Day #299: Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 23rd
Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 1 - 2 …
Wow! That's depressing!! How many times can you say "meaningless"??? Read through Solomon's "Ecclesiastes" and you'll find out. Written nearly 3,000 years ago, the truth of what Solomon writes and the honesty with which he writes it applies to life today as much as it did to life when he wrote it. The purpose of it's inclusion in God's Word, however, is not to depress you, but rather to help you to take into account the importance and necessity of knowing God and living for Him if you want your life to matter, to have meaning and purpose. Books, television programs, movies, science, politics, psychology and sociology all point to a culture, indeed, to a world in which the everyday life of human beings is becoming more and more "meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
Throughout Ecclesiastes you will find Solomon examining the various philosophies of people in all walks of life. And as he does so, he inevitably ends up back in the same place … the ONLY place where you and I can find meaning for anything in this life: GOD! Nothing else really matters except your relationship with God and your desire to love and serve Him. Solomon, you may remember, asked God for wisdom to rule His people wisely, and God gave it to him. It is this "wisdom" to which Solomon refers when he says, "In all this my wisdom stayed with me" (2:9). Solomon wasn't really trying to find a better reason to live other than living for God; his God-given wisdom would not allow Him to do so. Rather, God is using him here to lay out for all to see the truth: that life IS meaningless … without God!
As you read through Ecclesiastes, you must keep in mind Solomon's conclusion at the end: "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:13). Living life without God results in a meaningless life! Solomon's opening words are an "attention-grabber": "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" (1:2). If you walked down the street with a sign that said, "The END is coming!", most people would ignore you or make fun of you. But if you walked down the street with a sign that said, "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!", you might be surprised at how many people would agree with you. People TRY to find meaning in what they do or what they accomplish, but it is all so fleeting. Honesty demands that we arrive at Solomon's conclusion.
Several times Solomon concludes that "there is nothing new under the sun" (1:9). With all of our modern technology and all the things that have changed over the past 20-30 years, mankind remains the same. We may know more things than we did a hundred years ago, but it seems we know ourselves LESS! More and more people are trying to "find themselves," going from counselor to counselor in an attempt to figure out what God has already revealed in His Word: we need HIM!! Solomon writes, "I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (1:13-14).
Obviously, Solomon had not seen EVERYTHING that has happened in the history of mankind, yet his statement is true because people just keep repeating the same sins over and over and over and over and over again. Life without God, no matter how you live it, is meaningless. You live, you die … and then you give an account to God (12:14). Most people reject the truth of that last part, but it is true nonetheless. Jesus said that there is a wide road that leads to destruction and many are on it. When people say that "all roads lead to the same place" they are at least partly right. All roads through life, except one, lead to a meaningless life and then death and then judgment. The writer of Hebrews says rather directly, " … man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment …" (Hebrews 9:27).
Solomon even tried to define "wisdom," apart from God, and he discovered that this, too, was madness, folly, chasing after the wind (1:17). Knowledge is not wisdom! Think of the knowledge of the universe that the present generation has that no previous generation ever possessed, but has it drawn them to their Creator? No!! Those without the Spirit, no matter what age, nationality or race are blind and dead. Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom …" (I Corinthians 1:20, 25). True wisdom always points to its source … to the God Who knows everything. God is the only One who doesn't need to learn!
After examining the world's wisdom, Solomon examines "pleasure." Millions of people LIVE for pleasure, yet in the midst of the pleasure they face despair because they find no satisfaction. All pleasure is like a drug, you need more and more of it to satisfy your craving. As someone has said about money, the same could be said of pleasure: How much is enough? A little bit more! SUCCESS is the goal of millions more, but what is success? Solomon undertook great projects and received praise from those around him, but what good is that? Do one thing people DON'T like and they will forget everything good you have ever done in a heartbeat.
Imagine, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure" (2:10). Sounds like the lifestyles of the rich and famous! "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" (2:11). Such honesty is rare today, but much needed if you are to discover TRUE meaning in life. Always in view throughout Ecclesiastes is the reality of death. People today prefer not to talk about death, except to express their belief that one of three destinations exists: eternal bliss in some "heaven," or an endless cycle of reincarnations, or oblivion … simply ceasing to exist altogether … which, if some people had their choice, they would quickly choose.
However, we don't have that choice. With death in view, even work - for the sake of work - is meaningless. It is the realization that the state in which we are now living is temporary that forces people to consider such things or to live in a dream-world where they refuse to face reality. Solomon finally concludes, "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?" (2:24-25). There is no true enjoyment of anything without acknowledging God. It's like celebrating Thanksgiving Day without God or Christmas without Christ … what's the point?? If you don't know whom to thank and you don't have a Savior who was born as a baby, the rest is just empty decorations.
So is life without God! "To the man who pleases Him God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness … but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (2:26). There is NO MEANING apart from knowing and serving God. Jesus came to give us life, to give us freedom. He said to the Jews who believed in Him, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). So many people have been deceived into believing that "freedom" means doing whatever you want … whatever the sinful nature leads you to do. But that is bondage!
Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). True freedom is the freedom from a meaningless life! We read in I Peter 1:18-19 that we who believe in Christ Jesus, who have been born again by His Spirit, have been "redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers." THIS is the life God calls you and me to live. A day in the life of a human being is … meaningless - without God. So don't live a day without Him! Ask Him for true wisdom and for the filling of His Spirit and you will discover the abundant life Jesus came to give to those who believe in Him!
"O Lord, my God, I confess that apart from You life has NO meaning! I rejoice in the freedom that You give to all who believe in Jesus and who are filled with Your Spirit. Give me wisdom and strength to use my freedom to worship, to love, to enjoy, to serve You, my God. As my Father in heaven, I rest in Your love and find meaning and purpose each day in living in Your presence and for Your glory, in Jesus' name, Amen"