The Vanity of Time Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 3

Listen to the sermon here.

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 3:1 | For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven  

Ecclesiastes 3:11 | He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into mans heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

OPENING THOUGHT

There is no book, inside or outside the Bible, like Ecclesiastes. The Preacher, likely Solomon, writes Ecclesiastes in order to analyze life under the sun for any lasting meaning, joy, and purpose. His answer is that all of it is a vanity, with no more substance than a breath of air. All who live will die. Most will be forgotten, and of those who are remembered, what gain does that remembrance bring them in the grave? If all of that sounds rather depressing, rest assured that Solomon also points us to the hope that breaks into the bleakness of our lives.

Up to this point, Solomon has described his journey to find meaning through wisdom and knowledge. Despite wisdom and knowledge being very good things, Solomon found that they still left him none the more satisfied with life without Divine interference. Then, since knowledge and wisdom failed him, Solomon sought the opposite: folly. In the previous chapter, the Israelite king described how he partied, spent, and lived grander than any man that has ever lived. Yet when the hangovers wore off, when the elaborate monuments were completed, when he had run out of fantasies, Solomon was just as empty as before. His ardent pursuit of pleasure gave his life no deep sense of purpose or meaning. It was vanity.

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with one of the most famous poems of the Bible. This poem muses on the back and forth, give and take nature of time. Good things happen as well as bad things. Some seasons of life are pleasant, while others are bitter. This is simply how life works, and no one is exempt from life’s shifting rhythms of time. The greatest advice that the author can give us, therefore, is to stop battling against the inevitable and start enjoying the lot of life that God has given each of us.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 3 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 3 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Verses 1-8 form a poetic musing on time under the sun. What most resonates with you in this poem? What points does Solomon seem to be making about how we relate to time?
  3. How do verses 9-22 serve as a commentary on the opening poem?
  4. How have you experienced the feeling of having eternity in your heart?
  5. How is eating, drinking, and taking pleasure in our toil different from saying “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die?”

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?
Advertisements

The Vanity of Pleasure Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 2

Listen to the sermon here.

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 2:11 | Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.  

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 | There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

OPENING THOUGHT

Often called the most depressing book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes paints for us a brutally honest portrait of this life, a life under the sun. 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.

In chapter one, Ecclesiastes’ author, the Preacher (most likely Solomon), wrote us a poem about the vanity of everything under the sun. He observed the endless repetitions of the sun, wind, and seas and realized that we are same. Like the sea never fills, so our ears never hear enough. Like the sun continues to rise and set, our eyes continue to seek out input. So Solomon calls this life vanity. All of it is meaningless, and nothing more than a mere breath of air.

In chapter two, the Preacher begins to describe his investigation to find meaning and satisfaction under the sun. The first stop in his quest for joy is where many look as well: pleasure. Pleasure naturally makes us happy, so with vast wealth, Solomon thinks that surely he can buy lasting joy through endless pleasure. Alcohol, sex, music, work, and philanthropy, the king threw himself into his search for meaning under the sun. But vanity is all he finds, and ultimately, he concludes that enjoyment can only come from God Himself.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 2 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 2 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Verses 1-11 describes Solomon’s search for lasting joy through uninhibited pleasure. Can you relate to his quest? Have you ever, or do you still, look to things like alcohol, sex, or work to satisfy you? Why is pleasure such a natural pursuit for us? Why will it never fully satisfy?
  3. In verse 17, Solomon admits to having hated life. Is there a time when you have ever hated life? Was it a godly hatred for the brokenness of the world or motivated by self-pity, exhaustion, or sin?
  4. How is true and lasting enjoyment possible? Why is enjoyment in this life a necessity aspect of following God? How can a Christian be called to both love and hate this world?

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 Everything Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 1

Listen to the sermon here. 

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 | Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun. A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 | I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

OPENING THOUGHT

If we are honest with ourselves, life can often make us feel like hamsters running on a wheel. We run as hard as we can but never make any real progress; everything is just a repetitive cycle. Laundry and dishes are two supreme examples of this. We clean and organize, temporarily banishing the chaos, only for disorder to lash out again tomorrow. Similarly, we go to work, make a paycheck, give that paycheck to expenses, and continue working for the next check so we can pay the next round of expenses. Life is a hamster wheel, a steady cycle of monotony that only ends with death.

If all of that sounds a little too real, welcome to the beauty of Ecclesiastes. Although technically anonymous, Ecclesiastes was probably written by Solomon near the end of his life. The wise king, who wrote Song of Solomon and much of Proverbs, spent years turning his heart away from the LORD and toward the false gods of his many wives. Traditionally, Ecclesiastes has been seen as the account of Solomon turning his heart back to the LORD and reflecting on his wasted years.

Ecclesiastes is a piece of the Bible’s wisdom literature, and at times, it can seem to completely contradict the optimistic tone of Proverbs. Yet Ecclesiastes is the necessary companion to Proverbs. In Proverbs, we find the ideal vision of life, namely one that is shaped and guarded by wisdom. Proverbs describes how things are meant to be. Ecclesiastes essentially serves as a “Yeah, but…” on the end of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes presents the actual realities of life under the sun, warts and all. Because of this, Ecclesiastes practically begs us to study and meditate upon it, even if its words frequently hit a little too close to home.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 1 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Why does Solomon say that all is vanity under the sun? How do the cycles of the sun, wind, and water display this vanity? What aspects of life make you feel this futility? What parts of life ever make you feel weary?
  3. Why does wisdom seem like a vanity to Solomon? How does this fit with his pleas for us to get wisdom in Proverbs?

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?

Background on Ecclesiastes

Author

The author identifies himself as the Preacher (or Teacher).

While the book is technically anonymous, Solomon is the most likely candidate.

Theme

Everything is meaningless “under the sun,” and the only source of true meaning and joy is God.

Background

In the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, the author identifies himself as the Qoheleth (the Preacher or Teacher). Thus, strictly speaking, the book is anonymous; however, the Preacher does give us a hint as to his identity. He is said, in the first verse, to be the “son of David, king in Jerusalem.” The Hebrew word for “son” can be used to mean either a literal son or a descendant of, so the author technically could be simply a descendant of David (Hezekiah is, therefore, a possibility). However, the argument for Solomon’s authorship is quite clear. Many of the actions that Solomon describes in this book mirror the sort of accomplishments that are recorded of Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In addition, the Preacher makes many claims to great, vast wealth and unparalleled wisdom, which is recorded in detail in the two books previously mentioned. Once we come to accept Solomon as the author, we then must ask when it was written. According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote Song of Songs in his youth, compiled Proverbs in his middle years, and wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. If that is true, then this book is of near infinite value because it is the final reflections of one of the wisest men to ever live (1 Kings 4:29).

Purpose

If it is true that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life, then it can be interpreted as Solomon’s return to the faith. We are told in 1 Kings that Solomon was led astray from the LORD by the false gods of his wives (1 Kings 11:4). Thus, Ecclesiastes could be Solomon’s final reflections on life and whatever conclusions he has made. Even so, why should we care? Why were the dying words of Solomon important enough to be considered Scripture?

Primarily, we can believe that Solomon’s words are recorded here to show us that wealth, success, and prosperity do not ultimately satisfy. Many Christians read Job with amazement. Job was a man that had everything going for him. He loved God, loved his wife, loved his kids, and God blessed him with plenty of wealth. However, in one day, Job loses it all. For centuries, people have read Job’s story, not because in the end his wealth is returned to him, but because even in the midst of horrendous circumstances, Job remains faithful to God. The message of Job is that even when we have nothing, God is everything. But what about the converse? What if we are given everything? Does God then become useless?

Ecclesiastes is the answer to that question. Solomon was a man to whom God had given everything. He was the epitome of the American dream. In terms of political power, Solomon was greater than the President of the United States. In terms of religious authority, Solomon had more than the Pope. In terms of intelligence, Solomon had more than Einstein. In terms of wealth, Solomon surpassed Bill Gates. In terms of women, Solomon was the original Hugh Hefner. We are told that the daily provisions for his personal staff were enough to feed 35,000 people (1 Kings 4:22-23). That’s 35,000 servants that waited on him, hand and foot. Solomon had it all. In addition, God granted Solomon a peaceful reign on the thrown of Israel for forty years (1 Kings 11:42). That is the longest time of peace that Israel has ever seen! Not only did countries not attack Israel, but also during Solomon’s reign, they came from all across the globe just to give him money.

So one would think that Solomon lived the good life and died the happiest man alive, but then we get Ecclesiastes. His final words to us are that “all is vanity.” Everything is meaningless “under the sun.” Ultimately, Solomon’s goal is to simply show us that a life without God is a life without purpose. Solomon records numerous times in the book that “there is nothing better” than for a person find his or her enjoyment in God. “Apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” If everything “under the sun” is meaningless, then let us find our meaning from One is above the sun.

