Ecclesiastes - Vanity into Victory (Conclusion)

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The book Ecclesiastes is a Father teaching His son about life.
Qoheleth is a rich, wise, honest man, who tried all that life has to offer, and in the end, he found it all wanting.
He tried all of the best foods & drinks - and at the end of even the finest, most well-aged wine bottle you could find, he couldn’t find happiness.
He tried pleasure,
And whether it was music, love, or the most greatest of hobbies,
Qoheleth couldn’t find meaning!
And in response to this, Qoheleth concludes: “That’s life - so enjoy what you can while you can.”
However, in Ecclesiastes 12:9, something changes once again in.
The verse reads:
Ecclesiastes 12:9 ESV
9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.
Did you notice it?
What changed?
The voice of the narrator
It’s gone from 1st person to 3rd person.
And it’s not because Qoheleth is going nacisist mode and speaking about himself in the 3rd person.
It’s because another voice is stepping in once again, to speak on what we’ve been hearing throughout the book of Ecclesiastes.
Why do I say “Once again?”
Because if you remember, that’s how the book starts.
Ecclesiastes 1:1 ESV
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
So the book starts in 3rd person, with the voice of the narrator, and then it returns at the end once again to the same voice of the narrator.
And if you’re not tracking with me on that, think of movies that have a narrator who speaks outside of the story.
For example, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
“The Princess Bride”
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story
And, Winnie the Pooh!
Who has a modern day Qoheleth in the form of a depressed donkey named Eeyoh!
Now, what genre of literature did we say that the book of Ecclesiastes is?
Hint: same as Proverbs
It’s wisdom literature.
Because in it, it’s a father teaching his son about wisdom and life through the eyes of Qoheleth.
Which is why it’s a story behind the story.
That’s just how it works with narrated stories.
And we see this in Ecclesiastes 12:12
Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV
12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Now, about those lessons to be learned:
Look at verse 9 of chapter 12.
Ecclesiastes 12:9–12 ESV
9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
What’s the narrator, or the Father saying here about the words Qoheleth has spoken?
Look at verse 10, and remember “The preacher” is simply a Hebrew name, which is the word Qoheleth.
So what does the father say about Qoheleth’s words?
He was diligent, or thorough in his pursuit of the truth.
He didn’t look for simple or pat answers.
And he didn’t treat things with a surface-level investigation.
He was honest and truthful about what he found.
When it comes to meaning under the sun, He checked his biases as the door, and said, “I’m going to follow the evidence no matter where it leads me, nor how depressing the conclusion might be.”
And because of this, the Father says: “beware of anything beyond these.”
He’s saying, Qoheleth was responsible and honest about the truth with you, so you would do well to listen up!
And yet, so many people completely INGORE what Qoheleth is saying!
And I think this is why so many people - even Christians - don’t like the book of Ecclesiastes.
Because when they read it see what Qoheleth is saying, it’s depressing!
it bums them out!
And instead of dealing with the cold, harsh, reality of existence as we know,
They would rather put their heads in the sand and pretend like everything is ok
And at the end here the father tells his son not to do that, and instead to listen to the words Qoheleth has spoken about life under the sun.
And what has he told him?
In our book under the sun, we find 3 things:
Life under the sun is a struggle:
Ecclesiastes 2:15–19 ESV
15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. 18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
Qoheleth has looked at life under the sun, and he concluded it’s the pits.
It doesn’t matter if you’re wise o a fool, you die and are forgotten.
Toil away all day, and tomorrow you wake up and have to do all over again!
And, even if you are successful, whatever you accumulate is probably going to be given a moron when you die, at that moron is gonna squander it!
A lot of times people - even Christians want to act like life is awesome.
That if you have a can-do
Glass is half-full attitude about things, then you can chase the American Dream and live happily ever after.
And in response to this, Qoheleth says: “That’s nonsense - total and utter rubbish!”
Because even if you marry your one true love - they or you (or both) are going to get cancer and die!
And not just when you’re old and gray!
It could be when you’re 30 with young kids!
“Who knows” Qoheleth says:
For it seems almost at RANDOM!
And because of this, Life under the sun has NO SOLUTIONS - which is the 2nd conclusion Qoheleth came to.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 ESV
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
As Feltner points out - this is clearly Qoheleth’s main proverb.
Which is simply to say that “You cannot draw straight with crooked lines!”
When you child get’s their driver’s license, and get’s hit by the bus and dies,
No amount of money in the world,
No amount of fine-aged wine
No amount of romance
And no amount of hobbies is going to make sense of it!
Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV
12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Study away, Qoheleth says: you won’t be able to make any sense of life when tragedy strikes.
For it brings us to our knees, and eventually to our graves.
Qoheleth would be the world’s WORST motivational speaker!
He’d be fired on day one!
But Qoheleth doesn’t care, because Qoheleth is after the truth regardless of how unpleasant it might be.
And since life under the sun has no solutions to the ultimate problems that we face, life under the sun can’t bring real meaning and satisfaction, which is our 3rd point our book gives us.
Ecclesiastes 6:1–2 NLT
1 There is another serious tragedy I have seen under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity. 2 God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things. They die, and someone else, even a stranger, ends up enjoying their wealth! This is meaningless—a sickening tragedy.
The more knowledge you acquire, the more questions you end up with.
The more wine you drink, the more you want and need, which leaves you feeling empty.
The more success you gain, the more you need to repeat it and gain more of it (Tom Brady/Michael Jordon).
The better the romance you experience, the more you feel destroyed with your spouse died.
Everything in life under the sun is like grabbing a snake by it’s tale!
It might be fun and exhilarating for a moment, but it’s going to come back to bite you!
And in response to this, the Father says: “Son, be careful - for life under the sun cannot give you meaning or purpose!”
How are we tempted to believe the lie?
Ecclesiastes 12:6–7 NLT
6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
That’s Qoheleth’s conclusion.
Which as we saw with his other statements, is basically him saying, “Enjoy what you got while you can, and don’t offend God, cuz He can take it from you early!”
And that’s partly true, but it’s not the full solution!
In verse 13, we find it though, through the conclusion of the narrator - or the Father.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Here the Father tells us something very similar to what Qoheleth told us earlier, which was:
“Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with eery secret thing, whether good or evil.”
When it comes to life under the sun, everyone tends to think the world revolves around them.
When you walk into a room, it’s just obvious who the most important person there is
And it’s you - OF COURSE!
And that’s because the world revolves around you.
But here’s the thing:
The world doesn’t revolve around us
What does it revolve around?
Yes, technically it does revolve around the sun,
But, in terms of importance, it revolves around GOD!
And because it revolves around God, it cannot also revolve around you!
And until we come to undersand that, life under the sun is going to be COMPLETELY MISERABLE!
Qoheleth says, “find the best things in life to revolve around you, cuz at least you’ll get some pleasure then before you die.”
But the Father says: “Don’t do that - fear God and build your life to revolve around HIM!”
“Instead of following the arrow of your hearts, follow the arrow of God’s law.”
And this isn’t just strict legalism!
it’s not just: “Do the good things and not the bad things so God doesn’t do bad thing to you”
That’s not what this is!
think about it
If God is the center of your universe
If He’s what you live for, are you going to care about the things God cars for?
Of course you are!
<brother and opera>
Those who love God will love what God loves and hate what God hates.
Which is not LEGALISM.
Legalism is doing the right things for wrong selfish reasons, not because of selfless reasons which are driven by love for God!
Which is why legalism leads to misery, and a loving relationship with God leads to Joy and Satisfacation!
Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Felnter puts it:
“God’s commandments are not restrictions to our pleasure; they are guidelines for our pleasure. When you live according to the design God has given, it’s all the more enjoyable. It’s like a “road closed” sign on the highway. Sure, you may be frustrated that you have to go a different way, but most of us fully understand that the detour was put in place, as frustrating as it may be, for your safety, for your good, for your health. The same is that of the commands of God.”
When the Bible says to fear God, what does that mean?
Fearing God means revering God.
And why?
“We fear God rather than live for self, we keep his commands rather than obey our desires, because of eternity. We don’t believe this is all there is. We don’t believe this life is all there will be, so we’re living in light of the future. We’re preparing ourselves for eternal life.”
Psalm 90:12 NIV
12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
The truth is, we are all tempted to live for the here and now, and think that it will last forever!
But it won’t!
For the truth is, sooner, rather than later, we are all going to stand before God on the day of judgment and give an accounting for our lives lived under the sun!
Did we live with our hearts set upon Him and eternity,
Or upon ourselves and the temporary?
“Alright, you’ve convinced me Mr. Fatherly narrator - I will live for God and eternity.”
“But how?”
Ecclesiastes 12:11 ESV
11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.

