Summary: Principally and introduction to the study and the exposition of first eleven verses
A study of the Book of Ecclesiastes
Finding Satisfaction In Life
“The Search for Meaning”
As I looked at what I wanted to preach as a new series I was amazed to discover that I had never preached through the book of Ecclesiastes. In fact after a closer examination I discovered that in 30 years here I have preached exactly two messages from the book of Ecclesiastes. Well we by God’s grace will rectify that starting tonight.
Perhaps part of the hesitation in preaching through Ecclesiastes as the book seems to takes such a gloomy view of life. One commentator says, “think of Ecclesiastes as the only book of the Bible written on Monday morning.” [Philip Graham Ryken. “Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters.” (Wheaton, ILL: Crossway, 2010) p.14]
Tonight will be principally an introduction and overview and cover the first eleven verses of Chapter one. The name “Ecclesiastes” stems from the title given in the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Greek term ekklesiastes means “preacher” and is derived from the word ekklesia is not a church building but a congregation or assembly of people for the worship of God. The Hebrew title,
(Qoheleth – Koheleth), is a rare term found only seven times in Ecclesiastes (1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8, 9, 10). It comes from the word qahal meaning “to convoke an assembly, to assemble.” Thus, it means “one who addresses an assembly, a preacher.”
First, The Author.
Though some modern scholars believe it was written by someone writing as Solomon. I believe that the author of Ecclesiastes is Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah – the general who was murdered on the orders of David the King. Solomon ruled Israel for forty years in peace and prosperity.
• Great Beginning.
Solomon began well as a young king God appear-ed to him in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish of me to give you.” (I Kings 3:5) Solomon responded by saying, that God had already blessed him by allowing him to follow his father as king but knowing the immense responsibility before him he asked, “Give they servant an understanding to judge they people to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9). Solo-mon’s answer pleased God because he could have asked for anything. “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, (12) behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and under-standing heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.” (1 Kings 3:11-12)
• A Downward Spiral.
Solomon’s downward spiral began with compro-mise and rationalization. Although Israelites has been specifically warned about intermarriage with unbelievers, He took an Egyptian wife for political purposes (1 Kings 3:1). He rationalized that this marriage was good for the country. Solomon took his wife to the city of Jerusalem where the Temple was already under construction. But because the Temple was not yet finished the people sacrifice as their neighbors did on the high places of the pagan gods. Solomon sacrificed there as well (1 Kings 3:3). Solomon’s spiritual decline was also evidenced in his personal relationships. Hiriam king of Tyre provided significant labor and materials for the construction of the Temple and Solomon repaid him by giving him twenty worthless cities in Galilee (1 Kings 9:10-13). In effect he insulted and cheated this old friend of his father.
Solomon’s life became marked by exorbitant living. (1 Kings 10:24-26) Solomon also amassed a harem of foreign wives (some 700 wives and 300 concubines) these wives contributed his spiritual decline, as he is led away by the idolatry of his foreign born wives.
Second, The Perspective.
•Life is fleeting!
Solomon began with such great promise, he had great gifts of wisdom, discernment, riches and honor and yet toward the end of his life, he wrote, “Vanity, Vanity – all is vanity” (Eccles. 1:2) this often translated as meaningless or empty. But taken literally, the Heb-rew word (hevel) translated vanity refers to life as a vapor or a puff of smoking rising from a chimney, or a cloud of steam that comes from hot breath on a frosty morning. Life is like that - it is elusive - it is transitory. The Apostle James said something similar when he described life as “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). According to the Psalmist we are “mere breath” (Psalm 39:5); our days “vanish like a breath” (Psalm 78:3, Job 7:7).
So in every place that your Bible translation speaks of “vanity” or “meaningless” we can substitute the idea of vapor or transitory. So when Solomon speaks of “youth” it is not vanity but it is passing (11:10). When he speaks of “work” it not vanity but it is passing. It is not that work is meaningless but it is passing or transitory.