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Vanity of vanities

Life under the sun  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

(ESV)
Two speakers:

Introduction

Introduction

1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Recurring phrase:
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
Levi and Christmas and birthday.
Levi and Christmas and birthday.
Work is meaningless
Have you noticed that we live our lives between events and occasions?
Have you noticed that we live our lives between events and occasions?
3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
Nothing changes
We’re always looking forward to the next thing. We need hope to propel our lives forward.
We’re always looking forward to the next thing. We need hope to propel our lives forward.
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever:
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
We live for the next holiday, or the next weekend away, or the next match, or the next chapter of our lives.
We live for the next holiday, or the next weekend away, or the next match, or the next chapter of our lives.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. 7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
During term, parents are so stressed out from the rigours of running kids all over, that we long for the holidays. And then within a day or two, we’re saying ‘what were we thinking!’
During term, parents are so stressed out from the rigours of running kids all over, that we long for the holidays. And then within a day or two, we’re saying ‘what were we thinking!’
Life is exhausting and repetitive:
8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
When I was a student I distinctly remember New Year’s Eve being a time of anticipation that invariably ended up being disappointing. You had this feeling that there should be something more - something new and different as the earth finished another circuit around the sun; only to awaken the next day and find a strange familiarity and mundanity about life.
When I was a student I distinctly remember New Year’s Eve being a time of anticipation that invariably ended up being disappointing.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
This is true across the ages: the novelty of novelty
You had this feeling that there should be something more - something new and different as the earth finished another circuit around the sun; only to awaken the next day and find a strange familiarity and mundanity about life.
11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
Ecclesiastes is a book written to unsettle us.
Ecclesiastes is a book written to unsettle us. It will unmask the distractions of life, the trinkets that we seek meaning in, and give us a cold slap of reality.
Some very initial applicatory thought:
Honest skepticism provides no answers.
Life under the sun is life without God - which is meaningless.
If life under the sun is all there is, carpe diem
The world is never going anywhere - the answer to this is eschatology.
At first glance it can be a depressing book. But I hope that we’ll see as we work through it, that in fact the depressing bit is short-lived. It shows us the world as it is - and offers us something better.
Ecclesiastes is greek for Hebrew ‘qohelet’. Q is not a proper name - its a nickname - a pseudonym. It means ‘one who assembles’. NIV ‘Teacher’ is misleading. Who has he assembled? Some say a church (which is a word related to ‘ecclesiastes’). Others think he’s too untraditional to be addressing a religious gathering and think of it rather as a classroom - hence ‘teacher’.
At first glance it can be a depressing book. But I hope that we’ll see as we work through it, that in fact the depressing bit is short-lived. It shows us the world as it is - and offers us something better.
It reveals to us on the one hand, how insubstantial our lives are, and then offers something better.
It reveals to us on the one hand, how insubstantial our lives are, and then offers something better. On the one hand, it will tell us that our lives are like vapour - but on the other hand we will be shown how to live with meaning and purpose.
Traditionally, it has been argued that this is Solomon. In , Solomon rebels agains the Lord. The tradition is that this book is him in his old age, having repented. The most natural reading of verse 1 is that this is Solomon, who was the biological son of David and ruled the Kingdom in the 10th century BC. 1:12 identifies himself as the king of Israel who ruled in Jerusalem. He describes himself in 1:16 as someone very wise; 2:4-9 - he enjoyed fantastic wealth. These descriptions resemble Solomon. In Solomon gathered people - assembled them.
Ecclesiastes’ is Greek for the Hebrew word ‘qohelet’. It comes from a Greek word ekklesia, which means ‘assemble/gather’.
Ecclesiastes’ is Greek for the Hebrew word ‘qohelet’. It comes from a Greek word ekklesia, which means ‘assemble/gather’.
The Book of Ecclesiastes 1. Internal Considerations

The person who calls himself Qohelet pretends to be Solomon in order to argue that if Solomon cannot find satisfaction and meaning in life in these areas, no one can. Solomon was the perfect literary foil for his argument. Once the search for meaning is over, the Solomonic persona is dropped, and that is when we see the distance between Qohelet and Solomon widen.

