Finding Contentment (Ecclesiastes #3)

Text: Ecclesiastes 1:12 – 2:26

Ecclesiastes is a sermon preached by King Solomon around 950 B.C. after he objectively observed all the experiences in this life. The first two chapters are a record of his experimentation in trying to find what is good and lasting in life. He’s trying to figure out how do I outrun the corruption that is chasing me. Because the race of life is a race against corruption, but everyone loses that race. King Solomon has things that no one has ever had in combination at one time.

  • He has unlimited resources that give him unlimited access to experiences.
  • He has a curiosity for what is good and lasting beyond personal pleasure or individual meaning.
  • He has the wisdom to be objective about his conclusions without being confused by personal feelings or motives.
  • As king, he is the law. He doesn’t have laws that govern him. He is the lawgiver.

The first eleven verses King Solomon sort of gives an abstract, a summary, of what he’s going to say in verses 1:12 to the end of chapter 2.

You can’t be content if your heart is in the wrong place (1:13)

  • King Solomon said keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life, but that’s not what he did.
  • I gave my heart (vss 1:13, 17) to build, to prosper, to chase pleasure, to entertain myself, and to pursue business success. King Solomon didn’t just chase these things, he accomplished these things.

Man’s limits (1:15)

  • It’s time to reassess the idea that “you can do anything you want to do.” The reality is that people have limits. And understanding limits is better than knowing options. 
  • Crooked can’t be made straight. The crooked serpent can’t be made straight. The crooked way can’t be made straight by man.
  • You can’t count what’s not there.
    • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • Solomon would say better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the heart (vs 6:9)
    • Daniel said the king of Babylon was weighed in the balances and found wanting.
    • Your farmland lacks minerals, your food lacks vitamins, the desert lacks water, news media lacks honesty, and the list goes on.
    • There was an interesting book written several years ago about the number zero, and if it was actually a number; it was about the concept of nothing.

King Solomon retains his wisdom where all people lose it (1:17)

  • In his experimentation, Solomon says I kept my wisdom, I stayed objective, while I experimented with contentment and satisfaction in life.
  • Verse 1:17 I gave my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly
  • Verse 2:3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom.
  • Vex:
    • To irritate; to make angry by little provocations
    • To plague; to torment; to harass; to afflict.
    • To disturb; to disquiet; to agitate.
    • To trouble; to distress.

Much wisdom is much grief (1:18)

  • There is a curse in this world that evil is persistently present with good.
  • Solomon’s trials to learn and to experiment gave him knowledge and experience, but with that, he was grieved and irritated at the transience of all material things.
  • Paul said when I would do good evil is present with me.
  • Missionary tries to bring medicine to a certain place and the supplies take months to pass through customs and every bureaucracy wanting to take their cut gets it. It’s a matter of fact that you can’t exercise wisdom without running into trouble.
  • So you learned a new way to fix my car which means I’ve also learned a new way to break my car. Interesting that you learn more about a thing when it breaks and you have to fix it,
  • If I love you then I’m also going to be hurt by you. If you don’t hurt me directly, then you’ll hurt me when you’re gone. This is something that hardens people and makes them cynical.

Solomon’s experimentation (2:1-11)

Death is the event that happens to all (2:12-23)

  • Whether a man is wise or a fool, he is subject to the great enemy called death.
  • Because of death, we are forced to leave all work behind to people who cannot appreciate it and may even be foolish with it.

Enjoy good in his labor (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

  • Solomon also says that because life is filled with vanity, man should enjoy his work and what he produces. No one else will enjoy it like him. He won’t be able to pass it on with any assurance that the value will be passed on. (This is said multiple times throughout the sermon: 2:24, 3:13, 3:22, 5:18, 8:15)
  • This isn’t an agnostic thought, even Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:17 that God gives man all things to enjoy.
  • Philippians 4:11-13 says this as well. Solomon said he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor (2:24)
  • The LORD takes what the wicked have stored up and gives it to those He favors. Now, that will happen finally in the future with the coming of Jesus Christ. But the history of Israel is full of the LORD spoiling the wicked and Israelites walking away with treasures they didn’t have to work for.
    • God does this with nations according to the old testament. Someone’s iniquity is not yet full, so they remain in the land until the iniquity is full. Then they’re cast out of the land.
  • As much as vanity is a theme that runs through Ecclesiastes, the conclusion of the matter is essentially Paul’s conclusion that godliness with contentment is great gain.