I. Introduction

A. Why am I here?What should I be doing?

1. These are questions that nearly everyone asks at some point in his or her life.
2. They are questions that the author of Ecclesiastes sought to address.

B. In our introductory lesson, we learned the following about the book of Ecclesiastes:

1. The author is identified (1:1) as the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, meaning Solomon.
2. The theme is stated (1:2). All is vanity. Life from an earthly perspective (“under the sun”) is futile and meaningless (1:14).
3. The question is raised (1:3), What profit is there for a man from all his labor under the sun? What benefit can one derive from all his efforts in this life?

C. In the first two chapters, Solomon demonstrates how he came to this conclusion:

1. From his observations regarding the cyclical nature of life and its apparent meaninglessness.
2. From his own experiences as he sought to find meaning through various avenues.

II. The futility observed in the cycles of life

A. Nothing seems to change (1:4-7).

1. The earth appears to abide forever, even as generations of men come and go.
2. The sun is constant with its rising and setting.
3. The winds continue their whirling cycle.
4. The water follows a cycle also, as rivers run into the sea, and then through evaporation and rain return to the rivers again.
5. Looking at nature, it seems as though nothing ever changes; it just goes in circles and remains the same.

B. Nothing seems to satisfy (1:8).

1. Despite all his labors, man is never truly satisfied.
2. Whatever satisfaction one may think he has is fleeting.
3. Given time, people soon desire something else.

C. Nothing is new under the sun (1:9-11).

1. What will be done is that which has been done.
2. If something is thought to be new, it is only because we have forgotten what occurred before.
a. What about modern technological advances?
b. What about the technology that created the pyramids, Stonehenge, etc.?
c. Given time, future civilizations will forget what we are doing today and will only “rediscover” what has been learned again and again!

III. The futility of human wisdom

A. The preacher prefaces his search (1:12-15).

1. Solomon was king over Israel in Jerusalem. He had been given wisdom from God (1 Kings 3:9-12; 4:29-34).

2. He determined to use his wisdom to seek and search all that has been done “under heaven.”

a. This was a task that he understood God had given to all men.
b. This was a task for which he knew he had been especially equipped.

3. He summarizes what he found, having seen all the works done “under the sun.”

a. He concludes they are vanity and grasping for wind.
b. He feels there is little one can do to make significant changes.

B. The Preacher applied his God-given wisdom (1:16, 17a).

1. He acknowledged the greatness and wisdom he had attained.

a. In answer to his prayer, Solomon attained great wisdom (1 Kings 3:9-12; cf. James 1:5).
b. “God-given wisdom” is to be contrasted with “human wisdom.”

2. He therefore sought to apply it to wisdom, madness, and folly.

a. The “wisdom” here most likely is “human wisdom” (philosophy).
b. For this is wisdom that he set his heart to know (learn).

C. The Preacher concludes that human wisdom is futile (1:17b-18):

1. He perceives that such wisdom is like grasping for wind; it does not provide the answer to his problem.

2. He also sees that such wisdom and knowledge provide much grief and sorrow.

a. As we might say today, it provides “information overload.”
b. People become burdened as they learn about many things in life, things they have no control over, yet things they often worry about.

IV. Conclusion

A. In the beginning of his search for meaning, the wise Preacher naturally began with wisdom.

1. Thus he set his heart to “know wisdom.”
2. But he found such wisdom to be “grasping for the wind.”

B. This does not mean we are to take his words as an indictment against all wisdom.

1. There is a “God-given wisdom” for which one should seek (Prov. 2:1-9; James 1:5).
2. This kind of wisdom can bless one’s life (Prov. 3:13-18).

C. But it is an indictment against “human wisdom.”

1. Human wisdom seeks to understand life but leaves God out of the picture.
2. Human wisdom that can only leave one “grasping for the wind.” In our next study, we shall continue with the Preacher’s search for meaning and notice his observations regarding pleasure, madness, and folly.

In the meantime, remember what Paul wrote when contrasting human wisdom with God’s wisdom: “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’” (1 Cor. 1:30, 31). Have you accepted and obeyed the true wisdom from God, Jesus Christ, who gives meaning and purpose for life?

General Conference Ministerial Association