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It’s All Gone to Hevel, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 3, 2023 9:00 am

It’s All Gone to Hevel, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 3, 2023 9:00 am

The author of Ecclesiastes repeatedly states that life is meaningless, “a chasing after the wind.” But as Pastor J.D. continues our series called, Full of Nothing, we’re discovering what that phrase means, and we’re finding hope in this seemingly pessimistic passage!

Rob West and Steve Moore
Rob West and Steve Moore
Rob West and Steve Moore

Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Y'all and if you're like me, you often find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is you can't become an atheist. There's just too much evidence for God to become an atheist. But how can you believe in a good God who controls everything when all this crazy hevel over here keeps happening? Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist, J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. is continuing our new series called Full of Nothing, and we're looking at the book of Ecclesiastes to discover what the author meant when he said that life was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Now, that might sound pretty hopeless, but we know that God's word is full of life and truth. So let's discover the true message that he's trying to share with us. And remember, you can find our entire teaching catalog free of charge when you visit J.D.

Greer dot com. But now here's Pastor J.D. with part two of a sermon with an unusual title.

It's all God's hevel. You're going to find out that Ecclesiastes is one of the most confusing yet clarifying books in all of the Bible. This book, let me give you a little warning. This book is really going to rattle some of you because it is going to shatter this neat and tidy view of the world that you have. Others of you are going to feel like this book really helps things make much more sense. Now, there are three questions I want to ask just about these first three verses here to begin with.

The first question is, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes? You ready for this? I haven't. The foggiest idea.

The good news is that neither approach changes how you interpret Ecclesiastes. Probably, they say, the best way to grasp the meaning is to consider the word picture itself. Hevel, smoke or vapor, like a cloud. Sometimes life feels absurd. It's hevel. That's what the writer is saying. He's saying, yes, wisdom is good. But it's like he's found a glitch in the system.

He's not saying that life is meaningless. It's just problematic. It's unsolid, like a cloud.

Sometimes absurd. It's hevel. Which leads me to the final phrase to notice in this opening verse, and that is the phrase, under the sun. He's going to repeat that phrase 29 times throughout the book. The teacher indicates that his perspective only takes into view how things look under the sun. What is over the sun? Heaven is over the sun. Solomon deliberately leaves out heaven's perspective or how the reality of God, his plan and his presence and his promises, change everything.

And that's what the editor, the other voice, brings in throughout the book. He's going to remind you that there is more to life than what you see under the sun. And while uncomfortable for you, this is going to be a really good thing for some of you, because at some point the hevel of life is going to smash you in the face.

Or like the ancient rabbis used to say, the hevel's really going to hit the fan. And if you're not ready for that, you're going to be mad at God. And you're going to be like, but God, I didn't, I thought you were supposed to. And God, why didn't you do this?

I did this over here. And God, do you even exist? I hate you.

I hate you. So the first thing we got to look at, get our minds around, are the three primary ways that Solomon experienced life as hevel. There are three of them. Here's number one. First he says, is the absurdity of pursuing pleasure and power. The absurdity of pursuing pleasure and power. I said in my heart, chapter two, come now, I will test you with pleasure. Enjoy yourself, treat yourself.

That's what I said to my heart. I explore with my mind a pool of wine on my body, my mind still guiding me with wisdom. In other words, Solomon is like the sophomore who wakes up from a hangover with a missing tooth and a facial tattoo. And he has no idea how he got there. But then he finds a detailed notebook that he kept while in his drunken state. Verse 10, whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from men.

I kept my heart from no pleasure. Do you all remember all that Solomon had? Everything in the man's house was made out of gold. He was multi-talented, well-read. His kingdom was at peace and his power was unchallenged. He ate great food and had a thousand different sexual options every night. In addition to all of this, he wrote New York Times best-selling books on every subject. He was one of the most popular songwriters of his day. He built the most impressive temple the world had ever seen. And he led Israel in a national spiritual revival.