Misunderstandings

I have rarely spoken with anyone about this book who did not find it at least a little depressing. I have even heard people claim that it was their favorite book because it reminds them just how futile life really is. To an extent, these things are true. Ecclesiastes is not the happiest book that one may read, true. It does a great job of describing the futility of life, also true. However, I do not find Ecclesiastes depressing, nor do I believe that it is one gigantic downer. Instead, Ecclesiastes is one of the world’s first philosophical works. Many people, including myself, would call it the greatest work of philosophy ever written. In fact, it appears to me that what most people call depressing is actually the presentation of life’s difficult questions. No other book calls us to face the reality of our mortality and depravity like Ecclesiastes. It addresses the human condition in such a way that Solomon is attempting to give words to experiences that are beyond words. Ecclesiastes is not an easy book, and it will not be content with simply being a “good read” or an interesting book. This book does not need to be depressing, but if we study it well, Ecclesiastes will cut through any shallowness in our souls, leaving behind a desperate need for God to provide our lives with meaning, satisfaction, and joy.

Go Therefore Ebook

So over the past year or so, I’ve attempted to write a book that would concisely explain the values of my church, Western Meadows. My primary audience is my fellow church members and any who are considering becoming a member; however, I pray that these words will be of benefit to all who read them.Go Therefore

Click here or on the cover to download the free pdf of the book.

The Seduction of Adultery | Proverbs 7

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:24-27 ESV)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11 ESV)

FURTHER READINGS

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-pattern-among-fallen-pastors

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/rejoice-in-the-wife-of-your-youth

OPENING THOUGHT

Life is difficult and incredibly complex, but thankfully God designed the world so that through wisdom we would be able to navigate through life’s difficulties. Biblical wisdom is the skill of living life as God designed it to be lived. In order to find this wisdom, we turn to the book of Proverbs. Written by King Solomon, Proverbs is full of God’s wisdom all areas of life.

In our present series, we are studying through the first nine chapters of Proverbs. Interestingly, these chapters are not composed of actual proverbs; instead, they are the introduction to the collection of proverbs that begins in chapter ten. As an introduction, these chapters are meant to give us an overview of what wisdom is and why we should diligently seek it.

Having spent three weeks discussing sexual immorality, we return to that subject for the final time in this series. In chapter five, we met the Adulteress and were warned to guard against her. In six, we learned the cost of giving in to her. Now in seven, we read how she seduces those without sense into their own destruction. We know that sin (and sexual sin particularly) is always a temptation, so as we study a temptation in action, let us learn from the follow of the young man in this chapter.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 7 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 7 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • Once again Solomon is urging us to cling to Scripture. Why is he restating this command yet again? How can practically treasure God’s Word?
  • Verses 6-23 give us description of sin’s seduction in action. What lessons can these verses teach us about the temptation to sin and how to avoid it?
  • Take time to compare Solomon’s words with Psalm 119:9-16. How does the young man of Psalm 119 differ from the young man in Proverbs 7? How can devoting ourselves to God’s Word enable us to fight temptation?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Cost of Adultery | Proverbs 6:20-35

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. (Proverbs 6:23-24 ESV)

FURTHER READINGS

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/i-would-rather-die

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/husband-lift-up-your-eyes

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/will-you-cleave-and-leave-your-man

OPENING THOUGHT

Wisdom is the skill of living life well. Since our world is broken by sin, we know that trials and suffering are unavoidable, but with wisdom, we can navigate difficult situations well and, if possible, even avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Obviously, possessing this wisdom is extremely beneficial, which is why the Bible has an entire section of books devoted to it. One of these books, and our text of study, is the book of Proverbs.

Although most people think of Proverbs as being little more than a collection of proverbs, this collection actually begins with a nine-chapter introduction to the concept of wisdom. For this series, we are focusing upon these chapters. The most important thing to remember before continuing on is that wisdom is found in God; thus, to get wisdom, we must submit to God and His ways fully.

For the first half of chapter six, Solomon took a break from warning against sexual immorality to focus on three other sins, but now he returns to his pleas against the Adulteress, who is the poetic representation of all sexual sin. Here we find the ancient king warning us of the great cost that sexual immorality exacts upon its victims and learn to seek refuge in God’s Word.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 6:20-35 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 6:20-35 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • Why does Solomon begin by discussing the importance of the Scriptures? Why does Solomon continue to allude to Deuteronomy 6:4-9? What benefits does he describe for those who hold fast to the Bible?
  • What is the primary command of this section of verses? What reasons does Solomon give for avoiding sexual immorality? How are sin’s consequences self-inflicted wounds?
  • Why is verse 24 so frightening? What hope do we have as sinners against the holy God? How do the Scriptures preserve us from evil? In what ways are you daily saturating yourself in God’s Word and in the truth of the gospel?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.