Ecclesiastes 1:1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.
The author of Ecclesiastes does not identify himself by name, but King Solomon is the most likely candidate. He probably wrote around 950 BC, to help God’s people understand some of life’s frustrations. Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of someone who believes in God, but does not seem to love God. The tone is bleak, but numerous insights can be gleaned.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.
An important difference between people and animals is that people cannot be happy without meaning. Cows do not ask the meaning of life; people do. But many find the answer elusive. A billionaire was asked what he learned from his success, that he wish he knew when he was young. He said, When you get to the top, nothing is there.
But if he had gone all the way to the top, he would have found God. The meaning of life is that there is a life-giver, to whom we owe our life. It is through loving and serving God that we find ultimate meaning and purpose. Apart from him, everything else is pointless.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
The little phrase under the sun occurs over two dozen times throughout Ecclesiastes. It contrasts with what is above the sun, namely God. Apart from God our earthly activities are like chasing after the wind.
Imagine a little boy blowing bubbles and chasing after them. It’s fun, of course, but they always pop, and then he must chase another. That is how many people live. They chase money, pleasure, romance and success, but none of them bring lasting satisfaction. That only comes from pursuing God.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has also set eternity in the human heart.
Because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and God is eternal (Genesis 21:33), people know in their hearts that they will live forever. We do not have to be convinced of it; we know it at our core. But how long is eternity?
If God told a little bird to gather every grain of sand on Earth and carry it to the Moon, then take both to Venus, then all three to Saturn, and so forth, by the time that little bird gathered up the entire universe, it would be 9:35 in the morning—on the first day of eternity.
That is why the most important thing we can ever do is to secure the salvation of our souls. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36), said Jesus. And, [some] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matthew 25:46), he said. We ought to be the most concerned about where we will spend the longest, not just the next few years.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
Few things on earth are more helpful than money, but there is a limit to what money can buy. A wealthy banker lived in a mansion, and pursued wealth above all else. Among other things, he wanted to buy the property around his home, as far as he could see. But the people living there hated him, and refused to sell their land to him. Years past, and the man became so miserable that he took his own life.
The desire for wealth is not evil in itself, but reflects the fact that we were made for more. That is why heaven is described as a place of inconceivable wealth, where even the street is made of gold (Revelation 21:21). God is the source of infinite wealth, and whoever has him will have everything else (Revelation 21:7).
Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
Few people look forward to funerals, but we can certainly learn from them. There we see that all our earthly dreams will come to an end one day. Sooner or later, we will take our place in the coffin, and people will talk about us. But even if they say nice things, we won’t be there to enjoy it. We are all destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27), says Hebrews. Funerals help us keep the end of life in view.
As part of his medical training, a doctor watched many people die, and he knew the symptoms well. He was examining a patient who barely had a pulse, and whose blood pressure was dropping steadily. His eyes were as blank as billiard balls, and the doctor decided to check his retinas. But what he saw shocked him. As he looked into the eyes of a man who was ready to die, he saw a clear reflection of himself. Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave? (Psalm 89:48), wrote the Psalmist. The wisest course is to leave each day, preparing for our last.
Ecclesiastes 7:10 Do not say, Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions.
The old days often seem better than the present, but they are never as good as the future, for those who belong to Christ. Forgetting what is behind . . . God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14), wrote Paul. No matter how great the past, the future is always best for those who know the Lord.
An old preacher stood at the door, shaking hands with people after the service. He repeated the same words to almost everyone. Just keep going. Just keep going. Just keep going. There are better things ahead, than anything left behind.
Reflection and Review
Why do people care about meaning?
Why is it good to go to funerals?
Why do people dwell on the past?