That's not a bad list of life accomplishments. Verse 11, then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I'd expended in doing it. And behold, it was all heaven. It was useless. It was like striving after the wind and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Three ways that Solomon says the pursuit of worldly pleasure and security are absurd. First of all, he says they are, if you take a note, letter A, they're unfulfilling. These are gifts of God to enjoy. But if they become the primary place that you seek happiness, you will find them empty. You will find them heaven.

Here's the truth. There are two different gifts that God gives. One is money and marriage and family. The other is the ability to enjoy those things. And those are two different gifts. And they have to be sought in two different ways. Ecclesiastes 6.1, here's a tragedy to have observed under the sun.

It weighs heavily on humanity. God gives up one person rich as wealth and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself. But God doesn't give the second gift to that person. He doesn't give them the ability to enjoy them for a happy life, see. You need to not only have money and family and love, you need the ability to enjoy the things God gives you. And that is a separate gift of God that you got to seek in a different way. He says they're absurd.

They're also absurd because they are letter B. They're fleeting, fleeting for a number of reasons. First of all, when you die, you're dead. Nothing you've accomplished benefits you anymore. You do a lot of stuff in between your last time of nakedness, which is when you die. And in between that, all the ways that you live that were different don't really benefit you that much in terms of how you leave.

Could you go out just like you came in at the same level? And then no matter what you accomplish in death, usually even in old age, you can't really enjoy it. In light of that, Solomon asked, what does the one really gain who struggles for the win? What's more, he eats in darkness all his days with much frustration, sickness, and anger.

You know what that means? He eats in darkness. It means he's the one who works late.

Everybody else is home playing. He's in the working legs. He's got to get ahead.

Eats in darkness means he's eating all by himself alone. And then you die, and you can't take any of it with you, so you leave it to a trust fund kid who doesn't appreciate it, and they just waste it. You say, oh, but they'll always remember how awesome I was. Not really. Furthermore, Solomon says, what we do doesn't even make that big of an impact.

It might be when he's at his darkest here. Ecclesiastes 1, 4, generations come and generations go. But the earth remains forever.

All streams flow into the sea. If the earth is never really full, to the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, and they're heavy.

In other words, we don't even leave that big of an impact. Do you ever watch, like when you knock over an anthill, not that you do it on purpose, but accidentally knock over an anthill. You just watch the ants.

What do they do? They just start putting it all back together, right? And it's like you'd expect some kind of reaction like them to be like, come on! Spend all this time putting this thing together, just kick it over. Like, you know what's wrong? But they don't complain.

They just put it back together. And it's kind of ridiculous because you know that tomorrow you can come along and just do it again. And Solomon says, that's really what we're like. We're all just kind of busy with activity, all this activity. One solar flare though, and we're toast. Aren't you glad you came to church today? Aren't you? Let's pray. No, no, I'm kidding. We're not done.

There's one more thing that makes the pursuit of pleasure and power absurd. He says that life is, let her see, unpredictable. Unpredictable. Solomon's going to spend a lot of time talking about how blind chance plays a huge role in our lives. Ecclesiastes 9, verse 11, again, I saw unto the sun that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong or the bread to the wise or riches to the discerning or favor to the skillful.

Rather, it's time to chance that happened to all of them. In other words, two people that make the exact same life decisions. One ends up a billionaire.

The other ends up dirt poor. Not even righteous living guarantees success. Chapter seven, in my feudal life, I've seen everything. Somebody righteously parishes in spite of his righteousness.

And somebody wicked lives long in spite of his evil. Which leads us to the second absurdity Solomon notes. He says, number two, there's the absurdity of pursuing wisdom. I said to myself, chapter one, my mind is thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge. I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.

What? This is the guy who wrote Proverbs. And he's telling me that pursuing wisdom is absurd.

Yes. He says, pursuing wisdom at one level is absurd for a few reasons. First of all, living righteously does not guarantee smooth sailing. Chapter 10, he tells us, this is interesting.

