A Short Essay on the Book of Ecclesiastes
What is Life all about? Does Life make sense to you? If someone asked you, how would you respond? Someone once asked me if I could only preach from one book from the Bible to today’s generation, which book would it be? John? Matthew? Romans? Revelation? Genesis? Would you believe-Ecclesiastes? Why? Because it is written to self-centered, independent happiness seekers who believe they have life figured out in a simple formula and they are not going to miss out on anything. Sound familiar? Does that sound like someone you may know?
Let me ask again…What is Life all about? Think about it…
One day you are born into a world and into a family that you didn’t ask for. They raised you as they chose. You go to school, public, private, or even home-schooled – five years of grade school, 3 years of middle school, 4 years of high school, than you have the honor of graduating and deciding what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life. You may enter a trade school, or a local college, or leave home to a major university – and their spend another 4 more years preparing you for your life’s work. You graduate and decide to pursue graduate studies, possibly even post-graduate work. All to prepare you for your life’s work.
Meanwhile, you meet a person of the opposite sex that you enjoy hanging around with – you become involved and begin dating more seriously; meanwhile you find a job in the career field you have chosen. You’re excited that someone is going to pay you that kind of money to do what you want to do…you buy yourself a new car, you buy yourself that low down-payment, fixer-up house that you always wanted; and you even start paying off your student loans. You marry, you have children -1.8 per the national average. You fix up your house for the additional members. You expand it up and over. You build yourself that 3 car garage with the attached tool shed where you like to disappear on weekends. You work, you run around town watching your 1.8 kids sporting activities. You watch your kids graduate from high school and move on to college; your company is bought out and your job is eliminated; you sell your dream house and move into a smaller, easier to maintain unit.
You retire, your children get married and occasionally stop by with the grand-kids so you can spoil them. Your body begins to lose hair as it changes color; you have put on more weight around the mid-section. Your not as quick as you use to be and your hearing and eyes play tricks on you. One day you find yourself sick, you visit the doctors and he tells you that you have the dreaded C – cancer. You have a short time to live. You begin to ask yourself, what has my life been all about? You die and though you request to be cremated, your mate always stated to you that funerals are for the living and therefore gave you a large open casket funeral where everyone who you haven’t seen in the last twenty years stop by to offer their words of sadness to your late spouse. What is life all about?
As a seventeen year old in my senior year of high school that question impacted my mind for months. It’s how God led me to begin investigating life’s meaning and purpose in my own life. It led me to discussion with all the people who are suppose to know – priests, teachers, nuns, philosophers, authors, and eventually to the Bible itself. I would strike up discussions with anyone who wanted to discuss the subject. Eventually, people would turn away from me because they themselves didn’t have the answers and didn’t want to deal with the questions.
In fact, the very first book that I read from the Bible was the Book of Ecclesiastes – how’s that for a questioning 17 year old? “All is vanity and blowing after wind” is what the book reads in its beginning refrain. How would you feel being 17 years old and you read from the Bible that All is vanity? How would you respond?
Since then though I have made it an annual tradition to read the book at least once per year simply to keep my feet on solid ground at how to deal with reality. This past year I took a class on the Old Testament and it has opened my mind to a deeper appreciation on the message the author wanted to convey to his universal audience.
Since the Book of Ecclesiastes is in the Old Testament, most people believe it was written to the Jewish people of its time. However, there are many theologians today who now agree that it was written to a larger universal audience because of its style, structure, and what is not included within the message. Today, we would call it an evangelical sermon.
What is the book about? What does the book have to do with answering the question, what is life all about? Many who have read it are confused on its message.
Is the author really a pessimist? Does he only views the worst side of things; finds no comfort in God, and sees no hope for man’s happiness? Isn’t the ever-recurring theme, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” a cynical view of life?
Yes the author affirms that death is better than life; that man’s labor, aim, and ambition ends in disappointment; that the pursuit of wisdom, wealth, and pleasure is unsatisfying. However, these verses do not represent the teaching of the book; they only occur as a passing observation in the course of his investigation. His pessimism is only a gray cloud covering the sunshine until the proper time.
When he speaks in negative tones of life’s circumstances, he desires to call attention to the weaknesses of reality. Our mistake is to think that we can secure happiness by our own efforts and deny the involvement of a higher power. Whereas the author repeatedly states that mankind cannot achieve enjoyment except by the gift of God.
The author speaks of “vanity,” not with bitterness or scorn, but as a stated fact. This is the result of his advanced study of men, nature, and life’s circumstances. From such feelings he finds refuge by contrasting this with another fact, which he holds just as strong, namely, that the whole universe is made and is governed by a God of justice, goodness, and power; and the good things in life come from Him.
The mood of Ecclesiastes is one of delight, with prospects of living and enjoying all the goods of life – once man has come to fear God and keep His commandments. It is a book written to celebrate “joy” and God’s “good” creation. The author recommends joy and rejoicing because life is a gift from God.
What is the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes? Simply this…
Apart from the Creator God, Life is Empty, Futile, and Meaningless – But God’s Gift is Joy, Contentment, and Fulfillment.
He repeatedly states that there is nothing to gain from this planet apart from God – “under the sun” is how the author states it 28 times.
The simple routine functions of life are meant to be enjoyed as a gift from God. God has already ordained that we enjoy what we eat, drink, the work we do, the mate we marry, the companions we live life with, and what we wear. 12 times God is said to ‘give’. Seven times man is said to have a joyful ‘portion’ from God
Let’s read the authors conclusion of his message:
Eccl 12:13-14 NLT
“Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”
Or to put it in today’s vocabulary (my translation):
“Believe God; Be at awe of Him; Remember. God is God, we are not.
Walk with Him, Come to Know Him – Let His character rub off on you.
Be Accountable to Him; He will bless & yes, discipline you; because He loves you and wants what is best for you. He will give you the gift of joy, contentment, and fulfillment.”
Jesus Christ stated it more clearly for his disciples today: Matt 6:33 “Seek first the Kingdom of God & His Righteousness…
Seeking the Kingdom of God requires following its King, Jesus Christ. It means being a disciple of His. A lifestyle of Kingdom living…..His Righteousness is accepting Jesus Christ’s redeeming life, death, and resurrection as imputing His righteousness in our lives. When God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. As we walk in His presence, develop a lifestyle as His disciple, and allow Him to teach us in His Word through the Holy Spirit, our character, attitude, and life will become transformed like His.
The Preacher lived approximately 1000 years before Christ – He explained it as he saw it. His conclusion:
Apart from the Creator God, Life is Empty, Futile, and Meaningless –
But God’s Gift is Joy, Contentment, and Fulfillment.
If you really want a life full of Joy, Contentment, and Fulfillment, and you have tried everything that this world has to offer – only to discover what Solomon did – how empty, futile, and meaningless it really is, than maybe its time to do business with Jesus….
This is the message of the Book of Ecclesiastes. How does that agree with your theology?
By Dr. Mike