September 14, 2021

The Good, the Bad, the Blessing 

Ecclesiastes 1–6

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All Is Vanity

The words of the Preacher, 1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity 2 of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man...

All Is Vanity

The words of the Preacher, 1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity 2 of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens 3 to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10  Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has been already
    in the ages before us.
11  There is no remembrance of former things, 4
    nor will there be any remembrance
of later things 5 yet to be
    among those who come after.

The Vanity of Wisdom

12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heart 6 to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity 7 and a striving after wind. 8

15  What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

18  For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The Vanity of Self-Indulgence

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. 9 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, 10 the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

The Vanity of Living Wisely

12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

The Vanity of Toil

18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment 11 in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him 12 who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. 13

From Dust to Dust

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 14 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Evil Under the Sun

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity 15 and a striving after wind.

The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that 16 youth who was to stand in the king's 17 place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Fear God

18 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 19 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you 20 into sin, and do not say before the messenger 21 that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; 22 but 23 God is the one you must fear.

The Vanity of Wealth and Honor

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields. 24

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment 25 in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; 26 it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy 27 no good—do not all go to the one place?

All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. 28 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain 29 life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Footnotes

[1] 1:1 Or Convener, or Collector; Hebrew Qoheleth (so throughout Ecclesiastes)
[2] 1:2 The Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive (with different nuances depending on the context). It appears five times in this verse and in 29 other verses in Ecclesiastes
[3] 1:5 Or and returns panting
[4] 1:11 Or former people
[5] 1:11 Or later people
[6] 1:13 The Hebrew term denotes the center of one's inner life, including mind, will, and emotions
[7] 1:14 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)
[8] 1:14 Or a feeding on wind; compare Hosea 12:1 (also in Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9)
[9] 2:1 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also verses 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26 (see note on 1:2)
[10] 2:8 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
[11] 2:24 Or and make his soul see good
[12] 2:25 Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts apart from me
[13] 3:15 Hebrew what has been pursued
[14] 3:19 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)
[15] 4:4 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also verses 7, 8, 16 (see note on 1:2)
[16] 4:15 Hebrew the second
[17] 4:15 Hebrew his
[18] 5:1 Ch 4:17 in Hebrew
[19] 5:2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew
[20] 5:6 Hebrew your flesh
[21] 5:6 Or angel
[22] 5:7 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also verse 10 (see note on 1:2)
[23] 5:7 Or For when dreams and vanities increase, words also grow many; but
[24] 5:9 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain
[25] 5:18 Or and see good
[26] 6:2 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also verses 4, 9, 11 (see note on 1:2)
[27] 6:6 Or see
[28] 6:7 Hebrew filled
[29] 6:12 The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)

The Good, the Bad, the Blessing 



Key Verse | Ecclesiastes 3:1

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Bio | Abigail Black

Hi, guys! My name is Abigail Black. I am the only girl of our family, but my three brothers are my best friends and bodyguards. I am blessed to get to participate in Shoreline, Watermark's high school ministry. I also love to run track, be with friends and family, and make and sell jewelry. I'm super pumped to be diving into the Word of God with you guys today.

Central Truth

Our good Father reminds us daily there is a time for everything, and we are called to walk faithfully and in community with others. 

Devotional | Ecclesiastes 1–6

My whole life has been about playing, running, participating in sports, and doing whatever I can to avoid wearing shoes. Fifteen weeks ago, I severely broke a toe playing football barefoot with my brothers...

My whole life has been about playing, running, participating in sports, and doing whatever I can to avoid wearing shoes. Fifteen weeks ago, I severely broke a toe playing football barefoot with my brothers (don't worry; I was winning). The next morning, the doctor walked into the room and told me I had two options: reset it by pulling it back in place, or surgery. My heart dropped through my stomach knowing this would strip away my entire summer.

After spending two weeks in bed while my toe healed, I was beyond frustrated and couldn't understand why God would let someone with such determination take away my running. But as I laid in bed all day, I had plenty of time to dig deeply into our Father's Word.

In these six chapters of Ecclesiastes, there is so much truth. We are reminded that there is a time for EVERYTHING, good and bad (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Through everything the Lord remains present: He is chasing you down, holding your hand, and being your biggest cheerleader. There is never a time the Lord isn't fully surrounding you, waiting for you to cry out for help.