Ultimately all wisdom comes from God. “Goads” (v. 11) are prodding sticks, and people who master this wisdom literature are similar to “driven nails” in that they are stable and secure. The “one Shepherd” in view could be Solomon, Moses, or, most likely, God (cf. Prov. 2:6).

“Beyond this” (v. 12) evidently refers to beyond the wisdom literature that God has revealed, in view of verse 11. Solomon warned his disciple that looking elsewhere in other books for divine wisdom would only wear him out.

This verse does not say that all study is tiring, though that is true. It means that study of books—other than what God has revealed—in order to learn true wisdom, is an endless, wearisome occupation. This is not to say we should avoid reading books other than the Bible, or that other books do not impart wisdom. It is saying that the main place to look when you want to find true wisdom is God’s Word.

The point here is simply,
God is the one true and faithful shepherd who’s wisdom is trustworthy,
And if we ignore it and listen to the wisdom of this world, it will lead us to ruin!
And yet, every single one of us is born into the world running away from the wisdom of God!
We are all born running away from the Good Shepherd, as we chase the world like the prodigal sons and daughters we are.
Isaiah 53:6 ESV
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
John 10:7–9 ESV
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
John 7:37–38 ESV
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”
Jesus has been the answer to every search throughout the book of Ecclesiastes and for your life, as well. If it’s knowledge you seek, Jesus is wisdom. If it’s pleasure you seek, Jesus turns water into the best wine. If it’s money you want, Jesus gives a kingdom currency that will not be destroyed. If you hunger, Jesus is the Bread of Life. If it’s love you desire, yet your loved one dies, Jesus offers a love that not even death can separate you from. Do you feel like life is just a treadmill? Jesus came into the treadmill and broke the pattern so you could have life abundantly. If it’s death you’re concerned about, take heart. This Good Shepherd laid his life down for the sheep and conquered the grave. The answer to your search is the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. So, whatever your search is (and it’s something), you need a shepherd. You need Jesus Christ to guide you, if you want to make sense out of life. As Saint Augustine said, our hearts are restless until they find Him.
Hebrews 10 - spur each other on to love and good works.
As a church, how can we remind each other of these truths?
What are wrong ways we often try to help those who are struggling with the burdens of life under the sun?
What can we do to foster an atmosphere in our church that encourages openness and honestly with our struggles?
What major truth is given in the Bible to help motivate us to continue on persevering in the midst of trials, and how can we better utilize this tool in our church?
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