If you feel like you're running in circles chasing the wind, the book of Ecclesiastes is for you!
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Ecclesiastes 1 (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.
3 What does man gain
by all the toil
at which he toils
under the sun?
and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been
is what will be,
what has been done
is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already in the ages before us.
is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom
all that is done
It is an unhappy business
that God has given
to the children of man
to be busy with.
14 I have seen
everything that is done
under the sun,
and behold, all
and a striving after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said in my heart,
“I have acquired great wisdom,
surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me,
and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
17 And I applied my heart
to know wisdom
and to know madness and folly.
I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
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Ecclesiastes 1 Summary
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most unique books of the Bible. There will likely be times as you read through it that you'll be surprised it's even included in the Bible!
Yet when you learn to read Ecclesiastes properly, you'll understand not only why it's included in the Bible, but also how it's the key to understanding the world you live in!
Before you can wrap your head around Ecclesiastes (or rather, wrap Ecclesiastes around your head), you need to understand some of the key terms it uses that are not found elsewhere in scripture:
ECCLESIASTES: This is the Greek word for preacher. But Ecclesiastes was written in Hebrew, not Greek. When the Old Testament was translated into Greek three hundred years before Jesus came, they translated the Hebrew word Qohelet into Ekklēsiastēs, which our English Bibles translate as either preacher or teacher. The words of the Preacher are likely based on the life & writings of King Solomon.
VANITY / MEANINGLESS: This is the most important word of the book, as it's used to describe life under the sun. It's the Hebrew word hevel, and there's no one English word that fully describes it. English Bibles use meaningless, vanity, futility, a chasing of the wind, or my favorite, a puff of vapor/smoke.
UNDER THE SUN: The book of Ecclesiastes is going to seem very pessimistic & hopeless if you don't understand that it's describing life from man's point of view - under the sun - not God's point of view. But when we read this book as people who have been raised with Christ and seated in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6), Ecclesiastes will help us not just cope with life under the sun, but will help us see how it can be enjoyed as we wait for the fullness of our Savior.
Because the Hebrew language of Ecclesiastes is so rich, I recommend using the Amplified Bible translation along with the NIV or ESV.
Spend time thinking about v13 today:
It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
Ask yourself if the activities you are so busy with are contributing to or distracting from shalom (a peace in which life is enjoyable & meaningful)?
Life under the sun is often just a chaotic chasing after the wind. What is God calling you to stop chasing so you can fix your eyes on the unseen things from above?
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father in heaven, above the sun
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for Godly wisdom to see beyond the meaningless of life under the sun
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: