Daily Devotional

“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13) ESV

Last week a group of men at our church finished studying the Book of Ecclesiastes. We spent 21 fascinating and exciting weeks discussing this book.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible.

When most people think of Ecclesiastes, this is the kind of verse that comes to mind: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecc 1:2).
The Hebrew word for vanity is hebel, which can be translated as vanity, futility, emptiness, or meaningless.

Does Solomon really believe everything in life is meaningless?  Was he a depressed, defeated, broken, bitter and cynical man who had given up on life?

The key to answering that question is found in the term “under the sun,” used about 30 times in the book.

One author wrote: “Under the sun means viewing life at ground level without any thought of higher values, omitting any light from revelation, and any notion of God.”

It refers to mankind’s foolish attempt to live independently from our Creator, trying to find meaning, purpose and happiness in the things of this world.

From that perspective everything is vanity, because God is the source of happiness.  Apart from him, life is empty, lonely and ultimately meaningless.

The purpose of Ecclesiastes is to help us learn this lesson.

Augustine once said the ultimate objective of the book is “to make us yearn for another kind of life” – a life with God at the center of everything.

That’s why Solomon included 7 exhortations to rejoice in the book!  Over and over again, he says things like: be happy, do good, eat and drink, find satisfaction, this is the gift of God.

In the final analysis, the message of Ecclesiastes is not that life is vanity.  It’s that life is vanity without God!

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecc 12:13).
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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