ECCLESIASTES

PART 1

 

Tonight we are going to begin looking at the book of Ecclesiastes, which was written by Solomon later in his life around 935 B.C. Some scholars try to say that someone other than Solomon was the author, but consider the following verse:

 

Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

 

Solomon is the only son of David that was king in Jerusalem. When you read Ecclesiastes 1:12 Ė 2:11, you will see that this writer was the king of Israel, known for his wisdom, known for his luxuries, and for his accomplishments in building and business. Ecclesiastes 12:9 says that he set in order many proverbs. Who else could this be other than Solomon?

 

When you read through this book, it seems that Solomon is writing about his personal experience from when he fell away from God. Much of what he writes looks at how empty our lives are without God in the picture. He reveals to us that ones life will be completely empty and void of hope when he relies on the things of this earth separate and apart from God. Solomon would know because he had everything that life could offer, money, wisdom, kingship, property, and a multitude of wives, concubines and children, yet he considered it all vanity.

 

The key word in our book is vanity, which occurs 37 times.

 

The key chapter is Chapter 12. In this last chapter, Solomon challenges us to put things in the proper perspective by remembering our Creator and understanding how we must put our trust in Him and not the folly of the world. He concludes the chapter with our purpose in life that will bring us true happiness:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.

 

This idea has not changed because Paul expresses a similar thought for us in:

 

Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

 

Solomon will teach us how unimportant the pursuit of riches is and how fame will never bring you true happiness. Instead, he will show us that the key to true happiness comes from a loving God, having a reverent fear of Him, putting Him first, and keeping His commandments. Without God in our life, we will feel empty, but when He becomes the center of our universe, we will learn to be full and experience true happiness.

Guy N. Woods outlined Ecclesiastes this way:

 

1:1-11 Introduction

1:12-18 Solomon seeks happiness in wisdom

2:1-26 in wealth

3:1-5:20 in prominence, power, prestige

6:1-8:17 in pleasure.

9:1-12:7Solomon discovers that genuine happiness is not in wisdom, wealth, prominence, or pleasure, but through devotion to duty, and preparation for the life to come.

12:8-13 Conclusion.

 

Now, letís examine our text:

 

Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever.5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose.6 The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit.7 All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again.8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing.9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.10 Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us.11 There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.

 

Let begin with verse 1:

 

Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

 

This clearly identifies the author as Solomon. As mentioned earlier, Solomon is the only son of David to be a king over Jerusalem.

 

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

 

This is the theme of our book and Solomon will be telling how everything under the sun is worthless without the hope the God provides for us.

 

3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?

 

As Solomon was examining all that he accomplished in life, he realized that there is no lasting profit from it for him, which is why he asked this question. Just as side not this phrase under the sun occurs 30 times in Ecclesiastes, which is referring to everything we do on this earth. Jesus asked even a better question:

 

Mark 8:36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

 

If we focus on nothing but our accomplishments in our life then we have missed the meaning of life. No matter how hard we work, no matter how many things we build, they will not profit us in the end. Those who rest their hope in this world and what it has to offer are basically exchanging something temporary for eternity with God in heaven. How sad, but many follow this path.

 

One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever.

 

The earth is going to out live us all. As one generation replaces another, the work we accomplished will slowly be forgotten. Some religious groups have taken the last part of our verse to mean that the earth will never cease to exist, but that is not what word forever means in the original language. It simply means age lasting or another way to put it is that it will continue to remain as long as God allows it.

 

For example, this same word forever is used to describe the Sabbath (Ex. 31:17) the Passover (Ex. 12:14), and burnt offerings (Ex. 29:42), but they only lasted until the time of the cross when Jesus nailed these requirements to the cross (Col. 2:14). These things lasted as long a God willed it. The same is true with the earth because we know that when Jesus comes again that the earth will be burned up:

 

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

 

Solomon is simply pointing out how life goes on without you as future generations continue to live on the earth. Solomon continues his thought in:

 

5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose.6 The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit.7 All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again.

 

Solomon uses these examples to show how nothing really gets accomplished, it just simply repeats itself. The sun continues to rise and set. The wind continues blow, the rivers continue to put water back into the ocean, yet never fills up. Instead, the water returns back to where it came from. In the same way, man continues to labor and build on this earth. There is no end sight or purpose in life when God is not in the picture.

