What’s the Point? Answers in Ecclesiastes

For many of us, the Pete Seeger antiwar anthem, “Turn, Turn, Turn” – a big hit for “The Byrds” – was our first exposure to the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes.

The Dilemma Posed by Ecclesiastes, Chapter One

As a young believer seeking to explore the Word of God, my next encounter with Ecclesiastes was colored by the tension created in chapter one.  Solomon’s tone there is so cynical and gloomy, the reader quickly becomes depressed and hopeless.  In those opening lines, Solomon paints a bleak picture of the human condition.  He’s saying, in effect: 

“All life is vanity, (a mist, a vapor, a mere breath).  What do we gain from all our toil, sweat, and tears?  Are my efforts merely a waste of time, a schlep on life’s treadmill?  Nothing changes, all goes on as if I had never existed.”

So why, I wondered, does God’s Word include such a dismal narrative?  Recently, I took a closer look at this unusual book and discovered that Solomon offers a practical and profound route to victory over this agonizing dilemma.  As a matter of fact, he reiterates the solution 12 times within the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes.  Here are the 12 verses:

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