Ecclesiastes 1

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Getting Started

Welcome to the Bible Reading Plan! We are so glad you are joining us for this journey through Ecclesiastes over the next couple of weeks. Each day, you will read one chapter of the Bible followed by a short devotional, answer a few questions, and if you want, record any observations or insights using the interactive comments section. We believe God will use this resource to grow our knowledge and affection for Him. We know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Sign up with a friend, your Life Group, or your family, and let’s dig in!

Make sure to download our Harris Creek App and turn on push notifications, or visit us at biblereadingplan.org and sign up to receive the BRP in your inbox. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram (@harriscreek) for some fun, creative ways to interact with the readings. 

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Ecclesiastes Preview

Ecclesiastes, one of the poetical books in Scripture, is a much different read than its other poetical counterparts. Written by Solomon, who 1 Kings 10:23 tells us was the wisest and richest of all the earthly kings, this book is part autobiographical and part poetry. Drawing on his own experiences, Solomon used these writings to get to the heart of the question, “What is the point of all of this?” The result is an emotion-filled, weighty book that we get to unpack over the next couple of weeks.

Unlike some books of the Bible where not much is known about the author, we know quite a bit about Solomon’s backstory up to this point. He was the second son of King David (yes, that King David) and Bathsheba. He ascended to the throne and expanded Israel’s kingdom. As king, Solomon experienced everything the world had to offer. That isn’t a hyperbolic statement, either. He had more money than he knew how to spend, more wisdom than anyone around him, all the power that comes with being king, and 700 wives and 300 concubines at his disposal (1 Kings 11:3). Solomon’s life was great…right? Unfortunately, no. But there is much we can learn from this cautionary tale. 

As we read through Ecclesiastes, you will likely feel several different emotions depending on which chapter you just read. You may feel like what Solomon is saying is really relatable—like someone just put words to how you are feeling. On the other hand, you may feel the heaviness of everything he’s saying on a really deep level. We are afforded the privilege of reading Ecclesiastes through two different lenses: one through the lens of Solomon’s initial readers and one through the lens of the Gospel. As we read it through the lens of the Gospel, we’re able to find hope in even the darkest chapters of this book because there is more to life than the here and now. We have eternity in mind. 

As we read, remember to keep a journal handy. Grab a highlighter. Underline verses that resonate with you. Circle words that stand out. Be an active reader as we go! Each day, ask God to speak to you through these ancient words as we journey through these twelve chapters.

Read Ecclesiastes 1

Everything Is Meaningless

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
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.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

Go Deeper

The book of Ecclesiastes begins with an introduction to “the Teacher” (also known as “the Preacher”), King Solomon. Solomon, the son of King David, was both the wisest and wealthiest man to ever live. A lot of us would take that trade, no questions asked, wouldn’t we? But we see in the first few verses that all of the money and all of the wisdom in the world isn’t enough to satisfy Solomon. He finds himself coming up empty in this life, dissatisfied because everything around him lacks meaning. How’s that for inspirational?

Early on, we’re introduced to the phrase “under the sun,” which is used 28 different times throughout this book. Every time we see that phrase, Solomon is referencing the world—the here and now. In this first chapter, Solomon gives us a high level overview of how the rest of the book will unfold. Everything we see under the sun? It’s all temporal. The daily grind that you find yourself in? Everybody feels that way. And that name you’re trying to build for yourself? It will be forgotten. 

When you read these words on the page, it all sounds sort of hopeless. But the crazy thing is this: Solomon was right. He had been there, done that, and still found himself wandering through life feeling discontented emptiness. However, we have the ability to view this through a different lens. When Solomon writes these words, all he can think about is his present life. His eyes aren’t set on eternity. Little did Solomon know, over 900 years later, out of the same family lineage that he himself came from, Jesus Christ would come to make the hope of eternal life a reality. 

When we read this chapter (and the rest of this book) through the lens of eternity, everything looks differently. If what we see under the sun today is all there is, then of course we’ll feel hopeless and like life is meaningless. But if Solomon is misguided and there’s reason for hope, then everything does matter because how we live on earth carries over into eternity. All of a sudden, that daily grind presents us with opportunities to share Jesus with our co-workers or classmates. Worries about making our names memorable fade because we’re focused on making Jesus’ name memorable instead. Life lived through the lens of eternity, focused on glorifying God and showing others who he is, is meaningful. Our entire perspective shifts when we view life through the right lens.

Questions

  1. What emotions do you feel as you read this first chapter? What surprises or stands out to you?
  2. Have you experienced what Solomon is describing here? How have you experienced life “under the sun”?
  3. What needs to change in your life today to give you the right perspective over the next 11 chapters?

Watch This

Check out this overview of Ecclesiastes from The Bible Project. 

 

Harris Creek Sermon

Here is the first sermon of Harris Creek’s Ecclesiastes series “The Search for Meaning: The Search Begins.”

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4 thoughts on “Ecclesiastes 1”

  1. First of all, thank you HCBC & BRP for making this resource available to us. We tend to breeze past hard reads like Ecclesiastes, but clearly it, too, was divinely inspired by God, thus we need to dive in with an open mind. His word will not return void, but will accomplish his purposes as he causes it to prosper where he sends it.(Isaiah 55:11) I’m thinking of the thousands of things we run to for meaning. Last night our high school football team advanced in the area playoff game. We celebrated big, but in reality who will remember this a few years from now? Life apart from God has no purpose, without Him nothing can satisfy. With Him, all of life is to be enjoyed to the fullest.

  2. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” This verse makes me think of chores around the house- like dishes or laundry or picking up a playroom that inevitably will get messy again. Once you finish the task, you only have hours before you have to do it again. I know this is a silly example, but go with me here. Sometimes, when my attitude is “under the sun”- these tasks are just monotonous tasks that I have to do over and over again. There’s no joy, just mostly annoyance & frustration. However, when I apply an eternity mindset to these tasks, I can find joy & purpose in doing something that I inevitably will have to do 4 more times that day. I can pray for people while doing it, I can worship God, I can be grateful for mouths to feed who use the dishes I’m washing, I can practice dying to self by doing tasks I don’t want to do, etc. A simple perspective shift changes everything! What was meaningless, now has so much purpose- both here and now, but also for eternity. This perspective shift is what’s necessary in a book like Ecclesiastes & it’s one I wish Solomon could’ve experienced. Life apart from Christ, is meaningless. It’s redundant, monotonous, & mundane… but putting our eyes on Christ first & this life second, takes those routine experiences in life and gives them purpose & eternal value. I’m convicted today to refocus my eyes on Christ, especially the moment I have to do anything that feels mundane or hard. Let’s allow Christ to filter through every moment of our day & give this “under the sun” world a fresh perspective.

  3. What I find funny about Solomon explaining that life is meaningless is that he wrote this book that actually has so much meaning! At the time he probably thought that even his words were meaningless or that his name would be forgotten, well here we are thousands of years later, studying the book about finding meaning in God! It is so easy to believe that you are not truly making a difference but by trusting in God you could actually be changing people’s lives with your devotion. I am learning so much about finding meaning in Christ and eternity through Ecclesiastes BECAUSE Solomon believed his circumstances were meaningless. God uses irony and even if we are forgotten thousands of years from now, we could be making a difference simply in the people we have around us.

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