Sept 02 2018: Introduction to Ecclesiastes*

AUTHOR

The author of Ecclesiastes calls himself “the Preacher” (1:1). Some interpreters have concluded that this was Solomon, while others think he was a writer later than Solomon. Either way, the book claims that its wisdom comes from the “one Shepherd” (12:11), the Lord himself.

LITERARY FEATURES & THEME

Although Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature, it does not read like a typical collection of proverbs. In Ecclesiastes the Preacher tells the story of his quest to find satisfaction in life. This quest is reconstructed from the vantage point of someone whose quest ended satisfactorily. The transitions between units often keep the quest in view: “so I turned to consider,” “again I saw,” “then I saw,” etc. As the quest unfolds, one is continuously aware of the discrepancy between the Preacher’s present outlook and his futile search undertaken in the past. In effect, the Preacher recalls the labyrinth of dead ends that he pursued, recreating his restless past with full vividness but not presenting it as his mature outlook. The Preacher stands within the broad stream of biblical wisdom tradition. The epilogue faithfully distills the weightiest theme in the Wisdom literature—“the fear of the LORD” (Eccles. 3:14; 5:7; 12:13-14). The theme of Ecclesiastes is the necessity of fearing God in a fallen, and therefore frequently confusing and frustrating world.

THE GOSPEL IN ECCLESIASTES

Jesus taught us to read our Bibles with him in mind—“everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). Even “the Psalms” or “the Writings,” which include Ecclesiastes, bear witness to him (John 5:39) and can “make [us] wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). For the Christian, what Jesus taught in John 15:10–11 is an excellent summary of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Our search for eternal life, rest, joy, and justice moves us beyond the creation’s subjection to futility (the frequent subject of Ecclesiastes) to Christ (Rom. 8:20) The movement to Christ is not by direct statement but by the words of this “son of David” (Eccles. 1:1), revealing the futility of everything that is not of God. Throughout Ecclesiastes we are led forward to other answers, other solutions, and other wisdom than the world’s vain promises of satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment. Our eyes are constantly taken heavenward for God’s ultimate and eternal provision of which Christ becomes the ultimate revelation (2 Cor. 4:6). He is the world’s supreme sage (Matt. 7:24–27) as well as the ultimate embodiment and demonstration of the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3).

OUTLINE

  1. Introduction and Theme (1:1–3)
  2. First Catalog of “Vanities” (1:4–2:26)
  3. Poem: A Time for Everything (3:1–8)
  4. Fear God, the Sovereign One (3:9–15)
  5. Second Catalog of “Vanities” (3:16–4:16)
  6. Fear God, the Holy and Righteous One (5:1–7)
  7. Life “Under the Sun” (5:8–7:24)
  8. The Heart of the Problem: Sin (7:25–29)
  9. More on Life “Under the Sun” (8:1–12:7)
  10. Final Conclusion and Epilogue (12:8–14)

* Excerpt From ESV Study Bible & Gospel Transformation Bible.

Bible Reading Column by Pastor Charles Lee. 
Mississauga Campus Lead Pastor 

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

 Monday: Psalm 88 Thursday: Ecclesiastes 2
 Tuesday: Psalm 89 Friday: Ecclesiastes 3
 Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 1 Saturday: Ecclesiastes 4