It’s All Meaningless? Chasing The Wind 1 (Ecclesiastes 1:1-18)…
We begin a series digging into the book of Ecclesiastes—here is a quote from 1888 that will help you understand why we are diving into this book of the Bible in particular:
“Renounce all the policy of the age.
Trample Saul’s armor.
Grasp the book of God.
Trust the Spirit Who wrote its pages.
Fight with this weapon only & always.
Cease to amuse & seek to arouse.
Shun the clap of a delighted audience
& listen for the sobs of a convicted one.
Give up trying to please men…
and warn, and plead, and entreat,
as those who feel the waters of eternity creeping upon them”
Archibald G. Brown, by Iain H. Murray.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 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.
11No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come
will not be remembered by those who follow them.
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 I applied my mind to study
and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.
What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!
14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun;
all of them are meaningless,
a chasing after the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom
more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me;
I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”
17 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.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Why is this book and its message so important for us?
First, because it’s in the Bible. Period.
The LORD has it here to glorify Himself & transform us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(emphasis mine on the word “ALL”).
Secondly, because we are all pursuing meaning, fulfillment, purpose,
whether we realize it or not.
We are all trying to answer the questions,
“Why am I here? Whats the meaning of life?”,
even if a person answers those questions by saying there IS no answer,
THAT is their answer—they’ll spend their lives pursuing something,
even if they choose to pursue NOTHING!
- Like Seinfeld, the 90s t.v. show that the creators said was literally “about nothing.” THAT is what it was about! Millions of people sure spent a lot of time watching “nothing” for nine years!
Ecclesiastes speaks directly to humanity’s search for meaning,
for fulfillment, for significance, & what it says is quite shocking…
Thirdly, the sinful culture bombards us with temptations every day to go this way and that in search of what is meaningful, in search of what will satisfy us physically, mentally, emotionally, & yes, even spiritually.
- The devil is spiritual, my friends, in the sense that he is happy to get people involved in religion and faith, of sorts, as long as it isn’t faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone & repentance from sin.
So, since we are bombarded with so many GPS messages telling us to turn here, turn there for meaning, it’s important to look at someone who experienced the mountain top of what the world is selling, who has tasted all that this world & sin & ambition have to offer…a person who won ALL of the culture’s combined lotteries…& to hear what he says & experiences when he is at the top, when he has cashed & spent that lotto check.
Ecclesiastes is the Yelp review of someone who fully embraced the culture’s creed & achieved what so many unsuccessfully spend their entire lives pursuing…
Was it worth it? Was it everything the culture advertised it to be?
- If Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first people to reach the top of Mt. Everest in 1953, if they honestly said, “It’s just not worth it. The view stinks up there, it was a completely unrewarding experience, definitely not worth your risk/time/energy/money. Worst moments of my life on the peak.”
If they said that, some would STILL risk everything to make it to the top & see for themselves. But some would redirect their energies/efforts to something else. People rarely rush to pre-order tickets for movies that everyone says are boring.
Many, when they hear that over HALF of people who win the lottery end up bankrupt, literally end up with LESS money than they had before they won, many people when they hear that say, “Well I’d like to try to be part of the small group that DOESN’T end up bankrupt.” They smile & basically say, “I’m not worried about the risk that winning the lottery will make my life worse, I just want to win, I think I can beat the odds, I still think it will make my life better.”
Meaningless. Chasing the wind…this is why we need to read Ecclesiastes.
So as we invest time in this book of the Bible, we are going to compare & contrast
the culture’s teaching about what is meaningful &
God’s teaching about what is meaningful.
Please let me say this: The sinfulness that saturates this world is thick, like deep fog.
Sin distorts reality, makes it extremely difficult to see what is real & what isn’t.
We must understand that sin is more than just an isolated wrong decision;
sin is that, but it’s more,
sin is a fog that makes what is real unclear,
up feels like down & down feels like up…
- like a pilot in a storm—without proper instrumentation, you cant feel/sense what direction you’re flying, & some pilots drive hard directly into the ground thinking, feeling, confident that they’re soaring up…
Sin creates mirages, as in a desert.
After a long enough time, when a person is so
dehydrated & starving & suffering from heat stroke,
they can begin to see waterfalls & swimming pools in the desert.
These mirages absolutely LOOK real, they strongly FEEL like reality, but they are not.
And so the depleted/desperate person begins gulping the water furiously & happily,
not realizing that it is sand, that it isn’t quenching their thirst,
it’s killing them…
Those seeking pleasure/wisdom/significance/meaning APART from Christ
are trying to quench their thirst by drinking sand.
That’s what Solomon is taking about in Ecclesiastes.
Not only that, they compete with each other & go to the ends of the earth
pursuing certain sand from specific exotic beaches—
I have Fiji sand to drink, aww I only have Hiniker Pond sand to drink.
