Ecclesiastes

2017Jun

Serving in the Twighlight

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The last theme from Ecclesiastes begs the following question.  How does someone in the twilight years of life, when the body is wracked with frailty and riddled with the difficulties of age, serve God?  This is an especially poignant question when dementia is setting in or Alzheimers has taken hold.

The following is an article from Desiring God. It explores faith with regards to dementia and Alzheimers.  In light of the article below, it is important to remember that serving God is not simply about doing great things but it is about worship.  An individual may not be able to travel, may not be able to even speak to others, but they can still serve and glorify God through personal worship.  Also included is a mini-book by John Piper exploring serving God in the context of retirement.

 

Alzheimer’s, the Brain, and the Soul

Rethinking Retirement by John Piper

A Series of ‘Present’ Songs

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The following is a collection of three songs that reflect the message of ‘no time like the present time’.  Each song, in its own way, reflects on the berevity of life and the need to enjoy and make the most of every moment while you have it.

 

“The Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chappin

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I’m proud of you
Can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later
Can I have them please?

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then.

https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tn25ll2n7h5ggtprbpu2l5epqqe?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

 

“100 Years” by Five for Fighting

I’m 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I’m 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we’re on fire
Making our way back from Mars

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got a hundred years to live

I’m 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I’m a “they”
A kid on the way, babe.
A family on my mind

I’m 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I’m heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself
Within a morning star

15 I’m all right with you
15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by
Suddenly you’re wise
Another blink of an eye
67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We’re moving on…

I’m 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15 there’s still time for you
22 I feel her too
33 you’re on your way
Every day’s a new day…

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got a hundred years to live

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/fiveforfighting/100years.html

 

“7 Years” by Lukas Graham

Once I was seven years old my momma told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old

It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger
Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker
By eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor
Never rich so we were out to make that steady figure

Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me
Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely
Once I was eleven years old

I always had that dream like my daddy before me
So I started writing songs, I started writing stories
Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me
‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told
Before the morning sun, when life was lonely
Once I was twenty years old

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
‘Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major
I got my boys with me at least those in favor
And if we don’t meet before I leave, I hope I’ll see you later

Once I was twenty years old, my story got told
I was writing about everything, I saw before me
Once I was twenty years old
Soon we’ll be thirty years old, our songs have been sold
We’ve traveled around the world and we’re still roaming
Soon we’ll be thirty years old

I’m still learning about life
My woman brought children for me
So I can sing them all my songs
And I can tell them stories
Most of my boys are with me
Some are still out seeking glory
And some I had to leave behind
My brother I’m still sorry

Soon I’ll be sixty years old, my daddy got sixty-one
Remember life and then your life becomes a better one
I made a man so happy when I wrote a letter once
I hope my children come and visit, once or twice a month

Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be sixty years old
Soon I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me
Soon I’ll be sixty years old

Once I was seven years old, momma told me
Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely
Once I was seven years old

Once I was seven years old

Ecclesiastes – While Young

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In exploring the first half of Ecclesiastes 12 we heard Solomon’s warning – there is no time like the present time.  He matched that with his encouragement to therefore “remember and serve the creator in the days of your youth.”  Here are a few questions to help you continue thinking through this passage.

Q.  What is the link between remembering, worship and service?

Q.  What things may or may not count as serving God?

Q.  Is there a point at which you can no longer serve God?  How might age be thought to affect this?

Q.  What does it mean practically for you to live a life that fears God?

Q.  What things are opportunities for you to pursue right now in life, that if you do not they may likely be gone forever?

Q.  Read Psalm 71. How might this Psalm speak into the thoughts and topics of age and service?

Passage – Week 14

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This week’s passage delves into the allegorical pictures from the first eight verses of chapter twelve.  What do you think Solomon’s point is?

Ecclesiastes 12:1 [ESV] Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;
2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain,
3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed,
4 and the doors on the street are shut–when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low–
5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,1 and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets–
6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern,
7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

 

Creator of the Nano-world

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The following is a video TED talk given by Gary Greenberg.  It is intriguing given some of the things we briefly talked about from Ecclesiastes 12:1.  Gary isn’t considering God as Creator, in fact he seems to espouse to more of an evolutionary timeline, but the nano pictures he shows inspire an awe of God’s creation that we might otherwise miss if we couldn’t see the created world from a minuscule perspective.

