From Mist to What Matters

July 31, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 12-14; 2:18-26

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 12-14; 2:18-26

The words of Ecclesiastes, David’s son, king in Jerusalem. “Nothing but vapor,” Ecclesiastes said. “Totally vapor. Everything is just vapor that vanishes.”

12 I, Ecclesiastes, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my heart to seek out and explore with wisdom everything done under the sky. (What a burdensome task God has given the children of Adam to keep them busy!) 14 I have seen all the actions done under the sun, and, look, it is all nothing but vapor. It is all chasing the wind. 15 Whatever is crooked cannot be straightened. Whatever is not there cannot be counted.

18 I also hated all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard under the sun, since I must leave it all to the man who comes after me. 19 And who knows—will he be wise, or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard and so wisely, under the sun. This too is vapor that vanishes.

20 So I changed my course, and my heart began to despair over all my hard work at which I worked so hard under the sun. 21 Sure, there may be a man who has worked hard—wisely, aptly, and skillfully. But he must hand over whatever he accumulated by all his hard work to a man who has not worked hard for it. This too is vapor. It’s so unfair! 22 For what does a man gain through all his hard work, through all the turmoil in his heart, as he works so hard under the sun?

23 Pain fills all his days. His occupation is frustration. Even at night his heart does not rest. This too is vapor.

24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and to drink and to find joy in his work. This too, I saw, is from God’s hand. 25 For who can eat or enjoy himself apart from him? 26 Yes, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to the man whom he considers good, but to the person who goes on sinning God gives the task of gathering and collecting, but only so that he can give it all to a person whom God considers good. This too is vapor, nothing but chasing wind.

The opposite of contentment is dissatisfaction or unhappiness. Contentment is a state of being satisfied with what you have and who you are. Being content means you’re happy with your current state and don’t need or want anything more to maintain your level of happiness.  On the other hands, aren’t we also to be ambitious and to get as much out of life as we can, for we only get one!  So, how can we be content in life?  There are some obvious answers to this question such as:

  1. Doing what you like to do.  Find a job you like and do it.
  2. Try being grateful. Learn to appreciate and enjoy what you have. 
  3. How about appreciating the small things in life: take a walk, pet your dog, sunlight on your face.
  4. Be content with yourself.  Identify yourself in a positive light and chase negative things away. 

Wait.  I think you’re catching on.  King Solomon tried all these things to be content and he said, “Totally vapor. Everything is just vapor that vanishes.” A vapor is a mist.  It’s meaningless.  Solomon made it clear in the Book of Ecclesiastes what I’m guessing many of you have thought of but never said out loud: “I can’t get no satisfaction!”  Let’s focus on this portion of God’s Word that our identity and self-worth, yes our contentment will not be fulfilled in the solutions the world has to offer.  Let’s learn the secret

From Mist To What Matters

I can’t get no satisfaction…under the Sun

What all did Solomon try to get satisfaction under the sun?  How about being king in charge of a nation that stretched from Egypt to the Euphrates, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Desert?  He liked to do it, but it didn’t satisfy him.  How about living in a palace that was 11,250 s.f. that took 13 years to build with 4 rows of cedar columns supporting 45 cedar beams, and a 75 x 45 ft grand porch with a Hall of Justice inside covered in Cedar?  He loved his house, but it didn’t satisfy him.  How about being smarter than everyone else, writing 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs?  He like it, but it didn’t do it?  How about an annual income of 25 tons of gold a year? Nope, not enough.  How about a throne covered with ivory and gold with armrests carved with lions?  Nope, not enough.  How about a fleet of ships bringing gold, silver and ivory for the treasury and apes and baboons for his royal zoo?  Nope, not enough.  How about 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses?  Nope, not enough.  How about sex with 7,000 wives and 300 women in his harem?  Nope, not enough. Solomon could find no satisfaction under the sun.  Totally vapor. Everything is just vapor that vanishes.

When Solomon sat down and was inspired to write this book you sense his frustration.

12 I, Ecclesiastes, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my heart to seek out and explore with wisdom everything done under the sky. (What a burdensome task God has given the children of Adam to keep them busy!) 14 I have seen all the actions done under the sun, and, look, it is all nothing but vapor. It is all chasing the wind.”

Everything he could see out his office window, when he paused to catch his breath in the middle of his rat-race to have more and more, no matter which way he rotated the thing in his hands, no matter how much he examined the details, everything—I mean everything under the light of the sun was like a mist—a vapor of breath on a cold day the vanishes.  The bumper sticker on Solomon’s chariot said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  But, now he was on his knees scraping it off.  Solomon and the rich man in today’s gospel were two peas in a pod.  Have a bumper crop, build bigger barns and figure out that you’re set for life, only to drop dead that night.  Solomon learned that having it all Under The Sun Does Not Make One Content.

It isn’t wrong to find a job your like and be satisfied in that work.  It’s isn’t wrong to enjoy the things you have, to take a walk, pet your dog and enjoy the sun on your face. It’s not even wrong to be satisfied who you are.  None of these things are wrong in and of themselves.  So, why would Solomon write:

18 I also hated all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard under the sun, since I must leave it all to the man who comes after me. 19 And who knows—will he be wise, or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the results of my hard work, for which I worked so hard and so wisely, under the sun. This too is vapor that vanishes.” 