Ah but I have French sand!
Meaningless…same result wherever the sand is from.
And they advertise to & recruit others to come with them
& experience the lofty promises of the sand they’re seeking.
They build sandcastles as they search & drink, thinking the sandcastles will last…
But it all leads to choking & death!
That’s what Solomon talks about as meaningless…
We Christians can get caught up
in the culture’s relentless search for satisfying sand.
We see many non-Christians so happy & carefree, with glasses full of sand,
with cool sandcastles, laughing & having a great time,
& if we even read the Bible thoroughly & regularly,
we see the Lord Jesus telling us to deny ourselves & take up our cross & follow Him…
And so we begin to long for the world’s sand,
we set aside the Living Waters of the LORD—He alone can quench us—
& we run after the sand like everyone else,
even twisting Bible verses to make the sand seem good,
to justify our detour from the narrow path to find exotic beaches…
This relentless, and meaningless!, pursuit of sand in Ecclesiastes
is what the LORD speaks of in Isaiah 55:
Verses 1—3: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David…
Verses 6—12: Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands…”
Real and lasting joy & peace from the LORD thru
repentance of sin,
turning to the LORD by faith in Christ Jesus,
drinking deeply from His Word!
Sand can give a temporary happiness, but when the tide comes in the castle comes down.
The Lord Jesus gives an eternal joy that can withstand the fiercest storms.
Thus the Lord Jesus says to build our lives, not on sand, but on the rock of His Word…
Some falsehood even has certain pieces/verses of the Bible,
and it fools people into drinking it.
But fragments of the Truth cant set us free—only the Truth: all of it.
A few ingredients of medicine doesn’t cure you—all of it is needed, the whole dose.
Just as we must not build our lives on fragments of rock—sand—
pieces of God’s Word twisted to fit our own meaning.
This is what Solomon talks of as meaningless…
In the last days, God says there will be much learning, many teachers,
much seeking after wisdom…much SAND…
but not seeking after Truth, God’s wisdom—the rock:
2 Timothy 4:1-4: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of his appearing and his kingdom,
I give you this charge:
2 Preach the word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them a great number of teachers
to say what their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth
and turn aside to myths.
Much learning & spirituality, much seeking,
but the people DECIDE what is true for them (sound familiar!?),
the people will choose both their teachers & the message they teach
(instead of submitting to the LORD & His Truth, the Bible).
Solomon talks about THAT pursuit of wisdom as meaningless…
Yes, if Truth for life is sought outside of the Bible,
if people pursue the world’s wisdom,
if people want the tabloids of culture instead of the Truth of Christ. Meaningless…
God talks about this also in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law?
Where is the philosopher of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world thru its wisdom did not know him,
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached
to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified:
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those whom God has called,
both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
THAT is what Solomon says is meaningless, is sand—
the wisdom of the world,
what the culture falsely advertises will lead to
fulfillment & purpose & meaning & happiness.
Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25:
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
Passionately believing & feeling strongly
that sand can quench our thirst
will not make it so.
Don’t pursue what is meaningless…don’t chase the wind.
Pursue Him Who is Himself Meaning,
chase Him Who created & controls the wind…
Ecclesiastes must be read as a whole book, not just isolated verses.
There is a conclusion that Solomon reaches by the end of Ecclesiastes
that helps us understand the struggle he goes thru in the book,
the cynicism of many of his statements
as he tried to understand life from his own feelings/perspective,
apart from God’s Word.
We must read his words in light of the conclusion he reaches &
in light of what God teaches in the Bible as a whole.
Of course life can be meaningful, fulfilling, full of holy pleasure & joy!
But not apart from repentence of sin & faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Life means SO MUCH,
but only as we are connected to the Vine,
to Him Who is the way and the truth and the life.
It’s ultimately about alignment:
it’s meaningless to try to fill a bucket with holes in it.
We must turn to the LORD to fix our holes,
and then He must change what we are trying to fill the bucket with.
The Lord Jesus’ death on the cross & return to life
can heal/forgive not only our buckets’ holes,
but can give us a new bucket entirely!
And then He fills us with Himself & transforms us to fill ourselves with HIM,
drinking deeply from the Bible each day, learning to obey & live it out,
to be quenched & satisfied in Him first.
- It is meaningless to reverse the order on brownies &
put all the ingredients separately in a pan & bake them &
THEN to mix them all together. You will never get brownies.
- Order & alignment matter—mix the ingredients first & THEN bake—
oh what the oven delivers then!
May God use our time in Ecclesiastes to align our spiritual spines—
Him first & center—
& be our spiritual chiropractor to show us the ways we are out of alignment,
ways that we are chasing the wind,
& bring us to repent & then forgive & heal & transform us
to chase & be full of Him,
the true meaning of life,