Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
Many people run from God, fearing that they will miss out on the best life has to offer, were they to submit to Him. While built with eternity set in their heart, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness and run hard after worldliness. Our wise elder brother Solomon has much to say about the folly of living for this life only. One scholar has written, “Ecclesiastes is an essay in apologetics. It defends the life of faith in a generous God by pointing to the grimness of the alternative.”1 If you have found that you’ve come to the end of yourself and you’re seeking the truth of God, for you, Ecclesiastes may very well be the best book in the Bible.
Main themes: Wisdom & Folly
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven;” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
There can be very little question that Ecclesiastes was written as a sermon, given by King Solomon (1:1). Himself a man without want, Solomon had tasted everything under the sun and found that, in the end, it did not satisfy. His conclusion: only God can truly satisfy the human need.
(1:1—2:26). After a brief introduction, Solomon sets out to expose the futility of all human endeavors. He exposes the emptiness of the earth cycles (1:4-11), the ends of human wisdom (1:12-18), the emptiness of pleasure-seeking (2:1-3), the foolishness of materialism (2:4-8), the barrenness of intellectualism (2:12-15), even the utter futility of human accomplishment (2:16-23). His first conclusion is for man to be content with God’s providence (2:24-26).
(3:1-22). Solomon’s second section is built on understanding God’s design for life—the order of creation and its seasons. In light of the seemingly endless cycle of life, he knows that God’s future judgment looms in the not-too-distant future (3:14ff). His second conclusion is for contentment (3:22).
(4:1—5:20). The preacher then moves on to examine the futility of the various circumstances of life: the oppression of the unfortunate (4:1-3), the worker’s rat race (4:4-12), the falsity of political success (4:13-16), the error of false worship (5:1-7), and the false assurance of riches (5:8-17). His third conclusion is that a person ought to simply enjoy what they have (5:18-20).
(6:1-12). Here, Solomon—the wealthiest man in human history—gives a short discourse on the folly of chasing prosperity.
(7:1—12:14). The last and longest section consists of Solomon’s wise counsel to the audience; advice for living. His argument is formulated thus: since man is by nature wicked (7:1-29), and God is sovereign in His providence (8:1-9:18), also taking into consideration how fragile and uncertain your life is (10:1-20), and the fact that your life is but a mere vapor (11:1-12:8); consider God—fear and obey Him (12:9-14).
What Makes This Book So Great:
In reading Ecclesiastes, we are seated at the feet of the wisest man in history—Solomon—who eases our fears, dampens our futile zeal, and encourages us unto godliness. We are often prone to chase the wind, and when we find that all we’ve inherited is air, we become discontented. The sage Solomon encourages us to consider the futility of this life in comparison to the eternal glory of God. After all, what good is filling up our barns on earth for a hundred years if we have stored up only wrath for eternity?! In the end, we are encouraged toward contentment and joy. We can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we don’t have to win it all in this life. In fact, we must, instead, “lose this life” (Luke 9:23-24).
This book is not especially difficult to read; it can be read in one sitting, but it is helpful to split it in half (chapters 1-6 & 7-12). In this case, commentaries are helpful study guides, as Solomon turns several mysterious phrases that can be better understood through the lens of an experienced teacher close by. As you read and study, examine yourself. Where are the areas in which you find yourself devoted to futility? What are you chasing? Are there pursuits that may otherwise be sinful, pursuits that need to be surrendered to Jesus Christ? Search your heart. Test yourself. Do you arrive at Solomon’s conclusion in (12:13)?
- William D. Barrick, Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament. (Christian Focus, 2012).
- Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Ecclesiastes: Total Life. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979).
- Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes. TOTC (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2009).
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries