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                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

             The Preacher's Search For Meaning - I (Ec 1:4-18)

INTRODUCTION

1. Why am I here?  What am I to be doing?
   a. These are questions that nearly everyone asks at some point in
      his life
   b. They are questions the author of Ecclesiastes sought to address

2. In our introductory lesson we saw...
   a. The author identified -  Ec 1:1 
      1) The Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem
      2) I.e., Solomon
   b. The theme stated - Ec 1:2
      1) All is vanity
      2) I.e., life from an earthly perspective ("under the sun") is
         futile, meaningless - Ec 1:14
   c. The question raised - Ec 1:3
      1) What profit is there for a man from all his labor under the
         sun?
      2) I.e., what benefit can one derive from all his efforts in this
         life?

3. In the first two chapters, Solomon demonstrates how he came to this
   conclusion
   a. From his observations regarding the cyclical nature of life and
      its apparent meaninglessness
   b. From his own experiences as he sought to find meaning through
      various avenues

[As we continue to listen to the "Preacher", then, we find him
describing...]

I. THE FUTILITY OBSERVED IN THE CYCLES OF LIFE

   A. NOTHING SEEMS TO CHANGE - Ec 1:4-7
      1. The earth appears to abide forever, even as generations of men
         come and go
      2. The sun is constant with its rising and setting
      3. The winds continue their whirling cycle
      4. The water cycle also continues, as rivers run into the seas, and
         then through evaporation and rain returns to the rivers again
      -- Looking at nature, it seems nothing ever changes; it just goes
         in circles and remains the same!

   B. NOTHING SEEMS TO SATISFY - Ec 1:8
      1. Despite all our labors, man is never truly satisfied
      2. What satisfaction one may think he has is only fleeting
      3. Given time, we soon desire something else

   C. NOTHING IS NEW UNDER THE SUN - Ec 1:9-11
      1. What will be done is that which has been done
      2. If thought to be new, it is only because we have forgotten
         what occurred before
         a. What about our modern technological advances?
         b. What about the technology that created the pyramids,
            Stonehenge, etc.?
      -- Given time, future civilizations will forget what we are doing
         today, and only "rediscover" what has been learned again and
         again!

[Faced with what appeared to be such meaningless cycles in life, the
"Preacher" sought to determine man's true purpose.  He first shares
with us his own experience with...]

II. THE FUTILITY OF HUMAN WISDOM

   A. THE PREACHER PREFACES HIS SEARCH - Ec 1:12-15
      1. He was king over Israel in Jerusalem
         a. I.e., Solomon
         b. Who had been given wisdom from God - 1 Ki 3:9-12; 1 Ki 4:29-34
      2. He determined to use such wisdom to seek and search all that
         has been done "under heaven"
         a. A task that he understood God had given to all men
         b. A task for which he knew he had been especially equipped
      3. He summarizes what he found, having seen all the works done
         "under the sun"
         a. He concludes they are vanity and grasping for wind
         b. For there is little one can do to make significant changes

   B. THE PREACHER APPLIED HIS GOD-GIVEN WISDOM - Ec 1:16-17a
      1. He acknowledged the greatness and wisdom he had obtained
         a. In answer to prayer, Solomon had obtained great wisdom
            1) Again, cf. 1 Ki 3:9-12 
            2) Compare this also to Ja 1:5 
         b. This is "God-given wisdom", to be contrasted with "human
            wisdom"
      2. He therefore sought to apply it to wisdom, madness, and folly
         a. The "wisdom" here we believe is "human wisdom"
            (e.g., philosophy)
         b. For this is wisdom that he set his heart to know (learn)

   C. THE PREACHER CONCLUDES HUMAN WISDOM IS FUTILE - Ec 1:17b-18
      1. He perceived that such wisdom was like grasping for wind; it
         did not provide the answer to his problem
      2. He also saw that such wisdom and knowledge provide much grief
         and sorrow
         a. As we might say today, it provides "information overload"
         b. One becomes burdened as we learn of many things in life
            1) Things we have no control over
            2) Yet things we often worry over

CONCLUSION

1. In beginning his search for meaning, the wise Preacher naturally
   began with wisdom...
   a. Thus he set his heart to "know wisdom"
   b. But he found such wisdom to be "grasping for the wind"

2. Some do not believe we are to take his words as an indictment against
   all wisdom...
   a. For there is a "God-given wisdom" for which one should seek
      - cf. Pro 2:1-9; Ja 1:5 
   b. This kind of wisdom can bless one's life - cf. Pro 3:13-18 

3. But it is an indictment against "human wisdom"...
   a. A wisdom that seeks to understand life, but leaves God out of the
      picture
   b. A wisdom that can only leave one "grasping for the wind"

In our next study, we shall continue with the Preacher's "search for
meaning" and notice his observations regarding pleasure, madness, and
folly.

In the meantime, remember what Paul wrote in contrasting human wisdom
with God's wisdom:

   But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom
   from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
   that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the
   LORD." (1 Cor 1:30-31)

Have you accepted and obeyed the true wisdom from God, Jesus Christ,
who gives meaning and purpose for life?
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