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Presentation 01. Introduction Why study the book of Ecclesiastes? For a very simple reason, the author confronts us with a fundamental question, “What.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 01. Introduction Why study the book of Ecclesiastes? For a very simple reason, the author confronts us with a fundamental question, “What."— Presentation transcript:

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3 Introduction Why study the book of Ecclesiastes? For a very simple reason, the author confronts us with a fundamental question, “What is the purpose of life?” No question is more basic than that! The preacher or teacher- and that is what the word ‘Ecclesiastes’ means - challenges secular thought throughout the ages. His aim is to show that life which is not lived in relation to God is empty and pointless what a Russian writer describes as, “a country in which there are no signposts because there is nowhere to go.” Life without a spiritual dimension constitutes a desert wasteland, a futile, meaningless, existence. Presentation 01

4 Life Is Not A Magic Roundabout The phrase that the preacher uses to describe secular life or, life lived without relation to God, is “life under the sun” v3. It appears 31 times and provides the key to understanding the book constantly reminding us that the author is addressing the secular thinker who has left God out of his philosophy of life. Such people’s lives are marked by monotonous circularity. Their treadmill existence is marked by such phrases as, “I'm going round in circles and getting nowhere”. Generations come and goes, the sun rises and sets, and streams constantly flow into the sea. Presentation 01

5 Life Is Not A Magic Roundabout Now, they say, “Our lives are just like that, they have no goal, no purpose, no existence, its just one monotonous cycle”. The secular historian H.A.L. Fisher wrote, ‘I am unable to find any meaning in history’. He believed that history is going nowhere, there is no destiny and no great purpose being worked out. Many people expect no more from history than from watching their automatic washing machine going round in a monotonous cycle. A view summed up in the words of one of Simon Garfunkle’s songs, "I'm going round in circles in the windmill of my mind". Presentation 01

6 Life Is Not A Magic Roundabout When such people become aware of the monotonous merry-go-round of life they are often tempted to shout; “Stop the world I want to get off". They want to break free. But escape for them is, in practice, often no more than an attempt to break free from an unbearable reality; they may drown themselves in alcohol, embrace the drug scene, or pursue transcendental meditation - all are escapes into a hallucinatory oblivion. When God is evacuated from life it becomes a pointless and a wearisome thing. Presentation 01

7 The Boredom Of Life The secularist not only sees life as a monotonous cycle of existence, he also finds it constantly boring cf v8- 10. In response, he may engage in a frenzy of activity which finds him running from one new diversion to another, while becoming completely exhausted in the process. The man who is unable to break free from the monotony of life may conclude with Samuel Butler that, “Life is one long process of getting tired”. Boredom has certainly sapped the vigour of life out of much of today's society. Presentation 01

8 The Boredom Of Life We constantly hear the words, “I'm bored” particularly in the company of young people. There is no sadder form of self-criticism. Its not that people have nothing to do, but rather nothing they do brings a deep satisfaction. This restlessness and lack of contentment in society should not surprise us. The Bible links contentment with a person’s experience of God, ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain’ 1 Tim. 6v6. The man who lives his life in relation to God can never be bored. Why? Because his life is full of meaning. It has purpose and direction. He views earth as God's workshop which is preparing him for glory. Presentation 01

9 The Boredom Of Life The man who is ‘bored’ becomes preoccupied with the trivial. Os Guiness in his analyses of our modern obsession with trivial pursuits writes; Human life has traditionally been lived in a house with windows on other worlds. These windows may sometimes have been dirty, broken or boarded up, but they were always there. Only in the modern world have we achieved what is called a world without windows. Shut off from transcendence [God], modern people are shut into triviality. Isn't that penetrating? We are producing a generation obsessed with trivia because it has shut God out. Presentation 01

10 The Boredom Of Life Is the Christian church awake to the tremendous opportunity that this gives us to proclaim a gospel. We have a message that can restores meaning and purpose to life. Are we also in danger of shutting God out? Have we too become obsessed with the trivial? Parents, what do your children see when they look at you? Young folk what do your friends see when they look at you? Do they see a life marked by boredom and restlessness or, a life marked by poise and contentment which is the product of Christian faith? Presentation 01

