Ecclesiastes 1

Ecclesiastes 1 begins with “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem”.  There are some who believe someone else wrote this for Solomon, but there is no clear reason to assume it was anyone but the King himself.  This book is a strange and difficult book to understand.  It contains much hopelessness and despair and wrestles at times with the very question of whether God matters or not.  Solomon presents a challenge – life is vanity and has no meaning.  “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity”.

He starts out exploring one of the greatest mysteries and most important discoveries in life – what our purpose is.  God has created each of us with a purpose, but that is not the view Solomon takes in Ecclesiastes.  He writes through the eyes of a man who thinks and lives as if God doesn’t matter.  Using language from business, he asks “what does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun”?  Jesus made a similar statement in Mark 8: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul”?  Profit is not the answer.  Money doesn’t yield any eternal value.

Solomon talks about the cycles in nature with the sun, the generations, the wind, the streams and more.  He makes it all sound almost boring.  “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”.  God’s creation is unending.  It will continue forever.  God’s seen it all because He planned it all.  There is nothing new because God created everything; past, present and future.  It was all His doing and done for His purpose His way.

Solomon is frustrated with his search for meaning.  “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind”.  The more he learned, the more he realized what he didn’t know.  The more he knew, the more clear life’s challenges and sorrows became.  Solomon was the wisest man to ever live, yet struggled with the very essence of his purpose.  In much wisdom he found there was much grief.

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