Ecclesiastes: [ /uh·klee·zee·a·steez/ ] noun --- a translation of the Hebrew word koheleth, which means “one who convenes an assembly” or simply a preacher. The name of this text for us is a Greek word connected with another Greek word, ecclesia, meaning “a gathering” used to describe God’s people gathering as the Church.
The Book of Ecclesiastes does not directly identify its author. There are quite a few verses that imply King Solomon wrote this book and some clues in the context that may suggest a different person wrote it after Solomon’s death, possibly several hundred years later. Still, the conventional belief is that the author is Solomon. If King Solomon did indeed write this text, it was likely written towards the end of his reign, approximately 935 B.C.
Two phrases are repeated often in Ecclesiastes. The word translated as “vanity” appears often, and is used to emphasize the temporary nature of worldly things. In the end, even the most impressive human achievements will be left behind. The phrase “under the sun” occurs 28 times, and refers to the mortal world. When the Preacher refers to “all things under the sun,” he is talking about earthly, temporary, human things. Simply put, we know that life is brief. Yet to say that life is brief is not to deny its meaning, thus when we say vanity, we do not imply meaninglessness. On the contrary, the Preacher knows that worshiping God and doing the divine will provide humans with a worthy goal and meaning in their lives. The first seven chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes describe all of the worldly things “under the sun” that the Preacher tries to find fulfillment in. He tries scientific discovery (1:10-11), wisdom and philosophy (1:13-18), mirth (2:1), alcohol (2:3), architecture (2:4), property (2:7-8), and luxury (2:8). The Preacher turned his mind towards different philosophies to find meaning, such as materialism (2:19-20), and even moral codes (including chapters 8-9). He found that everything was meaningless, a temporary diversion that, without God, had no purpose or longevity. Chapters 8-12 of Ecclesiastes describe the Preacher’s suggestions and comments on how a life should be lived. He concludes that without God, there is no truth or meaning to life. He has seen many evils and realized that even the best of man’s achievements are worth nothing in eternity. So, he advises the reader to acknowledge God from youth (12:1) and to follow His will (12:13-14).
We all desire meaning in life. Often that search takes us along winding, up-and-down paths filled with bursts of satisfaction that shine bright for a time but eventually fade. In one sense, it is satisfying to see that experience echoed throughout Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a book of perspective. The account of “the Preacher” reveals the depression that inevitably results from seeking happiness in worldly things. This book gives Christians a chance to see the world through the eyes of a person who, though very wise, is trying to find meaning in temporary, human things. Most every form of worldly pleasure is explored by the Preacher, and none of it gives him a sense of meaning. In the end, the Preacher comes to accept that faith in God is the only way to find personal meaning. He decides to accept the fact that life is brief and ultimately worthless without God. The Preacher advises the reader to focus on an eternal God instead of temporary pleasure. Ecclesiastes is seeing life through human eyes, a life that is “like a mist” and helps us to turn our eyes to full meaning, purpose, and joy in the life we have through Jesus Christ. If you have you struggled with misplaced pursuits in life, this text will turn your eyes to behold your God. Has life fallen short of your desire for meaning and purpose? Hear the words of the Living God in this text that they might encourage you to place your trust solely in Him, in this life and in the life to come.
Next month, we will walk through the Book of Song of Solomon, a text often “skipped over” due to its poetic and romantic content. My prayer is that we would see the goodness in this inspired text and seek to know the “full counsel of God’s word” (Acts 20:27) for our good and God’s glory. May God bless you and keep you until then!
If you have questions, need prayer, or encouragement, please contact me. Reach out to me via email: Colin@nlcwanamingo.org or by phone: 507-824-3019.
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