What Is Your Identity?

Here is the progression for my talk tonight: The Man, The Experiment, The Lessons Learned 

The Man

Who is “the man?” Look down at 1:1, who wrote this book? Who is the preacher?  All signs point to the author being Solomon.

But who is THE man? Solomon is THE man!

I want you to imagine that Solomon is alive today and he just came out with a new book. Would Solomon be a guy that you would be interested in reading? Would you be interested to listen to what he had to say?

He was a king of a very prosperous, wealthy, powerful nation, which means he has more wealth and power than you and I will ever, ever, ever, ever, ever……ever have. He is extremely smart and well educated.  From the second he was born, had so many privileges and tutors who taught him about life. He would have been the most famous and well known person in the world.

This is not just some guy off the street.  In worldly matters he is so far beyond us in terms of education, wealth and power it is almost hard to believe. If all that weren’t enough he is writing this book inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Solomon is not just the man, he is THE MAN!

And he wants to teach us something very important and extremely relevant to our lives. I am contending that we should listen to what he has to say.

The Experiment

What is the experiment?

Drop down to 1:12-14. “I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven.”

Do you see what is going on here? Solomon just said he is going to use all his resources, power, influence and wisdom to seek out meaning in life.

It is like he is going at it like an experiment and his hypothesis is “If I search out everything there is to search out under the sun, then I will find out whether there is meaning in life.”

And that is exactly what he does. If you take some time and read this book from beginning to end you will see Solomon use all his wealth, power and wisdom, in order to find meaning in life. We could say he is trying to find his identity. What will give his life value and purpose? What will be satisfying and fulfilling?

That is the experiment.

The Lessons Learned

Now that brings us to “The Lessons Learned.” What did Solomon, THE MAN, learn from his little experiment?

Lesson # 1: We can’t find our identity in being really smart, having a lot of knowledge or wisdom. It’s a striving after the wind.

Look down at 1:16-18. “I said in my heart, “I have acquired greatwisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is butstriving after wind. 
 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

Solomon is not talking about wisdom of God and his word. He is talking about human knowledge, philosophy, religion, psychology, sociology, anything ending in ology, he knew science, history, rhetoric, you name it.

But what in the world does verse 17 mean when it says he applied his heart to know wisdom and to know folly and madness?

Let me just put it this way. I think it means he first went the intellectual route. He did scholarship. He got 5 different degrees and PHDs until he couldn’t get any more. Then he looked at some of the really crazy, dumb people and said to himself that looks appealing. So he went the simple-minded route.

Verse 16 basically says, “I became so smart that I pretty much became the smartest man Jerusalem has ever seen.”

Remember what happened when David died and Solomon became king, God offered Solomon anything he wanted.

What did Solomon ask for?  Wisdom.  He didn’t ask for wealth, he didn’t ask for power, he said, “I want wisdom.  I want to be the smartest man alive.”  And God, thought it was an honorable request and gave it to him.

You might think you are pretty smart. You might get really good grades. You might be that kid that always answers the questions right, but no matter how smart you get I promise you that in comparison to Solomon you are going to look like a dummy.

God literally made him the smartest and wisest man on the earth. Last time I checked God has not said that about any of you.

So if we will never even get close to Solomon’s wisdom and he says, that this too is a striving after the wind. Then why would we try and find meaning in our lives from school or wisdom or knowledge?

Solomon is trying to warn you. Go after it. It will be a worthless pursuit. All that will happen is that you will eventually become a really smart dead person who really never did anything with your life.

That is lesson # 1. We can’t find our identity in being really smart, having a lot of knowledge or wisdom. It’s a striving after the wind.

LESSON # 2: We can’t find our identity in partying and have fun. It’s meaningless.

Look down at 2:2-3. “I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

He tried out laughter and comedy, but in the end Solomon says it is madness. What use it?

He tried to cheer his body with wine. So, he drank, but he did not forget that it was all apart of his experiment to see if there is any good things for children of man or “men” as the NIV rightly puts it, the few short days we have on this earth.

Some of you might start thinking well then he probably held back. If he did not immerse himself into it, then he did not get the full effect. Or we could put it this way. “Well, Solomon may have partied, but did he PAR-TAY?”

You have to understand that when Solomon did something he did it in epic proportions that you and I would be foolish to think that we some how partied harder then he did.

Just listen to 1 Kings 4:22. “Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour…” (That’s 220 liters for those of you who like the metric system) “…thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl” or chickens, little yard birds.”

This was the provisions for a feast for one day! Commentators say that the daily provisions for one day at Solomon’s palace could feed anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people.

Now there is no record for how long he went on with these feasts, but we do know that any party Solomon put on would put anything you or I do to shame.

But eventually he got tired of it. It got lame so he moved on. We can’t find our identity in partying and have fun. It’s meaningless.Which bring us to lesson # 3.

LESSON # 3: We can’t find our identity in materialism. It’s all vanity!

Look down at 2:4-7: I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. “I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces.”

Solomon built stuff. It says he made great works. That is an understatement. He made magnificent works. You will never ever ever, ever have houses like Solomon had houses.

Let me put things in perspective for you. First, you need to know that 1 Kings 6-10 is where all this is coming from and it has the records of Solomon’s wealth and building projects in more detail and I could go there and we could spend time there, but I for sake of time. Let me just point a couple things out.

Now, it took 7 years to build Solomon’s temple. It was extremely ornate and it became one of the ancient wonders of the world. This thing was amazing. When the Jews came back from exile and tried to rebuild Solomon’s temple. Ezra says the old people who saw the temple in its former glory started weeping out loud because the new temple was nothing in comparison. The temple was something else.

