EVEN THOSE WHO APPEAR TO HAVE GRABBED HOLD OF THE GOOD LIFE STRUGGLE WITH NO ENJOYMENT, NO SATISFACTION AND NO ANSWERS TO LIFE’S ULTIMATE QUESTIONS
(:1) INTRODUCTION: CONSISTENCY OF THE GLOOMY PERSPECTIVE
“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men”
Continued worldly insight into the futility of the human condition;
Book becomes somewhat repetitious as it continues to drive home the same messages and repeatedly investigates the same themes.
A. Consistency of the Ominous Observations = dark and brooding
“an evil which I have seen”
Journal of what Solomon saw as he looked around him and what he personally experienced; this is his blog and the tone is heavy
“Evil” is a pretty strong word; Solomon not sugar coating anything; not looking through rose-tinted glasses; but not making things up either; facing reality square in the face and reporting what he sees around him
B. Consistency of the Finite-Limited Perspective = “under the sun”
Doesn’t have his “mind of Christ” spectacles on – despite some glimpses of light
C. Consistency of the Human Condition – “it is prevalent among men”
cf. “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man”
1 Cor. 10:13
Sometimes as believers we view the world as divided into 2 classes of people: the saved and the unsaved; that’s how we view our neighbors, our co-workers, etc. We think of all of the distinctions between these two groups – What fellowship can light have with darkness, etc. – But Solomon is thinking here of how much all of mankind has in common – what is innate to the human condition – the reality that is prevalent among men – yes, those with a divine perspective will be able to deal with this reality without the despair of the unsaved … connectivity to Christ gives us the divine perspective … but viewed just “under the sun” apart from how we deal with the reality, there are some perplexing questions in this life
I. (:2-6) NO ENJOYMENT — THE FUTILITY OF THE GOOD LIFE – APART FROM GOD
A. (:2) The Good Life Proves Elusive
1. (:2a) Possessing the Good Life is a Gift from God – Solomon’s Blessings – Riches / Wealth / Honor cf. 2 Chron. 1:11-12
“a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires”
This is a self-portrait on Solomon’s part – he is this man he references here; God asked him what he most wanted in all of the world and then God abundantly blessed him beyond his imagination.
What sorts of people do we know that have been blessed with riches and wealth and honor? Important to acknowledge that such prosperity is a gift from God.
2. (:2b) Enjoying the Good Life is Impossible Apart from a Gift of God as Well – Solomon’s Frustration
a. You Don’t Get to Enjoy Your Possessions
“yet God has not empowered him to eat from them”
Imagine how frustrating this must be. Everything you want is within your reach, but for some reason you cannot partake and enjoy.
Wiersbe: Enjoyment without God is merely entertainment, and it doesn’t satisfy. But enjoyment with God is enrichment and it brings true joy and satisfaction.
Eaton: “eat” means to enjoy here (Is. 3:10)
Look at the gracious invitations of the Lord Jesus Christ: (just picked out four) –
To those who are in need of repentance in order to experience the divine favor:
Rev. 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
To those who are on the treadmill of this rat race life:
Matt. 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
To those who want to discover real meaning and purpose in life:
Matt. 4:19 “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” But you must leave your nets and follow
John 6:27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” All hinges on living a life of faith
b. A Stranger Enjoys Your Possessions
“for a foreigner enjoys them.”
What types of foreigners are in view? (Swindoll looks at this)
– Could be national enemies that take spoils of war
– Could be things out of your control such as disease and failing health
– Could be time commitments that don’t allow you the freedom to enjoy the good life
– Could be family conflicts that devour your peace of mind and your material estate
3. (:2c) Conclusion: Futility and Pain Once Again
“This is vanity and a severe affliction.”
B. (:3-6) The Good Life No Better Than the Non Life – In fact more painful and frustrating
1. Possible Mitigating Factors
a. Larger Family – language of hyperbole
“If a man fathers a hundred children”
(although you look at those polygamous relationships being investigated out West …)
Children viewed as a blessing from the Lord – no humanistic concerns over population control here
b. Longer/Healthier Life
“and lives many years, however many they be”
2. Same Problem: No Enjoyment or Satisfaction
“but his soul is not satisfied with good things,
And he does not even have a proper burial”
Wiersbe: But his family does not love him, for when he died, he was not lamented. . . His relatives stayed around him only to use his money (5:11), and they wondered when the old man would die. When he finally did die, his surviving relatives could hardly wait for the reading of the will.
MacArthur: Not having a burial, as in the case of King Jehoiakim (Jer 22:18,19 “a donkey’s burial”), indicated complete disrespect and disregard for one’s life. To die without mourners or honors was considered worse than being born dead, even if one had many children and a full life.
[cf. cremation – not showing much respect for the body or much hope for the afterlife]
3. Worse State Than Non Existence
a. Point of Comparison
“then I say, ‘Better the miscarriage than he’”
Talking about the still born child – such expectation; the mother carries the child for 9 painful months; the agony of delivery and then the devastation of the child being still-born – isn’t this a cruel illustration on Solomon’s part .. how can the life of any man be more sorry than that sad state of affairs
b. Unrecognized Futility Better Than Recognized and Experienced Futility
1) Not Known by Anyone
“for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity;
And its name is covered in obscurity.”
2) Not Knowing any of this World’s Evil and Suffering
“It never sees the sun and it never knows anything;
It is better off than he.”