Follow me with this. The one who digs a pit may fall into it. And the one who breaks the wall may be bitten by a snake. Those are both quotes from the book of Proverbs that Solomon wrote. And in those Proverbs, he says basically that the ones who do evil will often have that evil brought back on them. So if you dig a pit for somebody else to fall into, you're the one that's probably going to fall in the pit.

All right. So this is about how evil people suffer for their evil. Next verse, verse nine. The one who quarries stones may be hurt by them. The one who splits logs may be in danger by them. These are people who work honestly. They work with integrity.

They do the right thing and they still get hurt. Sometimes evil comes back like Proverbs says it is. And sometimes people work honestly and the same thing happens to them and you just look at things and you say, what the hell is going on? Second, he says, you can never really figure out the ways of God. Ecclesiastes 3.11, nobody can discover the work that God has done from beginning to end. Some of God's work you might be able to grasp, but a lot of it you'll never be able to understand. And the fact that you can understand some of it just frustrates you because you're like, well, I understand what God is doing here, but why is this happening over here? Why is this heaven happening all over here?

I see what he's doing here, but this makes no sense. Y'all, and if you're like me, you often find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is you can't become an atheist. There's just too much evidence for God to become an atheist.

But how can you believe in a good God who controls everything when all this crazy hell over here keeps happening? Thirdly, he says, it's futile to seek wisdom because the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. Ecclesiastes 12.12, be warned, there's no end to the making of many books and much study mirrors where is the body.

And every student said, amen. For everything you learn, you realize there's more you don't know. Solomon says trying to gain wisdom as a way of mastering life is foolish. You try to learn everything there is to know about parenting and you still look at your kid and say, I don't know what the hell is going on with him.

It's absurd. I can't master everything through knowledge. Finally, Solomon points us to number three, the absurdity of worldly justice. Chapter eight, there's something else meaningless that occurs on earth. The righteous get what the wicked deserve and the wicked get what the righteous deserve.

This too I say is heaven. I think we all right now tend to get pretty discouraged because we look around and we see so many places. Sometimes it's in our personal life. Sometimes it's in society at large where justice does not seem to be prevailing. The powerful are not held to account. Somebody gets wrongly blamed. Somebody gets smeared in public opinion who don't deserve it.

The true story, the real history, the real motives never get told. And if you are insistent on every just cause being settled under the sun, you're going to lose your mind. It's not that we should quit fighting for justice, just that Solomon recognizes that to some level full justice is impossible to attain under the sun. And sometimes you're going to look around and you're going to see that wicked are getting what righteous deserve and righteous getting what wicked deserve and you're going to say it all feels like heaven. And you're like, this is the worst sermon I've ever heard in my life. Exactly. It's Solomon's sermon.

Don't blame me. I was just reading what he said. That's his sermon in Ecclesiastes. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with JD Greer. I want to take a moment to remind you about our featured resource, which is based on Psalm 23. Sure, you might've heard Psalm 23 before and you might even have it memorized. And hopefully you were with us when we went through the teaching this past month.

But what I love most about this particular study is how the application questions really make you think about what it means that the Lord is our good shepherd and the implications that has for our lives. Do you have a friend or a family member in need? This resource could be just the right encouragement to help them along the way. And we'd love to send you a copy with your gift of $35 or more to support this ministry. To give, call us at 866-335-5220, or you can always head over to and donate. And as always, we are sending this resource to each of our gospel partners this month as well.

And we'd love to have you join that team. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Like, what am I supposed to do with all this? Let me give you just sort of a little preview, a little appetizer, okay? Solomon is going to give you three conclusions or the writers going to give you three conclusions. I'm going to give them to you now.

We'll spend a lot more on them next week. But I'll just give you like a three or four minute, you know, whatever of each of them. Number one, he says, the conclusion, fear God. Last verses of the book. Watch this. Now, all has been heard.

Here's the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind, for God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing. Whether it is good or evil, here at the very end of Ecclesiastes, the editor takes us back over the sun. And over the sun, he said, you will find that there is indeed a God who will bring ultimate justice and with whom we will live and enjoy perfect happiness for eternity, who will reward every good deed and punish every evil one. We may not be able to tell just by reflection of what's going on under the sun, if there's any value to living righteously, we may not even be able to tell if human life has more value than animal life, but Ecclesiastes is not the only book in the Bible. The Bible is God's message from over the sun, from heaven to earth. There's a very famous statue, I'm sure you've seen some version of it, Rodan's Thinker, where he's sitting around thinking and pondering about life and looking for answers within. That is not the book of Ecclesiastes.

The book of Ecclesiastes is written by the teacher, Koheleth in Hebrew. He is telling us about things we cannot find by looking within, things that we have to be told from above. And what God declares to us through his word is, you will die. And after that, you will face judgment.

And if you are wise, you will live in a way where you are prepared to give an account when you go over the sun. And it is true that no one can comprehend all of God's work under the sun, but just because you can't see meaning under the sun, doesn't mean that there isn't any meaning. Ecclesiastes' purpose in showing you the absurdity of life is not to turn you into an atheist. Ecclesiastes' purpose is to turn you into a more humble theist. He's not writing this book to say life is absurd, there's probably no God.

He's writing this book to say, put up your neat and tidy formulas about how life is supposed to work and seek a God who is greater than the heaven and a God who is bigger than all this chaos. I told you that Ecclesiastes pairs with the book of Proverbs. It also pairs with the other wisdom book in the Bible, which is, you know what it is?

Starts with J, rhymes with obe. Job. Job is your other wisdom book. And here in Job, we've got to read the three of these books together. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. Here in Job, you've got a guy who literally did everything right.

Did everything the Proverbs way and literally everything went wrong. And he has no idea why. Now the irony is you and I actually do know why. Because it starts with this heavenly backstory where Satan and his angels are in heaven and they're saying to God, God, the only reason people serve you and worship you is because you give them all this stuff. And if you took the stuff away from them, they wouldn't worship you because you're not worthy to be worshiped in yourself. And God says, that's not true. I am worthy to be worshiped by myself without all the stuff. And Satan says, that's not true.

And he says, let's have a test case. Job. What happens if you take everything from Job?

Well, he still worship you for who you are, even if he doesn't have all the riches and stuff that you gave him. And that's what happens for 38 chapters in the book of Job. Now, the irony is Job never knew that.

Well, you and I know that. And see that book is in the Bible with Ecclesiastes and Proverbs saying, sometimes you're going to live with the wisdom of Proverbs and some things are going to happen and you're not going to know the meaning, but just because you can't see the meaning doesn't mean there isn't a meaning. And that sometimes there's a God in heaven who is pursuing these purposes that you can't see right now and you're not going to see until you get over the sun. In its own strange way, the writer of Ecclesiastes points you forward to Jesus. You look around at life and you say, is there no point?

Is there no justice? But then Jesus shows up in the New Testament and walks on water and says, I'm the judge of the earth and says, there is a point and there is justice and God has not forgotten you. You say, well, maybe we're just like the animals and our bodies are just going to rot one day like theirs do after we die. But Jesus's resurrection says, no, you mattered so much to me that I purchased your soul with my blood so that I could raise you up to eternal life with me so that in my presence you could experience the fullness of joy and at my right hand pleasures forevermore. We say, well, nothing I'm doing in life actually makes a difference. It's all heaven.

And Paul says, no, because of the resurrection, brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord because the resurrection shows you that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. And so the writer says, go back over the sun and fear God. Number two, he's going to tell us, enjoy every moment of life that you can. Enjoy every moment of life that you can. In one sense, you've got to embrace the absurdity, the randomness, the constantly changing chaos of life and just enjoy the moment.

This is so important, y'all. It's going to be repeated this whole idea more than six times throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. You'll never be able to guarantee success, absolute security, or perfect justice in this life.