1:12-12:7 is q being quoted by an unnamed author who is heard in 1:1-11 and 12:8-12.
NIV says these are the words of the ‘teacher’ (v1). Other translations use the word ‘Preacher’ [‘Prediker’ in Afrikaans].
NIV says these are the words of the ‘teacher’ (v1). Other translations use the word ‘Preacher’ [‘Prediker’ in Afrikaans].
These are the words of the person who addresses the gathering - the assembly.  
These are the words of the person who addresses a gathering - the assembly.  
‘meaningless’ (hebel) is repeated 37 times.
To start with, in Ecclesiastes we are hearing the voices of not one - but two wise men:

1. Two wise men: v1

The theological message of Q is that life is full of trouble, and then you die.
The most natural reading of verse 1 is that this is Solomon, who was the biological son of David and ruled the Kingdom in the 10th century BC - that's 3000 years ago!

1. Two wise men: v1

It is a call to seize the day - carpe deim. In the darkness of a life that has no ultimate meaning, enjoy the temporal pleasures that lighten the burden - 5:18-20.
Solomon was the patron of the wisdom literature.
The most natural reading of verse 1 is that this is Solomon, who was the biological son of David and ruled the Israelite Kingdom in the 10th century BC - that's 3000 years ago!
Q’s view of God: Does God provide relief for his negative view of life? Q’s God is distant, sometimes indifferent and sometimes cruel!
Solomon was the patron of the wisdom literature.
The title pages of three books claim Solomon’s authorship: Proverbs, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.
Q uses the generic ‘Elohim’ for God - rather than covenantal ‘Yahweh’. A sense of distance. Any enjoyment of life comes from God, but is a narcotic that numbs the ‘recipient to the true nature of reality - 5:19.
There is no certainty of the afterlife for Q - 3:18-21.
Fear God - 5:6-7; 7:15-18; 8:12-13. The context of these passages however, suggest fear or fright of a powerful or dangerous being - not respect or awe for a mighty and compassionate deity. 4:1-3 - evil and oppression in the world cast doubt on a compassionate and caring deity.
Q sees nothing in present or future that gives him any confidence that God will reward the righteous or punish the sinner [7:15-18; 9:1-12] cf. 8:14. He is a skeptic. But the frame of the book [1:1-11 and 12:8-15] is a different author. Q is not the concluding voice in the book.
Only when we understand the frame can we work out how this skeptical Q can be in the bible. To understand Ecc we must understand the epilogue.
12:8 summarises Q’s wordview - ‘vanity’!
then he acknowledges Q’s efforts. He was a wise man who worked hard at his task.
but he criticises Q. That is, most of the book of ECC is composed of nonorthodox speeches, that are torn down and demolished in the end.
Q’s speech is a teaching device, used by the second wise man to teach the orthodox teaching of the OT:
The title pages of three books claim Solomon’s authorship: Proverbs, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.
In Solomon gathered people - assembled them.
Firstly, fear God [wisdom]. This is a call to be in a right relationship with God. A relationship that understands our dependence and subordinate status with God.
In Solomon gathered people - assembled them.
1:12  identifies himself as the king of Israel who ruled in Jerusalem.
Secondly, the continuing relationship with God includes keeping his commandments [the law].
1:12  identifies himself as the king of Israel who ruled in Jerusalem.
He describes himself in 1:16 as someone very wise;
Finally, God will bring every deed into judgment [prophets]. Live in the present in the light of the future.
2:4-9 - he enjoyed fantastic wealth.
He describes himself in 1:16 as someone very wise
In a masterfully succinct manner, then, the book ends with three phrases that point away from skeptical thinking and toward a theology consonant with the rest of the OT: wisdom, law and prophets.
2:4-9 - he enjoyed fantastic wealth.
These descriptions resemble Solomon. The tradition is that this book is him in his old age, having repented of his rebellion against God which you can see in .
These descriptions resemble Solomon. The tradition is that this book is him in his old age, having repented of his rebellion against God which you can see in .
But, the book never actually says it is Solomon. It could be a writer who is writing through Solomon’s eyes.
Q sounds modern, because he so vividly captures the despair of a world without God. The difference, though, is that the modern world believes that God does not exist; Q believed that God existed but questioned his love and concern [4:16-5:6]. As a result, nothing had meaning for Q, not wealth, wisdom, charity. After all, death brought everything to an end. Q is preoccupied with death throughout the book [2:12-16; 3:18-22; 12:1-7], because he sees nothing beyond that point.
But, the book never actually says it is Solomon, which has led some to say that it could be a writer who is writing through Solomon’s eyes.
The careful reader of Ecclesiastes will notice that there are actually 2 wise men in the book:
On one level - Q is exactly right. The world [under the sun] without God is meaningless. Death ends it all, so he alternated between hating life [2:17] and taking what meagre enjoyment God hands out [2:24-26].
The careful reader of Ecclesiastes will notice that there are actually 2 wise men in the book:
1:1 speaks about the Preacher in the third person. This is the narrator.
The meaning of the book is not found in Q’s speech - but in the simple instruction in the last few verses. But we may admit that Q has rightly described the horror of a world under curse and apart from God. He did not have hope.
1:1 speaks about the Preacher in the third person. This is the narrator.
1:12 is the Preacher speaking - and he goes all the way to 12:7. But in 12:8, the narrator re-appears, to give a conclusion.
In the NT Jesus is the one who redeems us from vanity - and meaninglessness. Jesus redeemed us from Q’s meaningless world, by subjecting himself to it. Jesus is the son of God, but nonetheless he experienced the vanity of the world so he could free us from it. As he hung on the cross, his own father deserted him and he experienced in himself the frustration of the world under curse in a way that Q could not even imagine - . [Curse].
3 parts:
1:12 is the Preacher speaking - and he goes all the way to 12:7. But in 12:8, the narrator re-appears, to give a conclusion.
3 parts:
1:1-11: The prologue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
As a result, Christians can experience deep significance precisely in those areas where Q felt most oppressed. Jesus has restored meaning to wisdom, labor, love and life. After all, by facing death, Jesus conquered the biggest fear facing Q. He showed that for believers, death is not the end of all meaning, but the entrance into the very presence of God.
1:12-12:7: The lecture: Preacher [wiseman #2]
1:1-11: The prologue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
1:1 Superscription:
1:12-12:7: The lecture: Preacher [wiseman #2]
12:8-14: The epilogue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
This introduces Q’s speech which is 1:12-12:7.
After introducing the Preacher to us in v1, the narrator gives us an overview of the Preacher’s view of life as we know it in verse 2-11. Did you notice, it’s not cheerful!
12:8-14: The epilogue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
The writer [not Q] is setting up Q’s speech by setting the mood of Q. He is second unnamed wisdom teacher - the ‘frame narrator’.

