The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker


Lesson 7
VEXATION OF SPIRIT

Text: ECCLESIASTES 6


INTRODUCTION:

  1. We have seen in our study of the book of Ecclesiastes that wealth and prosperity are not always a blessing.  In fact, they are often a curse (cf. 5:13).
  2. In chapter 6, King Solomon continues with this theme – the futility of life “under the sun” (6:1, 12).
  3. Life without God is “vanity” (6:2, 4, 11). “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (1:2).
  4. It is all “vanity and vexation of spirit” (6:9).
  5. The word “vexation,” which means to be annoyed or irritated, is found 14 times in the Bible (all in the OT), and of that 14, 10 are found in the book of Ecclesiastes.
  6. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 1:14; cf. 1:17; 2:11, 17, 22, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9).
  7. Someone has described this futility – this vexation – as “carrying water in a sieve” (Wiersbe).

 

I. WEALTH WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY

II. A LONG LIFE WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY

III. LABOR WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY

 

I. WEALTH WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY (6:1).

  1. There is an “evil” (misfortune) which I have seen under the sun…” (6:1).
  2. “And it is common among men,” i.e., among the sons of Adam, those under the curse.
  3. This “evil” is described in verse 2 – there are men who make a lot of money but they find no satisfaction in it (cf. 5:10).
  4. In fact, they often die before they get to enjoy it, and a “stranger eateth (enjoys) it” (Eccl. 6:2).  Perhaps this man (6:2) had no heir.
  5. This reminds us of what God said to the rich fool in Luke 12:20, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
  6. “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
  7. Wealth and prosperity without the God-given ability to enjoy it is “an evil disease” (6:2b).

 

II. A LONG LIFE WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY (6:6).

  1. The Jews considered a large family and a long life signs of God’s blessing. Ecclesiastes 6:6 is hypothetical because no one can live for 2,000 years. (Methuselah lived to be 969.)
  2. But Solomon points out that even a large family (6:3) and a long life are not really blessings if God is not acknowledged as the one who has given these blessings (cf. 5:18-20).
  3. It is difficult to imagine a man with 100 children not getting a proper burial, but the point King Solomon is making is that it would be better not to have been born than to live and die like that (6:3-6).
  4. We are reminded of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah. Josiah was a good king but his son Jehoiakim was a wicked king. Jeremiah 22:19, 19 says, “They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

 

III. LABOR WITHOUT GOD IS VANITY (6:7-9).

  1. King Solomon has already taught this (cf. 2:11).
  2. In his commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, Merrill Unger draws ten conclusions from Ecclesiastes 6:7-12:

(1)   Man must realize that he cannot be satisfied by the temporal and the material (6:7).  The more men earn, the more they crave. This is what our Lord meant in Matthew 4:4, when he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3.  “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

(2)   Man must realize he cannot be satisfied by the mental and the intellectual apart from God any more than the physical (6:8a; cf. 2:15-17).   

(3)   Man must realize that a man’s life does not consist in the things he possesses (6:8b).  Our Lord said in Luke 12:15, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

(4)   Man must realize the rationality of enjoying what he has rather than grabbing greedily for more (6:9).  There are many familiar sayings, “The grass is always greener on the other side…A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, etc.”  The apostle Paul wrote, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

(5)   Man must realize that his lot in life is God-appointed, unalterable, and to be acquiesced to cheerfully – “That which hath been is named already” (6:10a).  God is in control.  Ephesians 1:11 says God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

(6)   Man must realize that he is but a man, no matter what attainments or position he may achieve – “and it is known that it is man” (6:10b).  David wrote, “Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men” (Psalm 9:20).

(7)   Man must realize that as a mere creature he cannot strive with divine Providence (6:10c).  It is foolish to fight God.

(8)   In light of the utter futility of living in a vain world, man may well inquire what profit and outcome there are for him (6:11).  “The longer man argues, the more he multiplies futility, and he gains nothing in the process” (William MacDonald, Enjoying Ecclesiastes).

(9)   Man must realize the severe limitations of human wisdom as a guide in living life as it should be lived (6:12a).

(10)   Man must realize the uncertainty of all life “under the sun” (6:12b).  Only God knows the future, so we must trust Him.

 

CONCLUSION:

“How impressive throughout Ecclesiastes is the evidence that, while Solomon the prodigal is doing his utmost to prove that life is futile and not worth living, the Holy Spirit is using him to show that these conclusions are the tragic effect of living ‘under the sun’ – ignoring the Lord…yet face to face with the mysteries of life and nature!” (Unger’s Commentary on the OT).



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