Making Him The Center of Our Lives
This study presents the contrast between the search for life’s meaning apart from God versus the rewards of making Him the center of our lives.
What we read in these Scriptures is being repeated before our very eyes today. People are wearing themselves out seeking wealth, pleasure and prestige and always finding their lives empty after all the seeking has ended.
In the first verse of Ecclesiastes Solomon assumed the role of a preacher, one who has something to say to everyone who will listen. Wisdom, wealth, women, fame, folly, sorrow: these are among many things of which he spoke.
Certainly, Solomon would be a great authority on his subject matters, for he had almost anything this life could offer. Endowed with the gift of wisdom he set forth great principles for the guidance of life, which he himself violated.
Ecclesiastes 1:12, 13 and 17
12I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
17And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 2:4, 10 and 11
4I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.
11Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
1So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. 2Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. 3Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
5:1, 4 and 7
1Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
7For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
The historical background of the Book of Ecclesiastes portrays the prosperous state of Israel during the reign of Solomon. Solomon was noted for his great wisdom and vast riches. The Book of Ecclesiastes has a powerful message for a selfish, materialistic age. It teaches that great accomplishments and earthly possessions alone do not bring lasting happiness. True satisfaction comes from serving God and following His will over our lives.
Another powerful passage in the figurative description of the aging process (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, below), Solomon realized that old age with its afflictions looms ahead for every person, so he counsels his audience.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
In other words, he is saying before the difficult days come.
The key word in Ecclesiastes is vanity, the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God. The word vanity appears 37 times to express the many things that cannot be understood about life.
All earthly goals and ambitions when pursued as ends of themselves, lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. Life, ‘under the sun’, used 29 times, seems to be filled with uncertainties, changes in fortune and violation of justice. God is referred to throughout and satisfaction in life can be found only by looking beyond this world, therefore, Solomon exhorted
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Life will not wait upon the solution of all its problems; nevertheless, real meaning can be found by looking not ‘under the sun’ but beyond the sun to the One Shepherd.
To seek personal happiness as one’s complete and foremost goal is sheer and futile folly; furthermore, the author offers comfort and practical counsel in showing the Godly in Israel how to meet their difficulties and problems.
The scarlet thread of “redemption” is ever present in this most unusual Book.
Solomon, as no other man, had the world at his feet, unlimited wealth and possessions, the finest of education and intellectual brilliance, the highest position and public acclaim and unrestricted opportunity for the pursuit of pleasure.
Yet, having tried all the world had to offer, Solomon testifies that man can gain the whole world and lose his soul. Satan would use even the blessings of God: wisdom, wealth, and position to bring man to his own destruction by enticing man to trust in the blessings themselves, instead of in the One Who bestows the blessings .
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
On the other hand, he presents a wise admonition for man to look upon life as the arena of opportunity to prepare for eternity by relating himself to the Creator, God of redemption.
Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 and 13 and 14
1Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; 5Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Solomon was the wisest, richest, most influential king in Israel’s history and he looked at life from the human perspective; and he declared it all to be empty.
Power, popularity, prestige, pleasure, nothing can fill the God-shaped void in man’s life but God Himself. But once seen from God’s perspective, life takes on meaning and purpose causing Solomon to exclaim, “Eat, drink, rejoice and do good. Live joyfully for God. Keep His commandments.”
Skepticism and despair melt away when life is viewed as a daily gift from God.
1 Kings 11:1-4
1But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 2Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 3And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
Jewish tradition asserts that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon in his youthful years, Proverbs in his middle years and Ecclesiastes in his later years.
This Book, Ecclesiastes, may be expressing his regret for his folly and wasted time due to carnality and idolatry. Ecclesiastes convincingly portrays the emptiness and perplexity of life without a relationship with the Lord.
Each person has eternity in his heart and only Christ can provide ultimate satisfaction, joy and wisdom. Man’s highest goal is found in the One Shepherd who offers abundant life.
John 10:9, 10
9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
In the climactic last chapter pessimism becomes optimism; futility is replaced with fulfillment and idleness gives way to responsibility. Eventually this great Jewish king learned that life is worthwhile, under one condition. He gave everything a try and found that serving God and trusting Him are all that really matters.
The Bible allows us to learn from the findings of Solomon, thereby saving us from a lifetime of frustration in our own search for meaning.
What does Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 teach about worship?
Ecclesiastes 5:1, 2
1Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. 2Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Worship is reverence and submission to God. The phrase ‘keep thy foot’ means that we are to come into God’s presence with the realization of why we are there. When we come to God in worship, we recognize Him for who He is. In Verse 2, Chapter 5, Solomon reminded his hearers of the greatness of God who could see through any elaborate, extravagant prayers that sound good but are meaningless because they are just words and not coming from the heart of one in true worship.
In his searching Solomon thought he could help his dilemma by surrounding himself with people who could make him laugh, but this did not bring the anticipated happiness.
Like so many today, he thought he could drown his questions in strong drink. For a time, his philosophy was Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Traveling this road led to as much disappointment as everything else.
Many people think: I would be happy if I just had a lot of money. Solomon would make today’s big spenders look like paupers. He became a builder and landscape specialist, using some of his resources in that manner.
4I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
How beautiful his residence must have been with gardens and pools. How he must have enjoyed eating the fruit of his orchards, but all of his wealth did not make him happy. Even though he surrounded himself with material possessions, musicians and other entertainers, he was still chasing the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:7, 8
7I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
Vanity means emptiness and futility. Sometimes we are frustrated in our attempt to know how everything fits together. Regardless of how strong our desire may be, we can’t get all the answers. We are forced to live with a fragmented view, but God’s view can aid in our living life “under the sun,” living in transitory, but under “THE SON” living has eternal value.
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)