2. The world we live in: v2-11

After introducing the Preacher to us in v1, the narrator gives us an overview of the Preacher’s view of life as we know it in verse 2-11.
The superscription is like the title page of a modern book.
The Preacher’s view of world is that world is meaningless. The word meaningless is mentioned 37 times in the book, and only 32 times in the rest of the bible!

2. The world we live in: v2-11

It is common to prophecy and wisdom books in the OT. It was added by a second hand [editor] - because it refers to the author in the 3rd person. 1:12-12:7 carries the tone of a lecture. It is beyond question that the superscription intends to associate Q with Solomon.
The Preacher’s view of the world is that world is meaningless. The word meaningless is mentioned 37 times in the book, (and only 32 times in the rest of the bible!)
In verse 2 - the word is mentioned 5 times. It literally says:
Introduction to Q’s thought: 1:2-11:
In verse 2 - the word is mentioned 5 times. It literally says:
Meaningless, meaningless says the preacher.
v2
Q is not yet speaking - ‘Q said’ - v2 cf. 7:27 and 12:8. Also, 1:12 - seems to be where Q starts speaking.
Meaningless, meaningless says the preacher.
Meaninglessness of meaninglessnesses.
This prologue is to set the mood for what follows. He sets the mood by showing Q’s ultimate conclusion in 1:2 and 12:8. ‘This is vanity’ is a repeated phrase throughout the book [about 35 times: e.g. 2:1, 15, 19; 3:19; 5:9, et al].
1:2 - ‘utterly meaningless’ = [lit.] meaninglessness of meaninglessnesses [or vanity of vanities]. It is mentioned 5 times in one verse! In case you missed it - ‘everything is meaningless’ - nothing is excluded from Q’s final judgement! Vanity [Hebrew - hebel] means ‘breath, breeze or vapor’. It lacks lasting substance. What does he mean? Is he saying that everything is meaningless, or that everything is temporary? Does it mean useless or transitory? For example in the same word means transitoriness [‘breath’ in v6].
meaningless - could be interchangeable with ‘emptiness, frustration’. This is likely in Paul’s mind in . Overwhelmingly the context of Ecc pushes us towards accepting it to mean meaningless.
v3
rhetorical question - what profit is there? An assumption is made - everyone knows the answer - there is no profit! If there is no meaning, how could there be profit?
‘under the sun’ comes 29 times. It appears nowhere else in the OT. Q’s assessment of life is restricted to terrestrial human activity and work. His scope of inquiry is restricted. His worldview does not allow him to take a transcendent yet immanent God into consideration.
v4
The reason for the vanity of toil is now hinted at - nothing ever changes except time.
Al Stewart:
We keep going through the motions day after day.
Then you retire - and you keep going around and around in slow motion.
We fill our lives with things to deliver to us meaning and purpose.
What will last? What will give us meaning.
That is the question of Ecc. Wisdom is about how to make sense of the world we live in.
1. Song of Solomon - about being in love - not very logical.
2. Proverbs - logical - casue and effect. act wisely you’ll benefit, act foolishly and you’ll suffer
3. Job - undeserved suffering? how do we make sense of the suffering of innocents?
4. Eccl - what give life meaning and purpose? what really matters?
Solomon - 1000BC - patron of wisdom literature. Never says it is Solomon - could be a writer who is writing through Solomon’s eyes.
v2 Hebel - breath and a vapour. trivial, worthless, transitory, vanity [- not conceited - but pointless]. Gk - futile - .
meaninglessness of meaninglessnesses - holy of holies - dumb and dumber!
Nothing lasts - its a mist and then it’s gone. what continues or lasts after we’ve done all this. hard work can mean drudgery hard work.
but the phrase ‘under the sun’ is important. for all our busyness and get exhausted - what’s the gain or the profit?
this acts as an overture - what is planet earth like and what does it teach us about life?
He says - generation come and go - the point being - we are so insignificant in the great scheme of things. Our time is hardly noticed. We are like ants.
Table mountain and tourists - mountain stays tourists come and go. bugs on the windscreen.
monotony of the world - sun rises and sets. not celebrating the consistency of nature, it’s just monotonous. nothing is ever achieved - sea never full, etc.
His reaction - all things are wearisome. you can get board with anything. What could be more exciting than a rollercoaster. Amusement parks - have you ever looked at the staff? They’re bored out of their minds. All things are wearisome - doesn’t matter what you do it will become boring.
v8 - we’re never satisfied [like the travel bug!]
DSTV - surely we have enough to watch? No - what about DVD online libraries? Won’t that be enough?
Everything is meaningless.
Meaninglessness of meaninglessnesses.
Get to a certain age and life is boring. I get stressed about deadlines this week that I won’t remember in 6 months time.
This is repeated in 12:8 - when the narrator takes over and reminds us of the Preacher’s view.
Everything is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 12:8 ESV
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
The great irony of life - bored and stressed at the same time.
This is repeated in 12:8 - when the narrator takes over and reminds us of the Preacher’s view.
The Preacher’s message is that life is full of trouble, and then you die.
v10 - conclusion. economy rises and falls - it’s a regular thing. The march of technology is not new - from the wheel to the shuttle - never quite fast enough. and the tech hasn’t stopped the great problems of the human race.
The word ‘meaningless’ is an important word. It can also be translated as breath, or mist. Commentators differ with each other - is he really saying that life is meaningless, or is he really saying that life is fleeting? I’m still thinking about it, but I think it could be either - or both.
The Preacher’s message is that life is full of trouble, and then you die.
The word ‘meaningless’ is an important word. It can also be translated in different ways - for example as breath, or mist.
Life can be experienced as insubstantial, unsatisfying, frustrating, trivial, worthless, BUT ALSO transitory, temporary, fleeting!
New Year’s eve - when i was young - was always an anticlimax. It’s not all like this - it gets worse - v11. No one will remember us - who are these people?
Commentators differ with each other - is he really saying that life is meaningless, or is he really saying that life is fleeting?
All is vanity [not conceited - but pointless/futile].
Ah - but our family will remember us - will they? Do you think you will be remembered?
Life can be experienced as insubstantial, unsatisfying, frustrating, trivial, worthless, BUT ALSO transitory, temporary, fleeting!
Here is a description of the fallen world we live in. He knows his bible.
We are under the sun, tedious, changeless, won’t be remembered.
The ESV uses the word ‘vanity’ [not conceited - but pointless/futile].
Look at 3:20 and 12:7 - READ. Do those words sound familiar? They are taken from when after mankind rebels against God, he pronounces a curse on the creation, and death enters the world for the first time:
Why does this feel wrong? Why has every society in history tried to find meaning. the feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness is a burden God has put on us. . God put frustration on our world. ‘Frustration’ is the same word for ‘meaningless’. Our world groans under that strain. God has put us under that - because God wants us to know that something is wrong in our world - under the sun.
Genesis 3:19 ESV
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
:
Here is a description of the fallen world we live in. He knows his bible.
There’s got to be something that gives us meaning and purpose in life. Come back next week!
The introduction of death into creation makes our lives insubstantial. And he is exactly right. The world [under the sun] without God is meaningless. Death ends it all, so he alternated between hating life [2:17] and taking what meagre enjoyment life can offer [2:24-26].
Look at 3:20 and 12:7 - READ. Do those words sound familiar? They are taken from when after mankind rebels against God, he pronounces a curse on the creation, and death enters the world for the first time:
Genesis 3:19 ESV
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
:
They correspond with what Paul says in
Romans 8:18 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Mervyn:
Why is it meaningless? He gives 5 reasons.
The introduction of death into creation makes our lives insubstantial, fleeting and futile. And he is exactly right.
Prediker - Afrikaans.
Nothing is ever gained (v3).
If all there is is this fallen world [under the sun] and only death at the end of it all, then life is meaningless.
1:2; 12:8 - we may be tempted to view the man as a cynic, or a skeptic. is this man a pessimist? is everything meaningless? the bible’s view is that the world is good. if he is a cynic - he’s against the view of the bible.
You work
Death ends it all. It is no wonder that the Preacher alternated between hating life [2:17] and taking what meagre enjoyment life can offer [2:24-26].
Christo Wiese lost $4bn worked for over 40 years in a very short time - a day or to of trading.
It sounds like what Paul is saying in
Romans 8:20 NIV84
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
Romans 8:20