Ecclesiastes – Fearing the Creator

This message focused on the first three words of Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator.”  Remembering is far more than mere learning, it requires maintenance and must make a difference.  When it comes to remembering God as Creator we can think of Him as Creator of the Universe, Creator of our Salvation, and Creator of what is still to be Re-created.

Q.  Read 1 Samuel 1. In what way do we see God ‘remembering’ Hannah?  What does this teach us about what it means to remember?

Q.  Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. This is Hannah’s praise song to God. Where do you see and for what reasons is she in awe of God?

Q.  What has God created that takes your breath away and fills you with awe?

Q.  How might the Gospel change our thinking about God when we remember He created it before Genesis 1:1?

Q.  What might help you to maintain a ‘remembering of God as Creator’?

Ecclesiastes – Fearing Judgment

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Today’s lesson explored death and judgment.  Death is unpredictable, inescapable, and ends any further opportunities to change.  Following death we face the judgment of God.  That is a scary and terrifying prospect.  Thankfully, there is opportunity for forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  But we will still stand before the judgment throne of God – an honest realisation of that truth brings a sobering awe of God.

 

Q.  If you were to split Ecclesiastes 11:9 into two ideas (enjoyment of life and fear of judgment), which is more prevalent in your life?

Q.  What might help to increase your awareness of the frailty of life?

Q.  What is the relationship between awe of God and acknowledging God as Judge?

Q.  Which provides greater motivation, terror or love?  Can you think of an example in life to illustrate this?

Q.  1 Corinthians 3:13-14 pictures life as either smoke and ash or gold and gems.  What differentiates the two?

Q.  Is it wrong to be motivated by eternal reward?

Q.  Read through Revelation 4:1-11.  What impresses you most about this reading?

Passage – Week 12

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Once again we are focusing on a particular theme throughout Ecclesiastes 9-11.  But if you were to read Ecclesiastes 11:9 first and then look for themes in the previous chapters that match that verse, then you would be somewhere near our topic for this week.

 

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”

2017May

Ecclesiastes – Awe of God’s Sovereignty

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A brief incursion into Ecclesiastes 9-11 helped us to gain a picture of the sovereignty of God.  God knows all and He can accomplish His plans – that makes Him Sovereign.  A deep impression of His Sovereignty helps to generate an awe and fear of God.

 

Q.  What are some of your driving fears?  What do you consider to be most valuable?

Q.  How do our fears and our values relate to one another?

Q.  What truths does Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 picture about humanity?  How do these compare to God?

Q.  How do the truths that God knows everything and holds everything in His hands contribute to the idea of His sovereignty?

Q.  Re-read Joshua 4:24 and 24:11-18.  How were recent events affecting the peoples’ response to God?

Q.  Look at Ecclesiastes 10:16-17.  Which kind of king would you want to be sovereign over you?  Which kind of king is Jesus?  Can you think of/find a passage that talks of Jesus being king?

Q.  How does the sovereignty of God affect your fears and values?

Q.  Where do we see the sovereignty of God in the good news Gospel of Jesus?

Passage – Week 11

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For this week our attention is spread throughout chapters 9 to 11.  There are a lot of proverbial sayings and points in these three chapters and so we are going to focus on a particular theme.  Our starting place will be Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.  The passage is included below.  You might like to read it through, ponder its main point and then look for that theme in the other two chapters.

 

Ecclesiastes 11:1 [ESV] Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3 If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

 

Ecclesiastes – The Wisdom of Wisdom

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This morning we explored four points relating to the wisdom of wisdom.  1) Wisdom is helpful to life; 2) wisdom is not the fix or guarantee for life; 3) Jesus has become perfect wisdom for us; 4) we focus on Jesus and His wisdom first and foremost.

 

Q.  Review Ecclesiastes chapter 8.  What good observations does Solomon make regarding wisdom; what negative observations does he express?

Q.  Think of an occasion when all the wisdom in the world didn’t solve or couldn’t predict your situation.

Read and ponder James 3:14-18.

Q.  What does James have to say about wisdom?  How does it apply to life in the world around us?

Read and ponder Job 28.  Summarize the chapter in your own words.

Q.  How does the ‘Fear of God’ relate to the topics discussed from Ecclesiastes 8 and 1 Corinthians 1:30?  Specifically, what is the relationship between ‘Focusing on Jesus’ and the ‘Fear of God’?

Passage – Week 10

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Before we get there this Sunday, why not take a gander at the passage for this week.  Think through it in light of the wisdom Solomon shares relating to wisdom.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:1 [ESV] Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.
2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him.
3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases.
4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.
6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.
7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?
8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.
10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.
11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.
12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.
13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
15 And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.
16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep,
17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Ecclesiastes – Awe of God

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From Ecclesiastes 7 we learnt that our lives are idol factories, to tear those factories down we need to be in awe of God!  Meditating on the majesty of God; Recognizing the Grace of God; Fellowshipping with God – they are just some ways of fostering awe.

 

Q.  Read the following excerpt from Prince Caspian.  How does this demonstrate the fear of God?

“And Now!” said Aslan in a much louder voice with just a hint of roar in it, while his tail lashed his flanks.  “And now, where is this little Dwarf, this famous swordsman and archer, who doesn’t believe in lions?  Come here, Son of Earth, come HERE!” – and the last word was no longer the hint of a roar but almost the real thing.

“Wraiths and wreckage!” gasped Trumpkin in the ghost of a voice.  The children, who knew Aslan well enough to see that he like the Dwarf very much, were not disturbed; but it was quite another thing for Trumpkin, who had never seen a lion before, let alone this Lion.  He did the only sensible thing he could have done; that is, instead of bolting, he tottered towards Aslan.

Aslan pounced.  Have you ever seen a very young kitten being carried in the mother cat’s mouth?  It was like that.  The Dwarf, hunched up in a little, miserable ball, hung from Aslan’s mouth.  The Lion gave him one shake and all his armour rattled like a tinker’s pack and then – he-presto – the Dwarf flew up in the air.  He was as safe as if he had been in bed, though he did not feel so.  As he came back the huge velvety paws caught him as gently as a mother’s arms and set him (right way up, too) on the ground.[i]

Q.  What pictures or language might you use to help demonstrate and explain the fear of God?

Q. Ponder the Majesty of God, the Grace of God and the Presence of God; how might these help you to foster an awe of God? Do you find one easier than the others? If so, how might your awe be less without the other aspects?

Q.  By what other means might you foster and feed your awe of God?

 
[i] Lewis, Narnia Collection, Prince Caspian, ch 11, 386-387

Passage – Week 9

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This week’s passage re-covers some of the content from last week.

 

Ecclesiastes 7:18 [ESV] It is good that you should take hold of athis, and from bthat cwithhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.
19 aWisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.
20 Surely athere is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear ayour servant cursing you.
22 Your heart knows that amany times you yourself have cursed others.
23 All this I have tested by wisdom. aI said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.
24 That which has been is far off, and adeep, very deep; bwho can find it out?
25 aI turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness.
26 And I find something more abitter than death: bthe woman whose heart is csnares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but dthe sinner is taken by her.
27 Behold, this is what I found, says athe Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things–
28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. aOne man among a thousand I found, but ba woman among all these I have not found.
29 See, this alone I found, that aGod made man upright, but bthey have sought out many schemes.

2017Apr

Ecclesiastes – Idol Factory

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Today we talked about our lives being riddled with the problem of idolatry – we pursue all these various answers to meaning and purpose and satisfaction in life – we devote ourselves to these pursuits thinking they will do what only God can do.  The questions below help you to think through this problem of idolatry.  Many of them are taken from Tim Keller’s book Gospel In Life.

 

Q.  What is your greatest nightmare?  What do you worry about most?

Q.  What do you rely on or comfort yourself with when things go badly or become difficult?

Q.  What makes you feel the most self-worth?  What are you the proudest of?

Q.  What do you really want and expect out of life?  What would really make you happy?

Q.  In a Sermon entitled ‘A World of Idols’ Tim Keller said, “Everybody has something that if they loose it it means that they won’t want to live life any more.”  What might that be for you?

 

Passage – Week 8

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We kick back into Ecclesiastes this week!  And what a passage to with which to start back.  Ecclesiastes 7.  You can read the whole chapter but we will only make it to verse 18.

ESV Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.
16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?
18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.
20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.
22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.
23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.
24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness.
26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her.
27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things–
28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found.
29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

2017Mar

Ecclesiastes – I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

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In chapter 6 we are presented with three statements of what is best. For many, considering the life they face, it would have been best if they were still-born [vs 1-6]. We are reminded that enjoying what you have is much better than chasing the appetite [vs 7-9]. And then we are challenged by the fact that we have no idea what the future might yet be or what the past might have been and so we have absolutely no idea of what is best for ourselves. But God does! And God is powerful! And God cares!

Q. Throughout Ecclesiastes Solomon frequently talks about things on which we hang our satisfaction [eg, power, wealth, relationships, success]. What might that ‘thing’ be in chapter 6?

Q. If you found a one-way ticket on a time machine where would you travel?

Q. Which do you tend to do more, wishing for the past or dreaming of the future?

Q. In Isaiah 40, Which of the pictures describing God grips you most?

Q. Ponder 2 Peter 3:8. What truths might you learn about God and about man? What two opposite truths are equally true? [HINT: The implications of Omnipresence and Transcendence]

Q. How do the truths of God affect your life in the present?

Passage – Week 7

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This week’s passage covers the whole of Ecclesiastes 6.

Ecclesiastes 6:1 [ESV] There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind:
2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.
3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.
4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered.
5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he.
6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good–do not all go to the one place?
7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.
8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.
11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?
12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

2017Feb

Ecclesiastes – Richard Cory

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In studying chapter 5:10-20 we were confronted by Solomon’s brutally honest critique on the pursuit of wealth. He shared wise warnings of its dangers and offered wise advice as to how we should live with respect to wealth. The dangers reminded us that wealth is just another attempt at catching the wind [Never Enough; Relationship Strife; the Cost of Rest; Wealth can be Lost; You Cannot Take it with You; Further Frustration]. Instead of worshipping wealth we should worship with our wealth! Here is a series of question to help you think through what that might look like in your life.

Q. Do you consider yourself wealthy?

Q. What do you think Jesus means in Luke 12:15?

Q. Can you think of any other stories from the life of Jesus that might relate to riches and possessions?

Q. Aside from money, what else might contribute to wealth?

Q. Have you seen examples of Solomon’s warnings come true?

Q. Read Ecclesiastes 5:19. How does this relate to worship and wealth?

Q. What might it look like to worship money?

Q. How might you worship with your wealth?

Passage – Week 6

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Our focus for this week is Ecclesiastes 5:10-20.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 [ESV] He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt,
14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.
16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?
17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.
20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

Ecclesiastes – Words Be Few

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In the first seven verses of chapter five Solomon warns us about recklessly approaching God. Approach is Important! He encourages us to approach God with silence, with humility, and with awe. We also talked of the importance of approaching God through Jesus. So often we can tend towards approaching God with a series of steps and we come dangerously close to ignoring God rather than coming to him with sincerity. Here are some further questions to help you apply the passage in your own life.

Q. When do you approach God? What situations or actions in your life involve approaching God?

Q. Can you think of occasions, whether with God or others, when you have said things that you wish you could take back?

Q. Are you afraid of silence? Could you say you have learnt the art of silence? What does that look like?

Q. Have you ever made a vow or a promise to God? Have you fulfilled that vow? How has that affected life? [for further reading consider the story of Jephthah – Judges 11]

Q. How might you foster humility in your life and before God?

Q. How is awe connected to fear?

Q. In what practical ways might you approach God with awe?

Q. Read Isaiah 1:11-20. What position has God taken towards the people? What resolution does He offer?

Passage – Week 5

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This week’s passage is shorter than our previous weeks. We are focusing simply on the first seven verses of chapter 5. Do you think Solomon continues with his typically pessimistic resignation or is there a change of tone here?

Ecclesiastes 5:1 [ESV] Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.
2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.
4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.
5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.
6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?
7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

Ecclesiastes – the Road to Success

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This week’s chapter addressed our hunger for success. The road to success is often a path of envy and riddled with dangers. Success at the expense of others, at the expense of peace, and the expense of relationships, at the expense of humility. Take some time to ponder where success fits in your life.
Q. Have you seen evidence of these dangers along the road to success [give examples]? Are there other dangers that success might bring?

Q. By way of observation and/or personal experience, how closely linked is success and envy?

Q. Tim Keller talks about the ‘work behind the work’. In your hope to be successful what are you really trying to achieve? [eg. power, control, possessions, admiration, acceptance]

Q. In the spirit of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 when is success good and when can it be bad?

Q. In what ways might God change our drive for success?

Q. How might contentment affect success?

Q. Read James 4:13-17. How might this affect our thinking with regards to success?

Passage – Week 4

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Our passage for this week is the whole of chapter 4. Included here for your convenience.

Ecclesiastes 4:1 [ESV] Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.
3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
7 Again, I saw vanity under the sun:
8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.
14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor.
15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place.
16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

A Matter of Perspective

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In his book, ‘In the Eye of the Storm’, Max Lucado tells the following story.

 

‘Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before — such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person.  How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact is that your horse is gone is a curse.”

The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. he lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”‘

Ecclesiastes – Sitting on Diamonds

This week’s thoughts continue last week’s conclusion that contentment can only truly be found in God and what He gives.  Such a hope can be helped along by 1) Realizing that everything has a purpose in its proper time, 2) Recognizing God’s gifts, 3) Remembering God is in Control (Sovereign), and 4) You do not know the future.  Here are some further thoughts to think through:

Q. Where would you place yourself on a scale from 1 to 10, when 1 is ‘utterly discontent’ and 10 is ‘completely content’.

Q. What things, circumstances, or situations influence your contentment?

Q. Pick a word that might summarize the ‘season’ that you find yourself in now [it doesn’t have to be a word from 3:2-8].

Q. Think of a time when life did not go according to your plan.  How did you respond to that?

Q. What gifts has God given for you to enjoy now?

Q. How does God’s Sovereignty specifically impact your life now?

Q. How might God’s Sovereignty impact your life tomorrow?

Q. Considering the context of the prior verses, what do you think Paul has in mind when he says in Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’?

Passage – Week 3

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This week’s passage of focus overlaps a handful of verses from last week.  We will begin in 2:24 and study through to the end of chapter 3.  As you read through it might be well worth asking yourself why we are refreshing ourselves with the end of chapter 2.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 [ESV] There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,
25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil?
10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;
13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.
17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.
19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

2017Jan

Ecclesiastes echoed by Leo Tolstoy

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The Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, told a story that wonderfully illustrates Solomon’s fruitless search for satisfaction. A search repeated in all our lives so much so that the stupidity of Tolstoy’s main character is too easily seen in our own pursuits and attitudes.
The short story is entitled, How Much Land Does a Man Need. You could try picking up a copy of Tolstoy’s works, or a one-click purchase of a Kindle version. You could read it online if you don’t want to spend a dime; or you could read the final part of the story below…

WARNING…SPOILER ALERT…

“And what will be the price?” asked Pahom.

“Our price is always the same: one thousand roubles a day.”

Pahom did not understand.  “A day? What measure is that? How many acres would that be?”

“We do not know how to reckon it out,” said the Chief. “We sell it by the day. As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is yours, and the price is one thousand roubles a day.”

Pahom was surprised. “But in a day you can get round a large tract of land,” he said.

The Chief laughed. “It will all be yours!” said he. “But there is one condition: If you don’t return on the same day to the spot whence you started, your money is lost.”

“But how am I to mark the way that I have gone?”

“Why, we shall go to any spot you like, and stay there. You must start from that spot and make your round, taking a spade with you. Wherever you think necessary, make a mark. At every turning, dig a hole and pile up the turf; then afterwards we will go round with a plough from hole to hole. You may make as large a circuit as you please, but before the sun sets you must return to the place you started from. All the land you cover will be yours.”

…The Chief came up to Pahom and stretched out his arm towards the plain: “See,” said he, “all this, as far as your eye can reach, is ours. You may have any part of it you like.”

Pahom’s eyes glistened: it was all virgin soil, as flat as the palm of your hand, as black as the seed of a poppy, and in the hollows different kinds of grasses grew breast high.

The Chief took off his fox-fur cap, placed it on the ground and said: “This will be the mark. Start from here, and return here again. All the land you go round shall be yours.”

Pahom took out his money and put it on the cap. Then he took off his outer coat, remaining in his sleeveless under coat. He unfastened his girdle and tied it tight below his stomach, put a little bag of bread into the breast of his coat, and tying a flask of water to his girdle, he drew up the tops of his boots, took the spade from his man, and stood ready to start. He considered for some moments which way he had better go–it was tempting everywhere.

“No matter,” he concluded, “I will go towards the rising sun.”

He turned his face to the east, stretched himself, and waited for the sun to appear above the rim.

“I must lose no time,” he thought, “and it is easier walking while it is still cool.”

The sun’s rays had hardly flashed above the horizon, before Pahom, carrying the spade over his shoulder, went down into the steppe.

Pahom started walking neither slowly nor quickly. After having gone a thousand yards he stopped, dug a hole and placed pieces of turf one on another to make it more visible. Then he went on; and now that he had walked off his stiffness he quickened his pace. After a while he dug another hole.

Pahom looked back. The hillock could be distinctly seen in the sunlight, with the people on it, and the glittering tires of the cartwheels. At a rough guess Pahom concluded that he had walked three miles. It was growing warmer; he took off his under-coat, flung it across his shoulder, and went on again. It had grown quite warm now; he looked at the sun, it was time to think of breakfast.

“The first shift is done, but there are four in a day, and it is too soon yet to turn. But I will just take off my boots,” said he to himself.

He sat down, took off his boots, stuck them into his girdle, and went on. It was easy walking now.

“I will go on for another three miles,” thought he, “and then turn to the left. The spot is so fine, that it would be a pity to lose it. The further one goes, the better the land seems.”

He went straight on a for a while, and when he looked round, the hillock was scarcely visible and the people on it looked like black ants, and he could just see something glistening there in the sun.

“Ah,” thought Pahom, “I have gone far enough in this direction, it is time to turn. Besides I am in a regular sweat, and very thirsty.”

He stopped, dug a large hole, and heaped up pieces of turf. Next he untied his flask, had a drink, and then turned sharply to the left. He went on and on; the grass was high, and it was very hot.

Pahom began to grow tired: he looked at the sun and saw that it was noon. “Well,” he thought, “I must have a rest.”

He sat down, and ate some bread and drank some water; but he did not lie down, thinking that if he did he might fall asleep. After sitting a little while, he went on again. At first he walked easily: the food had strengthened him; but it had become terribly hot, and he felt sleepy; still he went on, thinking: “An hour to suffer, a life-time to live.”

He went a long way in this direction also, and was about to turn to the left again, when he perceived a damp hollow: “It would be a pity to leave that out,” he thought. “Flax would do well there.” So he went on past the hollow, and dug a hole on the other side of it before he turned the corner. Pahom looked towards the hillock. The heat made the air hazy: it seemed to be quivering, and through the haze the people on the hillock could scarcely be seen.

“Ah!” thought Pahom, “I have made the sides too long; I must make this one shorter.” And he went along the third side, stepping faster. He looked at the sun: it was nearly half way to the horizon, and he had not yet done two miles of the third side of the square. He was still ten miles from the goal.

“No,” he thought, “though it will make my land lopsided, I must hurry back in a straight line now. I might go too far, and as it is I have a great deal of land.”

So Pahom hurriedly dug a hole, and turned straight towards the hillock.

Pahom went straight towards the hillock, but he now walked with difficulty. He was done up with the heat, his bare feet were cut and bruised, and his legs began to fail. He longed to rest, but it was impossible if he meant to get back before sunset. The sun waits for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower.

“Oh dear,” he thought, “if only I have not blundered trying for too much! What if I am too late?”

He looked towards the hillock and at the sun. He was still far from his goal, and the sun was already near the rim. Pahom walked on and on; it was very hard walking, but he went quicker and quicker. He pressed on, but was still far from the place. He began running, threw away his coat, his boots, his flask, and his cap, and kept only the spade which he used as a support.

