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Satisfaction Is Found In God Alone

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Ecclesiastes 2 

Introduction

The passage that has just been read speaks loudly to me. I spent my early adult years with my identity and my worth tied up exclusively with work, pleasure and possessions. I was all about having a good time all the time. Now thankfully I didn’t go the extremes that the teacher did and give into every desire of my heart and eyes. Yet I was chasing the wind. And in the end there was no satisfaction, no contentment, no lasting joy or delight in my life.

That most famous song of the rolling stones has been buzzing around in my head all week as I have been preparing this message.

I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

There is no lasting satisfaction in created things. In fact, you can’t have satisfaction without God. That’s what we will see today.

Is pleasure bad? Is work bad? Is Wisdom bad? No, these things are not bad. They are just not lasting, they are just not the main thing. They won’t give you what you want. You won’t find satisfaction in them. You won’t find refreshing in them. If these things are your goal and they are what you pour yourself into, then you will be disappointed, more than that, these things can also be snares to keep you from God.

Last week Pastor Philip showed us from that wisdom isn’t the key, this week the Teacher turns to look at pleasure, possessions and work.

  1. Pleasure Doesn’t Last

Well as we start to look at this first section of chapter 2 we see that the quest that the teacher has been on is to “see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives”. In other words how should we live? What a wonderful question. How indeed should we live. The teacher is asking what is meaningful. What will satisfy, delight, bring lasting joy?

The teacher starts with pleasure, and he didn’t jump in half-heartedly, but as they saying goes he jumped in with both feet. He was all in, wholeheartedly pursuing pleasure in every way that was available to him at the time. In verse 10 we read “All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles.”

The teacher became a Hedonist. That is the word for people who live for pleasure. The Cambridge dictionary defines Hedonism as

“Living and behaving in ways that mean you get as much pleasure out of life as possible, according to the belief that the most important thing in life is to enjoy yourself.”

This is what the teacher tested, pursued. In fact he lists some of the pleasures that he tried. In verse 2 Laughter, now this might be a bit strange to think of laughter, however when we look to those movies where the villains’ laugh, where the laughter is really about covering the hard bits of life with laughter instead of facing up to them. Laughter in that sense means that you keep the pleasure going and don’t really take the things of life as seriously. Being the sort of person who is light hearted about everything. That indeed is madness. In verse 3 we read “I explored with my mind the pull of wine on my body.” So the teacher used alcohol for pleasure. Music as we can see in verse 8, and sex. Concubines, the pleasures of men. Now what we see here are a few of the things that have been listed by the teacher. But as we know from verse 10 this is not [complete] because it wasn’t just these pleasures, but all that the teachers eyes desired.

Now we here today are not King Solomon. We don’t have his wealth and power, yet this doesn’t mean that we cannot easily be caught up in pleasure seeking. Where do the things that our eyes desire actually fit into our lives? Music, Sex, Alcohol, power. Is pleasure something that that we are able to enjoy correctly, as God has given to each of us. Or is pleasure an idol that we need to repent of and change. For the teacher here cannot be more clear about the end result of those who chase and seek pleasure as a goal. The end of verse 1 says that it is futile, it won’t last.

  1. Possessions aren’t’ the key

The teacher didn’t only try every pleasure that his eyes and heart desired, he also became incredibly rich in terms of possessions. As there was no pleasure that he wanted that he denied himself, we also see that same thing with his wealth and possessions. Verse 4 “I increased my achievements, I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned livestock – large herds and flocks – more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me.”

The guy was rich in possessions. Now let’s just spend a minute or two understanding this a little. We can see that he had houses, gardens, fruits tress, in fact whole fields of flourishing trees. Livestock etc.

But when we look at 1 Kings 10:14-15 & 23-25 we get more of an understanding of just how wealthy he was.

14 The weight of gold that came to Solomon annually was twenty-five tons, 15 besides what came from merchants, traders’ merchandise, and all the Arabian kings and governors of the land.

23 King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the world in riches and in wisdom. 24 The whole world wanted an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart. 25 Every man would bring his annual tribute: items of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, and horses and mules.

Just the 25 tonnes of Gold that came every year is worth 1.2 billion dollars.

Yet when Solomon stopped and thought carefully about his wealth, about his possessions and all the work that had gone into building this as well as the actual wealth itself. What did he surmise. In verse 11 he surmised that all of these possessions that he had accomplished and achieved, it was all futile, it was all trying to catch the wind.