God put frustration on our world. ‘Frustration’ is the same word for ‘meaningless’. Our world groans under that strain. God has put us under that - because God wants us to know that something is wrong in our world - under the sun.
Romans 8:18–20 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
0
He makes 5 hard-to-argue-with observations about life to back up his view of the world:
there is order and design and goodness in the world?
He makes 5 hard-to-argue-with observations about life to back up his view of the world:
Nothing really changes (v4).
Nothing is ever gained (v3)
Is it right to say that everything is meaningless? Is it a right view of life?
Nothing really changes (v4)
a) Nothing is ever gained (v3).
Life is monotonous. The sun rises and sets. He’s not celebrating the consistency of nature, he’s saying nothing is ever achieved: the sea is never full, the wind is never finished, the sun goes in circles.
Nothing ever satisfies (v8)
Nothing really changes (v4)
Nothing is new (v9)
Nothing ever satisfies (v8) Nothing is new (v9)
There are two speakers in Ecc. the preacher and the narrator - 1:1-11; 12:9-14.
Nothing is new (v9)
No one is remembered (v11)
Nothing is ever gained (v3)
Two thirds of your life is spent sleeping and working. Two thirds of your life is spent unproductively or toil.
Generations come and go. We are so insignificant in the great scheme of things. We are bugs on the windscreen of time, we are hardly noticed.
You sleep, you wake, you work, you come home and sleep, and wake and work.
The voice of the teacher who is the cynic. But the other voice is the narrator - to correct him.
You plan and save, and occasionally do something out of the ordinary - have a holiday or something - but mostly that just serves to make you discontented with the fact you sleep, you wake, you work for two thirds of your life.
Christo Wiese lost R50bn that he had worked for over 40 years in a very short time - a day or to of trading.
Nothing ever satisfies (v8).
But 12:9-10 gives us the narrators view of the preacher. He imparted wisdom. He was careful about his words. He is not venting. But the teacher is not venting. He searched for the right words. He’s a careful controlled, thoughtful man. v10 - what he said upright and true. v11 - these words are goads.
You can get bored with anything.
Nothing really changes (v4).
Meaningless = fleeting. life lived under the sun is lived under the shadow of death. how do we live in a world in a life that is fleeting?
Life is monotonous. Generations come and go. Like bugs on the windscreen of time, we are hardly noticed. We are so insignificant in the great scheme of things. The sun rises and sets; the wind blows and blows; the rivers keep running down.
What could be more exciting than Disneyland? But did you notice how board the staff were!
He’s not celebrating the consistency of nature, he’s saying nothing is ever achieved: the sea is never full, the wind is never finished, the sun goes in circles.
Meaningless = fleeting. life lived under the sun is lived under the shadow of death. how do we live in a world in a life that is fleeting?
They’re bored out of their minds. All things are wearisome - doesn’t matter what you do it will become boring.
Remember that life is fleeting, therefore remember your creator. Those who are older know that life is fleeting. Nothing lasts. We know that we are to call on God. We will all die and we need to be ready. Life is fleeting, so fear God. Put your hand into God’s hands.
Nothing ever satisfies (v8).
DSTV dozens of channels and nothing to watch.
12:1: Since life is fleeting - when should you remember your creator? While you are young. This speaks against the ‘suck the marrow from the bones’ view of life.
Netflix - 14 000 movies but it won’t that be enough.
You can get bored with anything.
Your life is fleeting. It’s not that life isn’t good. This book is positive about life. But it is realistic about life. All of our achievements and ambitions are gone in a moment.
What could be more exciting than Disneyland? But did you notice how board the staff were!
iTunes - over 40 mil songs, it’s not enough.
They’re bored out of their minds. All things are wearisome - doesn’t matter what you do it will become boring.
Get to a certain age and life is boring.
This book will give us a firm view of living in a broken world. Realistic - not negative. truthful.
DSTV dozens of channels and nothing to watch.
Nothing is new (v9).
Netflix - 14 000 movies but it won’t that be enough.
Someone may reply - the world is a better place than before! In comparison to previous generations, we are richer, healthier, living longer, more mobile, better educated than ever before.
GJR: ideas for an outline:
iTunes - over 40 mil songs, it’s not enough.
There is truth in that. But simultaneously, we are more depressed, fragmented and anxious than ever before. Infidelity, divorce and suicide rates are unprecedented.
Introduction:
Mundanity of life
New Years Eve
Shortness of life
Christo Wiese post $4bn worked for over 40 years in a very short time - a day or to of trading.
Book intro:
We’ve eliminated trans-atlantic slave trade, but people trafficking and children trafficking is a pandemic!
Get to a certain age and life is boring.
2 wise men - 1:1 and 1:12.
3 parts:
1:1-11: The prologue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
1:12-12:7: The lecture: Preacher [wiseman #2]
12:8-14: The epilogue: Narrator [wiseman #1]
The world we live in
Genesis 3 ESV
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
While it is true that new technology exists, the technological march isn’t new. The use of a good technology for evil purposes isn’t new.
Nothing is new (v9)
: cf. ;
insubstantial, fleeting, bewildering, mixture, unsatisfying, good, under the pall of death
:
1:1-11:
v1 - a cold dose of reality: the lives we live
Someone may reply - the world is a better place than before!
No one is remembered (v11).
The lives we live
The lives we live
Fleeting/futile /meaningless
Why is it meaningless - because we don’t gain anything (v3).
Within 10-20 years no one will know we were here! Who were our great grandparents - most of us don’t care - or of we do, our kids won’t. Not really.
In comparison to previous generations, we are richer, healthier, living longer, more mobile, better educated than ever before.
Christo Wiese post $4bn worked for over 40 years in a very short time - a day or to of trading.
Nothing changes (v4 - Monotonous/repetitive
There’s nothing new (v9 -
Under the sun (v3 and 9)
But we will live on in people’s memories? Well that might give you another 20 years or so - but eventually, you’ll be forgotten.
There is truth in that. But simultaneously, we are more depressed, fragmented and anxious than ever before. Infidelity, divorce and suicide rates are unprecedented.
We’ve eliminated the trans-atlantic slave trade, but people trafficking and children trafficking is a pandemic!
I know almost nothing about paternal grandfather. He died before I was born. It’s made almost no difference to my life.
While it is true that new technology exists, the technological march isn’t new. The use of a good technology for evil purposes isn’t new.
Aren’t you glad you came to church today?!
The God we remember
12:1 - remember him in your youth
We used to be optimistic about ourselves and have the view that as a race we were progressing - and then the 20th century happened - starting in 1914 with the war that would end all wars - until 30 years later . . .
While the Preacher was accomplished in many things, inspirational speaking wasn’t one of them! He wasn’t invited to TED talks!
12:13a: Fear God - wisdom
This is what life under the sun is like.
No one is remembered (v11)
12:13b: Keep his commandments - law
Aspects of our culture accept this view of the world and say - ‘I don’t care if we’re going nowhere - as long as I’m happy. I’m trying to be happy while I go nowhere’.
Within 10-20 years no one will know we were here! Who were our great grandparents - most of us don’t care - or of we do, our kids won’t. Not really.
12:14: Remember judgement - prophets
But we will live on in people’s memories? Well that might give you another 20 years or so - but eventually, you’ll be forgotten.
The preacher also says that: 5:18-20
Heard:
I know almost nothing about my paternal grandfather. He died before I was born. It’s made no significant difference to my life, and my children are none the wiser.
In the darkness of a life that has no ultimate meaning, enjoy the temporal pleasures that lighten the burden.
when we teach the bible, a miraculous thing happens. Its a book about reality. it’s book about questions.
the author is working life out under the sun - not with the revelation of God. Making sense of life from my perspective / as i see life / from my perspective - e.g. 2:1 - testing life with pleasure.
Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
Aren’t you glad you came to church today?! While the Preacher was accomplished in many things, inspirational speaking wasn’t one of them! He wasn’t invited to do any TED talks!
Why does this feel wrong? Don’t you feel that there has got to be more? Every society in history has tried to find meaning.
This is what life under the sun is like.
The book has inspired many who may not have our view of God and the world.
The feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness is a burden God has put on us to drive us to him.
Aspects of our culture accept this view of the world and say - ‘I don’t care if we’re going nowhere - as long as I’m happy. I’m trying to be happy while I go nowhere’.
Pink Floyd: Time 1974

