Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Question That Rattled A King - Part 2

None had experienced more than he. All his life, the king had given himself to know wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography

And he was rewarded. The most powerful monarch of his generation, his wealth was unsurpassed, his wisdom unmeasured, his fame unrivaled. But at the end of life, he was left wanting. All he had worked for left him hollow with one haunting question to fill the void: what doth it profit?
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

(Ecclesiastes 1:1-3)

The answer is the quest of our series on Ecclesiastes. Have you considered what is the profit of the work, pleasures or activities of your past week, day or hour? Here we continue with part 2 of our study on the question that rattled a king.
Ecclesiastes 1

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 
(verses 3-4)

If you live long enough, you are going to hit seasons like Solomon did. A person looks around her, does some mental math to figure the sum results her time plus energy should have created and sees the present answer falls woefully short of what she banked on. Then whispers the foreboding question no human being wants to hear: "Was this all for nothing? Have all my prayers, labor and tears been for nought?"

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (verses 5-11)

In answer to his own question, Solomon turns to a reality we often forget: our time here is short. We are part of an ongoing cycle of generation after generation, wind current after wind current, sunset after sunrise, water after water. It is possible for mortal to leave behind an immortal work but not without the Eternal to teach us how. As the Word says elsewhere "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) Yet as Ecclesiastes shows us, even wisdom has her limits.

I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. 
(verses 12-18)

Rather a sobering view of life, isn't? Thankfully, there is a remedy, but sometimes we need to hear the diagnosis before we hear the cure. Our life has an expiration date, yet that doesn't mean the fruit of our labor must. God intended meaning, purpose and joy in life, if we learn to find it His way.

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