Community Group Study Notes
- What is the general verdict that the author of Ecclesiastes reaches in chapter 1? How does he apparently come to that conclusion?
- When we pursue experiences to try to find meaning and significance for our lives, why do they always come up short in the long run? What do we believe about “life under the sun” the leads us to try and gain significance from these experiences?
- Read John 10:10. What does Jesus promise here? How would you contrast Jesus’ words here with the conclusion of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes?
- Interact with this statement: you can’t find meaning under the sun; you have to look above it. Based on what you heard in Sunday’s sermon, what does this mean?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
All right. So here's the deal, here's the deal. Hey, if I were you, I wouldn't get actually fired up at all. You see, back in the dark ages of 1987, when I was a freshmen, a 17, 18 year old freshmen in college, we used to sit around in our dorm and we would sit on the hallway and just hang out. And there were some guys that had guitars, and they would play. So I was like, "Oh, that's cool, I'd like to learn how to play like a few songs." So they would show me the beginning of a couple of songs, but my attention apparently wasn't very good, and so I would just learn the beginning of a couple of songs, and that's literally all I knew. To this day, I cannot play one entire song of any song at all. I'm a horrible guitar player.
But I can play the beginning of few different songs, which made it cool at a party. Because I could start a song, and I'd be like, "No, I'm not going to play that. Got some other things that maybe I want to play." "No, play that song." "No, I'm not going to play it, it's too easy, I'm not doing that." Just stupid stuff. Now, the truth is is that I would cheat playing songs, and you wouldn't even know the songs. Like if I ... Hold on, there it is. Now, did you know that was The Eagles, Lying Eyes by The Eagles? You didn't know that. Like two of you, that's great. So that tells me how bad my playing is. So you wouldn't even ... See if you can identify this song. You would of had to live in the south, and again, remember, all of these, like I'm ancient.
So all of these would have had to have been 1987 or older. Now, for those of you that are older than me, I don't know what that makes you, but this would have had, like all of you that are young in here, you're going, "I wasn't even born in 1987." I get it. So you got to remember, all these songs that I learned were songs, and I wasn't walking with Jesus or anything, so I'm learning songs that are at least 1987 or older than that. So because we were in the south, we would listed to a little bit of like southern rock. Anybody at all? Allman Brothers, Melissa. Okay, nobody at all. All right, see if you know this one. All right. Hold on. Yeah. Thank you very much, Bon Jovi, Wanted Dead or Alive. All right. Okay, enough of this.
There's one other song that I knew the beginning of, because I'm literally giving you the entire portfolio of my guitar skill right now. I can't play anything beyond this. This is all I have. But there's one other song, and I'm going to let you prepare yourself, because I think you're going to be able to get this one. Are you ready? Oh please. All right. We got people with their phones out. Like, "Play Free Bird." No, I don't know Free Bird. Here you go, see if you can get this one. You ready? Dust In The Wind, right? Was that pretty good? Thank you, Buffalo. Thank you for being here. Where are my stage hands? Stage hand, please take this away. I'll be signing picks later after the show and be dumping them this way.
So you got Dust In The Wind, that's maybe the only one you recognized, but nonetheless, here's what's so funny about that. Have you ever thought about the lyrics of that song? It's super depressing. Here's what the lyrics of that song say. I'm not going to sing it. "I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone. All my dreams pass before my eyes a curiosity. Dust in the wind. All they are is dust in the wind." Then it says, "Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea. All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see. Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind. Now, don't hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. It slips away and all your money won't another minute buy. Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind."
Now, if I'm being honest with you, you kind of think to yourself, "Man, I hope nobody actually thinks that. That's a really dark, kind of pessimistic, meaningless view of life." Well yeah. And I can tell you that there was a time in my life, while in college, that I was actually thinking those kinds of thoughts. I still remember one time, sitting on the edge of my bed in college, and thinking to myself like, "What is this all about? What is this all about?" It wasn't that I wanted not to live, it was just I couldn't find a lot of purpose and meaning in it. Because I'm thinking to myself, "Well, what's my next role here? I'm at the University of Georgia, so now what? Well, graduate. Okay, I graduate. Then what? Well, maybe get a job. Okay, then what? Well then hopefully get married, right? Okay, then what?"
