Four Philosophical Diversions that Impede Living Life on Purpose.

In every period of time, God gives His people time to stop, worship, and celebrate. Nehemiah 8:1-12 shows one of those occasions. The nation of Israel was back from exile, rebuilding Jerusalem, and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. Scholars tell us the book of Ecclesiastes was usually read publicly at this festival. Nehemiah's admonition to the people to rejoice, not grieve, is a similar message to Solomon's. The best way to enjoy life is to enjoy it with God, by living according to His Word. Conviction should be a quick work, with grace then bringing joy.

Ecclesiastes is often taught as a cynical message, but it really is not. Believers cannot persistently live in a dark place. Returning to the Lord brings joyful relief, which Solomon himself experienced.

Israel's holy days were to be observed in the present to remember the past and look forward to prophetic hope for the future. The Feast of Tabernacles or booths reminded them of God's faithfulness during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 31:12 invites all the nations to observe this feast as well. The Israelites' joy would be a testimony to the Gentiles (Psalm 40:3, 2 Chronicles 6:32-33). It was during this Feast that Jesus invited all hearers to find real eternal joy in Him (John 7:37-39). Life only makes sense when lived by faith in God.

Sin affects the whole world and every aspect of our lives in it (Romans 8:22), but believers can still see that the glass is half full. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us to live with joy 17 times. This is possible because God's grace is omnipotent! (See Romans 5:20-21.) Regular times of celebration reminds us of this. God's grace is available to all people (1 John 2:2). It alone can heal on every level, save, restore, and compel us to live because of Christ's sacrifice.

As one author describes, "The mood of Ecclesiastes is one of delight with the prospect of living and enjoying all the goods of life once man has come to fear God and keep His commandments."

Outline of Chapter 1

The first broad section of the book (Ecclesiastes 1:2-2:26) can be divided into 4 sections:

  • The real restlessness of life (1:4-11)
  • Testing the pleasures of life (1:12-2:11)
  • Examining the purposes of life (2:12-23)
  • Conclusion (2:24-26)

The first sub-section (1:4-11) can be further divided into 4 views of life that can steal our joy.

  • Life's not worth it (1:3)
  • Life as senseless duplication (1:4-7)
  • Giving the wrong value to life's experience (1:8)
  • Life as a senseless redo (1:9-11)

The word translated "vanity" in Ecclesiastes 1:2 is key to the interpretation of the book's message. It does not mean "useless." The eyes of faith see life differently than a hopeless cynic! Sometimes this word is translated "empty," "sorry," or "senseless." One author says this declaration "refers to the activities of life rather than being a blanket declaration of the total uselessness of life in the universe." Solomon is simply saying that life is short, and it is pointless if lived without considering God. James 4:13-15 makes the same point. Fearing God is the only way to know how to truly enjoy life.

Application Points

  • Every one of us can identify ways our lives have been affected by our own sin, others' sin, and sin in general. In a sin-saturated world, God's grace is the only source of true joy.

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: "O God, My Joy"

O God, my joy, You reign above in radiant splendor and beauty.
Your Word has drawn my heart to love the awesome sight of Your glory.
Your blazing Light and gospel grace shine brightly from my Savior’s face.
No other wonder would I see than Christ enthroned in His glory!

Sustained by joy in trial and pain, I trust Your wisdom and mercy.
Through suffering that Your love ordains, more like Your Son You will make me.
For Christ embraced the cross of shame, beholding glorious joys to come.
O give me faith like His to see that suffering lifts me to glory!

Compelled by joy, I fight the sin that turns my gaze from Your glory.
Your Holy Spirit dwells within; His presence arms me for vict’ry.
Let death and hell against me rise; through death I’ll gain eternal joys.
All pow’rs of hell will bend the knee before my great King of Glory!

© 2008 Watchsong Music.