First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ July 19, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; Matthew 7:24-27
I read a story about a rich American businessman who was vacationing in Mexico. While vacationing in Mexico, the wealthy man was disturbed to find a fisherman just sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” the wealthy man asked. “Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman. “Why don't you catch more fish than you need?” the rich man asked again. “What would I do with them?” “You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase better nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.” The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?” “You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the wealthy man. “What do you think I'm doing right now?” the fisherman replied with a big smile on his face.
If you’re to examine your life today, how would you describe it? Are you happy? Are you satisfied? What is the one thing that will finally make you satisfied? When will you finally be happy and satisfied? I think one of human beings’ biggest tragedies is that so many people live under the false hope of “I will be happy if I achieved this or if I acquired that. Every one of us has some-thing or some set of circumstances in the back of our mind that we anticipate will make us happy. We assume that once we achieved this, once we have accomplished that, then we will be satisfied and finally be happy!
Because we operate with this mentality, we keep working harder and harder to make more money, climb the corporate ladder, pursue new relationships, with the hope that someday, we finally find satisfaction and happiness. Where can true happiness be found? How can someone live a satisfied and fulfilled life?
Well, I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon had tried it all and he gave us his conclusion at least a couple times in the first chapter. In Ecclesiastes 1:2, the Preacher said, “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” This conclusion is clarified in chapter 1:14 as Solomon says, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Wisdom is Not Satisfying
Solomon tried it all. The first chapter revealed Solomon as he looked for the meaning of life in wisdom, in gaining more and more knowledge. Knowledge didn’t satisfy the hunger of his heart. In Ecclesiastes 1:18, he said, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” Although wisdom is better than folly, it is ultimately unsatisfying.
Solomon elaborates more on this in chapter two and he compares wisdom to light and folly to darkness in 2:13. Wisdom helps us understand the world around us, but turning on the light does not change the room itself. Of course, it’s nice to have the light on, but turning on the light will not change how messy the room might be. Solomon is just frustrated with the limitations of knowledge.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 2, Solomon examined and tried various avenues in the pursuit of the meaning of life and in his pursuit of happiness. Ecclesiastes chapter 2 highlights at least three of them:
First: The Pursuit of Pleasure (2:1-3)
In Ecclesiastes 2:1 we read, “I said to myself, “Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But again, this also was vanity.” Solomon tried every pleasure. It didn’t work. Humans always live with the thought that getting the next thing would do it. We think that getting more would do it, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. Solomon says to us today, “Don't think that the next thing will do it; don't think that the more will do it, because I had the next thing and I had the more, and it didn't do it.” Be aware of the false promises of pleasure.
Second: The Pursuit of Projects (2:4-7)
Listen to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 2:4-7, “I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem.”
There is of course some satisfaction in designing and building things. But what happens when the task is completed? We are left unsatisfied or with little satisfaction. No matter how magnificent our projects might look, they don’t fill the emptiness of our lives. You may notice that everything Solomon lists in the plural, houses, gardens, vineyards, parks, etc. His building and landscape projects were great projects. 1 Kings 7:1 tells us it took him thirteen years to build his own palace.
But there is an important thing to notice here. It actually seems odd that in his list of all his building projects he does not mention the biggest, most historically significant thing he built – the Temple in Jerusalem. The account in 1 Kings tells us it took him seven years to build the Temple. Do you know why? Because whatever investment we make in the Kingdom of God isn’t vanity. It’s not in vain. It has some eternal value. That’s why the temple is not listed here. The Temple was built for the glory of God – the palace was built for the glory of Solomon.
Third: The Pursuits of Possessions and Prominence (2:8-11)
From the pursuit of wisdom, pleasure, and projects, Solomon moved on to the pursuits of possessions and prominence. This is Solomon’s own account of his possessions and prominence in Ecclesiastes 2:8-11, “I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces … I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure.” We read about Solomon’s incredible wealth in 1 Kings 10:14-29. But in verse 11, Solomon again concludes, “ Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” In other words, Solomon built his castles in the sand.
So where can true happiness be found? The easy and challenging answer is that true happiness is found in doing life God’s way. I love the words of Psalm 119:35, “Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” It doesn’t say, “Give me a nice house in a nice neighborhood, for that is where my happiness is found.” Neither does it say, “Give me good health, for that is where my happiness is found,” nor “Give me a family without dysfunction, for that is where my happiness is found.” Nope. Happiness is found when we do life God’s way; when we seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. To God alone be the glory now and forever more. Amen
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