Grasping for the Wind

Series: Under the Sun: The Book of Ecclesiastes

Grasping for the Wind

July 19, 2020 | John Ewart

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:3-18

Have you watched commercials for exercise equipment lately? Maybe you own one
of these things. Equipment like your Peloton bike or Nordic Trak treadmills, a
whole array of exercise machines you get on, connect online, and exercise to a
recorded or live class or virtual experience. You can appear to ride your bike up
mountains, run through great cities, or row across beautiful lakes, but in the end,
you actually go…. nowhere. In fact, going nowhere is part of their design. The
point is to expend as much energy as possible, for as long as possible, while you are
going nowhere. A quick reality check shows you are right where you started.
In Ecclesiastes 1 Solomon struggles with the same conclusion about life.
Life is pointless Solomon argued, because it’s always moving around and around in
circles but actually going, nowhere.
I could break out into a pretty fantastic rendition of the Lion King’s, Circle of Life
song, but will spare us all for the sake of time and online copyright law.
But if life is only part of a great circle, over which we have no control, is life even
worth living?
Solomon dared to ask that question.
And if it is, why?
That’s the bigger question isn’t it, not just how to live? But why?
If we answer the why we will answer the how.
Why work so hard at this thing called life?
Why strive with any level of passion and effort for the things we seem to seek?
Kids ask, “Are we there yet?” Well, are you?
Ecclesiastes 1:3-7
3 What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides
forever. 5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where
it arose. 6 The wind goes toward the south and turns around to the north; the wind
whirls about continually and comes again on its circuit. 7 All the rivers run into the
sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they
return again.
I. The Searching of Our Hearts
Solomon begins by asking a question to drive home his point.
He is searching, longing, seeking, the meaning of it all.
He arrives at the wrong answers because he limited this search to “under the sun”.

He observes the cycles of life and nature all around him and saw them as never-
ending, never-changing monotony.
People come and go. We are born. We die. Others are born. They die.
People and nature come and go but life stays the same.
The earth keeps spinning and life keeps moving ahead whether we are ready for it or
think it should.
I have often shared with folks during times of crisis or times in which they have lost
loved ones and part of that which they must struggle is the hurtful fact that even
though their dear one is gone or sick or hurting, the world just keeps on moving and
running ahead without them.
It can be painful and cause despair.
Do you all not realize what I am going through?
You just keep pressing forward and expect me to hop back on and stay on the
carousel ride!
The King is also in despair it seems.
He searches as he studies the cycles of nature around him.
Solomon was known to have been a student of nature.
I Kings 4:30, 33
30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all
the wisdom of Egypt.
33 Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that
springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and
of fish.
These were not simply fleeting or flippant observations but a careful study.
Remember he had the resources and the ability as King.
Images from creation showed him these repetitive cycles that seemed so meaningless.
When God created, He put purpose and meaning into His creation.
That includes when He created each of you too by the way!
But sin brought futility and the lack of understanding and satisfaction.
Solomon sees the sun hastening, literally panting, its way across the sky day after
day in exactly the same way.
To what purpose is all this motion and heat?
One day is just like the next.
Why? Because Solomon is seeing only as far as the sun and not beyond it!
That’s what an “under the sun” perspective will always see.
Earth-bound vision results in earth-bound visions.
In stark contrast, the prophet Jeremiah, saw something quite different with the rising

He testifies that even the rising of the sun reminds him of his faithful Lord.
This should remind you of an old hymn:
Lamentations 3:23
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail
not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
Jeremiah found satisfaction because he saw above the sun! He understood the
meaning behind it.
Solomon, on the other hand, sees the winds blowing in circles and the sea never
filling no matter how much water flows into it.
The rivers gush into it but the water level does not change.
All of this energy, all of this motion and effort, yet nothing changes and nothing
meaningful happens, according to the King in Jerusalem.
Solomon sees it all as monotony and is not satisfied.
Perhaps life seems this way to you also, especially during these difficult days.
Hang in there, the story is not over yet.
Solomon moves from nature to more of the human experience:
Ecclesiastes 1:8-11
8 All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with
seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 That which has been is what will be,
that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been
in ancient times before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will
there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.
Solomon searches the past, present, and future and compares them.
They all bring a sense of labor or exhaustion.
The things we experience in the present through our physical senses are not enough.
We can never say enough words to express it, see enough sights to capture it or hear
enough sounds to master it.
You can spend all day in front of your little screens posting, retweeting, searching
and surfing, but you will never be satisfied.
In fact, the addictive cycle of FOMO or the Fear Of Missing Out, can take all of your
energy God might desire for some real purpose.
You will actually be less present and engaged.

