Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Freddie Mercury, the former lead singer for Queen, died shortly after he wrote these words in his last song: “Does anybody know what we are living for?”
Tennis champion Boris Becker, who won three Wimbledon titles once said, “I had all the material possessions I needed: money, cars, women, everything—I had no inner peace because I was a puppet on a string, but I still don’t know who was manipulating the strings”.
These are true statements from prominent people who were looking for purpose in their lives and it’s the kind of statement many of us may have said or thought for ourselves—but these questions are very old. In fact, we can find similar questions in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, written by King Solomon. It’s like a journal that summarises his adventures as he searches for meaning in his own life. He certainly had plenty of resources to do it.
When Unlimited Resources Are Not Enough
Solomon was an amazing man. His reputation is known not just in the Bible—even secular historians are impressed with his unusual wisdom. He was a man who had all the money, all the power, all the time, and all the energy to make his dreams come true. He could literally have and do anything he wanted. But, he was also restless. He wanted to figure out what life was all about. So he launched out on a ‘no-holds-barred’ safari that cost him millions of dollars and many years of his life. He was on a search for his purpose in life. The book of Ecclesiastes addresses the big questions of life like:
- Who am I?
- Where did I come from?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
These are really good questions to ask, and we should ask them.
Unfortunately, the journey left him deflated, depressed and disillusioned. The best word to describe how he felt is empty. Have you ever felt like that? In fact, his motto appears right at the beginning of the book in Ecclesiastes 1:2 (CEV): “Nothing makes sense. Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all—nothing makes sense!” Another version (of the same verse) uses the word ‘meaningless’—this word is used 35 different times. In this type of literature, when the same word is repeated even once, it’s for the purpose of emphasis.
It’s like our ‘exclamation point’. It’s as if he was saying, Super empty. No substance. There’s nothing to it. Everything is pointless! Solomon is known as the ‘Searcher’, looking for answers, and when he wanted to experiment with something, there was nothing to hold him back. As king, no-one could question him. As one of the richest individuals in the world, money was not a problem. He was convinced that he could find something that would ultimately satisfy him—if he just looked hard enough.
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Generations Come and Go
In verse 3, the Searcher asks a question, “What is there to show for all our hard work here on this earth?” It was as if he had sucked the delight, joy, and pleasure out of everything. And now he wanted to know what would be left over, what would he have to show for himself when it was all said and done. And in chapter one, Solomon observes the cycles of life as generations come and go; he said in verses 4-7:
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
Nothing seems to change. It’s the ‘same old, same old’. In verse 8 he concludes: “All things are wearisome, more than one can say.” The Hebrew word actually means, ‘full of weariness’. And in verse 9 you can almost hear him say with a sigh, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
The king embarked on an excessively extravagant lifestyle. But thankfully he came to some pretty solid conclusions before his time ran out. The first thing he tried was pleasure. He decided that life was just one big party. After all, if he could just chuckle all the time, he would be happy, right? Listen to his admission in Ecclesiastes 2:2: “I said of laughter, It is madness, and of pleasure, What does it accomplish?”
Solomon was looking for something of substance in life. Nothing ultimately satisfied. I want in Part 2 to have another look at Solomon and see how he got on.
(To be continued in Searching for Meaning – Part 2)
Pontiac Bible Church USA