Worship, Sunday, January 8, 2023
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  • “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” This phrase is one of our cultural colloquialisms, that you might hear, but often is not correctly attributed. Much like you might hear the phrase, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The latter is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln totally missing the fact he was quoting the Gospel of Matthew from the Bible, chapter 12, vs. 25.
    Vanity, of vanity, all is vanity, comes from the book we’re going to be studying for the next several weeks.
    This morning we’re beginning a journey through the book of Ecclesiastes. Years ago a Buddhist friend commented that Ecclesiastes was the one book he could relate to in the Bible. Perhaps you remember the classic song by the Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn, quoting yet another part of this book in chapter 3, “For everything there is a season...”
    I wonder if the author of Ecclesiastes could claim plagerism?
    Or perhaps it just proves the author’s point, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” (1:9).
    Who is the author of this book?


    Who is this Qoheleth?
    There is debate over who the author of Ecclesiastes is, and to the meaning of Qoheleth, which is used as a proper name. Depending on your translation, Qoheleth is translated as


    the teacher or the preacher. In the English Standard Version translation of the Bible Qoheleth is translated preacher. Traditionally, interpreters of Ecclesiastes have identified the author as Solomon, since he was indeed the son of David, and king in Jerusalem.
    Ecclesiastes 1:1 ESV
    The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
    And we get to that key verse next:
    Ecclesiastes 1:2 ESV
    Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
    The word “vanity” is a key word throughout the book, occuring 38 times accounting for more than half of the occurences of the word in the entire Old Testament! The word used specifically means “vapor” but is difficult to translate and the author doesn’t give any guidance here in the opening verses, but spends much of the book explaining what exactly is meant by it, but at this point the author leaves the term unexplained.
    So here we are looking at all that the Preacher speaks of:
    …toil (v. 3)
    …generations and the earth (v. 4)
    …time (v. 5)
    …weather (v. 6)
    …water (v. 7)
    …speech, sight, hearing (v. 8)
    Then we get to v. 9
    Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV
    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.
    As I read this it sounds familiar. another bit of wisdom attributed to someone else that actually comes from our Bible.
    When I was in High School there was a quote:
    “Those who forget history are condemned to relive it.”
    That phrase was attributed on this particular poster to Socrates, I’ve also seen it attributed to Caesar, but in doing some research this past week it is now attributed to George Santayana in 1965.
    Again, there is nothing new under the sun. How often are we relearning the same lessons over and over and over throughout history?
    Qoheleth writes:
    Ecclesiastes 1:10–11 ESV
    Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
    I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me very much like the message attributed to Socrates, Caesar, and Santayana.
    If we don’t learn from our history, if we fail to remember the former things we will of course be simply doing the same old thing. And if we are doing the same old thing, it truly is a “chasing after the wind”.
    There are some key themes that we are going to see as we work through this book:

    The tragic reality of the fall.

    The apostle Paul spoke of creation “groaning…in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:20, 22), and Qoheleth’s musings should be viewed as the cry of the heart of one who likewise is groaning inwardly awaiting the resurrection. Ro 8:23
    Romans 8:23 ESV
    And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

    2. The vanity of life

    As I’ve already said, the book begins with this phrase, “All is vanity,” and it ends with it as well. I’ve also already said the word literally means “vapor”, and it conjures up a picture of something fleeting, ephemeral, and elusive, with different nuances to be ascertained from each context. When applied to human undertakings or the pleasures and joys of earthly life, it indicates that “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31); applied to the darker realities of living in a fallen world (e.g., death), it expresses frustration, anger, or sorrow; applied to the Preacher’s search for understanding of all things, it indicates something that remained incomprehensible or inscrutable to him (e.g., Eccles. 1:14–15). This last-mentioned usage is particularly significant, as the book presents itself as primarily a quest to “figure out” all of life (see esp. 1:12–18).
    Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1195). Crossway Bibles.

    3. Sin and death

    A third theme we see is a theme throughout scripture of sin and death. Through sin humanity forfeited the righteousness they originally possessed before God, thus we’re all sinners.
    Romans 3:23 ESV
    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    4. The joy and frustration of work

    As we look back at the Creation narrative we note that God gave Adam work to do prior to the fall, but part of the punishment after sin entered the world was that it would become painful toil.
    So there is joy in accomplishing tasks but there is also the knowledge that work can be frustrating.