What we search for is not satisfying, and just brings another question mark.
There will never be enough followers, likes, money, gadgets, gossip, opinions, or
stuff to fulfill your purpose.
This is true if you live and look “under the sun” and leave God out as the primary
focus of your life!
Solomon searches the past and asks, “Is there anything new?”
You have heard the expression, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Whatever is new is simply a recombination of the old he says.
Now, of course he is speaking of how we live our lives and not necessarily whether
the chariot he had was better than his daddy’s chariot.
So, you might argue for new and say wait a minute, what about all the new
technology or advances in medicine over the years we have seen for example?
I understand the question.
Thomas Alva Edison, one of the world’s greatest inventors, said that his
inventions were only “bringing out the secrets of nature and applying them for the
happiness of mankind”.
Again, Solomon is speaking about the “why” of life.
What is the purpose behind why we live our lives?
What are the actions and attitudes that drive us?
But even then, we sometimes think things are new because we have bad memories
and we didn’t read the minutes from the previous meeting.
Often, the people who really think they have seen something new are those have
limited experience or whose vision can’t penetrate beneath the surface.
I have worked with people who suffer from, “My knowledge is all knowledge and
my ignorance is all ignorance.”
They are convinced they are so knowledgeable, that they must already know
everything, so if they do not know it, there is no way anyone else would either.
Because something is recent, they think it is new, they mistake novelty for
Solomon is basically pointing out that we are still the same bunch of sinners living in
the same fallen creation we have always been.
No one will be remembered. Not for long at least. Not here anyway.
Our hearts are not satisfied by the things “under the sun”.
John MacArthur writes about these verses: The key to understanding this
seeming pessimistic view of life is to understand that the only lasting human efforts
are those designed to accomplish God’s purposes for eternity. Without an eternal

perspective and purpose, then all of life, viewed in a multi-generational sense, is
futile and without purpose.
Our hearts continue to search.
But the story has not ended yet. It continues…
Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my heart to seek
and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this
burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be
exercised. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed,
all is vanity and grasping for the wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
And what is lacking cannot be numbered. 16 I communed with my heart, saying,
“Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were
before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and
knowledge.” 17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I
perceived that this also is grasping for the wind. 18 For in much wisdom is much
grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
II. The Setting of Our Hearts
V. 12 gives us a hint that we are later in his life and he is looking back over his reign
as the King in Jerusalem. .
He set his heart to seek and search out by wisdom in v. 13.
In v. 17 he set his heart to know.
The wording behind our English translation to set refers to diligently committing, to
completely giving, to applying wholeheartedly, a devoted focus.
This was a serious search!
As the powerful and wealthy King that he was, he had all the resources necessary for
experimenting with different solutions to see what it was that made life worth living.
He is thorough in his work.
How diligently are you seeking the purposes of God for your life?
Is this your primary search or are you divided in your diligence?
The Hebrew word for Seek means to investigate the roots of a matter, to search out;
to examine all sides.
No limitations, no reservations.
He wanted to know the real truth!
Do you?
by wisdom = as the wisest man to ever live, Solomon is setting his heart to search this
burdensome task called life!

Life is tough but it is also a gift.
A gift of the very grace of God.
God promised us life would have trials and storms and challenges.
Life simply pursued under the sun is incomplete and does not possess all we need in
order to properly deal with the burdens of life.
It is not equipped to help us satisfy our created purpose.
The understanding of that purpose, of that satisfaction, comes only as we set our
hearts properly.
We will need more.
We will need help from above the sun.