Maybe you know someone who is struggling like Solomon.  People who always want a bigger house and more space.  People who have the basics but always want more.  Or maybe you’ve been there, too?  There is nothing wrong with desiring the good things in life, thanking God for them each day.  But, a hill of earthly goodies can become greasy and lead to a slide of discontent, the sinful desire to want more and more—computers, clothes, jewelry, houses, and bank accounts and say, “Nope, that’s not enough.”

According to Google, in a 2010 Princeton University study they found the average American to be happily satisfied with a $75,000 income.  Today, that number has risen to $95,000.  However, a person can have all the money they need and not live happily if they are experiencing divorce, loneliness, health problems such as asthma or headaches.  Then comes the big frustration.  You can have it all, but in the end, you lose it.  Solomon wrote:

20 So I changed my course, and my heart began to despair over all my hard work at which I worked so hard under the sun. 21 Sure, there may be a man who has worked hard—wisely, aptly, and skillfully. But he must hand over whatever he accumulated by all his hard work to a man who has not worked hard for it. This too is vapor. It’s so unfair! 22 For what does a man gain through all his hard work, through all the turmoil in his heart, as he works so hard under the sun? 23 Pain fills all his days. His occupation is frustration. Even at night his heart does not rest. This too is vapor.”

There isn’t a person here who thinks that they can buy their way into heaven.  Jesus himself said, After all, what will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world, but destroys himself or is lost? (Luke 9:25).  It is a great blessing to have a wonderful work ethic, to do things to the best of your ability to earn a living and provide for those around you.  But, if that’s all you think about, you’ll end up disappointed.  You’ll end up like Solomon, This too is vapor, nothing but chasing wind.  Without the key, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction Under the Sun. So, let’s learn about the key that turns Mist Into What Matters!

I Can Get Satisfaction Under The Son

So, now we’re back where we started.  What is the secret to having contentment?  When we read in Ecclesiastes, we can’t help but get the impression that something is missing!  We can take a lifetime to look at everything God has created, we can use and enjoy the many blessings God intended for us to enjoy. But, there is nothing that we can see, touch, taste or hear in this world that will satisfy what we need to hear the most.  You can have a great job, be thankful for your family and friends, be satisfied with your home and furniture, go for a walk, pet your dog and feel the sunlight on your face, but something will still be missing.  Are you ready?  What gives total satisfaction is knowing God has a personal relationship with you?  Be happy because you know God is happy with you.  Enjoy your work because God went to work for you.  Enjoy your family because God made you a part of his family.  Be satisfied with your home because God has a home prepared for you in heaven.  I don’t know about petting your dog, but I know God loves you as his own treasured possession.  Your identity is secure because your identity is a baptized child of God.  Without this personal relationship with God every experience in life, every possession, yes, even life itself is a Vapor, nothing but chasing wind.

So, I ask again, how can we be content?  Solomon only hints at it in these verses.  Did you catch it?

24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and to drink and to find joy in his work. This too, I saw, is from God’s hand. 25 For who can eat or enjoy himself apart from him? 26 Yes, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness to the man whom he considers good.”  

With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life in your place, died on the cross to pay the penalty of all your sins, and rose again to assure you that heaven stands open for you, you can enjoy God’s blessings because all the big things are taken care of.  You’re going to be okay.  You Can Have Satisfaction Under The Son!

While Solomon does not spell this out in Ecclesiastes, he certainly did in other Books of the Bible he wrote.  In Proverbs Solomon wrote: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (Prov 3:5).  Real Satisfaction happens when God’s wisdom is on display and we trust in all God has done for us and how we get to live with it.  Or another of his writings called Song of Songs writes about the loving relationship between a husband and his wife.  This motif is pictured all throughout Scripture to describe the love Christ has for his Church (bride), and the Church for the Groom (Christ).

[The Man]15 How beautiful you are, my darling! How beautiful! Your eyes are doves.

[The Woman]16 How beautiful you are, my lover.  How delightful!  Yes, our bed is fresh. 17 The beams of our house are cedar. Our rafters are fir.

Song of Songs 1:15,16

Listen to Solomon confess his satisfied joy and faith in the Lord God in the Psalms:

14 From oppression and violence he will redeem their lives, because their blood is precious in his sight. 18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever.  May the whole earth be filled with his glory.”

Psalm 72

It is Jesus who wiped our sins from God’s sight.  Jesus redeemed us.  Jesus gives us real Satisfaction!

The opposite of dissatisfaction and unhappiness is contentment.  Solomon missed out on contentment for the majority of his life. Did God use him to rule his chosen people?  Yes!  Did God use Solomon’s wisdom for making decisions?  Yes!  Did God bless him with piles of goodies?  Yes!   But, now sitting on his throne, by the grace of God he looks back over the years to tell the next generation, “My sons and daughters, real wisdom, real wealth, real identity, real satisfaction is found in the Savior.  How do I know?  I lived on the other side.  I lived under the sun and learned to what happens to everything under the sun, it’s vapor, nothing but chasing wind.  Look what happens to everything under the sun!  Look at the plants drying up and building crumbling.  My job as king is falling apart, I failed to appreciate the blessings I had, I can hardly walk, my dog died, when the sun hits my face it gives me wrinkles and as far as my identity goes—I think most people think of me and having 7,000 wives!!  But, if you want a life From Mist To What Matters, then learn from the words of the Teacher, David’s son, king in Jerusalem to receive true and lasting satisfaction in the King of Kings—The Lord Jesus Christ!

Bottom line: Mick Jagger was wrong, “I can’t get no, satisfaction.”  And Solomon was right.  I have daily Satisfaction Living Under the Son of God! Where Jesus turns Mist into what Really Matters!  Amen!

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