“What shall I do,” he thought again, “I have grasped too much, and ruined the whole affair. I can’t get there before the sun sets.”

And this fear made him still more breathless. Pahom went on running, his soaking shirt and trousers stuck to him, and his mouth was parched. His breast was working like a blacksmith’s bellows, his heart was beating like a hammer, and his legs were giving way as if they did not belong to him. Pahom was seized with terror lest he should die of the strain.

Though afraid of death, he could not stop. “After having run all that way they will call me a fool if I stop now,” thought he. And he ran on and on, and drew near and heard the Bashkirs yelling and shouting to him, and their cries inflamed his heart still more. He gathered his last strength and ran on.

The sun was close to the rim, and cloaked in mist looked large, and red as blood. Now, yes now, it was about to set! The sun was quite low, but he was also quite near his aim. Pahom could already see
the people on the hillock waving their arms to hurry him up. He could see the fox-fur cap on the ground, and the money on it, and the Chief sitting on the ground holding his sides. And Pahom remembered his dream.

“There is plenty of land,” thought he, “but will God let me live on it? I have lost my life, I have lost my life! I shall never reach that spot!”

Pahom looked at the sun, which had reached the earth: one side of it had already disappeared. With all his remaining strength he rushed on, bending his body forward so that his legs could hardly follow fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as he reached the hillock it suddenly grew dark. He looked up–the sun had already set. He gave a cry: “All my labor has been in vain,” thought he, and was about to stop, but he heard the Bashkirs still shouting, and remembered that though to him, from below, the sun seemed to have set, they on the hillock could still see it. He took a long breath and ran up the hillock. It was still light there. He reached the top and saw the cap. Before it sat the Chief laughing and holding his sides. Again Pahom remembered his dream, and he uttered a cry: his legs gave way beneath him, he fell forward and reached the cap with his hands.

“Ah, what a fine fellow!” exclaimed the Chief. “He has gained much land!”

Pahom’s servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead!

The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.

His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”

Solomon – like Father like Son

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One of Solomon’s repeated conclusions in Ecclesiastes is that satisfaction and contentment can only truly be found in God and what He gives. The life of King David provides an interesting illustration of Solomon’s conclusion.
King David was a man who had a heart reflective of God’s, but he wasn’t perfect. Perhaps one of his most poignant failures was his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband. You can find the story in 2 Samuel 11.
There is a particular conversation in the next chapter that is of interest. On behalf of God, Nathan the prophet confronts David. King David acknowledges his sin and repents before God. God’s response through Nathan is interesting.

2 Samuel 12:7a-8 reads, “…I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.”

If all the riches and power and protection and the wives you have weren’t enough, God says, I could have given you more! David wasn’t satisfied with what God had given him or could still give to him – David took what God hadn’t given.

It wasn’t the wealth or the power or even the polygamy that God frowned on, it was David’s pursuit of satisfaction beyond what God had given.

Ecclesiastes – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

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This week we joined Solomon on his search for satisfaction in this life under the sun. We explored all the usual paths [wisdom, knowledge, science, education, pleasure, building, creating, possessions, wealth, sex, relationships, a legacy] and we heard Solomon’s brutal conclusion – they are all chasing the wind. Satisfaction can only be found in contentment; contentment can only be found in God and what He gives.

Q. What hopes, dreams, or goals do you have in life? What gets you out of bed each morning?

Q. If you could change one thing in life in the hope that it would bring satisfaction what would it be?

Q. What hints of Genesis 1-3 are found in Ecclesiastes 1-2? What similarities and links might you see between the two passages?

Q. How does God bring satisfaction?

Q. Why might Paul say to Timothy that godliness and contentment are necessary together [1 Timothy 6:6]? Why not just one or the other?

Q. What contribution does Jesus make to this theme of goals, dreams and pursuits of life?

Passage – Week 2

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This weeks passage is a long one to ponder but it is well worth the effort. Solomon explores meaning and embarks on a search for satisfaction. Where does he find it? Ecclesiastes 1:16-2:26!

Ecclesiastes 1:16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
2:1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.
2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”
3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.
4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.
5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.
6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees.
7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.
8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man.
9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done.
13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.
14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.
15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity.
16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!
17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me,
19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun,
21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?
23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,
25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes and the Pyramids

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I just wanted to share a thought building on part of Sunday’s theme. In particular, Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.”

The Pyramids of Giza, and throughout Egypt, were built as a lasting memorial and reminder for the person buried inside. ‘This individual’ they screamed ‘was someone important and rich enough to warrant such a grand resting place. Here lies a memorial to their life!!!’ So the pyramids stood for centuries upon centuries. Two millennia ago they were considered to be one of seven great wonders of the world [the other six wonders have all but disappeared from the history books]. Even still the pyramids inspire awe. Napoleon once stood at the base of the Great Pyramid. He calculated how much stone was stacked before him while his generals climbed to the top of the colossus. When they returned he announced that there was enough stone to construct a wall 3 meters high and 30cm thick around the Empire of France.

The pyramids weren’t built simply for the fun of building them. They were meant to be a lasting reminder to the person buried below and the might of the Egyptian accomplishments. But such memories have long since disappeared. Sure, the pyramids remain, but how they were built and by whom remains a speculative mystery; and until archaeologists began to open and explore, the people buried within had long since been forgotten. Even the language that extolled the stories of the remaining corpses had to be re-learned. Despite their grandeur, their purpose was failed.

The pyramids are a reminder of Solomon’s observation – given enough time, the present is forgotten and the past repeats itself! With a fateful reversal of intention the pyramids are a memorial to the vanity of life!

QUESTION: What does it feel like to recognise that our lives and accomplishments will one day fade from memory?

Ecclesiastes – Circle of Life

Studying through Solomon’s introduction in Ecclesiastes 1:1-14 leaves us with no hope for this life under our big yellow sun. Solomon verges on suggesting that as far as he could see, life under the sun was a useless endeavour. It is only after we come to grips with the hopeless pursuits around us that we can look beyond this world for meaning and hope and purpose.

Q. Which of Solomon’s observations of life do you strongly agree? [Vanity of Vanities; Chasing the Wind; No Gain; Circle of Life; No Satisfaction; Nothing New.]

Q. With which of Solomon’s observations of life do you most struggle?

Q. How do such blunt and brutal abstractions about life make you feel?

Q. Have you ever had a season of life where it felt like everything was dark and meaningless? What did you learn about yourself and God in that time?

Q. What truths from ‘beyond the sun’ impact your life now?

Q. How does the book of Ecclesiastes point you to the person and work of Jesus?

Q. How does Ecclesiastes 1:3 compare to John 10:10?

Passage – Week 1

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Our first step into the book of Ecclesiastes centers on the first 14 verses. Don’t wait until Sunday, you can read and ponder them now:

ECCLESIASTES 1:1 (ESV) The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.  2  Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3  What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4  A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5  The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6  The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;  around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7  All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;  to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8  All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9  What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10  Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
 It has been already
in the ages before us.
11  There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there beany remembrance of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. 

Ecclesiastes – Life Under the Sun

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Ecclesiastes is not only an important book to study, it is an exciting book to explore.

The book presents a no-holds-barred perspective on the realities of life, we are challenged to think through the purpose of life, we learn a balance between Hedonism and Asceticism, and we are reminded that God should be central in all of life. Here-in Solomon, the wisest man that lived, shares his wisdom – wisdom to help us live well.

Q. How might arguments about who authored Ecclesiastes change its message?

Q. Solomon chooses a word to describe his view of life. What word might you use to describe your view of life?

Q. What are the pursuits of life in which you expect to find satisfaction?

Q. Imagine a scale from 1 to 10; where 1 is total Abstinence (Asceticism) and 10 is complete Indulgence (Hedonism). Where would you place yourself?

Q. Have you ever asked yourself what you are here for; why you live and walk in this world? What did you conclude?

Q. Do you know someone who has lost a sense of purpose in life?

Ecclesiastes Summary Video

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Here is a nifty little video that helps to explain and summarise Ecclesiastes.

[Note that the authors consider Eccelsiastes to have been written by two people rather than just Solomon.]

Courtesy of thebibleproject.com

Ecclesiastes by thebibleproject.com