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                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

             The Preacher's Search For Meaning - II (Ec 2:1-26)

INTRODUCTION

1. Our previous lesson noted how the Preacher began his search for
   meaning in life
   a. Observing the futility seen in the cycles of nature and life
      - Ec 1:4-11
   b. Beginning with human wisdom - Ec 1:12-18
      1) Having already been blessed with great wisdom from God
      2) Which he used to search out the value of human wisdom

2. What was his conclusion concerning such wisdom in providing the answer?
   a. Trying to find the answer in human wisdom was "grasping for the
      wind" - Ec 1:17
   b. Such wisdom was the source of much grief and sorrow - Ec 1:18

3. So he began to look elsewhere, and in the second chapter we read...
   a. Of his efforts to explore the value of mirth, pleasure, wine,
      folly
   b. Of his search to find meaning in the acquisition of wealth and in
      great accomplishments

[Did he find the answer there?  If not, what conclusions did he reach?
In this lesson we shall simply allow the Preacher to tell us for
himself.  We first note how...]

I. THE PREACHER TESTED LIFE

   A. HE SUMMARIZES WHAT HE FOUND...
      1. Mirth and pleasure are vanity - Ec 2:1
      2. Laughter is madness, mirth accomplishes little if anything
         - Ec 2:2

   B. HE DESCRIBES WHAT HE DID...
      1. He experimented with wine and folly - Ec 2:3
         a. Using the wisdom he had
         b. For he was seeking to find what was truly good for people
            to do "under heaven all the days of their lives"
      2. He made many things - Ec 2:4-6
         a. Such as houses, vineyards, gardens, orchards, water pools
         b. Notice also 1 Ki 7:1-12; 1 Ki 9:15-19
      3. He acquired whatever he desired - Ec 2:7-8
         a. Such as servants, livestock, silver, gold, treasures,
            singers, and "the delights of the sons of men" (concubines
            or musical instruments? cf. NIV, NASB, NKJV)
         b. Notice 1 Ki 9:28; 1 Ki 10:10; 1 Ki 10:14; 1 Ki 10:21;
            1 Ki 10:27; 1 Ki 11:1-3
      4. He became great and seemed to be happy - Ec 2:9-10
         a. Greater than any before him, while maintaining his wisdom
         b. Having all his eyes and heart desired, finding enjoyment in
            his labor

   C. HIS CONCLUSION FROM WHAT HE DID...
      1. Upon reflection, looking back at what he did - Ec 2:11a
      2. He concluded:
         a. "All was vanity, and grasping for the wind." - Ec 2:11b
         c. "There was no profit under the sun." - Ec 2:11c

[The conclusion drawn by the Preacher may seem strange, when he
admitted that he found joy in his labor (Ec 2:10). But when we consider
what he says next, we begin to understand why after his great
experiment...]

II. THE PREACHER HATED LIFE

   A. AFTER REFLECTING UPON WISDOM, MADNESS, AND FOLLY...
      1. Realizing his unique opportunity (who can do more than what he
         has done?), he considered the relative merits of wisdom,
         madness, and folly - Ec 2:12
      2. He saw that wisdom was better than folly - Ec 2:13-14a
         a. Just as light is better than darkness
         b. At least the wise man can see where he is going
      3. But ultimately the advantage of human wisdom is vanity!
         - Ec 2:14b-16
         a. For both the wise man and the fool die
         b. After death, there is no more remembrance of the wise than
            of the fool
      4. Thus the Preacher hated life, because all the work done "under
         the sun"...
         a. Was grievous to him
         b. Was vanity and grasping for the wind - Ec 2:17

   B. AFTER REFLECTING UPON HIS WEALTH...
      1. He came to hate his labor - Ec 2:18-19
         a. Because he must leave it to one after him
         b. Who knows whether those who inherit it will be wise or
            foolish? - cf. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, 1 Ki 12:1-19 
         c. In either case, someone else will rule over all the results
            of his labor!
      2. He came to despair about all of his labor "under the sun" - Ec 2:20-23
         a. For a man with wisdom, knowledge and skill must leave his
            heritage to one who has not labored for it
         b. He did not think this right ("this also is a vanity and a
            great evil")
         c. In the end, what does he have to show for all his efforts?
            1) Sorrowful days, restless nights
            2) Grievous work, leading to vanity

[Looking at life "under the sun", trying to find meaning in this life
for all of one's labors, the Preacher came to hate and despair of all of
his great efforts. But as he said, "my wisdom remained with me" (Ec 2:9).

With that wisdom he shares for the first time what one should do in
life.  As he does so, we see that...]

III. THE PREACHER ACCEPTED LIFE

   A. MAN SHOULD SEEK TO ENJOY THE GOOD IN HIS LABOR...
      1. There is nothing better, a conclusion he will draw six times
         - Ec 2:24a; cf. Ec 3:12-13; Ec 3:22; Ec 5:18-19;
           Ec 8:15; and Ec 9:7-9
      2. Note carefully:
         a. The Preacher is NOT promoting the fatalist view of "Let's
            eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."  Isaiah 22:13 
         b. He is saying to enjoy what you do and what God has given
            you - cf. 1 Ti 6:17 

   B. THE ABILITY TO ENJOY ONE'S LABOR IS A GIFT FROM GOD...
      1. He saw that the ability to enjoy one's labor is a gift from
         God - Ec 2:24b
      2. For no one can truly enjoy life without God - Ec 2:18-19
      (cf. footnote, NIV, NASB)
         a. To those good in His sight, God gives wisdom, knowledge,
            and joy - Ec 2:26a
         b. To the sinner, God gives the work of gathering and
            collecting - Ec 2:26b
            1) To give to the one who is good before God - cf. Pro 28:8 
            2) For the sinner, his work therefore becomes (to him)
               vanity and grasping for the wind! - cf. Ec 6:1-2
            -- Yes, some are very successful in accumulating wealth,
               but for what end?

CONCLUSION

1. For the first time, the Preacher has introduced God into the picture

2. Until now, he has looked at life "under the sun," without God...
   a. He has sought for meaning through wisdom, folly, madness,
      pleasure and wealth
   b. Even when successful, the realities of life and death can cause
      one to hate life
   -- He could only conclude that "under the sun," all is vanity and
      grasping for wind

3. But now, with God giving wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man...
   a. One can enjoy the good in his labor
   b. A purpose and meaning for life is now possible

That purpose and meaning for life will be developed further as we make
our way through the book.  In the meantime, since "God gives wisdom and
knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight" (Ec 2:26), have you
consider what is essential to please Him?

One begins with faith...

   "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who
   comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder
   of those who diligently seek Him."  (He 11:6)
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