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Are You Disillusioned with Life?

 

Ecclesiastes 1-12

 

Jim Davis

 

Many think modern civilization is under the threat of self-destruction. The natural disasters we are witnessing are nothing as compared to the genocides taking place all around the globe. Looking back through the annals of history we witness the disappearance of entire civilizations. We ask, why?

 

Even worse the human species is so unsure of its own place. We live in a world that knows its greatest needs but is determined to stay focused on the superficial. Despite our enlightenment the darkness seems overwhelming.

 

The news media revealed a Brazilian tribe living deep in the Amazon forest, which apparently has had no contact with modern civilization. The Brazilian government forbids any contact with the tribe. The powers that be are working hard to preserve this primitive world. Fearing exposure to modern civilization would be detrimental for the tribe. Permission was granted for a helicopter film crew to film the tribe. As the helicopter hovered overhead the natives threw spears at it.

 

As I observed the helicopter hovering over the primitive Amazon natives I sat in awe. What a startling contrast! One is frozen in the past. The other is in a constant state of development. One group carries spears—the other is probing the outer edges of the unknown universe. The distance between the news crew and the natives is just beyond the thrust of a spear. Yet, the cultural distance between the two is unquestionably thousands of years. Both seem so unsure of themselves.

 

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “All progress depends on the unreasonable man. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” The natives are at one end of spectrum as they adapt themselves to their world. The modern world has sought to adapt the planet to its needs.

 

Carl Sagan writes, “As long as there have been humans we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”  In Sagan’s words we stand on the “shores of a cosmic ocean.”

 

Losing Our Sense of Purpose

 

Here we are stuck on a planet whose shifting platelets are floating on a core of molten lava. Earthquakes in China, a tsunami in Myanmar, floods in the Midwestern United States, presently 800 fires in California, the threat of global warming as the icy continents melt away—in the scheme of things we question our security on planet earth.

 

We may be tucked away in some corner of the universe in which there are more galaxies than people. We may live on shaky ground. We may be unsure about ourselves. We may self-destruct. But we are not insignificant or forgotten. We have been given an eternal purpose by the one whose hands continue to develop the farthest unknown reaches of space. Yet, we feel this sense of being lost—feeling insignificant. Life often seems meaningless despite our accomplishments and progress.

 

Solomon is portrayed as one of the wisest foolish men in biblical history. Ecclesiastes reveals Solomon’s vain struggle to discover a meaningful existence. Solomon chased his earthly dreams. Each time a dream was brought to fruition, he cried out all is vanity.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:3-4

3 What does man gain from all his labor

at which he toils under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever. NIV

 

Solomon felt frustrated and insignificant as the sum total of all his dreams and accomplishments left him numb .We all have seen something we desperately wanted and spent all our energies to get it. Surprisingly, when we get it we are left numb.  Despite all our efforts it didn’t seem to really make a difference.

 

Solomon became utterly disillusioned as he observed all he accomplished.

 

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

and this was the reward for all my labor.

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun. NIV

 

Solomon couldn’t straighten out a twisted world. He couldn’t make up what was lacking. He felt hopeless.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:15

15 What is twisted cannot be straightened;

what is lacking cannot be counted. NIV

 

Having the wisdom to know how things ought to be and unable to make a difference brings much grief.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:18

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;

the more knowledge, the more grief. NIV

 

History is repetitious. More technological discoveries have been made in the last 50 years than in the last 5,000 years. We have achieved more than Solomon could have ever dreamt. It is troubling to think that we are no happier. We are like Solomon—our dreams have become our masters. They possess us. Fear of losing them is our biggest nightmare. The world seems twisted far beyond our ability to salvage it.  

 

We feel helpless and insignificant living in a passing world so full of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Eccl 2:9-15

9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

 

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

and this was the reward for all my labor.

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun.

 

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,

and also madness and folly.

What more can the king's successor do

than what has already been done?

13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,

just as light is better than darkness.

14 The wise man has eyes in his head,

while the fool walks in the darkness;

but I came to realize

that the same fate overtakes them both.

 

15 Then I thought in my heart,

 

"The fate of the fool will overtake me also.

What then do I gain by being wise?"

I said in my heart,

"This too is meaningless."

16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;

in days to come both will be forgotten.

Like the fool, the wise man too must die! NIV

 

Salvation’s narrative is different from man’s historical records. We emphasize our accomplishments. We often fail to see our greatest failures. Looking back through the biblical record of salvation history we see civilizations going awry as they meet their own self-destruction. Salvation history allows us to look into the battles raging in the hearts of men and women. The greatest failures of God’s people are revealed.

 

As Solomon ascends to the throne of his father, he asks God for wisdom. He only asks for the wisdom to enable him to rule his people wisely. He doesn’t ask for riches. For his wise request God gives him both riches and wisdom. God blesses Solomon as he works to build his dream for the kingdom of Israel. He becomes richer and wiser but feels his life is meaningless and vain. He is given the wisdom to see the meaninglessness of pursuing life without God.

 

Ecclesiastes 2:17-23

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. NIV

 

Solomon simultaneously pursued his dream and its destruction as he over burdened and over taxed the subjects of his kingdom to make his dream come true. When he died Israel split into the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom. Israel never regained the splendor of Solomon. All his dreams were left to those who failed to sustain what he had worked so hard to achieve.

 

The work of Solomon’s hands perished, but he passed on great wisdom as he reveals the battle of his heart. We are allowed to see Solomon’s splendor and we are brought face to face with the battles raging in his heart.  Solomon’s wisdom and riches were given to him to bring him to this conclusion:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

3 Now all has been heard;

here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the whole [duty] of man.

14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil. NIV

 

Amazingly, God allowed Solomon to accomplish all of his earthly dreams. He also gave him the wisdom to see the shallowness of his dreams.

 

Life without a View of Eternity

 

Knowledge is something we learn as we open our minds up to the universe that engulfs us. We know there is an infinite body of knowledge yet undiscovered. This infinite body of knowledge has always existed. We’re not the creator of the knowledge we discover. Apparently it was here before the universe’s conception. As our body of knowledge grows, we learn a startling fact. The universe is already in subjection to this infinite body of knowledge which Christians believe emanates from the mind of God. It is this God who has given us life on earth.

 

Through space technology we can peer into the edge of our solar system. We observe the apparent creation of stars and galaxies. We ponder our place in the universe. We seek to comprehend the eternal dimension to life. If there is an eternal dimension to my life, then the only important question is, “Where will I be 45,000,000,000 years from now?” We ponder the hope of heaven as an eternal paradise. But how significant will today’s dreams look 45,000,000,000 years from now?

 

It shouldn’t surprise us. No earthly accomplishment can fill the eternal longing in our hearts. Real significance and meaning is found as we allow God to rescue us through his Son Jesus Christ.

 

John 10:10

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

 

We have an eternal place in God’s order. It begins on earth right where I am—where you are. God invites us to spend eternity with him. I can’t begin to imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with God. It will be everything this life was meant to be—so much more than we can ever imagine. I know it will be akin to what Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall.

 

Jeremiah felt overwhelmed and insignificant as God brought his judgment upon Israel. His world was collapsing. Then the Lord entered into his life to remind Jeremiah that he was conceived in God’s mind before the world began.   

 

Jeremiah 1:4-8

4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

 

5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

 

6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."

 

7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. NIV

 

God deals with Jeremiah’s fears by reminding him of his purpose from an eternal perspective. Jeremiah is feeling his insignificance. Jeremiah says, “’Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, 'I am only a child.’”  And then God says, “Do not be afraid . . . I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.”

 

We know for certain—the knowledge about ourselves and the knowledge about the universe, yet to be discovered is beyond our comprehension. It is overwhelming. We can’t comprehend what God is doing.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth — his eyes not seeing sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. NIV

 

Ecclesiastes 7:27-29

"Look," says the Teacher,"this is what I have discovered:

"Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—

28 while I was still searching

but not finding —

 

This only have I found:

God made mankind upright,

but men have gone in search of many schemes." NIV

 

Eternity will be full of meaning where the saved will be fully dedicated to searching out God’s way. That which is twisted will be made straight and that which is lacking will be fully supplied. Salvation history teaches us to dream of a new heaven and a new earth where all is made right. Perhaps our purpose will be to develop the entire universe into what God meant it to be.

 

Conclusion:

 

Luke 9:23-25

 "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? NIV

 

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. NIV

 

Mark 16:15-16

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. NIV

 

 

 

 

 

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