Ecclesiastes: Speaker to the Assembly

I guess I’ll start off by quoting one of my favourite movies “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek”. As you’ve probably guessed the word “Ecclesiastes” comes from the Greek word “Ekklesiastes” which means “speaker to the assembly“, so it makes sense that the author identified himself in Ecclesiastes 1:1 by the Hebrew word “qoheleth“, translated as “Preacher.” King Solomon, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, called himself the Preacher, literally the speaker to the assembly. “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). It seems rather apparent by the multitude of his confessions that King Solomon, the son of King David, wrote Ecclesiastes after many backslidden years.

Earlier on in his life, during the dedication of the temple, we can see a real earnestness of Solomon’s soul. His perceptive prayer of 2 Chronicles 6 and 7 perhaps is the longest and most oft-quoted prayer recorded in the Bible. This was probably the time, early in his life, when he wrote the Song of Songs. At some time, however, he looked back on his life and saw his departure from the Source of Life. He looked like he had a wonderfully fulfilling life, but when he looked back at it; he realised that the deeds, pleasure and accomplishments did not mean anything without a close relationship with the Creator. An outward form of religion never provides a substitute to a close relationship with the Almighty God. The world stood up and recognised Solomon’s great achievement, but he unashamedly admits that having all and not having God is absolute meaningless; “vanity of vanities“.

Deep in Solomon’s heart, there was a seed of corruptness that was not kept under control. It grew out of control and distorted his life perspective. Only later in life, did he finally observe the difference between life and living. Life could not find its meaning in the many projects that he had involved himself in. They only became distractions to the real meaning in life, only found in God. God was near his heart but not his first love. He loved other things more than the Lord. His life before this writing clearly showed this. Only later in his life did he slow down to catch a view of what he had done. Perhaps he was alluding to the wrestling of his heart in his words, “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Ecclesiastes could well be called ‘Solomon’s Confessions’.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is a sign that he had not only genuinely seen his departure from the Lord but had returned to the Lord of Life.

Ecclesiastes, like much of life, represents a journey from one point to another. Solomon articulated his starting point early in the book: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2), indicating the utter futility and meaninglessness of life as he saw it. Nothing made sense to him because he had already tried any number of remedies—pleasure, work, and intellect—to alleviate his sense of feeling lost in the world. However, even in the writer’s desperate search for meaning and significance in life, God remained present. For instance, we read that God provides food, drink, and work (Ecclesiastes 2:24); both the sinner and the righteous person live in God’s sight (Ecclesiastes 2:26); God’s deeds are eternal (Ecclesiastes 3:14); and God empowers people to enjoy His provision (Ecclesiastes 5:19). Ultimately, the great truth of Ecclesiastes lies in the acknowledgment of God’s ever-present hand on our lives. Even when injustice and uncertainty threaten to overwhelm us, we can trust Him and follow after Him (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

So how do I apply the above when we all desire meaning in life? Often that search takes us along winding, up-and-down paths filled with bursts of satisfaction that shine bright for a time but eventually fade. In one sense, it’s satisfying to see that experience echoed throughout Ecclesiastes. An appreciation for our common humanity emerges from reading its pages. We relate to the journey of Solomon because, for so many of us, it is our own. When we attempt to find meaning in the pursuit of pleasure, the commitment to a job, or through plumbing intellectual depths, we all eventually find in each of these pursuits a dead end. Ecclesiastes shows us a man who lived through this process and came out on the other side with a wiser, more seasoned perspective. When we’re surrounded by the temptation to proclaim life’s ultimate emptiness, we can find in Ecclesiastes a vision tempered by experience and ultimately seen through divinely colored lenses. Life is destined to remain unsatisfying apart from our recognition of God’s intervention. It only remains to be seen whether or not we will place our trust in His sure and able hands. Have you struggled with misplaced pursuits in life? Does your life lack the meaning and purpose you desire? Hear the words of Solomon that they might encourage you to place your trust solely in our Lord.

 

SAYG ~ anonymous

We ask that you please remember those who joyfully offer their silent sacrifice, in your prayers. 


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