People in every generation search for meaning in their life only to find that their search is never ending. They hunger and thirst for something that will fulfill them, but find instead that what they were searching for does not satisfy. To avoid the same pitfalls, we can learn much from King Solomon who was the wisest man who ever lived. He reflected on his own search for meaning and recorded it in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Earlier in his life, Solomon asked God for wisdom; to distinguish between right and wrong so he could govern God’s people. God was pleased that King Solomon had asked for this and He granted his request.
I will do as you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 1 Kings 3:12
Many people throughout the world came to hear the wisdom God had put in King Solomon’s heart. Sadly, Solomon began to love foreign women more than God and this became his undoing. The Lord had forbidden all Israelites to marry foreigners because they worshipped other gods. Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command and his pagan wives led him astray just as the Lord predicted.
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely. 1 Kings 11:4, 6
Whatever you love more than God will bring you down. Solomon stopped obeying God. He then searched to find purpose and meaning by living his life as if God did not matter. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear will be warned by Solomon’s inspired understanding of what life looks like lived apart from God.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:2-4
Solomon’s Discovery about Work
Under the Sun
Solomon set out to look for purpose and meaning in all that he did. Life “under the sun” is living on earth without a godly perspective.
My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
In the end, all that Solomon worked for meant nothing to him so he remained unsatisfied. How many people do you know who have everything in life like Solomon but are still not happy? There are also those who don’t have as much but think that possessions will satisfy them. They spend themselves into debt and then they must work even harder.
And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
If you took a good look at your life would you see yourself driven by jealousy, greed, and a constant desire to outdo someone else? You want what others have so you spend much time and effort to be successful, but you fail to look ahead. In the end, you may lose everything that is truly valuable: your family, friends and perhaps even your health. Those without God’s guidance are like the rivers that constantly flow but make no progress in filling the sea.
I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? This too is meaningless. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief, even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:17-18, 21-23
Solomon is giving us great insight. The bottom line is that when you die, you must leave everything. Who stops to understand this? Don’t waste your life rising early and staying up late, worrying about earthly concerns that will not count for eternity. Ask yourself often why you do what you do. What is the real reason you work so hard?
Jesus said, what good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:26
Solomon’s conclusion: Without an acknowledgement of God, Solomon discovered his work was in vain. Working only for success and prosperity is meaningless because they do not last.
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
Solomon’s Discovery about Wisdom
Under the Sun
If the answers to the emptiness of life could be found by human wisdom, Solomon set out to try.
I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. Ecclesiastes 1:14-15, 18
Man does not know what he does not know and wisdom is not valued. There is frustration and unintended consequences for those who lack God’s eternal perspective and solutions. The prevailing “wisdom” of our day believes that happiness and meaning will be found through education and success. What people discover is that money can’t buy happiness and knowledge is not wisdom. There is much pain ahead for those who live as if this world is all there is.
All this I tested by wisdom and I said, “I am determined to be wise,” but this was beyond me. Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound, who can discover it? Ecclesiastes 7:23-24
Human wisdom can only explore what is seen, what God has created by His wisdom. Man is a created being who can only know what God reveals.
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all thing. Ecclesiastes 11:5
Every human soul has a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than his/her earthly life. How foolish it is not to take steps to know God, your wise Creator, by making the Word of God a priority in your life.
For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of the age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:19-21
Solomon’s conclusions: God alone gives true wisdom and genuine happiness comes from pleasing Him.
To the person who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. Ecclesiastes 2:26
Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. Ecclesiastes 8:17
Solomon’s Discovery about Pleasure
Under the Sun
Solomon tested to see if gratifying oneself with pleasure would make a person happy.
I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. I tried cheering myself with wine,” and embracing folly. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Ecclesiastes 2:1, 3, 10
Life today is fast-paced and stressful and more “fun” is needed just to make life bearable. How do you cope with life? Many “live” for the weekend only to discover that earthly satisfaction is temporary. Afterwards, emptiness and boredom reappear and once again demand to be satisfied. What needs are you trying to fill apart from God?
Solomon’s conclusions: Those who hide from God and escape life’s problems through pleasure end up empty.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 7:6
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” Ecclesiastes 12:1
Solomon’s Discovery about Money
Under the Sun
Again, I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless, a miserable business. Ecclesiastes 4:7-8
if you lost all your money and possessions, would you have anything left of value?
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Solomon’s conclusion: The more money you have the more is needed. Money will never bring meaning to your life.
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10
Solomon’s Discovery about Death
Under the Sun
Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. Ecclesiastes 5:15
No one likes to think about his/her own death, yet it is the most certain fact about our existence. While living, you still have time to examine the direction of your life and make some changes. Now is the time to seek God!
Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9
Everyone will answer to their Creator one day so it matters very much how you live your life on earth. Live by faith and make it your goal to please God because those who die without God while on earth will live on without God forever.
Solomon’s conclusions: Without faith in a Sovereign God, the certainty of death makes all human pursuits futile. The vindication of the righteous is only a matter of time.
I know that everything God does will endure forever, nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. Ecclesiastes 3:14-15
If your funeral were today, what will people say about you? What will God say?
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
The True Meaning of Life
Stand in awe of God. Ecclesiastes 5:7
All the escape routes man conceives to live his/her life without God have proven to fail. Is God asking you to rethink the direction of your life? What you are searching for can only be found in a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. God will give your life purpose and meaning as you trust in Him.
Solomon’s conclusion: Solomon understood that a search for meaning is a search for God. He once again grasped the truth that knowing and doing the will of God is the ultimate purpose of man.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Expect God to Speak to You from His Word and Transform your life!
Bible study for “The Search for Meaning”
Week 1: Genesis 2:7; 3:17-19; 1 Kings 3:5-15, 4:29-34; 11:1-10; Psalms 1:1-6; 14:1-3; 16:2, 37:3-6, 16, 27-28; 39:4-6; 40:4-5; 42:1-2; 46:10; 49:1-3, 10-20; 62:1-2, 9-12; 90:1-6, 10. 12, 17; 103:13-19; 104:1-35; 119:15-16, 89-91, 105; 127:1-2
Week 2: Proverbs 1:1-7; 2:1-6, 9-19; 3:1-7, 19-20; 8:12-13, 32-36; 9:10; 11:21, 28; 14:12-13, 16; 15:3, 16-17; 16:2-3, 6, 16-17, 20-21, 25; 21:17, 30; 23:4-5; Ecclesiastes 1:1-18; 2:1-26; 3:1-2, 4, 9-17, 22; 4:4-8; 5:10, 15-20; 7:1-6, 11-14, 23-24, 29; 8:1, 7-8, 15-17; 9:13-18; 11: 5, 8-10; 12:1-8, 13-14
Week 3: Isaiah 29:13-16; 40:6-8; 44:24-26; 55:1-2, 6-9; Jeremiah 9:23-24; 10:12-13; 17:5-10; Mathew 6:19-24; 10:32-33; 11:28-30; 16:24-27; Luke 11:29-32; 12:13-34; John 6:26-29, 35-40; 7:37-39; Romans 2:5-11; 8:18-25, 28; 11:33-36; 14:11-12; 15:4
Week 4: 1 Corinthians 1:18-21, 26-31; 2:1-16; 3:18-20; 8:1-3; 15:58; Colossians 2:2-3, 6, 9; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 9:27; 11:6; James 1:5-8; 3:13-18; 4:1-10, 13-17; 1 Peter 1:24-25; 1 John 2:15-17; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:12-14
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