Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 1-6

Today’s Scripture reading is long, but meaningful to all who seek to understand the many troubled individuals we pass in our daily lives. I encourage you to read and contemplate the sorrow of an empty soul that only God’s grace and mercy can fill. The devotional commentary will focus entirely on Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the ponderings of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, apart from Christ. The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life, and its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Ecclesiastes, penned in the latter years of Solomon’s life, brings to us a shocking contrast to the bits of wisdom the king penned in the middle years of life, when he was presiding over Israel in that nation’s golden years. His youth far spent, and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, we notice that Solomon’s outlook has become sad and dismal.

Solomon questions, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?

One generation dies and another takes its place (1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (1:6-7), and in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Ecclesiastes 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give unimaginable wealth and incomprehensible wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  His youth spent, Solomon had turned his heart from God, and now near the end of his life, sums up his search for fulfillment saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life became empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For 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.”

From a horizontal, human perspective, Solomon’s life and passions showed the heart of one who had turned from God! No wonder Solomon writes, “Vanity, all is vanity,” thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes.

When he was young, the king loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God had honored his desire and imparted to Solomon not only wisdom, but also riches and power. Tragically, in his old age, he had turned from the LORD and His Law and Commandments.

Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God. What a tragic conclusion for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!

Ecclesiastes 2:11 – “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.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.  Every morning the man awoke melancholy and, in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist, after listening to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties, finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith