The Vanity of Everything Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 1

Listen to the sermon here. 

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 | Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun. A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 | I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

OPENING THOUGHT

If we are honest with ourselves, life can often make us feel like hamsters running on a wheel. We run as hard as we can but never make any real progress; everything is just a repetitive cycle. Laundry and dishes are two supreme examples of this. We clean and organize, temporarily banishing the chaos, only for disorder to lash out again tomorrow. Similarly, we go to work, make a paycheck, give that paycheck to expenses, and continue working for the next check so we can pay the next round of expenses. Life is a hamster wheel, a steady cycle of monotony that only ends with death.

If all of that sounds a little too real, welcome to the beauty of Ecclesiastes. Although technically anonymous, Ecclesiastes was probably written by Solomon near the end of his life. The wise king, who wrote Song of Solomon and much of Proverbs, spent years turning his heart away from the LORD and toward the false gods of his many wives. Traditionally, Ecclesiastes has been seen as the account of Solomon turning his heart back to the LORD and reflecting on his wasted years.

Ecclesiastes is a piece of the Bible’s wisdom literature, and at times, it can seem to completely contradict the optimistic tone of Proverbs. Yet Ecclesiastes is the necessary companion to Proverbs. In Proverbs, we find the ideal vision of life, namely one that is shaped and guarded by wisdom. Proverbs describes how things are meant to be. Ecclesiastes essentially serves as a “Yeah, but…” on the end of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes presents the actual realities of life under the sun, warts and all. Because of this, Ecclesiastes practically begs us to study and meditate upon it, even if its words frequently hit a little too close to home.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 1 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. Why does Solomon say that all is vanity under the sun? How do the cycles of the sun, wind, and water display this vanity? What aspects of life make you feel this futility? What parts of life ever make you feel weary?
  3. Why does wisdom seem like a vanity to Solomon? How does this fit with his pleas for us to get wisdom in Proverbs?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
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