Introduction to Ecclesiastes – “Ecclesiastes” means the teacher, preacher, philosopher, or speaker. Although not certain, most theologians believe the author was Solomon. Solomon knew what it was like to “have everything,” but was backslidden in his later years. We actually do not know if he ever repented and turned back to God although there are some hints in Scripture that he did. Its content has confused believers over the years because of the predominant theme of despair and seeming advocation of wrong things. This commonly quoted literary work must be understood to be the viewpoint of the natural man apart from the spirit of God. The author is limited to human reasoning while trying to assess the purpose of man. The commonly used phrase “under the sun” I think refers to life as man sees it. With these thoughts as a basis for the Book, we begin to see the truth and the value behind the verses. Life indeed is a waste of time if spent without being involved in God’s eternal kingdom. Man’s sins and mistakes are repeated throughout the generations so there is nothing really new. Even if a person lives a fairly good moral life, death is still waiting to erase it all. The real value of Ecclesiastes, however, is not realizing how despairing life is without God, but rather it can be a motivator to turn people to the Living God for meaning and purpose since nothing else works. The message is that a futile existence is NOT inevitable if we turn toward God and allow His Word to enter our hearts.

Ecclesiastes 1 – All life is vanity (futile). Man’s goals and aspirations and works are “striving after the wind.”

Application for Today: Have we ever stopped to asses our interests and activities we spend time on in light of Biblical Truth? Either they have eternal value based on what the Bible says or they do not. If they do not, then it’s not time well spent (Ephesians 5:16). This is not to say that we should never do something fun or relaxing such as reading or fishing, but our attitude should never be that this is “OUR time” and not God’s. Do all for the glory of God. In other words, allow His Spirit into the activity and always be willing to give it up if He so asks or directs. It would be a good thing for us to ask God to reveal what needs to be changed with our priorities or activities. He will not only tell us if we ask, He will help us as we deal with them. All this can help us avoid “the vanity rut” that this temporary world offers.

Ecclesiastes 2 – Addiction takes many forms. The writer tried everything this world offers to make him feel good – sex with many, money, building power, even wisdom. After a while, however, he realizes that he will die just like any common fool and all his accomplishments will be given away to another person who may not do well with them. Therefore, he concludes that all within this world is vanity. In verse 25, however, his despair helps him draw a right conclusion when he stated that God must be involved in one’s life to make it truly count for something.

Application for Today: Many people strive after worldly things thinking they will make them happy. The truth is that boredom sets in after time. Drug abuse experiences are a good teacher for us. Drug highs are exciting at first, but the user will lust after higher highs, and when they finally discover the highest high, they will never hit it again no matter how hard they try. Meanwhile their lives (and others) have been messed up by the lust of addiction. In this context, there is no difference between drug abuse and turning to this world for fulfillment. Anything becomes boring if we get too much of it. A relative of mine told me he has caught so many trout that he can’t wait until bass season opens! There you go. Nothing wrong with fishing, but if that becomes an “idol” (more important than God) then it becomes unfulfilling over time. Either we discover God or continue trying other things to fill the void within our hearts. That void is there because we have sinned, which causes separation form God. Only when we are reunited with Him will we find lasting peace and contentment. A rather promiscuous man marveled at a man who had been faithful to his wife all the many years of marriage. He asked him how he could stay with just one women. The faithful one asked him if he was satisfied with all the women he had. He said “no” and that is why he kept going after more. The faithful one then said that because he loves his wife so much, he has been satisfied all those years. People of this world have a difficult time understanding how a person can have hundreds of things and not be satisfied with them while another person can have just one thing and have that satisfaction. It all depends on what is going on in a person’s heart. There we find the real person (Matthew 6:21).

Ecclesiastes 3:

1-8: There are appointed times for everything and these times are orchestrated by God.

9-11: Although things have been set by God, He has still implanted the notion of eternity into each human heart, unlike the animals. This inner awareness that God has placed in humans is only a little piece of His full picture, however. In our sinful state, we are limited and cannot see all that even the angels long to see (1 Peter 1:12). What evolutionists can never teach is that the biggest difference between human beings and any other life form on this planet is not intelligence but rather an awareness of God. We do not operate from pre-set instincts alone as do the other life forms.

18: One purpose in God allowing man to wallow in his sinful state is to reveal to him that we’re not much better than the animals apart from Him. Helping us realize how far that Fall in Eden was is one big favor God is doing for us. People who have a love for the Truth will then be driven to the Cross of Christ and gain eternal life. This answers the age-old question from critics: Why does a loving God keep allowing all this evil to prevail and travail upon the earth? Our experience on earth is just the beginning of great things to come! But first a weeding out of all evil must take place in order for us to be propelled into His next “age.”

Ecclesiastes 4 – Again, we must keep in mind that the writer is limited in revelation about God, so I would not agree with his statement that it is better to not exist at all. He just does not know that God’s final judgment will set all straight. More vanity is seen – even though someone may rise from the bottom of society, not everyone will accept or appreciate him. Therefore since it is impossible to achieve full acceptance it is foolish to spend one’s life seeking it. In light of God’s completed Word to us, I would say that some acceptance from others is better than none because God can use it for His Kingdom.

Ecclesiastes 5 – This seems to be giving some good advice about how to approach God when in church. Do more listening than talking and do not make promises to God that you will not fulfill. When talking to Him, choose few words carefully maintaining reverence. This will prevent us from talking to God in a religious way – by rote, not thinking seriously about what we are saying and Who we are addressing. He also wisely notes that if we long for money (or, for that matter, any earthly thing) we will never be satisfied with money, or whatever. Furthermore, if we gain lots of money, we have more stress about how to safeguard it and how to use it. The author tries desperately to find some satisfaction in the work of his hands throughout a lifetime. While not endorsing hedonism, the writer does sort of say we should “pause to enjoy the roses” of life.

Application for Today: Use our advantage that the OT people never had – Jesus Christ! Incorporate Him in all we do, then lasting satisfaction will be ours.

Ecclesiastes 6 – The writer observes that even though some men are blessed with wealth, they are not always able to enjoy it. So this too is vanity. If life is going to be bad for someone, it is better to be born dead so the person will not suffer through life. The conclusion is to be content with whatever you have in life, fear God, and try to please Him. God’s providence is also a theme. God allows all things to happen. “Named” (v. 10) refers to the practice of expressing the nature of something by giving it an appropriate name. People of that culture believed that the person who named someone or something was sovereign over it. The point in verse 10 is that God has decreed the nature and essence of everything that exists, therefore it is foolish to argue with God about what He has foreordained. Furthermore, the more we argue the worse it looks for us. We do not know what is best for us or what our future holds, and we do not comprehend God’s plans for us. Despite having the New Testament revelation, we, today, remain similar to the plight of Old Testament people.

Application for Today: Keep our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith and we will accomplish all we are supposed to even though we will not understand it all in this present stage of life.

Ecclesiastes 7 – The Good Ol’ Days? General Theme = we cannot fathom God’s plan or the meaning of life completely.

v10: It is not wise to think that past times (“the good ol’ days”) were better times than the present. Why does this upset God? Perhaps first it comes from a spirit of complaining and that somehow God is making things worse for us in the present time. Rather than perceiving the evil of our time (which every time has), it behooves us to perceive the evil in our own hearts and allow God to change that. By complaining and seeing the negative, we will also fail to perceive the great mercies that God gives us. If we have this spirit of discontent, we would say the same thing if we could travel backward in time. While evil may increase, and while some believers are called to martyrdom and experience more than the average persecution and tribulation, there is plenty of evil and light in past years. The question is, did we perceive and walk in that Light?

v20: Once again the Bible says that no one is righteous.

v29: God made humans good, but they goofed things up.

