Book of Ecclesiastes


Solomon the Preacher brings all of his worldly experience and wisdom to bear in this commentary of life lived under the sun. Apart from fellowship with the Eternal God, man chases the wind and wastes his life in a cycle of futility. The world in its wisdom needs to be pushed to the logical precipice of the foolishness of its presuppositions. That’s what makes this wisdom literature ideal as a pre-evangelism tool for those who need to be confronted with the reality of life apart from submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But believers also need to be reminded of the contradiction of living as if there is no ultimate accountability.

How should we truly live in light of eternity? How can we avoid the emptiness and meaninglessness of life from just a human perspective – despite its pleasures for the moment? When are material pursuits satisfying and when do they distract us from our true calling? What is the purpose of work and what should be our perspective towards it? Solomon points us to the simple formula of fearing God and keeping His commandments while pursuing the perspective of eternity that He has placed in our hearts. This book will be gloomy and dismal apart from the light of God’s presence and favor in union with our Lord Jesus Christ. The perspective of life under the sun, apart from God, is repeated over and over by the Preacher…

everything is futility and striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 2:17

 

Big Idea:

Apart From The Fear Of God And An Eternal Perspective, Life Is A Futile Exercise Of Chasing The Wind

Basic Outline:

Introduction: The Futility Of All Endeavor

2:1-11 The Futility Of Pleasure And Materialism

2:12-17 The Woods Of Wisdom, The Marsh Of Madness, The Fields Of Folly – Mankind’s Fate And Solomon’s Hate

2:18-23 A Life Of Accomplishment Only Accumulates A Legacy Of Futility

2:24-26 The Search For Significance – What Is Worth Pouring Your Life Into? What Will Last For Eternity?

3:1-22 Mortality And The Finiteness Of Life

4:1-16 The Five Rotten Steps On The World’s Ladder Of Success

5:1-7 Only The Fear Of God Can Prevent Presumptuous Worship

5:18-20 The Gift Of Enjoying The Fruit Of One’s Work

9:7-18 Rejoice And Give Thanks / Live With All Your Heart

10:8-11; 11:1-10 Living Wisely Through The Times Of Your Life

12:1-14 Finishing With A Kick / Fearing God

Why Study This Book?

This book is God’s classic presentation of pre-evangelism. I would recommend that you give your unsaved friends an introduction to the musings of Solomon along with Chuck Swindoll’s excellent commentary: Living on the Ragged Edge.

  • It cautions us against defining our identity by what we own, how much fun we have, what we can accomplish, what we can learn, etc.
  • It deflates our pride and sense of self importance.
  • It counsels us how to escape from the depression of a meaningless cycle of futility.

cf. John Piper’s theme for his ministry: Desiring God.org – that is what Solomon lays before us as the chief goal of man.

Notable Quotes:

Swindoll: 3 Temptations addressed in Ecclesiastes:

1) The sensual lure of something better tomorrow robs us of the joys offered today.

2) The personal temptation to escape is always stronger than the realization of its consequences.

3) The final destination, if God is absent from the scene, will not satisfy.

Ryrie: The message of the book may be stated in the form of three propositions:

(1) When you look at life with its seemingly aimless cycles (1:4ff.) and inexplicable paradoxes (4:1; 7:15; 8:8), you might conclude that all is futile, since it is impossible to discern any purpose in the ordering of events.

(2) Nevertheless, life is to be enjoyed to the fullest, realizing that it is the gift of God (3:12-13; 3:22; 5:18-19; 8:15; 9:7-9).

(3) The wise man will live his life in obedience to God, recognizing that God will eventually judge all men (3:16-17; 12:14).

BasicTheology.com: The same themes that at first glance may appear incongruent, such as vanity and enjoyment of simple pleasures, meaninglessness and wisdom, the hopelessness of death and purpose in life, upon careful, contextualized investigation work together to serve the author’s purpose of directing the reader to God for ultimate meaning in life. Ecclesiastes takes the reader through the highs and lows of life on this earth, from hedonism to nihilism, finally arriving at a conclusion that is perfectly at home within Old Testament theology: fear God and keep His commandments.

Pounds: Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” Solomon, after examining all areas of life in pursuit of purpose, concludes that the only way you can find purpose in life is through the God who gives life rather than through life itself. You do not find happiness in life pursuing happiness; you find happiness as a by-product of the right choices you make. Solomon moves from a tone of despair to one of meaning in the midst of the capricious nature of life. In 12:13-14 the author asserts conclusively that the solution to man’s futility in life is found in his service to God. He wrote, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (NASB 1995). There is fulfillment in life, but it will come only in a right relationship with God and serving Him.

First Presbyterian Church: And so it is perfectly appropriate that there would be a book in the Old Testament that sets forth what happens when you attempt to live life against that truth or without that truth. If you attempt to live life under the sun, if you attempt to live life apart from the reality of a Creator that has brought all things into being and made us for Himself, then this will happen. That’s basically the story of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is an exploration of the different ways that people try to find meaning in this life apart from God, and it is an explanation of how futile that is. It is a big argument to argue you into a corner in the denial of the Creator. So, when the author says, “All is vanity,” he really means it. Everything under the sun is vanity apart from God. Everything in this world, everything in this earthly sphere is incapable of satisfying the deepest part of our soul apart from God.

References: