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Ecclesiastes Devotional Guide: Week 2

*Every week during our 12 week series in the book of Ecclesiastes we will post a devotional guide that week for the passage that was preached on the most recent Sunday. We encourage you to engage this book of the Bible more fully by walking through this devotional each week after having listened to the sermon on Sunday.*

Week 2- Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26

Our culture is consumed with the idea of leaving behind a legacy after we die. We want our brief lives on this earth to be filled with meaning, and and so we strive to have something significant that outlasts us. We want our efforts to go into an account that has a surplus at the end of our lives that can be passed on to the next generation. We desire some sort of stamp of approval that says that our lives were not pointless. So, we pursue meaning and purpose in things like wisdom, work, possessions, and achievements. The hope is that what we gain in our pursuit will bring satisfaction in this life and that we can die happy knowing that we gained enough to benefit those who come after us—that we have a lasting legacy that will be remembered. But King Solomon in Ecclesiastes shows us the futility of such pursuits.

If anyone had reason to boast of his resume it was Solomon. He built more and achieved more than any other king of Israel (Eccl. 2:9), he was far wiser than those before him (Eccl. 1:16), he did whatever his heart desired (Eccl. 2:10), and he had everything that he could ever want (Eccl. 2:4-8). Circumstances could not have been better for Solomon to enjoy every second of his life on earth and to leave a legacy that generations after him would try and emulate. But rather than this being the case, Solomon, “hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after the wind” (Eccl. 2:17).

He was the wisest person alive (1 Kings 4:30-31) and still did not find meaning. He accomplished far more than other kings and still was not satisfied. He had everything he could ever want and it still wasn’t enough. Why? Because he recognized that wise or foolish, rich or poor, being a success or a failure, he was going to die. His wisdom would be forgotten and his achievements would be squandered or surpassed by others. Whatever legacy he thought he was leaving would not last, for he would be forgotten like all the generations before him. Why work so hard then?

If leaving a legacy that lasts was out of the question then maybe he would find satisfaction in pursuing pleasure. Being a rich, wise, successful king, Solomon could do whatever he wanted. And he did just that, denying himself nothing that his eyes desired (Eccl 2:10). Alcohol, sex, memorable experiences, and all the “delights of men” (Eccl. 2:8) were the objects of his pursuit. And he did not deny that they did indeed bring pleasure (Eccl. 2:10). But that pleasure was short lived and did not bring the satisfaction and significance that he really wanted. He concluded that there was “nothing to be gained under the sun” (Eccl. 2:11). He denied himself nothing in his pursuit of pleasure, and, ultimately, got nothing in return. Such is the reality when we look for ultimate meaning and satisfaction from things that were never meant to provide this for us.

Only God can gives us the meaning, purpose, fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy that our souls long for. Only in Him do we have an eternal hope. Life lived without Him means that all we have are vain pursuits after things that don’t satisfy and don’t last. But when we are connected to God through faith in Jesus we can rightly enjoy the good things in this world.

God is not a cosmic buzzkill who just wants to cramp our style. Rather than keep us from having a good time and enjoying the things of this world, He wants us to have abundant life (John 10:10), fullness of joy, and genuine pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11). And these things are only found by being reconciled to God though faith in Christ, and enjoying His presence. Having this type of relationship with God is the only way to truly enjoy life to the fullest. “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Eccl. 2:24-25).

So, if you want to truly enjoy the things of this world, spend time in God’s presence. Pursue Christ first and foremost so that your pursuit of the good gifts He gives you in this life are only a means to enjoy Jesus more. And if you want to truly leave a legacy that will last, live your life on this earth wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus. This is the only lasting legacy that we can leave because God’s legacy of what He has done for the world in Christ is the only one that will endure for eternity, while all other pursuits are vain, and all other legacies will be forgotten.

“Only one life, it will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” —C.T. Studd

Reflection Questions

Do you feel you have a healthy pursuit of, and relationship to, wealth, possessions, entertainment, and worldly pleasures? Why or why not? How can you better enjoy the good things in this world to glorify God?

How can you glorify God in your work while resting in Jesus (without making an idol out of work)?

What will it look like for you to daily pursue godly wisdom?

What kind of legacy are you currently leaving? What do you think people might say about you when you die, and what would you like them to say?

How can you leave a legacy for the glory of Christ?

Supplemental Reading

Philippians 4:11-13, Psalm 16.

Formational Practice

Take one day this week to fast. This could be for an entire day or part of the day. You could fast from food (1 meal up to a full day), meat, social media, Netflix, etc. The goal is to sacrificially give up something and intentionally spend time with Jesus during the time that you would normally devote to that thing that you’re giving up. For example, You could fast from lunch and spend 30-60 minutes reading your Bible and praying. This practice is to remind us that the good things in this life are gifts from God and should be used to His glory, and that, ultimately, all that we need is Christ.

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