Once again for us here we must ask ourselves where wealth sits for us? Is wealth our goal?

So we return in this passage to wisdom. And you will be pleased to know that wisdom gets a slightly better wrap than pleasure and possessions, yet only slightly.

  1. Wisdom is good but not ultimate

The teacher has already said that wisdom is a pursuit of the wind back in chapter 1 verse 17. In fact verse chapter 1 finishes with verse 18

“For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases.”

Yet as we follow the teachers thoughts in verses 12-17 we see that there is advantage in wisdom. Wisdom is helpful for us as we live. The wise person can see, yet the fool walks in darkness v14. The teacher is not talking about every aspect of wisdom being futile, but specifically our reliance on our own wisdom. This makes sense in the overall scheme of what we have seen in this passage so far. You won’t find satisfaction in pleasure, you won’t find satisfaction in possessions and you won’t find it in your relying on your own wisdom.

I want to take a minute though to say that real wisdom is not like these other pursuits. Only God is perfectly wise, and all knowing. True wisdom is to fear the Lord. J I Packer explains this in a very helpful way.

“We must learn to reverence God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.”

This is when Wisdom has true value. But back to the passage. The teacher makes it clear that there is something that seems to remove the difference between wisdom, madness and folly. And that is death. Death is the great equaliser. For as we read all die.

Wisdom can’t save anybody, just as pleasure can’t and possession can’t. For in the end as the teacher rightly points out. Wise or not, everybody dies and not just that, all will be forgotten. From verse 15

15 So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. 16 For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise person dies just like the fool? 17 Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

  1. Work Doesn’t Satisfy

The teacher then brings us to work. So if you feel like perhaps you have escaped this morning as pleasure and possessions and indeed wisdom you hold lightly. Well just maybe work is the one that you seek your satisfaction and fulfillment from? But here again the teacher says you won’t find it.

Now I think that many people enjoy work. We were made to work. Genesis 2:15 makes that abundantly clear

. 15 “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.”

Work was what we were designed for, it’s in our DNA. Adam was called to work before the fall, and it is right and good that we work to look after our family and give to the work of the Gospel and be generous with all that God has given us. But the warning here is that this work that we do will end. For the teacher the most frustrating thing about his work was thinking about what would happen with the next person who took over this work. I assume that if the teacher is indeed Solomon, then he is saying that he has done the work of a king with wisdom, knowledge, and skill as we read in v21 and who knows what the next king will be like. He might be a fool. We have no control over what will happen after us. All that we have worked hard for may continue or end. It is indeed futile. Yet for many in this world work is everything. There is that great question that we can ask ourselves about work. Do we live to work or do we work to live. It is an expression that I’m sure you have heard before. Yet there is a truth in it. What do we live for?

  1. Only God Satisfies

How are you feeling? If we ended the passage at verse 23 then it would be hard not to be totally depressed. It really feels like what is the point. Everything is futile. Everything is vapour. We are all chasing after the wind and then we die. That is in large measure where this passage has been going. Yet there was a question back in verse three that hasn’t yet been answered. The statement that the teacher makes in verse three is “I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.” And here in verses 24 -26 we find the answer. Let’s read the last three verses that give us understanding.

24 There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, 25 because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him? 26 For to the person who is pleasing in his sight, he gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.

I can’t help thinking of the idea of getting our perspective right. That is for me what we see here. We are to worship God alone. In Romans 1:25 those that don’t believe in God are said to worship the things that God has created rather than God himself.

25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.”

The bible has much to say about pleasing God. In fact there are multiple verses in the New Testament that attest that it pleases God when we are generous, praying for our leaders, looking out for our weaker brothers, bearing fruit in every good work. These are all righteous and true. But I landed on Hebrews 11:16

6 “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

We can only be pleasing to God by trusting in Jesus. John 3:36

36 “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son[a] will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

Satisfaction can only be found in God. Satisfaction cannot be found without God.

Trying to find our meaning, our satisfaction, or our joy and delight in anything but God is like trying to hold onto vapour. It is like trying to catch the wind. It can’t be done and therefore it is meaningless.

We saw last week that generations come and go and that nothing of lasting value remains. Death will come to all.

So what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives, we are to be pleasing to God and thankful for all that he gives us. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.