Ecclesiastes 1‑12  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
It is a common and a correct thought that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a writing, under the Holy Ghost, upon the vanity of all things “under the sun.”
This is so, most surely. Solomon was lifted up, that he might be able, from his position and resources, to inspect and test the vanity of all human conditions. All that either business or pleasure could provide for him, all that wealth, or station, or learning commanded was within his reach and at his disposal. And he challenged it all to say what it was worth.
He went through all the conditions of human life which carried with them a single promise to contribute anything to him. His search was complete. His inspection and testing left nothing improved. And each and all were equally vain and unsatisfying. No one thing relieved the disappointment which another had produced. His journey was a wearying and vexatious pursuit of what was ever and equally eluding him. From everything the sense of vanity pressed on his spirit, and there was nothing to relieve or deliver him of all that was done or that was found “under the sun,”
The principal business of this Book of Ecclesiastes is to tell us this. And a valuable as well as serious lesson it is. Well if we learn it, and the better for us the better we learn it.
We should, not, however, fully honor the wisdom of God in this book, if we said that this was its only business. It is not so. It teaches us principally, it is true, the general vanity of all the scene around us, but it likewise lets us know that there is one outlet, one relief from the oppressive sense of the common, universal emptiness, and that is found in the service of God. This is its second lesson.
I may here call to mind how the apostle teaches us, that there is but one outlet from the scene or condition of condemnation. He tells us that we are “shut up” to the faith of Jesus. Law and works and all other provisions fail and prove themselves vain, for all of us are concluded under sin and no escape from such condition of death, but faith in the Lord Jesus now revealed to us. (See Gal. 3)
This Book of Ecclesiastes reminds me of that. For in it I see one way, but one only, open to us as an escape from the condition and from the sense of an universal vanity. We are “shut up” to it. In these thoughts we know this analogy. Faith in Jesus, says the apostle, is the one only outlet from a state of condemnation: the living to Jesus, says the Book of Ecclesiastes, is the one only outlet from a state of vanity. And we may well rejoice in the simplicity of such relief from such heavy and grievous conditions.
“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Chap. 11:1)
Here there is found something solid, something abiding, something which does not partake of the common universal vanity. The serving of Christ has the value of eternity in it. The bread cast on the waters is found after many days, or at a future hour.
Just the lesson which all the New Testament reads to us. For there we learn that there are bags which wax not old, and that it is service to Christ which fills them for us—that there is such a thing as being “rich toward God,” and such a treasure as “faileth not,” no thief approaching it, no moth corrupting it. And there also we learn, according to the whole bearing of this Book of Ecclesiastes, “the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
Happy, serious, simple lesson! The highest attainments or richest prosperity in things under the sun are all vanity, while the smallest service to the Lord, even the giving of a cup of cold water in His name, has the value of eternity in it.