Rev. Vance Becker, LCMS missionary serving as a theological education at Neema Lutheran College in Matongo, Kenya, joins host Rev. Timothy Appel to study Ecclesiastes 2:1-17.
Solomon continues to put his thesis to the test concerning the vanity of life. He seeks out all manner of pleasure for himself. He indulges in wine, he engages in magnificent building projects, and he acquires all kinds of wealth. Yet when he reflected on all his pleasure and the toil he had expended in doing it, he found that he had gained nothing under the sun. When he turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly, Solomon found more of the same truth, especially in light of the great equalizer, death. Though this is the vanity that we see in life under the sun, life under the Son of God, Jesus, gives us the heavenly perspective needed for meaning and joy.
“Wisdom for Life Under the Sun” is a series on Sharper Iron that goes through the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s favorite word in Ecclesiastes paints a bleak picture: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” Apart from God, life is nothing but vapor that does not last and can never be grasped. Yet Solomon does not leave us in despair. He shows us that life does have meaning in the faith and fear of God, from whom all things come to us as a gift.
Sharper Iron, hosted by Rev. Timothy Appel, looks at the text of Holy Scripture both in its broad context and its narrow detail, all for the sake of proclaiming Christ crucified and risen for sinners. Two pastors engage with God’s Word to sharpen not only their own faith and knowledge, but the faith and knowledge of all who listen.
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The Vanity of Self-Indulgence
2 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.[a] 2 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” 3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. 4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. 5 I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. 6 I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines,[b] the delight of the sons of man.
9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
The Vanity of Living Wisely
12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. esv.org