Ecclesiastes 1: Life Under the Sun is Meaningless

La Palma volcano, Canary Islands, Spain.
La Palma volcano, Canary Islands, Spain.

As I write this, there is a volcano erupting on a tiny island off the coast of Africa called La Palma. It’s one of the Canary Islands which belong to Spain. The lava is eating up homes and businesses. Gratefully, there have been no injuries and 5000 people have been evacuated. However, these people have lost all their possessions and livelihoods. There is a chance that a huge piece of that island could break off and fall into the ocean causing a mega-tsunami that would reach the East Coast of the U.S. and wipe out any island in its path.

Last month a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated another island, Haiti. Homes and businesses crumbled into dust. This caused a different type of tsunami — one of people desperate to come to the U.S. for a better life. 15,000+ gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, TX, hoping for a chance to get in. (Check out the embedded tweets at the bottom.)

Also, last month, a major hurricane hit the Louisiana coast 16 years to the day that Katrina hit and destroyed the area. A different kind of natural disaster, I guess it’s easier to rebuild after a hurricane or flood, than it is after an earthquake. Not much chance after this type of volcano.

Yet, a glimmer of hope passed through my Facebook feed. My cousin’s son’s wife had their second baby boy. A new life is born. Too bad, my cousin, his dad, died two weeks ago — 2 weeks from seeing his 6th grandchild.

You’re probably thinking, this post is going to be depressing. Not so. It’s realistic. It’s philosophical. That’s the Book of Ecclesiastes. Written by Solomon just before he died (c. 937 BC), the wisest man who ever lived, after much searching, comes to the conclusion that everything under the sun is meaningless. The key phrase here is “under the sun”. In other words, outside of God.

I’ve been looking forward to starting this Bible study on the Book of Ecclesiastes. I hope that it will be a light in your life as you turn your focus on God rather than the world. Let’s dig in….

Ecclesiastes 1

These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.

Everything Is Meaningless

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”

What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.

The Teacher Speaks: The Futility of Wisdom

12 I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14 I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

15 What is wrong cannot be made right.
    What is missing cannot be recovered.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” 17 So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind.

18 The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief.
    To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1 NLT

I can’t help it. Reading this book brings to mind the classic rock song, Dust in the Wind by Kansas. Yes, I embedded it at the bottom.

Points to Ponder

  • First, Solomon is identified, not by name, but by “the son of David”, who was king of Israel. He’s called the “teacher”, or in some translations, the “preacher”.
  • He claimed to be wiser than all the kings of Israel. Well, there were only 2 before him, his father, David, and Saul.
  • Life is cyclical. History repeats itself. That’s why we MUST learn from history, otherwise we ARE DOOMED to repeat it.
  • Solomon repents of his lusts and vanities. He chased after everything only to find nothing. He missed the truth.
  • He drifted so far away from God that all he could see was what was “under the sun”. He blew it. He missed it.
  • Everyone chases what’s new, however, soon it grows old.
  • You’ll see the word “meaningless” repeated over an over again. Some translations use “vanity”. In other words, life is futile, like smoke and wind.
  • As soon as we try to grab it, it slips through our fingers.
  • Nothing is solid in life — not money, power, love or justice.
  • Only JESUS is solid in a world of smoke.
  • Jesus breaks the endless cycles of vanity. He breaks us out of the monotonous rut called life.
  • Through Jesus, we have the blessed, confident hope of eternal life. We know that this miserable world is not all there is. Thank you, Jesus!

King David wrote…

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you.

Psalm 39:4-7 NLT

Peter wrote…

23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. 24 As the Scriptures say,

“People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.
25 But the word of the Lord remains forever.”[Isaiah 40:6-8]

And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.

1 Peter 1:23-25 NLT

Paul wrote…

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.

Philippians 1:20-27 NLT

Where is the Good News?

I’m borrowing from some notes from Spoken Gospel

On the surface, this sounds like bad news. But the Preacher is giving us true (if painful) wisdom about life on earth. Life under the sun is full of things that seem solid but turn out to be smoke. And even if something seems solid for a time, death always reveals its futility. 

The Preacher’s goal is for us to trust the world less, and God more (Ecclesiastes 12:13). And the good news of Ecclesiastes is that God is not like smoke or wind. His commands are wise and his judgment about the good life is solid (Ecclesiastes 12:14). 

And this truth is ultimately seen in Jesus. In Jesus, God’s wisdom becomes solid in a world of smoke. 

God’s wisdom does battle with the most solid thing the Preacher knew—death. For a moment, Jesus’s death seems like just another example of something we thought was solid, but turned out to be wind. But when Jesus rises from the dead he proves that God is the only solid thing in a world of futility and death.This is why Paul calls Jesus’ death the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

We escape the futility of death and are resurrected “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). In Christ’s resurrection we have both proof that God’s wisdom won’t vanish when we grab it, and hope that living according to his wisdom is not marked by futility but eternal significance and meaning.

From “Jesus in all of Ecclesiastes” by Spoken Gospel found in the free YouVersion Bible app

Do YOU have the assurance of eternal life?

No? Not sure? Then you need to…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Dust in the Wind

La Palma Volcano, Canary Islands, Spain

Jesus is the Solid Rock

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

2 thoughts on “Ecclesiastes 1: Life Under the Sun is Meaningless”

  1. Pingback: Ecclesiastes 2: Anything Goes, but Nothing Lasts. The Futility of Pleasure – Seek the Truth

  2. Pingback: Mark 4:1-34: Jesus Describes the Kingdom of God so We can Understand – Seek the Truth

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