As believers, we are called to live and serve in community (Romans 12:4-8). We are not called to walk this life alone. Walk in community, because two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Get a mentor to pour into you, and be a mentor to pour into others.

In Ecclesiastes, the word vanity is used dozens of times. It comes from the Hebrew word hebel, which is sometimes translated to mean mere breath. We are reminded of the truth that everything fades away. Throughout life there are many challenging seasons, but when the Lord is ready He will deliver us into a new season. Be faithful, trusting our good Father to deliver you in His perfect timing (1 Corinthians 10:13).

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Discussion Questions

1. Every season looks different for everyone: How do you rely on God during the ups and downs? 

2. Are you faithfully pursuing the Father even when it seems like the world is against you? 

3. Are you involved in community? Are you being mentored and mentoring others? If not, jump into a community group

 

7 Comments available

Michael Scaman 11 days ago

Some helps given in the struggle with vanity and the apparent meaningless of life

→ pleasing God is better …the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God.

→ Don’t expect to understand all God is doing Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

→ honor God and guard your mouth in prayer Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools

→ money is not a satisfying end in itself

Linda Green 11 days ago

Thanks, Abigail- your devo is lemonade from the lemon of a broken toe. A time for everything. And three brothers must be entertaining!

There are snippets of wisdom included in this book, but generally Solomon is so incredibly self-focused in Ecclesiastes. It could also be named “What Happens When You Follow Your Heart”. Nothing good.

Ecclesiastes 2:3 sounds like the person who is convinced they drive better drunk.

The take away I get from Solomon’s life is there is not enough wealth or wisdom that could ever keep us from needing a Savior.

Greg Jones 11 days ago

Love the bio. I feel like trying to figure out Ecclesiastes is like playing football barefooted with your brothers, it a good way to break your brain.

God puts eternity in our hearts Ecclesiastes 3:11a, yes! but we have no clue what that means 3:11b ouch!

God will judge 3:17, yes! Man and animals all end up in the same place, ouch!

Sue Bohlin 11 days ago

Thanks so much, Abigail!

I love 3:11, that God has made everything beautiful in its time, and He has set eternity in the hearts of man. One of the meanings of that verse is that we long for heaven. Mark Buchanan wrote,

“Our deepest instinct is heaven. Heaven is the ache in our bones, the splinter in our heart. Like the whisper of faraway waves we hear crashing in the whorls of a conch shell, the music of heaven echoes, faint, elusive, haunting, beneath and within our daily routines….”

So true! There’s a party to end all parties happening in heaven and as God’s Party Girl, I hear the music and long to get there!

Hugh Stephenson 11 days ago

2 of 2

I knew I would never have all the stuff: that I wanted. Also, I knew its happiness would be fleeting. (I didn’t stop me from trying though.

A few years later I read a quotation attributed to Hemingway, “Take care that your possession don’t possess you.

I am listening to Randy Alcorn’s book HEAVEN on Audiobook. In it he talks a great deal about the New Heaven and the New Earth.

That’s what I’m waiting for now.

Hugh Stephenson 11 days ago

1 of 2

One day when I was in high school I walked into a class and the teacher told us to pull out a sheet of paper and pen. Then he talked for a few minutes about needs and wants. Then he told us to write down everything we needed or wanted in life.

Everyone wrote for several minutes. Most wrote multiple pages of lists. When we stopped, he looked at us and spoke again of needs and wants.

After a few minutes he told us to look at the list and see what we would add and to go ahead and add those things.

Even though everyone had written everything they could think of we all started writing again!

This was a real epiphany for me.

Michael Scaman 12 days ago

Abel’s name in Hebrew ‘hebel’ is related to the word for vanity or meaningless. His death did appear meaningless. Is Ecclesiastes only about meaninglessness? Some say so but others say it also has more to say how to be happy.

Douglas Wilson has an analogy. God gives everyone a big juicy can of delicious peaches, but God only gives some people the can opener. Happiness is a gift from God.

We should take Job, Proverbs and Eclesiastes together in ensemble. Proverbs might show how to be successful, but Job was a proverbially wise man who suffered and Solomon was wildly accomplished and experienced profound dissatisfaction. They all go together. True in ensemble playing off each other.

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