Ecclesiastes 1: It’s All About God!
October 1, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jeremiah 1-2, Ecclesiastes 1, John 1:1-18, James 1:1-11
Ecclesiastes is a book with a strange reputation. Depressing, they say. Discouraging, they say. Nonsense, I say! The key to understanding Ecclesiastes is the basic overall structure of the book. Throughout it, the “teacher” is making a single point over and over again. Life, he says, “under the sun” is essentially “meaningless.” If that is your perspective, living life “under the sun,” then all you can do is make the most of what you have, enjoy your life while you may—but realize that it will not last forever, and whatever you do, it is essentially meaningless because one day your life will end.
Such is life “under the sun.” However, for the believer, we do not live “under the sun,” we live “above the sun”! And so the Book of Ecclesiastes concludes with a more uplifting, if not exactly exuberant, message: now that all has been heard (he says at the end in chapter 12 verse 13), the conclusion is that all that matters is to fear God and keep his commandments.
Jesus, with the fulfilled perspective of the New Testament, puts it even more clearly: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Life, real life, fulfilling life, is all about seeking God, following God, knowing God.
And Ecclesiastes functions as a series of experiments—the “teacher” tries first one thing and then another, “under the sun”—to see whether life without confidence in God or certainty about eternity, “under the sun,” is really worth living. Drink? Pleasure? Success? He tries it all and concludes that the real meaning of life is to follow God.
Now this first chapter of Ecclesiastes introduces all of that.
You’ll notice the recurring theme introduced in verse 2: “everything is meaningless.” But you’ll also notice the perspective from which this meaninglessness comes: “under the sun” (verse 3). Then, after this initial poem introducing all this cycle of meaninglessness “under the sun,” he then describes what he is going to do about it. He is going to run an experiment, a series of experiments, to test his hypothesis (that life “under the sun” is “meaningless”). You’ll see those experiments introduced in verse 12—and then they are described one after another throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Such then is Ecclesiastes as it is introduced this morning. Not meaningless at all! Rather, speaking a word to the ancient equivalent of existentialism: that is meaningless! Life “under the sun” is meaningless. Try as you might, work as hard as you can, get as much pleasure as is humanly possible, and it is all a waste of time! What is not meaningless? Life “above the sun,” or pursuing God, obeying God, knowing God—or as Jesus puts it, seeking first the kingdom of God.
The application of all this is clear, and it will be basically the same throughout our time in Ecclesiastes over the next couple of weeks: don’t be taken in by the siren calls of pleasure, work, or success. By all means, engage in legitimate pleasure and certainly work hard. But understand that the real meaning of life is somewhere else. Not “under the sun,” but by developing and pursuing a passionate, joyful, all-consuming relationship with God!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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