11 The Nothingness Of Life Secular man is not only aware of going round and circles and being bored with life, he also fears that his life has no meaning. cf Shakespeare exposes this fear of meaninglessness in the word’s that he puts into Hamlet’s mouth; “All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances” And again he writes these now familiar words; “Life's a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Presentation 01

12 The Nothingness Of Life The lament of v11 expresses the soul’s fear of nothingness... The idea that life is for nothing and worth nothing is not easy to accept as is the thought that generations to come will not give any heed to your fleeting existence. Nothing haunts the secular mind like the fear of nothingness. Nietzsche the German philosopher tried to make ‘nothingness’ a way of life. He couldn't stand the idea of a God watching over him and loving him even in his evil and so he taught that there was no God. Presentation 01

13 The Nothingness Of Life Nietzsche counselled men to laugh in the face of the emptiness of the universe and so rise above it. But he himself found little comfort from his philosophy. His mind snapped under the strain and was insane when he died. What of others who have tried to erect significant towers of meaning, which make no reference to God and seek to displace him from his universe? We will see something of the way in which the author of this book systematically dismantles such towers. Presentation 01

14 The Meaninglessness Of Wisdom The first tower tackled is that of ‘earthly wisdom’. Some think that the pursuit human wisdom can answer all of life's questions. God has certainly placed in man an inner urge to discover the truth [incidentally, this is one of the many distinctives that distinguishes man from animals]. The writer describes this search as ‘a heavy burden’ v13. But human wisdom, has throughout history proved itself unequal to the task. We learn in v15 not only of wisdom's inability to straighten out many of life's problems but its failure to do so compounds man’s vexation with life. How so? By raising more questions than it answers! It merely provides deeper insights into what is dissatisfying with life. Presentation 01

15 The Meaninglessness Of Wisdom In the O.T. Job asks the question, "Can a man by searching find out God?" Job 11v7. He recognised the inadequacy of human wisdom to answer life’s most basic questions and the advice given by his four ‘wise’ comforters must have reinforced that view. In the N.T. Paul draws attention to the inadequacy of the wisdom of the philosophers of his day; “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1Cor. 1v21 Presentation 01

16 The Meaninglessness Of Wisdom Paul’s point is simple. Man, without God's help, can neither discover what God is like nor, grasp the meaning of his existence. Modern man takes great pride in his intellect and is strongly inclined to engage in an ‘independent search for truth’. By so doing he fails to recognise his need of God's help. He thinks that he can solve all his problems and attain all necessary knowledge by the process of rational thinking. Unaided and unenlightened reason will always fail to discover what life is all about. Why? Because as one writer puts it ‘unenlightened human reason has a hole in the centre of its thinking’. Presentation 01

17 The Meaninglessness Of Wisdom On T.V. programmes which discuss the meaning of life, those contributors, who have this gaping hole in the centre of their thinking, have nothing to say to help those who are baffled by life. It is all very unsatisfactory and inconclusive or, to use the Preachers expression in v17, it is “chasing after the wind”. Those who place their trust in human wisdom to try to provide the answer to life’s meaning are left to agree with Tennessee Williams that, "Life is an unanswered question". Presentation 01

18 Conclusion Ecclesiastes does not allow us hide behind unsatisfactory substitutes for God. These so-called substitutes are revealed to be crumbling towers! I spoke with a despairing man some time ago - he told me of the years of his life that he had devoted to research into the meaning of life. And because human wisdom has a gaping hole at its centre it not only failed to satisfy his deepest need it irritated his quest for meaning. His research had brought him no heart contentment, he too had been chasing the wind. Presentation 01

19 Conclusion Where does recognition of this reality lead us? If God tears down the flimsy towers that men have chosen to take refuge in, it is in order to point them to a more substantial structure, a place of genuine safety. And that ‘structure’ is none other than the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said; “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jn.4.13ff. Presentation 01

20 Conclusion Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God is the key to life's meaning. He is the wisdom of God and as such fills the gaping hole that makes the jig- saw of our lives complete. ‘Life under the sun’, or life without any personal relationship to a Creator may appear attractive to many, but its long term effects are more destructive than a raging cancer. Fullness of life cannot be experienced without a relationship with God. Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and that more abundant’ Jn.10.10. Make Jesus your strong tower, the one who fills the God shaped blank in your life! Presentation 01

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