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Ecclesiastes 1:14, 1214; 2:13, 1214, 2426comment (0)

July 18, 2013

By Douglas K. Wilson Jr.

Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:14, 1214; 2:13, 1214, 2426

Explore the Bible 
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile


Ecclesiastes 1:1–4, 12–14; 2:1–3, 12–14, 24–26
Ecclesiastes is a Latin term meaning “preacher” and is closely related to ecclesia (congregation). The Hebrew title of the book is Qoheleth (koh-HEL-et), referring to one who speaks to a gathering of people. “Teacher” is the preferred translation in the HCSB. Traditional scholarship assumed Solomonic authorship, and these lessons will reflect this perspective. Throughout Ecclesiastes, the Teacher reminds us that life is short. From a purely natural perspective, life seems to have little meaning.

On July 21, my dad would have been 80 years old. He directly influenced my life with his passion for cultures, languages and teaching. Though not a religious man, he feared the Lord, led us to attend church and Sunday School and modeled for his sons what it was to be an honorable man. My recollections of him come back mostly through photographs, and both they and my memories are fading. Daddy’s been gone now for more than a decade, and Mother passed this year. Even with precious memories, I am reminded that this life is fleeting.

Life Can Seem Pointless (1:1–4)
After our author introduces himself as the son of David and king in Jerusalem, he proceeds to suggest that this earthly life is pointless. “Absolute futility” is the translation, pointing to the superlative — futility of futilities. Another recurring phrase (“under the sun”) is introduced, indicating that his conclusions are based solely on human observation.

Imagine a purely humanistic worldview in which there is no supernatural realm and the material world is all that exists. There exists no good or evil, right or wrong, true or false; your perspective alone determines what matters. You can count on nothing and no one but yourself. Such an approach to life would lead you to conclude human life has no purpose.

Much of Ecclesiastes communicates this temporal perspective. Why? The likely answer is that for much of Solomon’s life, he lived pragmatically. He amassed great wealth, assessed wisdom literature of the ancient world, attempted to fulfill his desires and accommodated the religions of foreign wives for the sake of political alliances.

Experience Seems to Affirm Futility (1:12–14; 2:1–3)
Clinging to temporal desires is like pursuing the wind. You can chase a storm, but what will you do when you catch it? Solomon yielded to the temporal yearnings of this life and found no satisfaction. Pursuit of education, pleasure or possession for its own sake led to emptiness, exposing a void that nothing on earth could fill. Without a purpose for living, without a relationship with our loving Creator, day-to-day routines may seem pointless. Evaluating life from a temporal view leads to hopelessness and depression. Why pursue any goal if the result is going to be disappointment?

Trust in God’s Blessings (2:12–14, 24–26)
Pursuing God or yielding to His pursuit leads to reverential fear. This leads to wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is to be preferred to folly. Light is of more benefit than darkness. A wise man can see where he is going, but a fool is blind to the dangers before him. They face a common end, though. Does this point to futility in life?

God orchestrates the righteous and the wicked for His purposes. One may conclude that life is completely pre-determined, thus life is in vain. If you can do anything you want, then why is there no satisfaction? On the other hand, if God preprograms you to be either righteous or wicked, then where is joy?

As we continue this study, readers will discover that another perspective emerges in Ecclesiastes. Neither humanistic materialism nor deterministic theology can account for the beauty and design within God’s creation. In His seamless tapestry, God weaves together the warp of time and the woof of experience to create a beautiful design that is your unique life. Keep reading.

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