"Well then maybe have some kids. Okay, then what? Well then make enough money where I can retire. Okay, then what? Then I retire and I move to Florida and wear terrible shirts and smoke cigars and I drive real slow. That's what I'm going to do, right? Okay, then what? Then you die." And I started thinking to myself, "Okay, I'm going to live and make all of this money," whatever it is that I was going to do, I didn't know what I was going to do with myself. This is before knowing Jesus and all that. "What am I going to do with myself? I make all this money, then I die, and then my family gets it, and then they die, and then some people probably that I don't even really know get it. So I'm functionally a human savings plan for people's lives that I don't even know at this point."
And I'm thinking, "What is the point of all of this?" So I'm asking those questions, right? What's the meaning, what's the purpose in all of this? And then you get confronted with like literature where people from history, people like Shakespeare are communicating through characters in their work like Macbeth, and they're communicating some of these same things. And then you're in college classrooms, and you can't get away from this idea. Do you remember what Macbeth said about life? "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow. A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
That's where we find ourselves, right? Now, I don't know if you have ever run across these kinds of questions in your heart and mind, but I think anybody at some point in their life who's paying attention to living starts to ask questions about what's the purpose? What's the meaning? Where can I find that? Because it doesn't sometimes feel like we can, we just feel like we're dust in the wind. Or sound and fury signifying nothing, right? Well, what I'm really glad about is that when it comes to thinking about these thoughts in a place like we're in today, is that we're not alone. We're not only not alone in knowing that other people have held these thoughts, and maybe thought about like, "What's the point of all of this? What's the purpose in life? What's the meaning that we have?"
But I'm glad that there were Bible books and biblical writers who actually wrestled with the same questions. One of the million things that I love about the Bible is how so real and earthy and authentic that it is. Because when we get to the Book of Ecclesiastes, this wisdom book that's kind of tucked into the Old Testament, maybe about half way through after the Psalms and the Proverbs. And you start getting to this book, you start realizing how this book deals with life in a pretty head on way, and it's pretty complex. In fact, when you begin to open the Book of Ecclesiastes, notice what it says in verses one and two. It says, "The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem, meaningless. Meaningless says the teacher. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless."
Well, welcome to the Bible, right? Now, before we dive head first into the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is what we're going to be studying over the next number of weeks, before diving in, we need to know kind of what the water is like, because if you don't, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble if you haven't paid attention. That's true about bodies of water anyway. Just this summer, my family and I went water skiing with some friends of ours here at the church, and our whole family went, before the boys went off to college and stuff, and Edie and I had done some water skiing because we grew up in Georgia around lakes. Our boys did not grow up around all of that, and they snow skied and did all that stuff, snowboard, but this was kind of newer for them. But not so much for us.
So while we were out there, one of the times that we were taking a break from skiing, and we were in the Niagara River. And we were just kind of hanging around. My youngest son and I were in the water, and everybody else was in the boat. And I told him, I said, "Hey, I want to show you something here. You can't really see the current that's going on here in the Niagara River, but here's what I want us to do." I said, "We're looking this way, against the current." I said, "You see that house over there on the shore?" He's like, "Yeah." I said, "You see that?" It was like a little lighthouse or something. I said, "That's kind of a benchmark. What we're going to do is we're going to swim until we get even with that." And it looked like it was 100 yards away, right?
"We're going to swim until we're just even with that lighthouse." "Okay." So we start swimming. We swam for probably, I don't know, three, four minutes. Whatever it was, it felt like an eternity. And when we came up, gasping for air as we were swimming, my son looked at me and I looked at him, and we were further away from there than when we started swimming, because I wanted him to understand. I knew that was going to be the case, by the way. I wanted him to understand, you better pay attention when you get into this to understand where the current's going, and just how strong it is, because if not, you'll find yourself in trouble. And you can find yourself disoriented potentially as well.
