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This is not a word we often use, but it fits what Solomon does for us as no

other word does. Quintessence means the essential principle of anything in

its most concentrated form. Quint, as we know, means 5, and so

quintessence means the 5th essence of something. This only makes sense

when we go back to the history of philosophy, and to the time when men

said the 4 elements of all reality are earth, air, fire, and water. These were

the 4 essences-the 4 essentials. These represent everything under the sun.

But for those who recognize a higher reality, such as the celestial or

heavenly, there was a 5th essence. The quintessence of anything is what it

is from the heavenly or ultimate perspective. That is precisely where

Solomon finally comes to in his search for the meaning of life. He could not

find it anywhere under the sun, but he did find it when he looked beyond

the sun to the God who made the sun and all creation. He gives us the

meaning of life in a nutshell in the last two verses of this book. “Here is the

conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is

whole duty of man, for God will bring every deed into judgement, including

every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

You may not see it at first, but his conclusion is the very essence of both the

Old and New Testament. Solomon was one of the wisest men whoever lived

after all, for by his wisdom he was able to sum up the meaning of life with

these two principles-relationship and responsibility. Relationship to God by

fearing Him and obeying Him, and responsibility to man, for you will be

judged for everything you do as to its good or evil.

This is indeed the quintessence of the heavenly perspective, for that is what

the Ten Commandments are all about. They are about relating to God as

the supreme Person in your life, and secondly of being responsible in your

relationships to your fellowmen. Jesus sums up the whole law with these

two great commandments: To love God with your whole being, and to love

your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said it simpler and clearer, but the fact is,

Solomon’s conclusion is the same, for to love God is to fear and obey Him,

and to love your neighbor as yourself is to recognize you will be held

accountable for the good or evil you do in their lives, and so you must live

responsibly.

If one truly keeps the first table of the law and makes God supreme, he

will keep the second table and live responsibly toward his neighbor. If a

man truly prays the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be thy name,

thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then he will

truly mean the second part, “Forgive us as we forgive others, and lead us

not into temptation.” If one keeps the first commandment to love God, he

will follow through on the golden rule and do unto others as he would have

them do unto him.

Solomon’s quintessence of life’s meaning is the same as all the rest of the

Bible. It is found in an obedient relationship to God. Life under the sun only

has meaning when there is a link to that which is above the sun. Augustine

said it in a sentence-“Our souls are restless till they find rest in Thee.” A. J.

Cronin put it in a paragraph: “There comes a moment when man wearies of

the things he has won; when he suspects with bewilderment and dismay

that there is another purpose, some profound and eternal purpose, in his

being. It is then that he discovers that beyond the kingdom of the world  t

here exists a kingdom of the soul.”

Solomon took a terribly twisted road to get their, but he did finally learn

that life only has meaning in relationship to God. This means that life

without God really is meaningless. They ultimate in meaninglessness is to

be without God and hope in the world. Will Durant in his book On The

Meaning Of Life was biblically accurate when he wrote, “The greatest

question of our time is not communism verses individualism, not Europe

verses America, not ever East verses West; it is whether man can bear to

live without God. The answer of Solomon is, no, men cannot bear it, for

everything minus God equals nothing, and men cannot live in a universe

without meaning, for his very nature, which is made by God, demands it.

Man has no alternative for he needs God to give meaning to life, and

nothing else will satisfy that need.

What this means then is that much of life is meaningless because it is life

without God. Solomon is not out of line at all by his pessimistic cry of vanity,

vanity, all is meaningless. Life under the sun that has no link to God above

the sun is, in fact, a life with no ultimate meaning. The despair of the man

without God is not superficial, but it is reality. Meaninglessness is a major

malady of our time because modern man is trying the same experiments

that Solomon did. They are trying to find life’s meaning in everything but

God, and they are learning the hard way, just as Solomon did, that all is an

empty world without God.

Solomon is not all wet, but he is telling it like it is, all of the philosophers

who seek for meaning without God tend to come to the same conclusion

that life is futile search in a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there. The

paradox of meaninglessness is that it explains so many things about life. If

everything has meaning, and every event and tragedy, and all brutal evil

and mindless folly are a part of some plan, then the mystery is indeed mind

boggling. If a man’s dashing into a McDonald’s and killing innocent people

by the dozens is meaningful, then we really have a problem. But if the

meaningless is real, then the problem is solved, for it is meaningless. You

don’t need to find a meaning for the meaningless, for by definition it doesn’t

have any.

This explains why the world is so full of things that do not make sense.

What else can you expect in a world where people reject the only way to

meaning? They reject God and Christ, who is the only way to God, and the

only alternative is the way of meaninglessness. They rob and kill helpless

old ladies; they rape and kill helpless young children, or do they a million

and one other less violent things, but equally meaningless. It is not part of

a plan. It is pure folly and rebellion against the plan of God. It is not part of

a puzzle, but is meaningless.

The more you grasp the reality of what Solomon is saying, the more you

realize that Ecclesiastes is a powerful introduction to the Gospel. It is the

darkness that makes the light of hope so glorious. Until men see the reality

of the meaningless they will never seek God and ultimate meaning, for they

will always be convinced they can find meaning without submission to God.

Solomon says it can’t be done, but they do not know it yet, and refuse to

learn from him, but keep trying the same failed experiments that he did.

