Skip to main content

Is Life in Vain? Why Study the Book of Ecclesiastes


One respected conservative scholar called the ‘strangest book in the Bible.’ It speaks in terms that are high and low, mostly the latter. Written by an older man who ‘had it all,’ made some bad moves, and now speaks as one who is in the depths of depression. It’s famous phrase is vanity of vanities, all is vanity? Is this really the case?

Vanity: def. futile, lost, a waste of time, worthless

The book in question is called Ecclesiastes and it is part of the Bible’s wisdom literature. Perhaps the best way to understand this book is to remember that it is describing life ‘under the sun,’ a phrase used 27 times and apparently no where else in Scripture. Life ‘under the sun’ is talking about natural, carnal living in a fallen world; this is the antithesis of a born-again, fruit-bearing, Spirit-filled life.

If a person’s perspective is 100% under the sun, in the natural, valuing the things of the world, and not living though to the Almighty, the transcendent, then our future will not just be vain, but eternally lost.

It is of interest how many of the philosophies of today’s world have some sort of reflection in Ecclesiastes. These include:

Pessimism: Things will definitely get worse;

Hedonism: Living for the moment in pleasure, often excessively so;

Existentialism: Living for the moment because tomorrow may not come;

Cynicism: A deep distrust of human nature to the point that even the good is not as good as it seems;

Chauvinism: One group thinks and acts as if they are better than another;

Fatalism: It is as it is, you cannot change it. ‘The stars’ have determined it.

All of this is the world’s wisdom ‘under the sun.’ Unless the God-element is introduced, it will all be vain. The author of Ecclesiastes ought to know.

HEBREW NAME FOR ECCLESIASTES

The Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes is qoheleth ‘a preacher,’ one who speaks to a congregation. Can also be likened to the speaker in a house of parliament or congress. In the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the word is ekklesiastes (preacher) from ekklesia ‘assembly, congregation.’ The name Ecclesiastes comes from the Latin and is about a ‘speaker before the assembly.’

AUTHOR OF THE ECCLESIASTES

Not explicitly mentioned but answer the following questions:

1.   The author was ‘the son of David’ (1:1);
2.   He was ‘king over Israel in Jerusalem’ (1:12);
3.   He had ‘more wisdom than all they that have been before me’ (1:16).

Only one man fits description: Solomon.

PORTRAIT OF CHRIST IN ECCLESIASTES

    The portrait of Christ for Ecclesiastes is simple. If vanity means ‘meaningless,’ ‘futile,’ ‘in vain,’ then Jesus Christ is the antidote to these things.

    When we choose Jesus, we are choosing life, light and blessing for us and our descendants (Deuteronomy 30:19; John 1:4)’

    We have purpose in life - we are God’s handcraft, created in Jesus Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10);

    We are ordained for abundant life (John 10:10ff);

    We are ordained for eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23);


THEME OF ECCLESIASTES

Life without God, lived for the now in this present fallen world, is not only vain, but vanity of vanity. Only through Godly fear directed to the living God does life have wholeness and meaning. The word ‘vanity’ is used 29 times.

KEY VERSES AND PRINCIPLES IN ECCLESIASTES

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:Ecclesiastes 3:1

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.Ecclesiastes 11:1

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.Ecclesiastes 12:1; 13-14

SUMMARY OF ECCLESIASTES

The king seeks after the things of the world which are ‘under the sun’ but finds that all of it is vain. Even lofty, desirable things like education, work, fun, mirth, everything is still vanity. He also laments at how unfair life ‘under the sun’ can be: a person will live, work, and die, leaving possessions to someone else (who didn’t work for them). The wicked prosper, the righteous suffer, and the poor are downtrodden. Yet, there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ - fear God and keep His commandments, for one day there will be the judgement: God will judge will right every wrong and reward every right. Stop living ‘under the sun’ and take the long-view, spiritual view, and divine perspective.

