Solomon began his writing of the book of Ecclesiastes by saying the contents of the book are “the words of the preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1.1).” The title of the book comes from this opening statement. The word, “ecclesiastes” refers to “the one who addresses the assembly.” Thus, the preacher. The preacher (King Solomon) is very depressed as he describes view of life throughout the book called, “The Preacher.” However, he ends the book on a positive note with an excellent conclusion telling us what life is all about. Let’s skim through the book of Ecclesiastes and see what we can learn from the preacher.
One thing we can learn from the preacher is that seeking meaning and purpose in life apart from God is vain and discouraging (Ecclesiastes 1& 2). Solomon wanted to figure it all out by virtue of his wisdom and apart from God (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18). Solomon experimented with laughter and pleasure as his purpose in life for a time, but only to find “this is also vanity,” and to ask in despair, “what does it accomplish?” Next, Solomon tries to figure out how he can “gratify his flesh with wine, while guiding [his] heart with wisdom.” That didn’t work too well so he turned to landscaping and building, then collecting possessions, then taking whatever he wanted, then devoting himself to labor, and then concluding, “all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
The preacher just became more depressed. After looking for lasting transcendent contentment and purpose in all the wrong goals and activities Solomon said, “I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind (Ecclesiastes 2:17).” Solomon despaired of all the labor that is done under the sun and said, “For what has a man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23) So, what can we learn from the preacher up to this point? Well, at least this: We need something more than our labor to bring lasting peace and fulfillment to our lives.
King Solomon the preacher also devoted time to a study of suffering (Ecclesiastes 4). He saw power on the side of those who became oppressors and tears on the part of those who were oppressed and considered it better to not even be born than to suffer oppression (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3). Solomon spoke of the envy a neighbor has for a one who displayed skill in his work. He spoke of one being lonely with no companion because he works too hard for wealth. This Solomon calls “vanity and grave misfortune,” as he begins to describe the importance of companionship. In chapter five Solomon spoke of the oppression of the poor and the violent oppression of the righteous, then describes the foolish covetousness that motivates all of that oppression and says, “this is also vanity.” What can we learn from the preacher’s descriptions of suffering? There must be something more to life than this.
The preacher then drew some contrasts between the wealthy man who lives in luxurious abundance and the laboring man. The preacher said, “the sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep (Ecclesiastes 5:12).” After that Solomon went to talk about how riches can hurt their owner and his children. He discussed the reality that the wealthy cannot take any of their wealth with them when they die.
There is a lot packed into the book of Ecclesiastes including so many lessons that can be learned from the preacher. Solomon the preacher became weary with all of his writing and abruptly jumped to the conclusion. The preacher writing this article is running out of space and must abruptly jump to the conclusion which is actually the conclusion Solomon drew. That is “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).” What can we learn from the preacher? That everything else is kept in perspective when we put God first, and putting God first is the only way to finding true lasting contentment, meaning, and purpose in life.
Sunday, August 7, 2022
What We Can Learn From the Preacher
- Kevin V. Rutherford, formerly of Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC (Currently an instructor at Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN). The congregation may be contacted through their website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/