Like when we went to Splash Lagoon when our boys were younger in Erie, Pennsylvania. This indoor waterpark, maybe you've been there. They've got this ride their called Hurricane Hole. That's a great, great name for a ride. Hurricane Hole. And you basically do this. You get into this tube, and you go over 40 miles an hour, shout out of this tube, and then you go into what is basically, essentially a giant toilet bowl. You go flying into this thin, and you just start doing this until you drop through the hole in the thing into water. Well, I did it. I'm like, "This is awesome. Let's go." I take off. And then I'm spinning in this toilet bowl. And then I drop through the water. When I got underwater through that hole, I had no idea which end was up.
Like I'm going, "Where am I? I don't know where ..." Like I'm swimming toward the bottom. I'm trying to get ... I don't know where I am. When I came up, the dude's whistling like, "Old man, it's this way. It's this way, old guy." I was so disoriented. You see, here's why I tell you that, because when you come into a book like this that's somewhat complex, if we're not careful, we can get disoriented in a hurry. So we need to understand a little bit about the lay of the land of the book so that we don't find ourselves swimming against a current and being farther away from the mark, or being completely disoriented because of what we see and what it's saying.
So the first question is, who wrote it? That's a fair question to go, "Okay, let me get some context. Who wrote this?" Well, when we look in verses one and two, it says this, "The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem, meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher." Now, pause right there and leave that up there for just a second. In the ancient world, it is possible that sometimes one single writer will refer to themselves in the third person as if there's another voice, that does happen from time to time. But I don't think that's what's happening here. What we have here is we've actually got two voices that are noted in the opening of the book, right?
You've got somebody, a narrator who says, "The words of the teacher," and in fact quotes those words, "Meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher." You've got a narrator of sorts and you've got a teacher who is actually talking about their view of the world. So I guess it would be fair to ask the question, what are we talking about here? When that term, teacher, is up there, it's the Koheleth, the Hebrew word, and it's actually kind of a formal name. It can mean teacher or preacher or the one who calls an assembly together. That's kind of what it means. Most of the commentators and scholars who write on this just call it Koheleth, the Hebrew word, because it was kind of a formal name. It was kind of the name that they used.
And then he talks about son of David, king in Jerusalem, and all of that. So you kind of hear these two voices, that of a narrator and that of a teacher. So it's fair to ask this question, I mean, what are we talking about here? Well, the teacher actually speaks for himself a little bit later on, like in verse number 12. When you get down in verse number 12, it says this, "I, the teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem." And then in verse 16 it says the same thing. "I said to myself, 'Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ever ruled over Jerusalem before me and I've experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.'" So you've got this voice of a narrator who kind of from verse 1 through 11 in the prologue, you hear the narrator's voice summarizing the philosophy of the teacher.
And then at the very end of the book, you've got the narrator's voice that comes back to us at the very end, and then one time tucked into chapter seven in the middle of the book. But for the rest of it, it's basically a quotation of the teacher, Koheleth, the preacher, the teacher, the assembly leader. So let's ask this question. Who is actually the narrator of this book if we could ask that? It's probably helpful for us to ask that question. And here's my helpful answer. I have no idea. I literally don't know who it could possibly be except for I believe that the narrator of this book is likely a wisdom sage.
Is likely a wisdom sage, and here's what wisdom sages typically do. Wisdom sages have a tendency to put together things from a bit of a complex standpoint to teach us an overarching lesson, to teach us a longer lesson. And this wisdom sage is probably someone who is trying to help us see the contrast between this empty philosophy of a teacher and what actually we should be choosing to do. That's what the narrator's actually putting together. Now, I don't want to get hung up here. I'm just trying to give you some perspective. So if that's who the narrator is, this wisdom sage, then who is the teacher? Well, the first thing that you would think about is Solomon, right? Because of what ultimately we learned at the very beginning, right?
Son of David, king over Jerusalem, searching for wisdom. It makes perfect sense that we would think that this is Solomon. And the truth is it could be Solomon, that may be who we're talking about. But there are some things within the book itself that it may not be Solomon exactly. Now, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because the teaching that God the spirit has left with us is the same. We're still going to be learning the same lessons by the holy spirit, regardless of whether we know exactly who the narrator is, or whether if this was exactly Solomon. It could be, but part of the reason that some scholars, in fact most of them actually, evangelical scholars don't think that it was Solomon who wrote this is because the Hebrew that's used in Ecclesiastes is typically seen only at a later time, after the time of Solomon. It wasn't the same kind of Hebrew that was used during the time of Solomon.
There's also another thought there, and that's because the word Koheleth, kind of the teacher, why would the king, who has power and authority over everyone, hide behind a pseudonym? That is not common for the ancient kings. They always liked their names on stuff, regardless of who they were. That's kind of what they did. And then, we're reminded in verse 12 that I just showed you a few moments ago where he says, "I was king over Jerusalem." He uses, in the Hebrew language, the past tense of I was the king. But what we know about Solomon is that Solomon actually reigned and died while still king. We know that from some of the other portions of scripture. So there wasn't a time after Solomon, after his reign, where he was just like, "Ah, I think I'm going to write something."
We don't have any knowledge of that. So what we have here is we have either Solomon being portrayed as the teacher, or a Solomon-like figure that the wisdom sage is trying to help us understand. You'll see why I bring this out in just a minute. So this teacher, who may be Solomon, or someone Solomon-like, what's his verdict on life? What is it he says life is all about? Well, look again in verse number one and two. "The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem, meaningless, meaningless says the teacher. Utterly meaningless, everything is meaningless." Anyone see a theme here? Yeah. Meaningless.
So kind of the teacher's philosophy that's being quoted by the narrator, he's saying, "Here's what the teacher thinks, meaningless, meaningless says the teacher. Everything is meaningless." Now, that word, in the Hebrew language, for meaningless, some of your translations, depending on what you're reading might say vanity. It could also talk about that word has a broad kind of texture of meaning. Vanity, vapor or breath, futility, emptiness, lots of things along that line, enigmatic, that's another one that you could use there. These are all variations of what this word means. Meaningless is certainly a fair translation, but it has a lot more to it than just that.
Why do I think that the writer of this chose that term? A term that has broad meaning that talks about emptiness, futility, enigmatic vanity, why that? Why choosing a complex term that has a breadth of meaning? Because he's about to write a very complex book of wisdom about a very complex thing we call life. That's why. A complex word for a complex book about a complex life. And so he chooses this term meaningless. And by the way, he doubles down on it, right? He says, "Meaningless, meaningless." Some of you who have older translations, it says, "Vanity of vanities," right? That's what you're reading in some of your translations. The interesting thing about this is that when you double down like that, when he's basically, if you translated it kind of raw, it would be, "Meaninglessnesses of meaninglessnesses." Just hard to say, right?
So instead, he translates it, "Meaningless, meaningless." But when you double down like that, you're trying to make an emphasis on something. You've seen it in other parts of the Bible, right? For instance, there's a book in the Bible that's titled Song of Songs. Why? Because what it's doing is it's double stating the term to give emphasis that this is the greatest song of all the songs. That idea. Or, maybe this one, holy of holies. Of all the holy places, this is the most holy of all of those holy places. So when you say meaninglessness of all meaninglessnesses, he's basically saying, "The way that I view life is that it is the highest form of meaninglessness."
These are strong statements coming from the teacher here. And it's interesting for us to have to grapple with. But what's the context? This is where we need to orient ourselves in the water. Because if we don't, we're going to miss what's being said here. "Everything is meaningless," he says, and then in verse three, he says, "What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil?" Everybody look this way for a moment and read these words with me. "Under the sun." Okay. Say it again, "Under the sun." "What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?"
