6 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. How are verses 1-6 related to Ecclesiastes 5:18-20? Why is the failure to enjoy life such a tragedy?
  3. In what ways do you attempt to satisfy the appetite of the soul? What is the alternative to the wandering appetite?
  4. What are the final questions that Solomon asks in this chapter? How does the rest of the Bible answer them?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

The Vanity of Wealth Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

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SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 5:10 | He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.    

Ecclesiastes 5:19 | Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toilthis is the gift of God.   

OPENING THOUGHT

No book inside or outside the Bible is quite like Ecclesiastes. Probably written by Solomon (referring to himself as the Preacher), Ecclesiastes is a brutal analysis of living life post-Genesis 3. In order to analyze the world, Solomon decides to conduct a grand experiment with his life by throwing his time, attention, and heart into various things, hoping to discover a source of lasting meaning, purpose, and joy in the world. Yet the Preacher’s ultimate conclusion is that everything is vanity, a striving after wind.

After taking a brief intermission to discuss how to properly fear and worship God, the Preacher now resumes the report of experiment by turning to the vanity of wealth. Money and the love of it are some of life’s chief motivators. Actions are driven by it. Thoughts are captive to it. Partnerships are forged with it. Betrayals are bought by it. Money and the power that it buys is seductive to nearly every human. Yet even though Solomon was one of the wealthiest men to ever live (if not the wealthiest), he writes from personal experience that the quest for more money is never ending nor satisfying. Wealth will always fail to provide true lasting joy and meaning in life.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. In verses 8-9, the Preacher continues his discussion of oppression. Why is oppression inevitable? Why is authority a biblical and necessary concept?
  3. What are the three statements about wealth that Solomon presents? What examples have you seen of them in media, your life, or those around you?
  4. What alternative to the love of money does Solomon present at the end of the chapter and why? How does Luke 12:16-34 further elaborate on the truths of this text?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

 

The Vanity of Fear Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Listen to the sermon here.

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 5:1 | Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.   

Ecclesiastes 5:7 | For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.  

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by the Preacher (probably Solomon) to reflect upon his lifelong search for lasting meaning, purpose, and joy in life. But even after obtaining all the pleasure, wealth, sex, and power that he could possibly want, he comes to the conclusion that everything under the sun is vanity, a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. Of course, the key to properly interpreting Ecclesiastes is the phrase “under the sun.” Solomon’s ultimate goal is to show that nothing on earth can truly satisfy us. We need divine intervention.

In almost every book or sermon to be found on Ecclesiastes, the emphasis of these verses is placed upon how we worship God, and while worship does form the bulk of the discourse here, the point of this passage is more interested in why we worship than how we worship. The Preacher is diving at the heart behind our worship of the LORD, and the result is rather like a piece of classical music. Two movements are at play here describing how to properly worship God, and each movement ends with a refrain that muses over the vanity of dreams and many words. The piece then closes with a thunderous crescendo that is meant to cast a new light upon everything that came before. Like any complex work of art, the goal is for us to meditate deeply upon what lies before us. Here, specifically, we should consider what the repeated refrain is teaching us about how to worship God and how the Preacher’s conclusion changes how we worship by reminding us why we worship.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Solomon presents five commands for worship: guard your steps, draw near to listen, avoid foolish sacrifices, avoid rash and hasty words, and pay your vows. Which of these most resonates with you? Why?
  3. Why are we commanded to fear God? Why does the fear of the LORD cast out other fears? What fears and anxieties do you wrestle with? In what ways can you fight them by fearing God more?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

The Day Full of Butterflies (6 Years & Counting)

It was a day full of butterflies.

The ground outside stood muddied by rain, prayers and wishful thinking dried it no quicker.

So people gathered, and plans changed.

Under shelter, beams were raised, flowers planted, and lights ignited.

Soon a flood of faces filled the landscape, waiting for that moment, for the doors’ opening.

And they did open.

Beauty levitated past the onlookers.

Words, then, were spoken.

Promises were made, sealed with a kiss.

Por siempre y siempre, a moment of clarity within the emotions and colors that spun past our heads.

That’s how I remember it, at least.

To be honest, much of it was a blur.

So many faces and so much to do.

Not to mention the pressure.

I mean, after an entire year thinking about that day, your brain struggles to process it all, trying to keep important moments to recollect in your mental scrapbook for the years to come.

But it’s too much.

An overload of the senses.

A kaleidoscope of feelings and memories.

But I do remember your face.

I remember the fluttering of my stomach and the warmth of my face when you appeared.

I remember the butterflies fluttering up the Mount Everest of sugar.

I remember thinking, “I’m spending the rest of my life with this woman.”

Por siempre y siempre.

Of everything on that day, I remember you most of all.

You were, and still are, the lily in the midst of thorns.

The Vanity of Community Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 4

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 4:6 | Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.   

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 | Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

OPENING THOUGHT

Ecclesiastes is a unique book both within the Bible and outside of it. Written by the Preacher (probably Solomon), it aims to analyze and evaluate everything under the sun to see if any lasting meaning, joy, and purpose can be found in this life. The Preacher’s answer is that everything under heaven is vanity, nothing more than passing vapor.

The bulk of Ecclesiastes is composed of Solomon’s report of his inquiry for meaning under the sun. So far, he has evaluated two broad topics: pleasure and time. Because pleasure makes us feel good, this was the logical place to begin, but the Preacher said that he only enjoyed pleasure for a moment. It offered nothing lasting.  The Preacher also concludes that time is vanity since it consumes the rich and poor alike. Even the greatest of kings and kingdoms succumb to the inevitability of their time running out.

The issue of community is Solomon’s primary focus within this chapter. Although he will highlight the benefits of being in community, much of this chapter is devoted to how we sabotage community with our selfishness. To give structure for interpreting this chapter, we should understand that verses 4-12 cite a personal, ground-level view of community, while 1-3 and 13-16 bookend the chapter with a broad view of how those in authority relate to those below them.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 4 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 4 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Why are two better than one? How were we designed for community? What are some examples from your own life of the blessings of community?
  3. What are some ways presented in this chapter that we can ruin community? Which of these do you find most common in your heart and life?
  4. How can we redeem community through the gospel? What practical steps can we take toward making Philippians 2:3-11 true in our hearts?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?