3. The God above the sun

The preacher also says that: 5:18-20
Three commands:
In the darkness of a life that has no ultimate meaning, enjoy the temporal pleasures that lighten the burden. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
It is depressing - but only so that we find something better. It’s short term depressing as preparation for something more wonderful.
Remember
Why does this feel wrong? Don’t you feel that there has got to be more? Every society in history has tried to find meaning.
It will lead you to make better sense of life and so find a better way to live life and to find a better contentedness in life.
1:1
big message - life is vain, empty, meaningless, misty, insubstantial.
Why is it meaningless - because we don’t gain anything (v3).
nothing changes (v4 -
there’s nothing new (v9 -
But there are things that have changed aren’t there? Are we any better than we’ve ever been? we are no different. Humans are the same. His observations about life are relevant today. He also knew the problems that we have - the great/big questions of life.
But there are things that have changed aren’t there? Are we any better than we’ve ever been? we are no different. Humans are the same. His observations about life are relevant today. He also knew the problems that we have - the great/big questions of life.
The feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness is a burden God has put on us to drive us to him.
12:1,6 - remember him in your youth. Although it’s never too late, it is better at a young age, to factor God into life.
You won’t be remembered. within 10-20 years no one will know we were here! Great grandparents - we don’t care. We live on in people’s memories - so we might have a few more years - but eventually.
To live life as though all there is is what you can see, and touch, and hear; to live life as though life is only ‘under the sun’, is to be a fool. There is a God.

