This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Everyone worships something. That’s the inescapable reality of human existence that we looked at to start our study of Ecclesiastes 2 Wednesday night. Those who deny God’s existence, or simply neglect to give him his rightful honor, will try to plug that gap with something else. Something, or someone, will get their heart’s greatest love and honor. Perhaps it will be a person, from a spouse, significant other, or close friend to a sports hero, pop star, or our new president. Perhaps it will be a sports team (I’ll be the first to admit that my love for the Carolina Panthers has bordered on worship at times), a hobby, or even the pursuit of an otherwise noble dream. The point is, all of us will seek satisfaction in something. All of us will give our heart’s devotion to something. It is what we have been hard-wired to do. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon reflects on some of the things that he tried to use to plug the gap in his life. We looked at them, and then looked at Solomon’s closing reflection on the only way to find peace.
The first thing Solomon sought was possessions. Being the wealthiest king to ever rule from Jerusalem, he could have anything he wanted. In verses 1-11, he describes that pursuit. He goes as far as to say, “Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them.” He had it all, everything a person could desire. Yet, what was the net result? It was meaningless, he says. As he drew near to the end of his life, he saw that all he had amassed would be lost with his death. All was in vain. He found fleeting pleasure from his possessions, but he did not find lasting joy. So, in verses 12-17, he describes his pursuit of intelligence, of a wisely lived life. He sought success and accomplishment, and indeed he achieved it. He remarks that there is great benefit in wisdom – a smart man will have a better life than a fool – but he also speaks of the realization that the same fate awaits both the wise and the stupid. Even amidst all his accomplishment, he couldn’t escape death. Death pays no regard to one’s accomplishment or wisdom or success. However, many people point to the empire that they have built to leave behind to future generations. In verses 18-23, Solomon sees the vanity even in that. He speaks of working endlessly over the course of one’s life, spending stressful days and sleepless nights, only to die and leave it all to a man who may well waste it all away. Who knows what those who come after you will do with all that you have built. Even in this, Solomon sees vanity.
So where is hope? How can one live a fulfilled life? In verses 24-26, Solomon reflects on the one solution to this problem. Life a Godly life. Solomon says to enjoy one’s life and the many pleasures it brings, which is not possible outside of knowing God. When we live lives that seek the Lord in all things, that is constantly thinking about who God is and how we can express and savor his glory, then all things, all areas of life, will have meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. But without him, Solomon says, “Who can have enjoyment?” Don’t spend your life trying to find satisfaction in things, or accomplishments, or work, or people, or anything but your creator. Those things can never ultimately satisfy. However, when you find your identity in Christ and your joy in God, then people and accomplishments and work and things can all bring joy into your life, seen for what they truly are – good gifts from the hand of the Father.