You're going to have to wait for eternity for that. But in the meantime, in the meantime, God has created a good life with really good pleasures. Things like the beauties of nature and romance and food and friendship and good drink. So enjoy them when you can and enjoy them in the present and quit thinking about what you've lost in the past and quit trying to obtain for the future because the present is the place in which God gives joy. Some of you are so bothered by injustices or you're so consumed with the pursuit of more that you just can't enjoy the present. And that's the only place you can find joy. I can leave God with the future and I can know that one day he's going to take care of that and I can enjoy these moments I have with my family. I can enjoy this right now because in the present, in the absurdity of life is where God gives you the ability to enjoy things. So Solomon says, this is good for a man.

This is good for men. Eat well, drink a good glass of wine, accept your position in life, enjoy your work, whatever your job may be, for however long the Lord may let you live, live to the hilt every moment you've been given by God. Let's see, what's interesting, friendship is never spoken negatively of in Ecclesiastes, not one time. In other words, have good friends, enjoy your food, relish time with your wife and your kids if you have them, try to find some enjoyment in your work, live to the hilt every moment in front of you and stop romanticizing the past and stop yearning for the future. Enjoy today because today is the place that God gives joy and present and he just wants you to enjoy it.

Number three, number three, yes, I'm enjoying right now as well, thank you for that. Number three, seek a God that is greater than the heaven, seek a God that is greater than the heaven. Ecclesiastes 2 24, a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and enjoy their work. This too I see is from the hand of God because without him, who can eat and who can find enjoyment? Joy is a gift that God gives. It doesn't come automatically with riches or relationships. You say, well, who gets the gift? How do you get the gift?

Oh, great question. Verse 26, for the person who's pleasing in his sight, he gives wisdom and knowledge and joy. Okay, well, how do you become pleasing in his sight?

Oh, see, that's the really good news. The good news is that if you're a believer in Jesus, you were pleasing in his sight because the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth and he lived a life that was pleasing to God, the life that you were supposed to live. And then Jesus died on a cross suffering for all the things that you had done that displeased God and he put them away forever so that when you receive him, his perfect pleasing life becomes yours and you are pleasing to God because you are now in Christ.

You could almost think of it this way. Jesus lived the perfect Proverbs life and then he died the Ecclesiastes death. He entered into our Genesis 3 heaven and he lived under the futility and under the curse and he absorbed the curse and died for it so that I could now have the promises of a relationship with God who can say all things are going to work together for good in your life because I know you and I've got a purpose and I'm working all things according to the counsel of my will and I will never leave you or forsake you and surely goodness and mercy are going to follow you all the days of your life because Jesus absorbed the unpleasing things you're pleasing to me and I'll give you that gift if you ask for it. God has not given us an airtight philosophy of wisdom. He has not given us ironclad guarantees through the book of Proverbs. What he has given us is an airtight person to walk with and in whom we can hide during the vicissitudes of life. Jesus the wisdom of God who is our guarantee of our future inheritance.

Jesus who never changes who is the same yesterday today and forever. You see Ecclesiastes in its own strange way points you forward to Jesus. It leaves you yearning for Jesus. Ecclesiastes calls you to give up control of your life to the one you might not always be able to understand but whom you can forever trust. What an encouraging message on Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. We're in a teaching series called Full of Nothing and you can listen again or download the free transcript at Later this week we'll finish our teaching in the book of Ecclesiastes and with it we'll wrap up our theme of studying the Bible's wisdom literature for the past several weeks. One of the teaching series we shared was called Goodness in the Middle based on one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible and along with it we crafted our featured resource. It's also called Goodness in the Middle and it's a deep dive into Psalm 23 written by Pastor JD. There's two main questions that we ask as we study God's Word here at Summit Life.

What is God actually saying and then how does it apply to our life? We think this is an incredibly important study and there are only a few days left to get a hold of it so act quickly. We'll send you a copy with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. Simply call us at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or head to and as always thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you especially to our gospel partners for your generosity. Before we close let me remind you that if you aren't yet signed up for our email list you'll want to do that today. It is the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts and we'll also make sure that you never miss a new resource or series. It's quick and easy to sign up at I'm Molly Bidevich. Be sure to join us Wednesday as we continue our study in Ecclesiastes right here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-03 11:00:04 / 2023-10-03 11:11:10 / 11

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