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The Search for Fulfillment

I thought in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1)

Last week we began a study together of Solomon’s famous book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon, the searcher, is undertaking the quest to find the meaning of life. He is examining everything “under the sun” that might point to life’s ultimate meaning or purpose.

No such luck in chapter one. His initial conclusion is that life is full of futility. Whereas chapter one is something like an introduction to the book, chapter two brings us into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. We walk with Solomon as he conducts experiments on what we think makes us happy.

“I thought in my heart… (Hebrew lev).” The word lev is used figuratively in the Hebrew world (just like it is in ours today) to describe the center of one’s being – the seat of all feeling and thought. We use heart to mean core. In fact, “cor” is the Latin word for heart. We get the words courage and encourage and discourage from it.

What Solomon is searching for is the same thing we want – to find contentment and happiness in the very core of our being. To be centered. To find that thing – whatever it is – which might keep us from constantly, restlessly searching throughout life for that “thing.”

So, he begins his experiments and takes us along for the ride. Solomon tests pleasure, laughter, wine and folly. They weren’t the answer. Maybe he would find what he’s looking for in work. But that didn’t fit the bill, either. He tries wealth and power, entertainment, and ladies. Nope, nope, nope, and nope.

The diminishing returns on his immense efforts to find happiness leaves him despondent. But he discovers a ray of hope: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…” (Ecclesiastes 2:24–26)

The Searcher discovers that the trick is not the pursuit of happiness, but living a life that pleases God. God will add the rest.

We could sum it up a lot quicker with the words of Jesus from 1,000 years later: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Hope to see you Sunday!

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