Vanity of Vanities!
The book of Ecclesiastes invites the reader into the author’s struggle with the deepest and biggest questions of life. What it does not do, is give the answers. The author calls himself the קֹהֶ֫לֶת (Qoheleth). The ESV translates this “preacher.” The NIV, “teacher.” The Message translates it “the Questor,” which is probably the best of the three. It means more literally, “leader of the assembly.” While that leader may be a teacher, he teaches by way of the socratic method, leading those in the assembly to think toward the answers without ever giving them. Its why the book can be so hard to understand. We expect to find answers in the Bible, not questions. And yet, this is what we get. And this is what we need.
For many of you, particularly those of you who grew up in the church, you’ve heard answers all of your life. You hear them in sermons, Bible Studies, and the lectures you sit under at school. You might even know the answers. But until you wrestle with the questions, those answers are little more than nuggets of information. They don’t change you.
The biggest question undergirding the ponderings of the Qoheleth is the question philosophers have wrestled with through the centuries. Is there any meaning in life? What’s the point to living? Throughout the book he muses over the various ways we seek to find an answer. We will look at these as we work our way through the book.
In this first chapter, he wonders, “does my life make a difference?”