3. The God above the sun

We are no different - in the important sense.
In order to understand the book of Ecclesiastes we need to read Chapter 12:  
Fear
Pink Floyd - Time - ticking away the moments. 31 year old band member Roger Waters realised he hadn’t done anything yet.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way. Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town Waiting for someone or something to show you the way. Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way The time is gone, the song is over, Thought I'd something more to say.
There are a few commands to take to heart:
12:13a: Fear God - wisdom
Remember God
Keep
There is nothing new in that song!
12:13b: Keep his commandments - law
12:1,6 - remember him in your youth. Although it’s never too late, it is better at a young age, to factor God into life.
We will hear more about this as we proceed through the book, but we will be challenged to not seek our ultimate or fulfilment purpose in created things like work, pleasure, family, etc.
12:14: judgement is coming, where the way we have lived our lives under the sun will be weighed and evaluated. Our lives have so much meaning, that our decisions about life are noted by God and we are called to account for them. - prophets
Someone may reply - the world is a better place than before! In comparison to previous generations, we are richer, healthier, living longer, more mobile, better educated than ever before. There is truth in that. but simultaneously, we are more depressed, fragmented and anxious than ever before. Infidelity, divorce and suicide rates are unprecedented.
58
But to look above the sun - to the one who created them. Only God can give us the purpose in our fleeting lives that we crave. The one who made it all is the only satisfaction in this life.
We’ve eliminated trans-atlantic slave trade, but people trafficking and children trafficking is a pandemic!
To live life as though all there is is what you can see, and touch, and hear; to live life as though life is only ‘under the sun’, is to be a fool. There is a God. Remember your creator.
You have been made for more and you’ve settled for less.
We need to hear this more than ever!
Fear God
What has been the point of your life? career, hobbies, sport, money, family - you can face it because there’s something better.
1900’s era of great hope for society! social ills will be healed, capitalism will solve poverty. 1914 - the War to end all wars! until 30 years later. Then dystopia like 1984 - kept from the truth by totalitarian big brother. Brave new world - truth being kept from us - not by big brother, but given over to pleasure and capitalism - where we don’t care about the future!
It prepares us for the gospel:
12:13a: Fear God.
For all our work over the centuries - nothing new!
Our world - i don’t care if we’re going nowhere - as long as I’m happy. i’m trying to be happy while i go nowhere.
The preacher will helps us to reflect on life and pushes us to want more. there is something better.
This is a call to be in a right relationship with God. A relationship that understands our dependence on God. This is what the wisdom literature in the OT is all about: The beginning of wisdom is fear of God.
In the NT Jesus is the one who redeems us from vanity - and meaninglessness. Jesus redeemed us from the Preacher’s meaningless world, by subjecting himself to it.
Luke 12:16 ESV
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,
;
Don’t you feel that there has got to be more.
Ecc is about this: You have been made for more and you’ve settled for less. What has been the point of your life? career, hobbies, sport, money, family - you can face it because there’s something better.
It prepares you for getting God and Jesus. and if you have that already -
The NT makes wisdom about Jesus:
Jesus experienced the vanity of the world so he could free us from it.
Prenatal closes - setting expectations.
Like parenting - wisdom is aligning yourself to life as it is - not as you imagine it!
Colossians 2:3 NIV84
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2–3 NIV84
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2 NIV84
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
Colossians 2:3 NIV84
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
3
:2
Keep God’s commandments
As he hung on the cross, his own father deserted him and he experienced in himself the frustration of the world under curse in a way that the Preacher could not even imagine - . [Curse].
if you do it all thinking you’ll get ultimate gain you’ll become obsessive and tyrannical and compromise important principles for the sake of the gain.
12:13b: Keep his commandments. This is talking about the continuing relationship with God - keeping his commandments, obeying him. This is a reference to the law. The NT makes this about Jesus too:
THE ULTIMATE THING IS the gospel ministry in the live of people - everything else, comes and go. What matters more is living in godliness and love together. If there is no ultimate gain to be had in our pursuits, we turn towards our family. You’ll become tyrannical and oppressive towards our kids. You’ll kill them and yourself. use the things of this world in a way that they are not the ultimate thing. Let go.
Romans 10:4 ESV
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Live in light of Judgment Day
12:14: judgement is coming, where the way we have lived our lives under the sun will be weighed and evaluated. This was the message of the OT prophets.
Our lives are headed somewhere, and have so much meaning, that our decisions about life are noted by God and we will be called to account for them.
What has been the point of your life? If the answer is career, hobbies, sport, money, family Ecclesiastes says to us - there’s something better. You have been made for more don’t settle for less.
In that it prepares us for the gospel:
Jesus redeemed us from the Preacher’s meaningless world, by subjecting himself to it.
Jesus experienced the vanity of the world so he could free us from it.
As he hung on the cross, his own father deserted him and he experienced in himself the frustration of the world under curse in a way that the Preacher could not even imagine.
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