Vanity of Vanities (Ecclesiastes #1)

The title of the book is The Preacher.

All is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

  • The vanity described by Solomon means fleeting and without substance. Vanity is an account of mankind and his life on this earth
  • Job 7:3 So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
  • Psalm 62:9 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
  • Psalm 144:4 Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.
  • Isaiah 40:17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
  • Isaiah 41:29 Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.
  • The sermon is tough because Solomon is a bull in a China cabinet. He is destroying every motive and hope in this life. But as you look closer there is a method to the demolition. You realize Solomon isn’t destroying everything, he’s kicking over false gods and unrealistic expectations. He is destroying every fake piece of China and leaving only what is real.
  • Solomon is the fiery voice that reduces the vanity of this world to smoke and ash.
  • The vanity Solomon talks about is classified in four ways
    • The fact that all things are going in circles.
    • The uncertainty of moral outcomes in this life.
    • That injustice is allowed to continue.
    • The finality and great enemy called Death that is no respecter of persons.
  • We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it (Ecclesiastes 3:20, 5:15, Job 1:21, and 1 Timothy 6:7)

Enjoy good in his labor (Ecclesiastes 2:24)

  • Solomon also says that because life is filled with vanity, man should enjoy the life he can produce for himself. No one else will enjoy it like him. He won’t be able to pass it on with any assurance that the value will be passed on. This is said multiple times throughout the sermon (2:24, 3:13, 3:22, 5:18, 8:15)
  • This isn’t an agnostic thought, even Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:17 that God gives man all things to enjoy.
  • Philippians 4:11-13 says this as well.
  • As much as vanity is a theme that runs through Ecclesiastes, the conclusion of the matter is essentially Paul’s conclusion that godliness with contentment is great gain.

Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

  • Solomon attempts to pass on his observations in life to young people who haven’t lived much life yet. He lays out a perspective based on experience that is realistic. It’s the equivalent of me telling you that when you go around that corner the bridge is out. So as you go around the corner you’re aware and looking for the fallen bridge. Or you can take a different road, which Solomon also offers in this sermon. What I’ve told you doesn’t make you shout for joy, like Ecclesiastes, but I’m not telling you this so you shout for joy. I’m not even telling you this so you feel better or feel better about yourself. I’m telling you this so that you have understanding enough not to get hurt. And to avoid hurting other people with your confused perspective about life.
  • When sin entered the world the creature was made subject to vanity. Solomon describes in detail the vanity that God’s creation was subjected to. But what is sometimes missed in this sermon is the hope Solomon lays out. Paul put both hope and vanity in Romans 8:20-23.
  • James 4:13-16 says life is a vapor and the days are a gift from God just like Ecclesiastes 5:18. Moses taught this in Psalm 90, Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
  • Considering that this is for a young person, what if there was an education that pointed youth to their Creator with proper expectations of life? This sermon is it.
  • Proverbs is a practical path to wisdom and Ecclesiastes is a reflective path to wisdom.

Conclusion of the whole matter (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

  • There are certainly many dark and difficult things in Ecclesiastes that some people stumble over because they can’t distinguish between Ecclesiastes and an atheist speaking or a nihilist speaking. But the advice to remember your Creator, fear him, enjoy the work of your hands, and keep God’s commandments are not dismal conclusions.
  • The conclusion means the experiment is over. All the relevant evidence has been gathered. The theories have been tested. There has been enough practical and theoretical experimentation done to come to a concrete answer of what is man’s point, what is his chief good in his lifetime.
  • Thorough conclusion: whole matter, whole duty, every work, and every secret