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                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

               The Preacher's Observations - I (Eccl Chapters 3 & 4)

INTRODUCTION

1. In Ecclesiastes, we find the question raised:  "What profit has a
   man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?" - Ec 1:3
   a. The key phrase is "under the sun"
   b. I.e., what profit is there in life when viewed from an earthly
      perspective?
   c. I.e., what value is there in our labor when we fail to consider
      God's will in life?
   -- We have seen the answer given by the Preacher:
      "All is vanity"  (Vanity: emptiness; worthlessness)
      - Ec 1:2; Ec 1:14

2. How did he reach this conclusion?
   a. Based upon personal experience - Ec 1:13; Ec 1:16
   b. Also from personal observations - Ec 3:10; Ec 3:16

3. Our previous lessons examined the experiences of the Preacher...
   a. Now we begin to note his observations
   b. In which he also shares his wisdom for living "under the sun"

[His conclusion that life "under the sun" was vanity was partly reached
by observing...]

I. THE INEXPLICABLE PURPOSE OF GOD

   A. ALL THINGS SERVE GOD'S DIVINE PURPOSE...
      1. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose
         under heaven" - Ec 3:1-8
      2. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." - Ec 3:11a
      3. "...whatever God does, it shall be forever...' - Ec 3:14-15

   B. YET MAN IS UNABLE TO FIND OUT GOD'S PURPOSE...
      1. God has put it in man to search out this purpose - Ec 3:9-11a
      2. But "no one can find out the work that God has done" - Ec 3:11b

   C. WHY GOD ACTS THIS WAY...
      1. "God does it, that men should fear before Him" - Ec 3:14c
      2. I.e., to reverence God, and therefore seek to please Him -
         cf. Ac 17:26-27 
         a. God has made man an inquisitive creature
         b. He has also made life such that we are always seeking for
            something better, or for some purpose
         -- Hopefully, we will keep seeking until we find Him!

   D. THE PREACHER'S CONCLUSION...
      1. There is nothing better than to:
         a. "Rejoice and do good" - Ec 3:12
         b. "Eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor" - Ec 3:13a
      2. Yet the ability to do so is "the gift of God" - Ec 3:13b
         a. So one must be in favor with God
         b. Knowing that God will require an account of our actions
            - Ec 3:15b; cf. Ec 11:9; Ec 12:14

[Without revelation, we cannot discern God's purposes; without His
blessing, we cannot enjoy the good of our labor.  Therefore any effort
to live without God can only be vanity as we will find His purposes
inexplicable.

The Preacher's conclusion about the vanity of life was also reinforced
by observing...]

II. THE INJUSTICE AND OPPRESSION OF MEN

   A. WHAT THE PREACHER SAW...
      1. Wickedness in the place of justice - Ec 3:16
      2. Power on the side of the oppressor, with no comfort for the
         oppressed - Ec 4:1
      -- Prompting him to think the dead were better than the living,
         even better were those who had never lived - Ec 4:2-3

   B. WHAT THE PREACHER REASONED IN HIS HEART...
      1. God will judge the righteous and the wicked - Ec 3:17a
      2. God will somehow use injustice and wickedness in carrying out
         His purpose - Ec 3:17b (e.g., just as God used Assyria and
         Babylon to discipline Israel)
      3. God allows injustice to test the sons of men - Ec 3:18-21
         a. To help them see that they are like beasts, in that they
            will die and their bodies return to dust
         b. While they are also different from beasts, in that their
            spirit returns to God who gave it - cf. Ec 12:7

   C. WHAT THE PREACHER CONCLUDED...
      1. Once again, the value of rejoicing in one's own works - Ec 3:22a
      2. For this is what God allots him, not what may happen on earth
         after he is gone - Ec 3:22b


[In the remaining part of this section, we find the Preacher making
various comments, which may be summarized as follows...]

III. THE VANITY OF SKILLFUL AND SELFISH WORK

   A. IT CAN BREED ENVY IN OTHERS...
      1. He saw how skillful work causes one to be envied by his
         neighbor - Ec 4:4
      2. While it is foolish to fold one's hands and do nothing,
         acquiring too much is not worth the effort, for it really does
         not satisfy - Ec 4:5-6
      3. What is best is to have little with quietness and contentment
         - cf. Pro 15:16 

   B. ESPECIALLY IF ONE IS ALL ALONE...
      1. The Preacher saw one with no companion, neither son nor
         brother - Ec 4:7-8
         a. Who is never satisfied (indeed he can't be, cf. Ec 5:10) 
         b. And doesn't think for whom he is laboring - cf. Ec 2:18-19 
      2. It is much better to have friends - Ec 4:9-12
         a. Who can help each other in their labor
         b. Who can help each other when they fall
         c. Who can help each other withstand forces of opposition

   C. POPULARITY IS SUCH A FLEETING THING...
      1. It is better to be a poor and wise youth, than an old foolish
         king - Ec 4:13
      2. For despite rising from poverty and prison to become king, the
         people will eventually prefer another much younger than he
         - Ec 4:14-16

CONCLUSION

1. The Preacher's observations about the vanity of life, along with
   wisdom for living "under the sun," will continue in succeeding
   chapters

2. But we have seen in this study...
   a. Why he reached his conclusions about the vanity of life
      1) The inexplicable purposes of God
      2) The injustice and oppression of men
      3) The vanity of skillful and selfish toil
   b. What wisdom he offers for living "under the sun"
      1) It is best to rejoice, do good, and enjoy the good of one's
         labor, realizing that such is a gift of God to those who
         please Him
      2) To appreciate the value of friends who can help us in times of
         work and need

3. As Christians today, we may be perplexed at times concerning the
   workings of God...
   a. But we have the assurance that all things work for good for them
      who love God and are called according to His purpose - Ro 8:28 
   b. We have the family of God to help us in our labor and in time of
      need - cf. 1 Th 5:11 

And of course, there is no greater friend, than the One who is the
ultimate end of all God's purposes in this world:  Jesus Christ!
cf. 2 Tim 1:9 .  Through Him we can "obtain mercy and find grace to help
in time of need." He 4:15-16 .

Are you a friend of Jesus?  If so, remember what He said:

   "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." - Jn 15:14 

Let Jesus be your friend by obeying His will! - cf. Mt 28:19-20 
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