Devotional: ‘Pursuing Pleasure’

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Oh, I did great things: built houses, planted vineyards, designed gardens and parks and planted a variety of fruit trees in them, made pools of water to irrigate the groves of trees. I bought slaves, male and female, who had children, giving me even more slaves; then I acquired large herds and flocks, larger than any before me in Jerusalem. I piled up silver and gold, loot from kings and kingdoms. I gathered a chorus of singers to entertain me with song, and—most exquisite of all pleasures— voluptuous maidens for my bed.

Oh, how I prospered! I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What’s more, I kept a clear head through it all. Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day’s work!

Then I took a good look at everything I’d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing. (Ecc. 2:4-11 NLT)

Scripture tells us that Solomon was the wisest, more industrious, and wealthiest of men during his day. Perhaps even to this very hour, there has been no one who has possessed as much as he did. Yet with all of his assets, he lacked the one thing he sought the most – happiness. Land, servants, houses, and even exquisite forms of pleasure did not satisfy him. After accumulating everything, he still found himself empty. “Nothing” he called it, or as the King James Version puts it – “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

None of us will ever own the material possessions Solomon did. And even if we did, do we think that we would enjoy the satisfaction he never found? Of course not. We have not been created for the purpose of accumulating things. We have been created for God’s own pleasure and it is only in bringing God pleasure that we will find pleasure ourselves. But what will give God pleasure? Consider these words of Jesus –

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34 NLT)

What God longs for the most is our sincere love. He longs for us to truly love Him and to truly love others. “No other commandment is greater than these” Jesus said. Nothing else we can do will ever be more important. Nothing else will bring Him more pleasure. If that is so, nothing else will bring us more pleasure as well.  

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