OUTLINE OF ECCLESIASTES

I.         Meeting Vanity (1:1 - 1:11)

A.    ‘The Preacher’ introduced (1:1-3
B.     Seeking for meaning in science (1:4-11)

II.      Vanity in Daily Living (1:12-6:12)

A.    Seeking meaning through philosophy (1:12-18)
B.     Through mirth and pleasure (2:1-11)
C.     Through building construction (2:4)
D.    Through possessions (2:5-7)
E.     Through wealth and music (2:8)
F.      Through materialism (2:12-26)
G.    Through fatalism (3:1-15);
H.    Through deism (3:1-4:16);
I.        Through religion (5:1-8)
J.        Through wealth (5:9-6:12)

III.    How to Handle Vanity (7:1-12:14)

A.    A good name is better than precious ointment (7:1)
B.     Curse not the king because he will find out (10:20)
C.     Cast your bread on the waters; you shall find it again (11:1)
D.    Remember your creator in the days of you youth (12:1);
E.     Death: body returns to dust, the spirit to God who gave it (12:7);
F.      Fear God and keep His commandments (12:13).

CONCLUSION: If a life is only lived ‘under the sun,’ it is heading for vanity and a lost eternity. If it is lived ‘under the Son,’ then there is forgiveness, salvation, hope and a future.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Prophecy for the Church in Malaysia

Malaysia is a very special country - beloved by its citizens and friends worldwide. Malaysia offers a warm welcome, ‘truly Asian’ hospitality, popular spicy food, tropical weather and scenery, and a dynamic local church. The following is a prophecy for the Malaysian church given on May 20, 2017 at Full Gospel Assembly, Kuala Lumpur, (following the introduction).
Introduction to Malaysia (Statistics courtesy of the CIA World Fact Book)
Location: Malaysia is on a peninsula in SE Asia. Singapore is to the south, Thailand to the north, and Indonesia is very close by. Two Malaysian states, Sabah and Sarawak, are located on the island of Borneo to the east of peninsular Malaysia. Borneo is shared by three nations: Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.
Population of Malaysia: 30,949,962;
Ethnic groups: Malay 50%; Chinese 23%; Indigenous 12%; Indian 7%; non-citizens 8%.
Religious Affiliation: Islam 61%; Buddhism 20%; Christian 9%; Hindu 6%
Type of Government: Federal constitutional monarchy with the kin…

NORTH KOREA: What Is At Stake?

It is not unusual for North Korea to be in the news. This highly-armed Stalinist state rattles the sabres from time to time. There are warnings, sanctions, negotiations, and then things go quiet.
Yet the current crisis is different - and more dangerous - than anything we have seen before. It has been said, with reason, that the stand-off with North Korea is the biggest confrontation since US President John F. Kennedy faced off Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union in the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. This was probably the largest and most dangerous incident in the entire Cold War.
As a refresher, the Soviet Union placed nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, which is only 140 kilometres off the US coast. This was simply too close for comfort. President Kennedy solemnly warned that if the missiles were not removed, America would invade Cuba. For 13 days the world held its breath. It was the closest thing we have seen of Armageddon in living memory. Being a rational player, the Soviets ne…

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S DECLARATION ON JERUSALEM: Who Cares?

Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of IsraelUS President Donald Trump
You would have thought the sky had fallen!



US & Israeli flags at the Jerusalem Municipality. Courtesy of Teach All Nations)
US President Donald Trump, no stranger to controversy, made a simple statement on 6 December 2017, stating that the United States recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr. Trump was honouring a campaign promise, which some of his predecessors also made but did not fulfil.
Though Trump sought to be calming, even-handed, and concilatory, there was a strong reaction from key parties. When it comes to Jerusalem, it can be a very emotive. In this article, we will find out who cares about the issue.
Before making his statement, President Trump called Egyptian President Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah, Saudi King Salmon, and Palestinian Authority President Abbas, explaining his actions. He confirmed that the US is still open to the inte…