Robert Lewis on Ecclesiastes chapter 1


Sermon by Robert Lewis while pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock.

I want you to take your Bible and turn to the Book of Ecclesiastes. Of all the questions one could ask, the most perplexing, most unsettling, and yet most pertinent questions are the philosophical, such as WHO AM I? WHY AM I HERE? WHERE AM I GOING? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIFE? WHAT IS MY ULTIMATE DESTINY?

“What is the meaning of Life?” Shalom Aleichem “Life is  a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that.”

In I Kings 3 God tells Solomon ask what you will and I will give it to you! Solomon asked for wisdom and led Israel to unrivaled greatness.

1 Kings 3:5-15English Standard Version (ESV)

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked,both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Solomon led Israel to unrivaled greatness. For the nation of Israel politically, economically, and intellectually, Solomon’s reign was the fullness of time, but unfortunately the wisdom that led Solomon to the fullness of time also led him astray from God. As the old saying goes “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It was the same for wisdom in Solomon’s case. It is sad to say but the wisdom that Solomon used to serve God became a self-serving the latter years of his life became a life that spiraled downward in all kinds of dead-end pursuits as he tried to grab life apart from God and it didn’t work.  

So he experimented with false gods. He intermarried with pagan wives and blended his culture with the pagan wives and blended his culture with the pagan nations around them and Israel lost her uniqueness.

Solomon indulged his flesh to the full to the extremes and he ruined the unique nation his wisdom had built and when he died that nation crumbled into two warring factions. That was the legacy he ultimately left. There is no record that Solomon ever repented in his later life except for this Book of Ecclesiastes. The book is a public record for all to see all the many vain pursuits of Solomon’s life. At the end of the book it becomes his public pronouncement that there is no life apart from abiding with God. Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s white flag of surrender to God. A public acknowledgement for all to see of life’s vain pursuits and the humble re-recognition by the smartest man who ever lived that life without God is in fact no life at all. Eccl 4:13 “Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king…”


The theme of Ecclesiastes is VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY! (Eccl 1:2). This is mentioned 38 times in Ecclesiastes. It is all vain this life UNDER THE SUN.

The content of the book is his research that he has done or experimentation he has been involved with to support that thesis that all is vanity. So the book is a collection of personal tests and observations that Solomon has been involved with throughout his life and now looking back over his life he wants to help you understand how he came to that theme he gave in the beginning. For instance, Ecclesiastes 2:1  I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” For Solomon that means all pleasure as much of it in every facet he could participate in. He is going to extract us many do today but really with the resources Solomon had at his command, the pleasures of life, and does it hold meaning?

So look what follows. Here is how he explored pleasure in Ecclesiastes 1:3 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.

Explored it with his mind, how to stimulate his body with wine. Let’s drink!!! Let’s really drink!!!!! Or it is material things

Ecclesiastes 1:4-10:

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. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines,[b] the delight of the sons of man.

9 So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

Solomon said that he became great and explored it all. Solomon said, “whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…” And what did find it that extreme pursuit of life? v 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.


Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[d] every secret thing, whether good or evil.


Solomon opens Ecclesiastes addressing 3 sound bites that are commonly believed and he answers them with what I call a  PROZAC ANNOUNCEMENT because you need an antidepressant drug like Prozac because you want to be depressed at what he says about life UNDER THE SUN.

The first of these deals with the quality of life.


Luke 18

v 18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” v 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.

You see “goodness” is a term that can’t be substantiated philosophically by this world. It can only be  substantiated in the higher realm by God. Take a Prozac because life is full of pain, tragedy and upheaval and people live for the lust of their eyes, pride of life which is all passing away when the sun burns out. Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of Vanities. All is Vanity.

If you eliminate God from the equation and think about it for  a while and it becomes the theater of the absurd and meaningless. That is why Carl Sandburg, the great american poet said, “Life is like peeling an onion. The more you peel the more you want to cry.”

I like what the English poet Mathew Arnold wrote in RUGBY CHAPEL:

Striving blindly, achieving
Nothing; and then they die—
Life is not good, not in the ultimate sense UNDER THE SUN.
If you think about life you will see that life in monotonous.
Ecclesiastes 1:3-8English Standard Version (ESV)

What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens[a] to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it…

This life is not evolving like people want us to believe. Life is if you are really a sociologist, or historian or an archaeologist is revolving over and over again in circular patterns. Elton John was right in the LION KING when he sang THE CIRCLE OF LIFE.

You build your kingdom. You become dust. You are forgotten and it starts all over again. In all man has done and worked for what has changed? Just the toys!!!

Man’s pursuits, passions, faults and his end all remain the same.


Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already
    in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,[a]
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things[b] yet to be
    among those who come after.

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