The Words of The Preacher
Mr. John Phillips makes his home in Marietta, Georgia. He is presently engaged in a Bible teaching and writing ministry, his latest book being Only God Can Prophecy (Shaw, 1975. 147 pp. Paper, $2.95).
This short introductory article on the book of Ecclesiastes is the first of a selected series on this little read and much misunderstood book. His subsequent articles will cover portions of Ecclesiastes 10-12.
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:1
Three books in the Bible were written by Solomon. It would seem that he wrote one when he was a young man in love — the Song of Solomon. He wrote another when he was at the zenith of his intellectual powers — the book of Proverbs. He wrote the third when he was an old man, after years of backsliding from God — the book of Ecclesiastes.
The book of Ecclesiastes was inspired by God to spell out fully the perspectives and prospects of the worldly-minded, materialistic man who forgets the spiritual and eternal dimensions of life. It throws into sharp relief the snares and pitfalls of life, the narrow, unsatisfying philosophies of the ungodly, the bitterness and sharp disappointment which awaits every person who leaves God out of his life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a sermon — a well-planned, tightly structured, eloquent, practical sermon. In general, the preacher groups his material around three topical heads. He tells us of the things he had sought (chs. 1-2). With his vast resources he had kept back from himself nothing his heart had desired. Then he tells us of the things he has seen (chs. 3-6). Solomon was a keen observer of life with a gift for seeing right through to the heart of a matter. Finally, he tells us of the things he had studied (chs. 7-10). With great gifts of wisdom and insight at his disposal he made a thorough study of life’s frustrations, fallacies and failures. Ecclesiastes, then, is a sermon based on experience, observation and deduction, and the conclusions to which Solomon comes are mostly pessimistic and cynical, which is what one would expect taking into account his viewpoint.
His viewpoint is most important. He looks at life from the standpoint of the man “under the sun” — an expression which occurs frequently in the book. His viewpoint is that of what we would call today “a man of the world.” It is not until he comes to the end of his quest for happiness “under the sun,” disappointed and disillusioned, that he finally looks higher. When at last he finds God, he finds the answer to life’s riddles. For only God can satisfy the longings of the heart.