With that in mind. It took Solomon 14 years to build his house, but not only does he build his house. He builds houses for each of his wives. Which is an event in itself.

Notice the terminology that he uses in Eccl. 2. He made vineyards. He made gardens and parks. Then he planted all kinds of trees that needed these huge cavernous holes to water all the trees. By the way, these craters are still visible today if you go south west of Jerusalem. You will come to a place called “The Pools of Solomon.”

Do you think the progression of Solomon’s experiment looks a little bit too familiar?

He began with knowledge and schooling and became really really smart. Then there is pleasure and parties and lots of wine. Then he woke up to the real world and started to work with his hands and build. He built and built and built until it couldn’t get any bigger. What is left to do after you work so hard? Anyone following me? (Retirement and the enjoyment of stuff.)

It seems like you could almost call Solomon’s experiment: “The Average American Dream.”

Go to school and get smart. Then you become a young adult and party hard. Then you grow up a little and get a job and become obsessed with making tons of money so you can retire early and enjoy all that you accumulated. Right? Isn’t that what Solomon does here?

He bought males and female slaves and had slaves who were born in my house.

He had servants and then his servants had kids and now their kids became servants. I had slaves and slaves of slaves and the servants of the slaves of the slaves’ slaves. He did nothing. He sat around and got served and waited on. He just enjoyed all his possessions, which he had a few of…

I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces.

I had more herds and flocks than any man who has gone before me. I had silver, gold and treasures of entire provinces. Solomon was really really really wealthy.

So, get the right perspective here. You may have a nice house now that you grew up in or you may one day have a really nice house. But Solomon made forests and national parks. It is just on a completely different level that you and I will never be at in terms of wealth and land and resources.

And so what his point? You can’t find meaning in materialism. Stop chasing after wealth. You are just going to die and give it away to some spoiled rich kid of yours who will go off and waste away on stupid junk.

We can’t find our identity in materialism. It’s all vanity!

LESSON # 4: We can’t find our identity in marriage, sex, or any relationships with the opposite sex. This is the vanity of vanities!

Look at the end of 2:7: I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man.”

If you know Solomon what he was infamous for?

Now this is a bit spicy!

Some think in this passage Solomon is talking about singers and music. The NKJV translates this verse: “I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.”

The NASB and ESV translate musical instruments as concubines and the NIV translates it as….? (Harem) Most translations including the NIV has a footnote at the bottom and what does it say?

We should not be too dogmatic about this, but in the context of Solomon’s life, the chapter as a whole and this specific verse. I think we should at least translate “musical instruments” as some sort of concubine or herem.

So I think we should understand this verse as literal singers and then women for sex because of the phrase at the end of the verse. This phrase “the delight of the children of man” just simply means whatever men take pleasure in.

What do men take pleasure in? SEX. WOMEN. I am not trying to be crass. I am just stating the obvious. Men love sex and many are addicted to it.

And just like everything else Solomon has done in this life experiment he goes big with the women. Anyone remember what 1 Kings 11:3 said about how many wives and concubines he had? (700 wives and 300 concubines)

In other words, Solomon had uninhibited sexuality. He had any women he could have dreamed of every shape, size, hair color, eye color, personality, you name it. He ran out of sexual fantasies.

We can’t find our identity in marriage, sex, or any relationships with the opposite sex. This is the vanity of vanities!

LESSON # 5: You can’t find your identity in being really great or popular or having everyone like you.

Go to 2:9: “So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.”

What do you think would happen if you have tons and tons of money. Throw enormous parties, had all the women you could ever want. Slaves waiting on you all day long. What is the result? (You are popular.)

This guy was popular. Everyone liked him. Everyone wants to be liked. Who doesn’t want to be liked?

We want people to think we look great. We want people to think we are great. We want to make a great name for ourselves and do something great so that we die and have nobody remember us.

At best we get a statue of ourselves made for us. You can’t find your identity in being really great or popular or having everyone like you.

All was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Lesson # 6: You can find meaning and your identity if you find the fear of the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 “The end of the matter; all has been hear. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Now this verse does not help very much because most of you hear that and you hear the word fear and you think frightened.

But in the Bible the fear of God means joyful, astonished, awe and wonder before him.

This is why Psalm 130:4 says, “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

In other words, because you forgive me I fear you.

Did you hear that? Until you understand this verse and what it means about the fear of God then you are not going to understand what the bible is saying about the fear of the Lord.

You need to be melted with joyful wonder and awe before Him, particularly by the way he died for you. Until you see that you find life in him you will keep trying to find your meaning and identity in something else.

Until you see that he was treated as fool so that you could be given access to the God of all wisdom you will still try to find your identity in school and education and being smart.

Until you see that he suffered the greatest of physical pain so that you could be given eternal pleasure forevermore you will keep trying to find your identity in fleeting pleasures like partying.

Until you see that he became poor so that you could be given all that you ever need. So that you could be eternally rich you will continue to try and find your identity in money and materialism.

Until you see that he left the perfect fellowship of the father and was forsaken by him on the cross so that you and I could know the greatest intimacy ever known. Until we know that we are going to keep searching for meaning in our lives from sex, marriage, relationships, etc…

And until you see that the God of the universe became a nobody, a baby in a manger born of peasant, farming mother and a poor carpenter father. A bastard child. A nobody so that you could know GOD! You know God! Until you see that you are known by God and that melts you heart you are going to keep looking for fame and the approval of other to bring meaning and identity in your life.

Don’t you see how this changes everything? Don’t you see how the fear of Christ and joyful wonder of Christ will give you the greatest meaning and greatest identity?


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Filed under Campus Outreach, Ecclesiastes, Sermons

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