“Vanity of Vanities”

A. I am sure that most people would agree that the ultimate goal of everyone is to be happy.
1. All sane people desire to experience as much pleasure, fulfillment, contentment, and joy as possible.
2. However, it is an ironic and unfortunate fact that the overwhelming majority of people are seeking happiness in the wrong places and from the wrong sources.

B. It is to our eternal benefit that God has preserved for us the experiences of Solomon to help us in our search for the true meaning to life.
1. When we consider the life of Solomon, we realize that no man has ever been more qualified to write about the subject of happiness and where it is and is not to be found.

2. Solomon possessed some unique qualifications as he searched for potential sources of happiness:
a. He excelled in wisdom and knowledge (1 Kgs. 4:29-34)
b. He had incredible material wealth (1 Kgs. 4:7, 21)
c. He had unlimited power (1 Kgs. 2:25, 31), and
d. He had unlimited opportunities for fleshly indulgence (1 Kgs. 11:1-3).

3. Solomon had everything at his fingertips – would he find the true meaning to life?

C. The theme of Ecclesiastes is stated in… Ecclesiastes 1:2

1. The word “vanity” is found 37 times in Ecclesiastes

2. “Vanity” is from the Hebrew word HEBEL and literally means breath, and is used metaphorically of anything frail or unsatisfying

3. Solomon uses the phrase “vanity of vanities” which mean vanity to the highest degree

D. Solomon raises a question in Ecclesiastes 1:3

1. Solomon asks, What advantage is there in a man’s labor “under the sun?”
a. “Under the sun” has to do with purely earthly things
b. Void of spiritual influence – lived apart from God

2. In other words, What real and lasting benefit is there from one’s labor in this physical life?

3. Consider this question … Matthew 16:26

E. Solomon gives us insight as to what is the true meaning to life as he draws conclusions from:

1. His observations regarding meaningless cycles of life, and

2. His own experiences as he sought to find this meaning through various avenues of the flesh

1. There is the weariness of one generation to the next
a. Ecclesiastes 1:4
b. Man is only here on this earth for a short time, and when he dies there is another to take his place
c. From “under the sun” the view is: While the constant succession of generations of men go on, the earth remains seemingly unchanged and immovable.
d. The point is: IF man was as permanent as the earth SEEMS to be – then there might be profit to a man’s labor
e. Solomon’s conclusion: Earthly labors are vanity because man comes and goes

2. There is the weariness of repetition
a. Ecclesiastes 1:5-7
b. The “sun” is another instance of the ever-recurring change in the face of an enduring sameness – rising and setting day by day, never resting. The sun makes no real process, all its work merely brings it back to the beginning, and there to start all over.
c. The “wind” is another example of motion continually repeated with no real progress. The wind is seemingly the freest of all created things – but is still bound by the weariness of repetition.
d. The “rivers” are another instance of an unvarying operation producing no tangible result. Rivers flow into the sea, the sea evaporates into the clouds, the clouds move over land and drop its moister into the rivers – and the process starts all over again.
e. Viewing things from “under the sun,” Solomon says, “Nature is nothing but a vicious cycle” – the weariness of repetition
f. We get up and to work, and we get up and go to work, etc ect…

3. There is the weariness of never being satisfied
a. Ecclesiastes 1:8
b. Man, like nature, is confined to a circle from which he cannot free himself
c. Despite all our labors, man is never truly satisfied – what satisfaction one may think he has obtained is only apparent and fleeting
d. Given time, they soon desire something else – man is never satisfied with what he has … Proverbs 27:20
e. We have this – we want that…

4. There is the weariness of there being nothing new under the sun
a. Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
b. Everything that has happened in the world will happen again – History always repeats itself
c. If something is thought to be new – it is only because we have forgotten what occurred before
1) What about our modern technological advances?
2) Well, what about the pyramids, or mummification?
d. Given enough time, future generations will forget what we are doing today, and only “rediscover” what had been learned again and again

5. Faced with what appears to be such meaningless cycles in life, Solomon now searches for the true meaning to life in another area

1. Solomon prefaces his search
a. Ecclesiastes 1:12-15
b. Solomon, king in Israel, gave special attention and effort to the gaining all the knowledge he possible could. This was a task for which he knew that he was especially equipped – remember God had given him great wisdom
c. 1 Kings 3:5-15; 4:29-34; 10:1-7
d. Here is a man with probably the greatest ability ever known to mortal man, and he searches for the true meaning to life in knowledge “under the sun” – his conclusion, “all is vanity and a striving after wind.”

2. Solomon applies his wisdom
a. Ecclesiastes 1:16-17a
b. Solomon realizes the great wisdom and knowledge he has attained, and he applied it to things “under the sun”
c. He came to knowledge through observation, madness and folly – he gave himself to philosophy, all in search of the true meaning to life

3. Solomon’s conclusion concerning human wisdom
a. Ecclesiastes 1:17b-18
b. Solomon concluded that attaining human wisdom was like grasping for the wind – it did not provide the answer to his problem
c. Solomon also realized that such wisdom caused only grief and sorrow
1) The more wisdom and understanding of men that we acquire – the more we see its unsatisfactory nature
2) One becomes burden as they learn the things of life – the things that we have no control over are the things we often worry about

A. In Solomon’s search for the true meaning to life he begins with wisdom – he set his heart to know wisdom, and he found such wisdom to be “striving after wind” – vexation of spirit (KJV)
B. The true meaning to life is not found in human wisdom. The true meaning to life will not be found in philosophical attempts at life
C. Life from a worldly standpoint, “from under the sun,” is vanity
D. Ecclesiastes 12:13

Tom Moore

About from the Preachers PC

Gospel Preacher for the Park Heights church of Christ in Hamilton, TX. I stand for and defend the truth of God's word. All other degrees and diplomas mean very little in comparison.
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