Read Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
What would you say is the purpose of life?
To what sort of meaningless activities do people commit their life?
What about life do you find meaningless?
What sweeping statement did Solomon make about life? (Proverbs 1:2)
What’s new? Who will be forgotten?
When can you take time this week to rethink your purpose and direction in life?
What is one meaningless activity you need either to totally eliminate from your life or reduce the amount of time you spend doing?
“Escapism, nihilism, and hedonism—these are three prevalent answers offered by our world to Ecclesiastes’ questions. Thankfully, the Bible directs us to a vastly different resolution. While God’s Word certainly shows us the circular nature of our existence, it also moves us forward in a linear, hopeful direction. Although our text does conclude that the answer to the question “What do we gain from all the toil at which we toil under the sun?” is “Nothing,” it does not offer this same bleak conclusion to the question “In light of such vanity—that time and death makes all human work ‘vain’—how, then, should we live this temporary life under the sun?” The answer to the second question is not “Nothing,” but “Something,” something very wonderful. In Pastor Solomon’s sermon, this is the answer (and we will soon hear it): abandon human wisdom, embrace divine wisdom, and then receive all the good things of this life as a gift from God. In the words of Jesus, the greater Solomon, the answer is this: “Seek first the kingdom of God …, and all these things will be added” (Matt. 6:33).
Having contemplated what the tyranny of time does to our work—nothing new, nothing remembered—we turn now to “consider the work of God” (Eccl. 7:13; see also Eccl 8:17; 11:5), most notably the work of God in Jesus Christ. If we put on gospel glasses and look at Ecclesiastes 1:3–11 again, we see clearly how what we have in God’s Son transforms a world shrouded in hopeless blackness into a garden of beautiful and brilliant light—or, to change the metaphor, how it changes a buried seed into a budding flower.
Why work? When we put on gospel glasses, we see that Jesus’ work mattered. Our work—nothing new, nothing remembered. Jesus’ work—it was and is new, and it has been and will be remembered. Therefore, the work that we do, as enabled by and through Christ, matters, too. We can put it this way: life under the sun is brief and bleak, but life through the Son is eternal and joyful”
O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. Ecclesiastes. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014.. Reformed Expository Commentary.
Heavenly father, I have dreamed of accomplishing many things, I have had many ambitions, and I traded nights of sleep for tomorrow’s successes. Yet, I have discovered that my own work done under the blazing sun has all too often vanished into the great succession of seasons. Yet I thank you that through Christ your Son, who brings life out of death, my work can be substantial and lasting. Amen.