 

The section of Scripture also offers some scientific foreknowledge of the Bible because it describes the water cycle, which wasnít confirmed until the 15th or 16th century.

 

8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing.9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.10 Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us.11 There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.

 

Again, the thought is continued about how man will continue to labor and do the same things again and again. No matter what they create or possesses, it will never be enough to satisfy because we will always want more or want something different. Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun, and even those who think they have done something new it has already been done by someone else it has only been forgotten. We must keep in mind that Solomon is expresses his thoughts from a worldly perspective without God being in the picture.

 

Next, Solomon is going to talk about the vain things that men seek after and how they have no value.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.13 And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered.

 

Once again, verse 12 indentifies Solomon as the author because Solomon is the only son of David that was king over all Israel in Jerusalem.

 

And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.

 

Solomon had a choice of what he wanted from God early on, but his choice was an understanding heart or we could say wisdom. Notice Godís response to his choice:

 

1 Kings 3:11 Then God said to him: "Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice,12 "behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.13 "And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.

 

Solomon was one that wanted to be wise. Now he was setting his heart on finding the wisdom of the things done under the sun. This is his conclusion:

 

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, And what is lacking cannot be numbered.

 

In other words, there is no wisdom in the works done under the sun. No matter how smart man becomes, it will serve no purpose in the long run without God in our life and that He has to offer. We are basically spinning our wheels when we live without God.

 

SOLOMON IDENTIFIES AT LEAST 18 THINGS THAT ARE VAIN

1. All the works of men (1:14).

2. Pleasure (2:1).

3. The profit from oneís labor (2:11).

4. The quest for wisdom (2:15).

5. The focus on earthly accomplishments (2:21).

6. An over-emphasis or mis-emphasis on life and living (3:19).

7. Competition (4:4).

8. Stockpiling riches (4:7,8).

9. Trying to please everyone (4:16).

10. The foolish use of words and promises (5:4-7).

11. Money (5:10-12).

12. Having wealth but failing to properly use it (6:1-6).

13. Being able to use words masterfully (6:11).

14. Associating with those who do not think soberly about life (7:6).

15. Manís attitude toward evil (8:10).

16. The system of justice and retribution (8:14).

17. The desire to retrieve the past (11:8).

18. Death itself (12:1-8). (WVBS)

 

Everything under the sun is vanity. It is only when we bring God back into the picture that life has any meaning whatsoever. The atheists of our world would do good to read the book Ecclesiastes and learn from its wisdom because they are living their life like there is no God and as much as they like to claim happiness without God, they have no idea what true happiness is. I feel sorry for them to have to live a life that is so empty with no hope and only death to look forward to.

 

Finally, Solomon writes:

 

Ecclesiastes 1:16 I communed with my heart, saying, "Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge."17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.18 For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

 

This is another statement made by the writer that certainly sounds like Solomon because of the great wisdom he had learned. He even went so far as to learn about madness and folly because they are the opposite of wisdom, which would help him to know exactly how to distinguish between wisdom and foolishness.

 

He also felt that learning so much wisdom was like grasping for the wind because the more he learned the more he understood that he had not even begin to scratch the surface of what could be learned. There are several reasons why much wisdom can cause one grief and increase sorrow. The more you know about things, the more it can perplex your mind.

 

For example, if I gave you some food to eat and it tasted good, you would be happy. However, if you had learned that I made it with gross animal parts and prepared it with tainted hands then you would not be very happy and you would not even take one bite. As the saying goes ďignorance is bliss.Ē

 

Also the more you learn about God and His ways, you almost always have to make changes in your life and the way you used to do things. This can be hard, but we cannot be the kind of people that willfully remain ignorant of Godís Word because God no longer will excuse us for our ignorance:

 

Acts 17:30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,31 "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.

 

The more wisdom we acquire about how ugly sin is and its affect on mankind, it will cause us great grief and sorrow for what it has caused Godís creation to become.

 

In conclusion, as we make our way through this book, we will see it is full of negative thoughts from the perspective of man trying to make it on his own without God, but we will also see Solomon teach us a long the way that only God and what he promises can make our life not meaningless and full of vanity.