Last week I began my study in the book of Ecclesiastes. If you have never read this short little book, I highly recommend that you read one chapter a day for the next 2 weeks and you will have it complete. It immediately follows the book of Proverbs.
In chapter 2 King Solomon continues his search for meaning. He says “I tried cheering myself with wine…I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees…I amassed silver and gold for myself, I acquired a harem…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…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.”
Have you ever noticed how brief life’s pleasures are. All summer long my children have been chasing butterfly’s with their butterfly net – usually without success. Finally one day my daughter got one – but when she stopped to look at it in the net – it escaped…she was so disappointed. Pleasure is the same way – we can’t box it up and keep it. When we have an enjoyable get together or weekend or vacation – shortly it comes to an end and you are back to reality. In America, we are pleasure seekers – we move from one pleasure to the next but apart from God these pleasures are simply meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Moving on in the chapter King Solomon seeks meaning in wisdom but comes to this conclusion in verse 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!”
And then finally Solomon seeks meaning in his work and says in verse 18&19 “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 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.”
I remember when my Great Uncle died, a dumpster was placed in the driveway and for days family worked cleaning the house out. Some of his valuables were passed down to love ones while most of his worn out items went to the dumpster. All those years of hard labor went straight to the dumpster. And then his house was sold. This is a sobering reality of our stuff – we labor and toil so hard to get stuff but in the end it is just junk thrown into a dumpster – meaningless.
So now at this point in the chapter, I am thinking that Solomon needs a Zoloft to lift his spirits a bit right? I mean really – his perspective is so bleak that it depresses even me! But he does bring us to his conclusion in this chapter:
Verses 24 -26 concludes “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, for without him, who can eat and find enjoyment? 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… This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
When we view life’s pleasures, wealth, wisdom and work from the hand of God we find that they are gifts from God’s hand. I remember when a loved one lost his job this summer and then God blessed him just 2 weeks later with the perfect job – but an exhausting job, his wife said to her children “You see how tired daddy is – we must praise God for the work he has given him that tires him out.” When we see our work and even our trials as from the hand of God we find wisdom, knowledge and happiness.
Without God nothing else satisfies – all the work, wisdom and wealth in the world cannot add up to satisfaction. Like the butterflies that refuse to being taken captive by the net – life’s fleeting pleasures refuse to be caught unless we see everything as from hand of God and praise him for it. For a believer even our troubles, heartaches and struggles come from God’s hand and have meaning. There is hope, there is joy, there is peace in God. Today – take note of all the blessings that have come from the hand of God – in those you will find meaning.
Walk with the King!