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Scripture Reading
Every person in life is on a search to find meaning and fulfillment.
Every person is seeking to find their own place in this world, somewhere that they can fit in.
Somewhere that they can feel that they make a difference…
What tends to happen is that people find something that can bring them a measure of joy
The Author
As we begin our study this morning in Ecclesiastes, I’d like to turn our attention firstly to the author of this book.
In verse 1, we read this:
The first descriptor that the author gives of himself in that verse is “The Teacher.”
More traditionally, this was translated as “the Preacher” (and you’ll see that if you have the KJV, ESV or NASB).
In the original Hebrew, the word is qohelet, probably meaning “participant in an assembly”, or perhaps “one who assembles” (a group).
In this context, it is evident that we have here a leader of an assembly of people, and he calls this assembly together, and will teach them from his own experiences of life.
Gather around, he says to the Israelites.
Come and listen to the words of the Teacher, and let me show you what this life has taught me.
And so this book is recorded for us in Scripture, and the teacher speaks today, not to the Israelite assembly, but to the assembly of God’s people, the church.
And this great teacher has much to tell us.
And so we’re invited to come and listen to the teacher, as he will teach us about vanity in this life, and ultimately, where we may find satisfaction in this life.
But we might ask, “Who is this teacher, and what gives him the qualification or authority to presume to be able to teach us something about life?”
To begin with, we must acknowledge that nowhere in this book did the author give his actual name.
In that sense, it could be argued that we don’t know who the author is.
Many, especially in more recent times, claim that we do not know who the author in fact.
But what he does do is give us an indication as to his identity, by using the designations “son of David” and “king in Jerusalem”
In verse 12 of chapter 1 again, he writes:
So here was a king who was ruler over Israel in Jerusalem.
And here was someone who was the “son of David”.
Most likely, and what most interpreters have held to historically, was that the son that is referred to is David’s direct son, Solomon.
Certainly, this is the most fitting and probable person based on the descriptions that we find of this Teacher through the book of Ecclesiastes.
Just by way of example of the claims that the author made about himself...
He claimed to have great wealth.
He was a man of great wisdom...
Over and over in the book, the author writes of his wisdom, of his search for wisdom, and of use of wisdom in discerning the things that take place in this life.
Indeed, the book finds itself in Scripture within the “Wisdom literature” (along with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs)
As we consider these (and other) descriptions of this king, we certainly would be driven to conclude that the likelihood of the author being Solomon is high indeed.
The descriptions are fitting of Solomon.
In terms of wealth, we read in...
(666 talents = 25 tons per year)
In terms of wisdom, we read in...
In 1 Kings 10:23, we read of both the riches and wisdom of Solomon together...
This is the Teacher, then, that assembles the people together in order to teach them.
This great king Solomon, who I would suggest is only exceeded in history by Jesus Christ himself (in terms of wisdom, not wealth!!) is the teacher.
It was out of this perspective of being such a great king, unequalled in wealth and worldly possessions, unequaled in terms of anything that this world could offer to bring a person satisfaction, that Solomon wrote these words that he did.
I would suggest to you that his position, his wisdom and his wealth made him most suitably qualified to write in the way he did, and to give us the advice that he does.
As we work our way through Ecclesiastes, we will get the distinct impression that this is the kind of book a person would write near the close of life, reflecting on life’s experiences and the lessons learned.
Solomon probably wrote Proverbs (Prov.
1:1; 1 Kings 4:32) and the Song of Solomon (1:1) during the years he faithfully walked with God, particularly the earlier years of his life.
Near the end of his life, he wrote Ecclesiastes.
He wrote Proverbs from the viewpoint of a wise teacher (Proverbs 1:1–6)
He wrote Song of Solomon from the viewpoint of a royal lover (Song of Solomon 3:7–11)
But here in Ecclesiastes, he calls himself “the Preacher” (1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8–10).
The word Koheleth carries with it the idea of debating, not so much with the listeners as with himself.
He would present a topic, discuss it from many viewpoints, and then come to a practical conclusion.
Ecclesiastes may appear to be a random collection of miscellaneous ideas about a variety of topics, but Solomon assures us that what he wrote was orderly (12:9).
2. The Aim (v.2-3)
So having considered who the author is of this letter, and how he is so suitably qualified to be teaching us what he does in this letter, we must turn our attention to what his aim is in his teaching.
What does this great Preacher seek to show his gathered audience as he teaches them?
What has he learnt through his experiences in life?
Right up front in his book, he gives people this kind of “summary” of what it is that he has learnt in his life “under the sun.”
In verse 2, we read these words...
The NIV uses the word “Meaningless”.
This is probably not the best way to translate.
NASB, KJV, ESV etc - translate this as “Vanity”.
Everything in this world, according to the author, is vanity.
In the ESV:
This then is a key thought throughout the book - that everything in this world, without the correct perspective, is vanity.
In Ecc 12:8, we read again...
Solomon used the word “vanity” thirty-eight times in this book.
It is the Hebrew word hevel, meaning “emptiness, futility, vapor.”
Solomon speaks here about things that disappear quickly.
They are there one moment, and gone the next, and they bring no lasting and meaningful satisfaction.
The same word “hevel” is used in Psalm 39:11
In James 4:13-14, we read James speaking about the brevity of life in these words.
This is the idea that Preacher has in his mind.
As smoke from a fire billows up into the sky and disappears, so this life, and so everything that takes place in this life, is vanity.
What Solomon does in this book of Ecclesiastes is that he looks back on his life (a life that by any worldly standards was full) and he looks back on everything that the world had to offer, and he marvels at the utter vanity, futility of it all.
All his own endeavours in this world (and he achieved things that we can barely dream of achieving)...
All the works and labours of his hands....
All of the pleasures in this world that he engaged in (and he experienced the pleasures of this world in abundance).
But the ultimate conclusion that he comes to in verse 2, and through most of this book, is that these endeavors are futile.
They are in vain.
It is as if everything that one does under the sun is utter futility.
In verse 3, he asks the question...
There is a description there of the life of man in this world being “toil under the sun.”
We as people are toiling in this world under the sun.
Through this book, Solomon discusses a host of vanities—various things that are “meaningless” when considered from this perspective of life “under the sun.”
He look at human wisdom, and advancing in wisdom and knowledge.
For example in Ecc 2:15, he writes…
He looks at labor itself, for example in Ecc.
In verse 17 he writes...
He evaluates the pursuit of material goods in this life, and in Ecc 2:26 he writes...
He evaluates the labour of the hands of people, and determines that really most of it flows from a competitive spirit.
It is simply competition.
In Ecc 4:4 he writes...
He looks at power and authority in the world...
He looks at the greed of man...
He looks at wealth and accolades...
Well, doesn’t this sound like an exciting book...
Something to really lift the spirits!!
We’re not going to find this book being preached in the prosperity Gospel church are we?!
But friends, I wonder if you have ever encountered that thinking in your own mind.
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