Jesus confirms the pessimistic truth of Solomon. Jesus said, “What shall

it profit a man if he gained the whole world but lose his own soul?” That is

Eccles. 1 and 2 in a nutshell. Jesus says that if a man gains everything life

can offer under the sun, but has not been saved by coming into a loving

relationship to God, that man’s life is of no profit; it is empty; it is

meaningless. His life might just as well have been spent throwing pebbles

into the ocean, for the end result will be the same-nothing.

So often Christians resent the truth of Solomon, or they just flatly reject it.

Many who say they believe the Bible from cover to cover are not honest, for

they do not believe in meaninglessness. They do not see the powerful

positive purpose of pessimism. They say of all tragedy that some day we will

understand, as if it is really a meaningful part of some master plan. Solomon

says, and Jesus confirms it, you don’t have to wait to understand many of

the mysteries of life. You can know all there is to know about them right

now, and that is that they are meaningless. They don’t fit now, and they

never will, for they are not a part of God’s plan. They are the consequences

of the rejection of His plan.

When God says thou shalt not murder, and a man does it anyway, that is

not a part of God’s plan, but a rejection of it, and the result is a meaningless

loss of life. Can anyone believe that the millions of babies conceived by

immoral sex and then killed by abortion is meaningful? Neither the

beginning nor the end are a part of God’s plan, and so the whole of it is

meaningless. The world is filled with illustrations of what is not a part of

God’s plan.

If you are expecting that in heaven we will be able to take the mindless

massacre of millions of Jews by Hitler and fit it into a logical and sensible

picture, as if it was all planned by God, you are ignoring the clear revelation

of God. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. A kingdom divided

against itself cannot stand said Jesus. God is not on both sides of good and

evil. Evil will be eliminated precisely because it is meaningless, and it can

never fit into the ultimate plan of God.

Just as it is foolish to try to make the impossible possible, so it is foolish to

try and make the meaningless meaningful. So what do we do if we are wise

and accept the wisdom of Solomon? We accept the reality of the

meaningless. When we do we can experience the paradox of the meaning

of the meaningless. That’s right! Even the meaningless has meaning to

those who have found the ultimate meaning in relationship to God.

Going into the ditch is meaningless usually, but not always, for sometimes

it is a necessity to save your life. As a way of life and pattern of driving,

however, I think we can all agree it would be meaningless to drive down

into the ditch. But because it is meaningless we are motivated to avoid

doing it.

The meaningless helps us better define the meaningful. Being burned is not

as meaningful as not being burned, and so we avoid being burned. Being

sick is not as meaningful as being well, and so we seek health and avoid

sickness. If it was just as meaningful to drive in the ditch as on the road,

there would be no good reason to choose one over the other. The negative

makes the positive all the more positive, and the meaningless makes the

meaningful all the more so.

So if all of life is meaningful, and all life styles and philosophies are

meaningful, then there is no good reason to choose one over the other. All

roads, including the ditches, lead to the same place, and so if you choose

Naturalism, Humanism, Communism, or Hedonism, or any of the ways

Solomon chose to find meaning, you are always on the right road, for all is

good. If there is no distinction between the meaningful and meaningless,

you have no right to judge any road as of less value then another.

But if Solomon is right, and meaningless is real, and all roads that leave

out a relationship to God are dead ends, then man is left with only one

major choice: The way of meaning with God, or the ways of

meaninglessness without Him. Sometimes we are Christians want to have

our cake and eat it too. We want Christ to be the only way to God, and the

only way to life with meaning, but we also want everything else in life to

have meaning. It can when it is incorporated into our relationship to Christ,

but so much of life is not. We must stop being superficial and accept the

truth of Ecclesiastes, that much of life is meaningless. In fact, all of it is

meaningless that is the result of the choices of men that are contrary to the

will of God. Even good and innocent things are meaningless when they are

cut off from God, for they have no ultimate value.

Is this suppose to be good news? Yes it is, for it makes life very simple so

that one does not need to be a philosopher to understand it. You do not

need to be wealthy and powerful like Solomon to get in on the meaning of

life, for the way to meaning is available to all, for it has nothing to do with

power, possession, or pleasure. It is in a relationship to a Person-the

Person of God, revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ. When that relationship is

the center of your life, and all else revolves around it, your life and all of it

events have a basis for meaning. But even the Christian can get out of

fellowship and do what is not God’s will, and that will lead to what is

meaningless. Jesus said that without him we can do nothing. We can do

much without Him, but the point is it will be meaningless, for it will have no

ultimate relevance to the purpose of God. When the Christian decides to

disobey the known will of God and do what is evil, it will be meaningless and

of no value for the kingdom of God, or for them as individuals. It is a going

into the ditch, and so we need to repent and that means getting back onto  t

he road that leads to meaning in all that we do.

The Bible rejects the idea that all is meaningful. It stresses the reality of

the meaningless, for the more we know of this reality, the more we will

strive to avoid it and stay on the road of meaningfulness. It is important to

be aware of the reality of the meaningless so that we can specialize in that

which is meaningful. Life makes a lot more sense when you do not have to

figure out how to make sense of that which makes no sense. We do not  h

ave to defend God against the critics who blame Him for so much evil and

tragedy. These are the results of evil and are not a part of His plan at all.

They are part of the world of the meaningless. Do not waste your time

trying to prove that driving in the ditch is meaningful, or that many other

such nonsense things have meaning. Accept the reality of the meaningless

and do what Solomon and Jesus agree on- Make God the first priority in

your life, and develop a relationship to Him, which is best done by receiving

Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and then you can find meaning in all of

life, and even the meaninglessness of life will make some sense and be 

helpful to your development of meaning.

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