Ecclesiastes 1:1 - 18
ESV - 1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
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There are four cardinal rules for Bible understanding. We must observe: 1. Who is speaking, 2. Who is being spoken to, 3. On what authority are the words spoken, 4. To what age, or time period, do the words apply. Sometimes men's words or thoughts are recorded in the scriptures. At other times it is God who is speaking and yet at other times, it may be Satan's words that are recorded in the scriptures. By considering who is speaking and on what authority, puts Ecclesiastes into a proper perspective for "rightly divide" the scriptures as it does with all scripture. Example, here are Solomon's words as he observed things "under the sun", from his limited perspective. Not as God sees and understands. Read Ecclesiastes 1:14; 2:11, 17-20, 22; 3:16; 4:1-3, 7; 4:15; 5:15, 18; 6:1, 12; 8:9, 15-17; 9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 10:5 "For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" Ecclesiastes 3:19-22 However, God has revealed there is a vast difference between man and beast. For example, when God created man, He gave man dominion over the beasts. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creep upon the earth. Genesis 1:26 It was because MAN sinned that God sent His only begotten Son to take on MAN'S flesh and die in MAN'S stead. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:6-8 But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous. Romans 5:19 Solomon's writings are the thoughts of the wisest man that lived, his observation as mans sees things "under the sun". When we read Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." We understand by this that we do not think or have the same level understanding as God does. He dwells in eternity, we live in time, a huge difference in perspective. Neglect of the above four points has lead to much confusion and false doctrine. Whereas, careful application of these precepts can help open the Holy Scriptures for a clearer understanding of the will of God for our lives.
What is to be noted about the Author of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon the son of David, is that these are the utterances of a man that preached wisdom and practiced folly. Solomon failed to give heed to the many warnings about not wandering after foreign women. He was told that their foreign gods would be a snare to him but he did not obey and was snared by them. So these are the utterances of a man who knew God intimately but abandoned Him and in his aging life he now shows us how futile life is when you abandon God and have little more life left. So he exhorts the young to remember their creator in the days of their youth. His backsliding can be seen in 1Kings 11 : 1 – 14. We see here that Solomon had built places of worship to foreign gods and he himself worshiped those gods. He had been warned that if he abandoned God, God would also abandon him forever. 1Ch 28:9 And to Solomon he said, "My son, I charge you to acknowledge your father's God and to serve him with an undivided heart and a willing mind. He knows all our thoughts and desires. If you go to him, he will accept you; but if you turn away from him, he will abandon you forever. Life on earth is indeed futile if you look back and have failed to live it according to your godly calling. If you have not kept the way of the Lord all is vanity, emptiness, and there is little worth for anything under the sun. On the other hand if you have been faithful to live for God and fulfill His will life is not at all futile but wonderful indeed and a joyful expectation when Christ returns.
The author of Ecclesiastes is a man of faith, a realist who sees that man cannot put the whole of life together. He believes God is good (2:24; 3:13); God has wise plans (3:11, 14; 7:14; 8:17) God is just (3:17; 8:11-13); and he always exhorts man to fear God (8:12, 13; 12:13-140. His thoughts are centered on six points, three negatives and three positives. The negative ones are centered around the problems of life, 1, All is vanity, 2. man is limited, 3. God is hidden. The three positives give the solutions to life's crises; 1. Fear God and keep His commandments; 2. Enjoy life, 3. Use wisdom properly. All six points put together that the purpose of the author writing this book is to show men that they should lead godly life and joyous lives, although they live in a world of mysteries. The key word of the book is VANITY and the refrain "all is vanity" is the theme.As the author observed life, he saw very little of profit and accomplishment. He did not mean that ALL is vanity since his observation was limited to what is "under the sun"or that which was observable; vanity was never predicated of God, God's work, God's revelation, or man as man.
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