REFLECTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES
My goal in writing reflections from Ecclesiastes are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source (although I provide a lexical explanation for the word vanity here). That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.
Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent. This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.
Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly and follow Him all the more closer. For, it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be. That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21). Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.
ECCLESIASTES 1-4: THE PREACHERS DOWNWARD MUSINGS
The pace at which time moves astounds me. The year is almost up and what was true for Solomon applies to me “A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever.” (1:4) It’s a humbling fact—the span of our lives, my life, is ever so slight! The letter of James in the New Testament agrees:
“13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. ”
This pessimistic account from the Preacher king, though negative is true. Nothing is new under the sun but foolish mankind would disagree (1:9). Of particular interest and serious consideration is the task of exploring wisdom concerning the created order, which from his view is the acquisition of affliction and grief:
“12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” (1:12-14)
According to Solomon, wisdom and its acquisition is burdensome, unlike Proverbs, this book hits us with a bombshell affirming life’s futility. With the acquisition of wisdom there’s much grief and the end of increased knowledge is pain:
“16 I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” (1:16-18)
What a realist view of labor and what a downer for someone who wants to pursue the knowledge of God. There is however here more than meets the eye. There’s something the Preacher—Solomon the wisest man to have ever lived other than Christ Jesus—wants the reader to get his angle, but it’s going to require more reading to grasp his thought.
LORD, help us understand this book in light of its purpose and message.