Wiersbe: More than one person in the Bible became so discouraged with life that he either wanted to die or wished he had never been born. This includes Moses (Num. 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Job (3:21; 7:15), Jeremiah (8:3; 15:10), and Jonah (4:3). Even the great apostle Paul despaired of life during a particularly tough time in his life (2 Cor. 1:8-11).
Eaton: The child at least has rest; he does not have to endure the conflicts of life “under the sun.”
c. Same Destiny
“Even if the other man lives a thousand years twice and does not enjoy good things – do not all go to one place?”
Eaton: The destination is common to all, no matter how long it takes to get there. The one place is Sheol, the realm of the dead.
Solomon: we know where we are all headed; let’s just get there with the minimum of suffering and frustration
II. (:7-9) NO SATISFACTION (FILLING UP) — THE FUTILITY OF ONE’S LABOR IN LIGHT OF THE INSATIABLE NATURE OF THE HUMAN APPETITE
A. (:7) Laboring . . . Eating . . . Emptiness
“All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.”
Swindoll: The term translated “appetite” is the Hebrew word nephesh. It’s the term often rendered “soul” in other Old Testament passages. The soul is not satisfied. Work doesn’t bring satisfaction to an empty life.
Leupold: lexicon meaning = refers: “to all functions through which life is maintained or strengthened, or to experiences through which it is affected.”
Man is a bottomless pit; nothing can fill him up or satisfy
Work would have some value if it could bring satisfaction
B. (:8) What’s the Point? 2 Piercing Questions:
1. No Difference – Wise Man or Fool
“For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool?”
2. No Difference – Rich Man or Poor
“What advantage does the poor man have,
knowing how to walk before the living?”
C. (:9a) Mini-Insight – Focus on What You Have
“What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires.”
Proverb: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Some people go through life with that grasping, covetous spirit – imagining that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; let’s jump to that next job – it has to be better than what I’ve got here; then you find out that human nature is the same everywhere; the jerks you thought you were escaping somehow popped up over there;
If I could just have X . . .
Solomon has a lot to say about the secret of Contentment
Swindoll: Balancing perspective – we still need dreamers – great quote:
“The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home.”
So it takes a few dreamers out front to tell them what it’s going to be like, to keep their hopes up. And so it is with life. But the problem comes when we live only in a fantasy land and refuse to face reality. . . Dreaming sets us on a collision course where fantasy hits reality broadside. Face the inescapable truth – You need God.
D. (:9b) Same Old Conclusion = Futility Under the Sun
“This too is futility and a striving after wind.”
Wiersbe: Is Solomon telling us that it’s wrong to dream great dreams or have a burning ambition to accomplish something in life? Of course not, but we must take care that our ambition is motivated by the glory of God and not the praise of men. We must want to serve others and not promote ourselves. If we think our achievements will automatically bring satisfaction, we are wrong. True satisfaction comes when we do the will of God from the heart (Eph. 6:6; John 4:34).
III. (:10-12) NO MAKING SENSE OF ONE’S SHORT LIFE ON EARTH — THE INABILITY TO DETERMINE YOUR OWN DESTINY OR EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT
A. (:10-11) The Futility of Trying to Determine Your Own Destiny – 3 Don’ts:
1. The Finality of the Sovereignty of God – since your course has been determined
Don’t Think that You Can Change Your Future
“Whatever exists has already been named, and it is known what man is”
God is Sovereign and in control – no getting around that – and we shouldn’t want to
To name something is to be sovereign over it
Eaton: To “give something a name” is to study or (as here) to appoint its character. Both the world (what is) and man have settled characters. One who is stronger than he is God. Thus the Preacher is underlining the impossibility of changing the basic character of life. Man cannot escape his limitations, nor can he completely unravel the world’s anomalies (cf. 1:15). He may, like Job, wish to debate the matter with God, but God is altogether greater.
Ryrie: Man is unable to control his destiny, which is determined by God. This is contrary to fatalism, which views God as either nonexistent or uninvolved.
Donald Glenn: Solomon introduced his discussion on the limitations of human wisdom (6:10 – 11:6) by reverting to two themes he had used earlier to demonstrate the futility of human toil, namely, the immutability (1:15; 3:14; cf. 1:9) and inscrutability (3:11, 22) of divine providence.
2. The Frustration of Any Human Speculation or Debate – since God is wiser and more powerful
Don’t Debate with God
“for he cannot dispute with him who is stronger than he is.
“For there are many words which increase futility.”
Swindoll: Disputing is a waste of time and effort. So long as I fight the hand of God, I do not learn the lessons He is attempting to place before me. Everything that touches me comes through the hand of my heavenly Father who continues to love me, who continues to maintain control of my life, who continues to be totally responsible for my life. He does the same with all His created things. That’s why He’s God!
3. The Pointlessness of Life Under the Sun – since God trumps man at every turn
Don’t Try to Beat God at His Own Game = Controlling Life
“What then is the advantage to a man?”
B. (:12) The Futility of Even Understanding Your Lot in Life – 3 Who Knows:
1. The Uncertainty and Moral Relativism of Agnosticism –
Who Knows What is Best?
“For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime,”
2. The Brevity and Futility of This Life on Earth –
Who Knows Whether You Will Be Around Tomorrow?
“during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow.”
3. The Mystery and Dread of the Future
Who Knows What the Future Holds?
“For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun?”