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Ecclesiastes 2:1-2:26
Key Verse: 2:26

In chapter 1 we learned about Solomon’s extensive search for the meaning of life through his study of science, history, politics and philosophy. In this chapter Solomon pursued the meaning of life through his life experience. So we can say that this passage is Solomon’s short and earnest life testimony in search for the meaning of life.

We are given only one life. Whether we are young or middle aged or old, we want to find the meaning of life in our deep heart. It was the same with Solomon. Look at verse 3b. “I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.” He knew that life is precious as well as short. So he began his own journey to pursue the meaning of life.

First, he pursued meaning through pleasure. Look at verse 1. “I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.” First, he entertained himself by inviting popular comedians and singers. But after laughing a lot, he felt empty. So he said in verse 2. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” Look at verse 3. “I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly – my mind still guiding me with wisdom. Wine gives people joy and happiness, and it is one of social media for increasing fellowship. M. Moses said Niagara Fall wine is the best wine. Usually, people drink wine at beginning, but wine drinks them at the end. But he was guiding his mind with wisdom so that he might enjoy the pleasure of wine, not being controlled by folly. But wine gives only temporary joy, but it does more harm than good to our body. In history there were philosophers called Epicureans who embraced controlled way of pleasure-seeking life as the meaning of life. But Solomon realized that there is no meaning of life in physical pleasure.

Then he tried to find pleasure through his human achievement. Let’s read verses 4-9. “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well – the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.”

Solomon achieved many things in life. And whatever project he undertook, he was successful. He made a beautiful garden and parks in his palace, and the scale of his projects became bigger and greater. He also bought and raised slaves in order to support these great projects. He had great possession such as silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and provinces. He also had a harem. It is said in the Bible that he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Verse 9 says, “I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.” He had great wealth, power, and honor as well as wisdom. He is a kind of man all people envy and aspire to become.

Look at verse 10. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all labor, and this was the reward for my toil.” He did everything he desired to do, and he had all the resources to do that.

But what was his conclusion in verse 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.” His life should have been very happy and meaningful after doing all these great things. Of cause, he could enjoy temporary pleasure and satisfaction. He also enjoyed a sense of achievements for his projects. But to our surprise, he felt meaningless in everything he did and achieved. Why is it so?

We can find the clue at the end of verse 11. “Under the sun.” This phrase is repeated 6 times in this chapter alone. Here, Solomon was talking about everything he gained under the sun. “Under the sun” refers to “without God.” Why did he feel so meaningless after great achievement? It is because he did all things without God. In other words, he did all things for himself, his own enjoyment and achievement. Fundamentally, he did all things to please himself. People work hard, thinking that their achievement will bring great meaning in life. But in fact, human achievement done without God and his creation purpose leads to meaninglessness. It is like chasing after wind. But God gives meaning to whatever we do in God and for God. So we must examine our heart whether we are doing for God or for myself. That makes all the difference in our life.

Last Saturday Dr. John Yoon who came from the State joined our Ecclesiastes Bible study and gave us his short but heart-moving life testimony. He tried to do many great things in life. He became a medical doctor with Ph D in his young age. But after accomplishing great things he felt a sense of meaninglessness and midlife crisis. He realized that he tired to do great things and even for God with little love for God. Now his insight regained meaning in life and wants to do little things with great love for God.

Contrary to Solomon’s many great projects, ZeruNehemiah’s project to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem after returning from exile in Babylon looked so small and humble. But it had a great meaning because it was done in God and for God. Compared to many great projects going on in UofT, our gospel work seems very small and humble. Sometimes, we feel that serving one student with one to one Bible study does not seem to make any difference. But God gives great meaning to our humble work when it is done with great love for God. May God help us to serve our club orientation with such a faith and love.

Second, Solomon pursued meaning in wisdom. Look at verse 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?” After experiencing meaninglessness in pleasure and human achievement, Solomon turned his thoughts to consider wisdom. Look at verse 13. He saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. Solomon is known as the wise man, and he himself also valued wisdom very highly. He said in verse 14. “The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness.” What does it mean to have “eyes in their heads”? Wise man has clear view and insight to understand what’s going on around him. He also has clear vision for the future. Vision makes a man wise, so Bible says people without vision perish. But he realized that the same fate comes to both the wise and the foolish. When they are gone, they will not be remembered. That is true. Our desire to be remembered is great. We try to live the best life and leave legacies so that our children and future generations may remember us when we are gone. But all the accomplishments of the former generations will soon be forgotten by the following generations. When Solomon realized limitation of wisdom, he felt that wisdom too is meaningless.

Third, he pursued meaning in his hard work. Look at verse 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.” Solomon undertook many great projects and built a great kingdom with his wisdom and hardwork. According to verse 23, All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind did not rest. Look at verse 18-19. “So I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after him. 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.” When he realized that he had to leave everything to someone who comes after him, he was frustrated. It is obvious truth that no one take even one penny with him when he leaves this life. And all his work will be handed to the one who has not worked for it. In vesre 19 says, “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.”

Look at verse 20. “So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.” When Solomon reached to this thought, he began to despair with a deep sense of meaninglessness. Here, we must notice that Solomon’s despair came from his desperate search for the meaning of life. At the same time his despair led him to the true meaning of life. Therefore, his despair is the important turning point of his life. In the same way, God is leading us to despair about the meaninglessness of this life so that we may turn to God as the only meaning and purpose of our life.

Look at verse 24. “ A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” Solomon began to find joy of lie and satisfaction in his work when he see the hand of God. Here, “hand of God” means God’s divine purpose and guidance in his life. Look at verse 25. “for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” He could understand that his meaninglessness came from his all endeavour to find enjoyment without God.

Now let’s read 26 together. “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who please God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

This verse is the conclusion of this passage and Solomon’s life testimony in search for meaning of life. In this verse, we see two kinds of people – the man who pleases God, and the sinner. Who is the man who pleases God? He is the one who knows that there is nothing meaningful under the sun, and put his hope in God as the only meaning and purpose in life. He is the one who loves God with undivided heart and do small things with great love. He is the one who love Jesus more than anything else and lose his life for Jesus and his gospel. To him who pleases God, God gives true wisdom, knowledge and happiness, and above all, eternal life through Jesus Christ. Our life becomes full of meaning when we please God and serve him.

I will conclude this message by introduce one man of God, Enoch. He was the man who was commended as one who pleases God. Heb 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away, for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” How did Enoch please God? Genesis 5:22-24 says, “And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” He did not do great things, but he did one thing. He pleased God by walking with him faithfully. God was pleased with him, and took him away directly to his eternal home. This is God’s best gift to those who please him.

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