Ecclesiastes 8 – General Theme = The value and limitations of wisdom (i.e., we cannot understand why God allows some things to happen to both evil and “gooder” people.

v11: Men will continue to do evil if the punishment of an evil deed is not executed quickly. The death penalty issue divides Christians. I am open to both sides of the debate. One piece of this discussion, however, is touched upon in this verse. The question that always arises is: Does the death penalty deter future crime? I believe it does ONLY if carried out quickly as this verse says. In this way, evil people would have more fear of the consequences. Today, however, with the legal system and individual protections, death penalties are never carried out quickly and, when carried out, few people actually see it, therefore I fail to see how it would serve as an effective deterrent.

v15: This is saying enjoy life, not in a hedonistic way, but rather enjoying the fruits of one’s labor which will make labor more enjoyable. We should receive each day’s joys as God’s good gifts and rejoice in them.

Ecclesiastes 9 – This chapter describes the frustration of the plight of mankind – not knowing how or when he will die, not realizing the full plan of God for his existence and work. The author does encourage us to work hard at what we do, however, because this will meet with God’s approval.

Ecclesiastes 10 – Gives us a warning not to speak evil or criticize people, especially rulers, because there is always a good chance that people will spread what we say to others, then it gets back to the person we put down. If the Bible ever made a political statement, verse 2 fits the bill :-). If you have not read this chapter, please do, as with all chapters in my commentaries. This chapter talks about not speaking evil of a leader. This would include politicians, especially presidents. I realize that many Christians do not like some presidents’ agendas, but we are called on by God to pray for them. Many send negative messages about political leaders via email. My question to those people is, have you prayed for him? They also encourage us to pass those messages on to our friends. I don’t see this as be right in our Father’s eyes. Remember, if God is judging our country and this is the reason we are worsening, that judgment starts first with His church (1 Peter 4:7). Perhaps this means that the root cause for our nation’s decline is that Christians have not converted enough souls to God’s side as well as not demonstrating Christ enough in their lives. This reality should stop us from slandering people in power. Spiritual apathy is a disease like cancer. I read recently that 2/3 of the evangelical type Christians did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. This is appalling. When Pat Robertson ran for the Republican presidential nomination, Christian registered to vote in droves. There were enough numbers to make all politicians take notice that they need to respect “the religious right.” My question is, why weren’t all these believers voting previously?! I recall Edmund Burke, English politician and philosopher, allegedly said something close to, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” John Stuart Mill made a similar statement. So Christians…repent, stop slandering, pray, and vote.

Ecclesiastes 11:

1-2: May refer to the way we should invest our time or money or talents God has given us – in diverse ways. Help will return to us when we need it because of this.

5-6: I think this means keep working in a good manner even though we cannot know God’s plans. If we sow much, more good will result even though all will not turn out better.

9-10: Enjoy and appreciate the freedoms of youth but keep in mind that not all desires or pursuits are righteous and that God will judge them all in the end.

Ecclesiastes 12:

1-8: Remember our Creator in the days of our youth before we later realize how evil things are in this world and how the sufferings and limitations of old age rob us of enjoying life. If we do not have this strong foundation built in us during our younger years, it may cost us in our older years because the more evil we see or are aware of, the more we tend to become skeptical and bitter against life (and therefore God).

Application for Today: I’ve seen this for years now – the older people get, the less they smile. Living in a sin cursed world for many years has the power to harden human hearts gradually therefore unnoticed by the people. This is why it is good to proclaim Christ to lots of young people. More people get saved while they are young rather than when they are old.

12-14: Conclusions – Warning: there will always be books and more books written with all sorts of ideas, and an excessive devotion to them will wear us out. Let’s just have an awesome reverence for God and obey what He says, because what He says applies to every human being on earth, and He will judge all by His standards, not ours. Even the hidden things will be judged, both good and bad.