Last week, we took a look at an overview of Ecclesiastes and discovered that as a wisdom book (a classification of five books in the Old Testament), it serves to give us a broad summary of life. As Solomon uses a great deal of irony, he works his way through a variety of topics and seems to be saying that life is just a “vapor” or a wisp of air that appears for a while and then vanishes. He questions everything and wants to say it is all “meaningless.”
But we soon realize that he is only looking at life through the lens of a man. From his perspective, things lack a cohesive meaning. But along the way, he comes to understand that God is in charge and concludes, “Here is the conclusion to the whole matter after all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man because God will bring everything that has been done to judgment” (12:13).
Ecclesiastes is not a well-organized lecture on Biblical doctrine. But it does deal with a number of important truths. For example, God is presented as the creator (3:11, 7:29, 11:5, 12:1, and 12:7). He is shown as the judge of all (8:1-13, 11:9, 12:14). And He is to be reverenced as we learn to fear Him (12:13).
Solomon is a student of life and he shares many of his observations in this book. He notices the important patterns outlined in chapter 3 (“There is a time for everything…”). His propensity to languish in despair is rooted in his conclusions that life is circular (a kind of senseless round), that it is frustrating to search for meaning, and that death is inevitable.
And at one point, he concludes that nothing can satisfy him— not pleasure, nor a sense of fatalism, nor a total focus on humanism, not even his family.
But he does find some fulfillment in simple joys. He tells a young man to rejoice in his youth
(11:9). With sincerity, he remarks that everything is beautiful in its time (3:11). And he observes that “light is sweet and it pleases the eyes to see the sun…” (11:7).
Solomon does have insight into the nature of man. He urges us to see that “the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong…” (9:11). He noted that “the quiet words of the wise man are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” (9:17).
When we finish reading Ecclesiastes, we can conclude that Solomon wanted us to learn a practical lesson. He carefully outlines how unfulfilling our lives are when they are apart from God. He warns us that happiness is fleeting and that our lives will end in disaster if we stay focused on earthly “stuff.”
Bottom line for this challenging book: Solomon wants to call us all back to a very sensible and good life that is centered on Yahweh. He sums it all up with the phrase, “Fear God and keep His commandments…” Good advice!
Sherry Worel is a Bible teacher at heart and lives a life of ministry. She’s been involved at Coast Hills teaching Women’s LIFE, Bible studies, online courses, devotionals, participating in Upstream conversations, and much more. Having a love for education, Sherry has over 50 years of teaching experience with schools, churches, and mission agencies. As well as earning her Master’s at Talbot Seminary, she rounded out her education with 35 years as Head of School at Stoneybrooke Christian School. Sherry is happiest with a book or fishing pole in hand.