Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/07/17 Sermon - A Change in Perspective



Up to this point in Ecclesiastes, Solomon has concluded that:

     All Godless pleasures lead to emptiness,

     All Godless relationships lead to bitterness and today at the end of chapter 2 we will read how Solomon decided that

     All Godless knowledge leads to hatred of life.

Today’s reading began with the statement, “So I hated life…”

Here’s a guy who has everything that anyone could have at his disposal, and he makes a statement like that! Can’t you just see him? He has on the best robes and attire of the day, and is beside himself, so he wanders into his favorite drinking hole and orders his favorite drink and sits down while the bartender serves it to him. His shoulders are slugged over the bar, his chin is in his hand with his elbow on the counter and his eyes are heavy. He is listless and has a far away look in his eyes as he looks up at the bartender and mutters. “It’s all meaningless.” Humphrey Bogart, eat your heart out.

At first Solomon hated his life, now we read he hated his work. And the reason he hated his work was because he knew he couldn’t take the benefits of his labor with him when he died. He knew he could not be in control of what happened to everything he had accomplished once he died. Most of all, he knew what he had worked so hard for and accomplished was going to be left to his, good for nothing son, Rehoboam.  In 1 Kings we read that while Jeroboam I was working for Solomon a prophet told him that God was going to divide Solomon’s kingdom.

Ten of the twelve tribes would be taken away from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and given to him. Knowing this Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to guess where? Egypt and didn’t return until Solomon died. If you continue reading the story you will read how God felt about these men. He thought they were both fools, who did not fear the LORD and did not follow His commandments.

Solomon had forgotten the most important fact in regards to his wisdom and riches, Solomon forgot that they came from God. Rather than give God the glory and the thanks for all he had, Solomon attributed it all to himself, and in the end called it all meaningless. In fact, Solomon stated he turned to despair. The Hebrew meaning for this word is not exactly as drastic as despair, it is more in line with “to give up for loss” or “to resign oneself.” Solomon was full of sorrow.

Solomon’s focus was off.

It wasn’t just fuzzy, like when you look through the lense of a camera and realize you need to adjust the lens so you can see the center of the picture you are taking more clearly. Oh no, Solomon didn’t need to readjust his lens, he needed to completely move the lens from looking at himself to looking up at God. Solomon spent all of his time evaluating life while looking at himself, instead of evaluating life from God’s eyes. Solomon needed a change in his perspective.

Solomon wasn’t an atheist, he believed in God, remember he had actually had conversations with Him. He also believed that God was the giver of good things.

Solomon wasn’t lazy either. He realized that if he wanted to eat and have good things he needed to work for them. Solomon knew that apart from God, one could not find joy in life. Solomon knew about the sovereignty of God and believed it. The problem came about when Solomon chose not to submit to it. Solomon’s perspective came from his human resources, rather than from God’s vantage point. As we read through Ecclesiastes we will continue to see how Solomon does not find ultimate meaning, fulfillment or satisfaction in life. I found myself asking the question, “Why?” What was going in on Solomon’s life that caused him to have such a limited vision of the importance of seeking and submitting to God’s will in his life? One of the suggestions to this answer comes from many theologians, and that is that Solomon sins put up a wall between him and God. God had warned Solomon what would happen should he not follow him like his David his father had done, in 1 Kings 9:1-9

When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.3 The Lord said to him:

“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws,

5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’

6 “But if you[a] or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you[b] and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All[c] who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”

Solomon sort of confessed his acknowledgement of his behavior at the end of our Scripture reading today in verse 26,

26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Solomon had definitely received wisdom and knowledge from God, that is clear, but as for happiness? Solomon was certainly not experiencing the joy of the Lord that his father David felt when he wrote, in the Psalms,

“You have put gladness in my heart,

More than when their grain and new wine abound.” Psalm 4:7 NASB

11 You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11 NASB

Two men, two perspectives.

Since the first Adam, and the fall of humans, our longings have been unfulfilled. Solomon clarified the the contrast between

the goal of a life pursuing God and

the pleasure-seeking goals which humankind so commonly pursues.

I think it is important for us to understand the difference between a goal and a desire.

Goals are something we have control over, and desires are something we would like but do not have control over.

1 Corinthians 10:31 gives Christians the goal we should have in our lives

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

So in order to set good goals for one’s life, one needs to recognize the things they have and the things they do not have control over. For example, I may want Emily to become a great tennis player. But that doesn’t mean I can control her athleticism or her motivation for tennis. I can control whether she gets a racket or lessons with a pro, but it is a mistake for me to make it a goal that she become a great player.

If I make it a goal, I will certainly be disappointed, and may even become angry, if my goal is blocked. I may even become angry with Emily for blocking my goal, when she has done nothing wrong.

As for Solomon, he had set his goal on having a selfish pursuit of pleasure involving drinking, women, and work which would somehow bring him satisfaction. His selfish desires had become goals and they were apart from God. Somewhere along the line, the wisest man on earth lost the humility he began with when he first talked with God and asked for wisdom.

Godless pursuits preceded true meaning and purpose.

The truth is, sinful, selfish goals produce harmful circumstances, vs. 18-22. Basically, as sinful people, we often have mistaken our desires for our goals and this results in despair and grief. The despair and grief is experienced because we have put earthly pleasures in the God shaped void of our lives instead of God and they don’t fit. Like Solomon, we may even know that is the answer, but struggle to remember or act on our belief.

We too, need a change in perspective.

And that requires humility, much like Christ, Paul wrote it this way to the Philippians in chapter 2 verses 5-8

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

The world cannot satisfy us.

That needs to be our perspective.

By accepting this truth, we can see that all that we need, and have, comes, and is, in God. Once we have this perspective,

we are free to enjoy God’s gifts.

Unlike Solomon, who saw it all as meaningless, as we come to the Lord’s Table today, let us take some quiet time to take a hold of the correct perspective. Right now, on your own, turn you eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.

Let’s pray: (after some time of silence)

Lord, you didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, you lived a selfless, obedient life and then you died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion, we come today to celebrate that your crucifixion was not the end, but the answer to our sins. We come today to celebrate your power over sin, our sins, and the gift of the resurrection. Help each of us today, as we partake of the bread and the juice, to strengthen our perspective on you, not on the world. May we seek your face in all that we do, and follow what you have shown us, to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you, in Jesus’ name, AMEN.