Ecclesiastes is a book that is often overlooked. Some have read it and concluded that it is the words of a bitter man who has descended into resentment and anger. I remember, vividly, reading this book for the first time. I was shocked and seriously confused. What is the point of this book?
How could God allow this book into the bible?
If we are not careful and discerning while reading this book we can walk away from it feeling like life is truly pointless. Over the years I have come to appreciate this great little book and I hope I can help you appreciate it too.
This book is the reflections of an old man but not just any old man. These are the words of King Solomon. He was the 3rd king of Israel and was given an amazing gift from God. He is told to ask for whatever he desires, and Solomon chooses to have the wisdom to lead the nation of Israel (1 Kings 3:1-15). God is so pleased with Solomon’s response that he gives him wisdom beyond anyone before or after him. He also gives him all the things he didn’t ask for. Things like money, power, and his enemies in his hands. This book is a result of this gift from God.
The book is about Solomon’s search for significance, the meaning of life, and trying to find happiness in this world apart from God. Key to understanding this book is the phrase “under the sun.” It helps us see that he is looking at life, under the sun, and apart from God. In his search, he limits himself to what he can understand with his own reasoning and what he can gain by his own hands. He concluded that life, even the greatest, grandest life that money and power could buy, was worthless without God.
Throughout the book (29 times) he uses the term “Vanity of vanity! All is vanity.” His point is that life and possessions are pointless, empty, fleeting, like chasing the wind and trying to catch it in a jar. Life without God is not a life worth living and it doesn’t matter how much stuff you accumulate, without God, it is truly vain and empty. Life in Christ is the only life truly worth living.
The unique approach of Solomon in this book makes it necessary to understand how to read the book. Much of what is said in the book is not in keeping with the word of God but is wisdom deduced from what man can observe apart from God. Sometimes his conclusions are eminently reasonable but ultimately wrong. Such as Eccl. 9:5 where he says that “the dead know nothing.” As far as man can tell that would be true but according to Luke 16:20-25 that is not true. The Rich Man was able to know, think, feel, and speak.
Without God, this life is truly meaningless and empty. All the work we find to do is pointless without God. It is like chasing the wind. Even if you could catch it you wouldn’t know it or be able to enjoy it. So, let me encourage you to center your life on Christ and with him as your center life will truly be worth living.