    5. The grateful enjoyment of God’s good gifts

    Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth spends a great deal of time commenting on how twisted the realities of a fallen world have become, but that doesn’t mean the beauty of God’s created world is overlooked. Instead throughout the book there is recognition of the good gifts of human relationships, food, drink, and satisfying labor.
    Lastly, Qoheleth includes the theme of

    6. The fear of God

    Remember who we said was the likely author of Ecclesiastes. It is likely Solomon, though we refer to him as Qoheleth, the Preacher and the Teacher in discussing this book. Solomon is also the one to whom the book of Proverbs is attributed and there he writes:
    Proverbs 1:7 ESV
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    There is a truth in the statement that God is to be feared.
    Some people want to call the God of the Old Testament a wrathful vengeful God. And according to the Old Testament God is wrathful, and claims vengeance to be His own.
    There’s a story of a pastor who lived in a small town and went on vacation. It was commonly known throughout the town that the pastor and family were going to be gone out of town for vacation. Some robbers cased the house for several days waiting for the family to leave. After the family had been gone a few days with no signs of life around the house these robbers snuck around back under the cloak of darkness.
    Climbing in the window one of the robbers here’s a voice, “Jesus is watching you.” He paused, shining his flashlight around the room to see if anyone was there. There wasn’t, so he got himself inside and began to look around. Again the voice came, “Jesus is watching you.” The robber thought this was some sort of strange security system and flashed his light around the room. His light came upon a bird cage with a parrot. With the light shining on it’s cage, the parrot again said, “Jesus is watching you.” You stupid bird,” said the robber, “can’t you say anything else?” He turned his light to find a Rotweiler staring at him baring its teeth. From the bird cage the bird spoke up again, “Sick ‘em Jesus.”
    Sometimes that’s how people look at God, as waiting for us to do something wrong and then sicking his attack dogs on us. They forget, that at the same time God is long-suffering, compassionate, and full of grace. That side of God is, according to many, the God put forth in the New Testament.
    I would contend that God is both. We read in Lam 3:22-23
    Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
    And we read in Deuteronomy 32:35
    Deuteronomy 32:35 ESV
    Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’
    We do not worship or serve a weak God. God is unchanging. In Hebrews we read of Jesus (the second person in the one Triune God), Hebrews 13:8
    Hebrews 13:8 ESV
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
    So, as we begin the book of Ecclesiastes we are invited in to examine for what purpose we are doing anything and everything.
    Our culture continues to look for a purpose. The problem is that they try and find the purpose in themselves, and that is not where their purpose lies.
    Q. What is the chief end of man?
    A. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
    If you’re seeking purpose, you’re not going to find it apart from God. Why? because that is not how we were created.
    My hope for you and my personal goal for this year is that we would all seek to draw closer to God, to discover God’s purpose for our lives, and to enjoy the lives for which we were created!
    There is no greater life that you can live than the life for which you were created. You were not created to live outside of a relationship with God, and yes, I said relationship. There is a real difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
    The Bible tells us a lot about God. Throughout biblical history and our history we can see God acting and we can have it recorded much like any other biography. But reading our Bibles falls short in helping us know God in the same way that reading a biography falls short of us knowing a person. There is more.
    Throughout Scripture we are told that God can be known.
    Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
    You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
    That God can be loved.
    Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV
    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
    Matthew 22:37 ESV
    And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    Or from the Jesus sermon on the Mount,
    Matthew 6:33 ESV
    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
    Seek first God and God’s kingdom; love God - it all takes a relationship, it all takes intent, it all takes commitment.
    As we begin this new year, my hope is that you are renewing your commitment to investing in your relationship with God.
    To that end, we will continue in our journey through Ecclesiastes next week. To God be the glory. AMEN.
    Let me pray for you.

    All Is Vanity

      • Ecclesiastes 1:1ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 1:2ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 1:9ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 1:10–11ESV

      • Romans 8:23ESV

      • Romans 3:23ESV

      • Proverbs 1:7ESV

      • Lamentations 3:22–23ESV

      • Deuteronomy 32:35ESV

      • Hebrews 13:8ESV

      • Jeremiah 29:13ESV

      • Deuteronomy 6:5ESV

      • Matthew 22:37ESV

      • Matthew 6:33ESV

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