Think of the Robin: Since early dawn that bird does nothing but try to survive. She
wears herself out hiding from enemies, looking for food and feeding the little ones.
And yet when she gets to the end of the day, she sings about it!
Here we are, created in the image of God, saved by the grace of God, indwelled with
the Spirit of God, and we often complain about even the smallest annoyances of life.
One day I will be more like the Lord Jesus, for that reason alone, I should be singing
God’s praises.
If we only seek to live under the sun, if we set our hearts to search for and explore
only the things of this life, we are trying to grasp or chase after, the wind.
Your heartset matters!
Your own knowledge, your own wisdom and experience will not be enough to solve
every problem and provide every answer.
Remember, Solomon was a true wise guy!
I Kings 4:30-32
30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all
the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite,
and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the
surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one
thousand and five.
To give you perspective, the book of Proverbs has about 900 proverbs.
Solomon could have said, “I am the smartest guy in the room, in the world. If I
cannot solve this problem, neither can you, no one can.”
Solomon even set his heart on madness and folly which means the absurd, the
opposite of wisdom, it can even mean boastful arrogance.
They are sin.

He tried the wise ways and the wrong ways.
Listen to Solomon: He’s been there. He stopped at nothing. He gave it his best shot.
In the end, heed his warning!
I was merely chasing the wind, grasping for the breeze.
His heart was on the wrong setting.
Like plugging a 120 device into a 220 plug overseas. It does not work!
What did Solomon need to change his heartset?
What do we need?

III. The Salvation of Our Hearts
Let’s revisit three verses:
Ecclesiastes 1:3, 9, 14
3 What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity
and grasping for the wind.
As I stated earlier, we will need help from above the sun.
The only way to discover the true why of life is through a relationship with the
Creator of life Himself, the living God.
Most folks have their heads so firmly riveted to the here and now they ignore that
which is above, even call such thoughts as foolish.
I Corinthians 1:18-
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to
us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the
wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has
not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God,
the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the
foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request
a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews

a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both
Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the
foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than
men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the
foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak
things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base
things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the
things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should
glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us
wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that,
as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
So, just go ahead and call me a fool because I preach Christ crucified!
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, even more wise than the internet,
investigated everything visible.
In the end, the one thing he needed was the invisible faith relationship he once had
with God that somehow had been blurred by life and bad choices.
Today, the only way you too will find satisfaction, is by believing in the invisible.
Only the Lord who came into the world from above the sun, can make something
truly new under the sun.
New in substance and quality. New in understanding and purpose.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed
away; behold, all things have become new.
He has created a new covenant, a new life and even a new reason why.
In the end, newness will carry the day.
Revelation 21:5
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He
said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
All the old things will pass away.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote: Life is a dirty trick, a short journey from
nothingness to nothingness.
Instead, I believe I will set my heart upon the truth…

Augustine Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest
in Thee.
As one commentator wrote: “The eye cannot be satisfied until it sees the hand of God
and the ear cannot be satisfied until it hears the voice of God.”
Solomon warned life is pointless. God promises life is full of purpose.
Solomon looked at life and declared it boring and meaningless.
Paul looked at life through heaven’s eyes and shared:
Philippians 3:8
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count
them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
He summed up everything he had achieved under the sun, his Roman citizen, his fine
education, his status as a Pharisee. He had accomplished it all.
And he calls it all dung in comparison to life above the sun.
Listen to Augustine again. This is a tricky quote:
He who has God has everything. He who does not have God has nothing. He who
has God and everything has no more than he who has God and nothing.
Above the sun living is different! The things of earth will indeed grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.
Are you on a treadmill staring at empty images, spending all your energy going
Reach above the sun and above this life for meaning and when you do, you will
conclude what God has shown us from the beginning: you have a why.
Set your heart to search out the things of Christ.
Diligently pursue your discipleship and the discipleship of others.
Set your heart upon His Word and serving through His church.
You ready to live above the sun?
Or, will you simply chase after and grasp for the wind?

Series Information

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