Confession. Nearly every time I pick up my ESV to read Ecclesiastes I hear the Rolling Stones singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Allow me to explain.
Scholars are divided as to who the author is of Ecclesiastes. I may be in the minority here but I believe it was king Solomon. If it was not Solomon then it was written by someone who was attempting to communicate how Solomon felt about life as he reached old age. He was a man that had a very hard time finding satisfaction in life.
I started preaching from the book of Ecclesiastes this past Sunday. People warned me about this book. They said it was really confusing and hard to figure out. This is one of the rare times in life where I think my low IQ actually served me well. The book seems rather straightforward to me. The stuff we pursue with gusto in life (career, sex, booze, money, knowledge, power, pleasure, etc…) do not fill the gaping hole in our heart. Only Jesus can do that.
Another song that reflects what we read in Ecclesiastes is “Misery” by Soul Asylum.
Well I know just what you need
I might just have the thing
I know what you’d pay to feel
Put me out of my misery
All you suicide kings and you drama queens
Forever after happily, making misery
Did you satisfy your greed, get what you need
Was it only envy, so empty
This song is warning us hard working Americans that all that we are working hard to produce new things, new products with the idea that they will eventually make us happy. Unfortunately, they just end up making us miserable.
Hmm. Sounds like Ecclesiastes.
“I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made great 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…So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem…Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after the wind, there was noting to be gained under the sun.”
I admit that I am a pleasure seeking missile. I think this is true for all of us. In fact, it is how God has wired us. The problem is not that we are pursuing pleasure. No, the issue is that all too often we have locked onto the wrong target. Solomon wants us to know that pursuing pleasure directly will always mean that we end up unhappy. We must pursue God first. When our pleasures become addictions or gods that begin to control us we know we have gotten off track once again.
I agree with some of the Old Testament scholars who are arguing that the phrase “under the sun” (repeated nearly 30 times in this book) is KEY when it comes to understanding the purpose of Ecclesiastes.
What Solomon is saying is that when we view life as if all that matters is what happens underneath the sun we will end up distraught and unsatisfied. We must lift our eyes beyond the sun and remember that God is the One who created it all and only then will we be able to enjoy life the way He intended.
If you wonder why I sometimes use music/movies/aspects of culture in my blog posts I have two explanations. 1) It’s my blog. I can do what I want:) 2) I find it fascinating to see how the Story of the gospel is so clearly seen in the story unfolding all around us in daily life. The meaninglessness and vanity that is seen in Ecclesiastes is clearly evident in the life the Stones have lived and the music they wrote. The truths of the gospel are on full display if we have the eyes to see.