That phrase is a very important phrase to the writer of this book, very important. Here's why. Because under the sun is basically a poetic way of saying on the earth. It is also a poetic way of saying absent God. This is the idea here, and you'll see it as the book progresses, that under the sun is the idea of saying on the earth, and it's also a reminder of life on earth without God. So what the teacher is doing is he is philosophically looking at the world, life under the sun, he's looking at the earth, and he's just evaluating the natural processes of what goes on on the earth. In fact, that's what you see in the next verse, verse number four.
He says, "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north, round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again." I want you to understand what the teacher's saying. He's saying, "I'm observing all of the natural world, and here's what I keep fining. The sun rises, and the sun sets. It's just a circle. This is what it does. The wind blows this way and blows that way. That's what it does." By the way, he covered east and west with the sun, and he covered north and south with the wind to make sure he covered every direction.
And then he says, "Oh, by the way, the streams run into the sea, and the seas are never full." In other words, he's saying, "Here's what's going on in the world. Everything just happens and it's all a circle. The sun rises, the sun sets. This is happening every day, this is what goes on. The wind blows this way and then it blows that way. The streams run into the sea, the sea is never full. Everything is a lot of activity but there's actually no change." And so he calls it meaningless because that's what he's observing with his naked eye in what happens under the sun.
Now, if you were paying attention to verse number five when you were looking at it, and if you were looking in a King James version, which is not what I showed you, you would see the phrase at the beginning of verse number five, "The sun also rises." Some of you may be familiar with that, if you're familiar with kind of classic literature, because Ernest Hemingway wrote a book called The Sun Also Rises. This was a book that Hemingway borrowed from the Book of Ecclesiastes his title, because he wrote a book about former World War I soldiers who were now ex-patriots in Paris who were trying on every experience, whether through bottle or through relationship, to see what would be fulfilling and satisfying to their lives. And when you see all of the complexity of the stories that are going on in The Sun Also Rises, you finally get to the very end, and it ends on a note of utter hopelessness and meaninglessness.
He did that on purpose, because he was thinking to himself, "This is exactly what it is I'm seeing. I'm observing that there's actually no meaning and there's actually no point under the sun." So in verse number eight, the teacher continues and says, "All things are wearisome more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look, this is something new?' It was here already, long ago. It was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them."
I know some of you right now are going, "Jerry, this message seems to be going down the toilet, because like I'm like pretty much depressed the whole time you're talking." I get it. But here's what I want you to understand. I want you to be able to look at verses 8 through 11, right in its face, because there are some truths that we need to be able to face up to when we observe the reality of life. In other words, everybody wants to be able to do something new. Everybody wants to be able to do something original. It's what we all seek to do, right? We want to be new, we want to be original. And he's basically saying, "Yeah, good luck with that. Good luck with that. You're not going to be doing anything new. And by the way, even if you do, it's going to roll to the same fate of human brokenness and sin as everything else does, because there's nothing new under the sun."
He said, "Oh, oh, by the way, if you think that it's great that you want to be remembered, here's what I want to remind you of. You're not going to be." That's what he basically says. "You're not going to be." Generations come, and generations go, and they forget you. Think about it. Just think about two or three generations removed from you in your own family. You probably don't even know them all. You have no idea maybe who some of them are. Some of you are like, "I've been on Ancestry.com." Maybe, that's great. But generally speaking, you've forgotten them. And do you know what's going to happen to you and I? More than likely what's going to happen to you and I is that in a few generations removed, nobody remembers us. Nobody.
Now, we want to be remembered, right? It's why we give money and then tell them, "You've got to put my name on the building." Because we want to be remembered. But the truth is is that by and large, we're going to be forgotten. They might remember, "Oh, that's the name of the building," but they may not remember the who behind the building. And this is just a reality that we have to face. And then, we try and strive for satisfaction in all of these little things in life, but here's what we find out. We find out that the eye, and the ears, they never get enough. They're like a black hole. We can keep seeing everything we want to see, we can keep hearing everything we want to hear, and they're still starving for more. You can keep feeding them and you're still starving.
"If I could only live at the beach, man, life would be good." And then you get there, and you realize you're still hungry. "If I could only travel the world," and you do, and then after doing that you realize your eyes are still starving. "If I could only just have a lot of money," and then you do, but you realize that the craving and the satisfaction hasn't been met. This is where we find ourselves and this is where the teacher found himself and he said, "As a result of that, it's meaningless." It's like chasing after the wind. In fact, that's exactly what he says in verse number 12 when he starts speaking for himself.
He says, "I, the teacher, was king over Israel and Jerusalem, and I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that's done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun, all of them are meaningless. A chasing after the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened. What is lacking cannot be counted." Okay, so we've already traveled this far into the Book of Ecclesiastes, and finally, the teacher does reference God. So I'm glad for that, but did you see what he said about God? "What a heavy burden God has laid on humanity." Now, you know what's interesting about this, and probably another reason that we may not be talking about Solomon specifically, but a Solomon-like figure here?
Is because Solomon, when he used the name of God, would have used, listen carefully, would have used the covenant name of God because he was the king of Israel. That covenant name was Yahweh. But when this writer says God, he uses Elohim, which is the generic form of God. Why? Because the writer is basically setting up this kind of contrast in saying, "Yeah, there's a God." It's not that he's an unbeliever in God. "Yeah, there's a God. But he's not real active and he's pretty disinterested in what we do." And here's a paraphrase of what he said. He just gives us a bunch of busy work to while away our days while we're on earth. That's what we've got. A God who's given us a bunch of busy work so that we can just play out our days.
And here's his conclusion. It's like chasing the wind. Have you ever tried to do that? I used to do that as a kid. I was never successful, just as a heads up. Never. You chase the wind, right? You try and catch the wind. You can't do it. You come up empty handed. You run this way and the wind changes and goes the other way. It's almost a pointless ... It's a fruitless exercise that you can never be successful in. And he says, "This is like chasing after the wind." Then he says this to sum up in verse 16, "I said to myself, 'Look, I've increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me, and I've experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.' Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this too is a chasing after the wind, for with much wisdom comes much sorrow. The more knowledge, the more grief."
I mean, here's what he said basically. "I have applied myself to this." Think about it. Solomon or a Solomon-like character that the narrator is posturing for us has given, listen to this, his energy, his time, his intellect, his resources to trying to figure out what's the meaning of life under the sun. And his conclusion, it's meaningless. It's like chasing after the wind. I don't know if that leaves us a whole lot of hope, right? So Ecclesiastes is uplifting, huh? Are we really people who are just chasing the wind? Is all we are, you and I, just dust in the wind? Is that all we are? Is this all we're doing?
I mean, it seems when we begin to read Ecclesiastes that that seems to be the case. Because Ecclesiastes, as a book, is challenging and messy. It's not an easy book to outline, because it goes kind of in different directions, and it's intended to be challenging and messy and to provoke questions in our hearts that leaves us gnawing, and sometimes doesn't even answer those questions. And do you know what happens when you come to that place? It means that you, the reader, have to now start drawing some conclusions, because you're wrestling with the questions that you're seeing here. In some ways, we resonate with it, right? Because we've seen the futility of trying to chase all of these little things and realizing we still come up empty.
Maybe they're temporary, minor joys for a season, but then we come away unsatisfied. And we think to ourselves, "Man, what's the point? Man, is there meaning in all of this? What in the world is the purpose? What is life under the sun?" You see, what the writer of Ecclesiastes is trying to do is he's trying to help the reader feel the heat of life under the sun. He wants us to understand how it feels when we start seeking after meaning and purpose and not factoring God into that at all. And by the way, he's reminding us that if Solomon, or a Solomon-like person, who's wealthier than you, smarter than you, has more opportunity than you, has more resources than you, has more power than you, and has more time than you, if he came to the conclusion, looking at life without God, that it's meaningless, what do you think you're going to do?
You're going to come to the same spot. So, because we've got to draw our own conclusions from Ecclesiastes 1, what's a conclusion that we need to draw? I'm going to give you one. Here it is. You can't find meaning under the sun. You have to look above it. You can't find meaning under the sun, you're going to have to look above it. You see, once we grab hold of that reality in Ecclesiastes, which by the way, if you read the whole book, you know that that's the direction that the narrator is trying to take us. But you may not know when you first start out. But you're not going to find meaning under the sun, you've got to look above the sun.
For instance, when the narrator tries to find ... The teacher, I'm sorry, tries to find meaning in what the earth is doing, and he starts talking about the earth, and he talks about he sun, and talks about the wind, and he talks about the sea, he's talking about this creation narrative where there was like a brokenness in creation and now everything is subjected to this cycle of everything that happens. The sun rises, the sun set. The wind blows this way, the wind blows that way. The sea pours ... The stream pours into the sea and it never gets enough and never fills up. And this is what's happening. This is what life looks like. One generation comes, and another generation goes. And nobody remembers anything. And this is life. It is just the same old thing.
Until we look above the sun. If we stay living life under the sun, without factoring God, then we'll come to the same conclusion that he did. But when we live and look above the sun, it changes things. In fact, relative to the creation, notice what Paul said. In Romans, chapter eight, he said, "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration." Leave it right here for a second. That word, frustration, I've highlighted for you, and here's why. Because in the Greek language, listen to this, in the Septuagint, you're going, "What?" You're probably reading it right before you came in, right?
The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. So the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. But there's a Greek translation of that, the Septuagint. The same Greek word that is used for meaningless by the writer of Ecclesiastes, Paul takes that exact same word and he uses it in Romans eight to discuss the frustration, or the seeming meaninglessness of creation. But then he goes on to say this, "Not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sunship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Here's what Paul's saying, and I hope that you're going to stay with me. Sometimes, depending on the day and depending on the worship service, some services are more clued in than others. And I'll leave that to you to determine where you fall.
But here's what I want you to understand and gauge. Paul is saying this. "Yes, the creation is in the cycle of seeming bondage and futility. This is what is happening all the time. But there is coming a time, because of the one who came, Jesus, the son of God, who came from above the sun to live with us under the sun, who died and rose again, that he is now our redeemer, and that redeemer can now reinvigorate all of creation and reinvigorate all the people who are in creation by his death and his resurrection. That now we are the children of God who are infused with the spirit of God, given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. That there is a new kingdom that is among us, that the kingdom of God in Jesus has broken into this sin-damaged world that was frustrated at creation, and what he's going to do is he's revealing himself through the children of God, and at some point, he's going to return. And all of creation is going to be made new."
"It will not go on the same way it is. It is going to be reignited by the power of the spirit of God in the person of Jesus Christ." That's what Paul's saying, that he's releasing from the bondage and he's allowing for this to happen. So it's not just going to do this all the time. It's not what it's going to do. In fact, in verse nine of Ecclesiastes one, the teacher says, "What has been will be again. And what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun." But do you know that the apostle Peter actually addressed that idea?
Here's what he said , 2 Peter chapter 3, "Above all, you must understand that in the last days, scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this coming he promised?' Ever since our ancestors died," listen to this, "Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forgot that long ago, by God's word, the heavens came into being, and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly."
In other words, what Peter is saying, "Yeah, I realize that if you just observe under the sun and don't factor God into it, you think that everything is going to be the same that it's always been. But I'm here to tell you that the one who is going to return is going to return in triumphal judgment, and when he does, everything is going to be changed. It will not be the same as it was." Why? Because when we just look at life under the sun, and don't factor God in, all we can do is arrive at the same place Solomon, or the Solomon-like figure arrived, that everything is meaningless.
But when we look above the sun, we begin to be infused with purpose. So why should we act different than this Solomon-like person who is purported to be the teacher here in this text? Why should we act different than Solomon? Well, because of Jesus. And because of what Jesus said. Matthew, chapter 12, "Jesus said, 'The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now, something greater than Solomon is here.'" Even if you're wealthy, even if you're powerful, even if you've got everything there is to have, life without God will always be void of meaning. Doesn't matter what you've got, doesn't matter how much you have, doesn't matter how much time you've got, life without God is void of meaning.
Sure, you'll still, without God, be able to experience some small joys in life, but you better drink them in, because that's all you're going to get. And the problem is is that you will try and drink them down to the very dregs, and you will squeeze everything you can out of it because you believe this is all you can get from meaning. When instead, we are helped to understand that if we look above the sun and we realize who God is, what he has done in Jesus Christ, that that is where we find meaning. And Jesus' life has purpose because he redeems the creation and he redeems all that are within it so that now we are ambassadors and kingdom representatives of a new kingdom that is among us, and a kingdom that is going to come in its fullness.
That's why we've got purpose. That's why we've got meaning, because we've been endowed with the image of our creator and we are his representatives on the earth. So try as you might, try with all of your might, but you are not going to find ultimate meaning under the sun. You'll only find it when you look above it. Let's bow our heads together. Before we're dismissed, which we will be in just a moment, I can't help but believe that there may be some people, you've come, maybe it's your first, second, third time. Maybe you're kind of ... Maybe you've been wrestling with some of the same life question that I told you I wrestled with at one point, and probably all the people around you have wrestled with at some point. What's the meaning? What's the purpose?
I'd tell you to do what we sang about just a little bit ago. Lift up your eyes. See the king has come. Light of the world, reaching out for us. There is no other name. There is no other name. Jesus Christ, our God. You see, what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, has endued everything with meaning. Because we are created by God, we have purpose and we have meaning because we've been given his image. That's a special place in creation that has been held for us, that God in his grace has shown to us. But when we understand what God has done in redeeming us back to himself in reconciling the world to himself through his son, we realize that now by faith in Jesus, we're not only reconciled to God, but we are agents of reconciliation in the world that we live in, and we can actually help to bring the kingdom, help to reveal the kingdom to those who are around us.
It's a whole different form of meaning. It's a whole different form of purpose. It doesn't just end. It has eternal consequences. And so if you've never come to that place where you have exchanged your meaninglessness and your hopelessness and your sinfulness for Jesus' offer of forgiveness and meaning and purpose and an eternal kind of life, boy, he extends that offer to you today. And if you need to know what that looks like, or you want to talk to somebody or pray about that for just a few moments, man, we'd love for you to do that. When we dismiss in just a moment, out in the atrium, there's a clearly marked room called the Fireside Room, we'd love for you to come by and talk to some pastors or prayer partners in there. They'd love to take a moment and talk with you about that. There's no more important decision you'll make in your life.
Father, for those of us who claim to know you and who have walked with you maybe for some time, we do realize that there are times where in the world that we live in, as crazy and as weird and as complex as it is, that sometimes we do keep our eyes just under the sun. And we fail to do what Colossians does teach us, for us to set our minds and to set our eyes on things above. "I look to the hills from whence cometh my help." Sometimes, we just got to lift our heads and see above it all that there is a God who is sovereign in control and who is good. And who in the midst of this craziness and this sinfulness, has given his son, the only one who can make sense of everything because truly he is the life.
And so I pray that you would always keep our minds rooted in terms of eternity when we live in a world that continues to get crazy and fearful and complex. Because what the world needs to see is people who are endued with meaning because of their relationship with Jesus. Not people who are wandering around feeling helpless, hopeless, purposeless, and meaningless. Because that's where we arrive if we don't consider you. But when we lift our eyes above the sun, we realize that life is not at all meaningless, but has powerful purpose. And I pray you would help us to discover that more and more as we study your word. In Jesus' name. Amen.