Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 English Standard Version
All Is Vanity
1 The words of the Preacher,[a] the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity[b] of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens[c] to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 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.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,[d]
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things[e] yet to be
among those who come after.
The Word of God for the Children of God.
Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen
When God is Excluded All of Our Things Are Vanity
From start to finish, the book of Ecclesiastes declares the utter futility and complete meaninglessness of life without God.
Whether it is referring to work or pleasure, or wisdom or wealth, power or prestige, entertainment or virility, life or death, ALL is considered futile and worthless whenever God is excluded from the equation.
It is Solomon who is credited with the authorship of Ecclesiastes.
He was chosen by God to succeed his father, King David as Israel’s anointed king, and when faced with the great responsibility of leading the nation, he humbly confessed that he was unable to do so without help from the Lord.
Despite his humble confession to God and his magnificent prayer at the dedication of the Temple, Solomon set out to discover the meaning of life using his own reasoning power and without the leading, guidance, direction of God.
The conclusion he was forced to reach was: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
At the end of his life, Solomon discovered his long search for fulfilment through his many accomplishments, was nothing more than just chasing after the wind.
Despite his great wisdom, power, fame, and fortune, his search for the meaning in life proved completely, ultimately profitless – because he had chosen to set out to explore the meaning of life, its significance, in his own human strength.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes amounts to Solomon’s discovery that when God is excluded from one’s existence, the benefits of wisdom and learning are futile.
Small achievements, great achievements, vast possessions, no possessions skillful work, also linguistic expertise, and various accomplishments prove to be ultimately profitless and quite futile when that is ALL that life has to offer.
Solomon recognized that death is the ultimate equalizer of both the king in his palace and the beggar at his gate.
He realized that competition between one person and another is profitless and life is very transitory, like the grass of the field which is here today but come a single moment of next tomorrow is almost immediately cast into the bonfires.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
In Romans, Paul reminds us that the whole of the creation was made subject to vanity because of sin and its consequences.
The whole premise of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is true – for there is truly NOTHING that can be pursued or gained on earth that can provide everlasting fulfilment for a man’s soul.
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes states his conclusion that “all is vanity,” at the very beginning of his dialogue and again at the end.
Were it not for a little verse tucked away in the middle of Ecclesiastes, his whole treaties could become very depressing for anyone who reads it, because without God, literally everything is vain and futile for this is the condition of every man.
Yet, there is one last verse that identifies well the meaning and purpose of life:
“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter under consideration is: fear God and keep His commands, for this is the whole duty of all mankind.” (12:13-14)
A Legitimate Dose of Reality Regarding Change
Twenty years ago when I was visiting an ancient abbey on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, I wandered upon an ancient graveyard with many Celtic Crosses.
As I walked among the tombstones, I observed a variety of ages chiseled into their surfaces.
As near as I could tell with many stones barely or nearly unreadable, some of the people appeared to had lived to be quite old, while others not live past 30.
Yet when all these ages were taken together, it seemed that the average life span was around 65-70—just as the Bible says:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10).
And more time than that had gone by since most of these people had passed.
This sobering reminder of life’s brevity returned me to a question that all of us ask at one point or another: Is this pursuit of all things in life all there is?
The book of Ecclesiastes addresses this deep question by giving us a solid dose of legitimate reality.
Truthfully, most of us don’t do well with reality; we prefer fantasy, mirage, and distraction.
Yet the author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, begins his discourse by encouraging us to carefully, thoughtfully and completely reflect upon the absolutely mindless, utter meaninglessness of life, stating bluntly, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
Solomon seeks to prove his thesis by showing us life is marked by drudgery:
“What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:3-4).
Life, in other words, is just a perpetual series of clocking in and clocking out until we die.
No matter who you are—whether you are an executive, a schoolteacher, or a stay-at-home mom—life “under the sun” contains much toil, and then it ends.
Does this leave you thoroughly depressed?
It should—if you rule out the existence of God.
When God is taken out of the equation, life truly has no meaning.
There is a reason why some people desire to escape reality through a drug-induced stupor or through mindless indulgence in pleasure and entertainment.
What may seem like strange behavior to us may actually be the best considered response of the one who has gotten a heavy, albeit incomplete, dose of reality.
Studying the book of Ecclesiastes forces us to try and consider the deep, deeper, deepest implications, meanings of life without God, in view of inevitable death.
But such an image is seldom if ever given even the most minimal measure or degree of consideration because nowadays too many Christians discount God.
Not just discount God but openly state in a pulpit that “God is 100% nothing!”
Not just declare from a church pulpit on a regular Sunday morning worship service that “God is 100% nothing!” but God never existed or is “100% dead.”
But read the rest of the Bible and you will discover that you may receive eternal life by trusting in Him, Him being Jesus, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Only through God, the Father, God the Son, our Savior Jesus and the Holy Spirit will we 100% discover life’s true meaning, find the reason why all is not vanity.
Only if you remember the undeniable reality of Christ’s Resurrection, there absolutely is life beyond the grave, will we be able to live with joy, meet with all the ups and downs of life with a healthy perspective, on this side of the grave.
Life Changing Dose of Legitimate Reality: Everything Absolutely Revolves Around Father God, Son, Spirit.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 New American Standard Bible
The Futility of All Endeavors
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Futility of futilities,” says the Preacher,
“Futility of futilities! All is futility.”
3 What advantage does a person have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
And thus begins one of the more depressing books in all of the Bible, but I would submit depressing in a good way, and here’s the reason I would say that.
When we come to Ecclesiastes, we read in these words, in these dispassionate chapters, a picture of life lived apart and separate from belief God.
Of life apart, of life separate from the reality of who God is, and all that’s in His character, of His love, His forgiveness, His justice, His mercy, His power, of His incomparable presence and indomitable and unsearchable wisdom.
Apart from the wisdom, power, love, justice, mercy of God, indeed, all is vain.
Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 Teaches Us Our Life is Vain Apart from God
The author of Ecclesiastes says this five times in one verse.
“Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”
The point is clear, that all is in vain, everything lacks meaning apart from the reality of who God is.
The world revolves around God.
You take away the center around which the world revolves, and everything falls apart and so as you read through Ecclesiastes, as we likewise pray study and we pray through these different verses in Ecclesiastes, let’s all be reminded of the God-centeredness of the universe, and the need in each of our lives for God to be at the center of it all, knowing everything is meaningless apart from him.
The complete absence of God in our life is the Ultimate expression of Vanity!
Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 Reminds Us God is Our Rest
And so let’s pray based on Ecclesiastes 1:2–3.
Oh God, you are our everything, and we fix our eyes, our minds, our hearts on you today and we say that apart from you, everything is vain. You are our life, you are the author of our life, you are the Creator of our lives, you’re the sustainer of our lives, you’re the only one who can satisfy our lives. God, you are everything to us, oh God. You are our Creator, our Savior, our One and Only true King, our Ruler, our Lord.
You are literally everything and we are as nothing without you. And we pray that you would help us to live today with our intemperate minds and sin laden hearts and tiny attention span and fickle affections centered around you, as we do for you, oh God to infuse meaning and purpose into everything we do. And fulfillment in our hearts. Our hearts, as Saint Augustine said years ago, are restless until they find their rest in you.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Our Heavenly Father, thank You for this honest assessment and exploration of living life in this fallen world, without our ever living Savior Jesus Christ. I pray this day to please keep me from chasing after any of the inevitably vain things this world offers, knowing that there is nothing on earth that has lasting value except to know You. May I place You in the center of my life, knowing that the whole duty and delight of man is to worship and praise You for Your goodness, grace to all men. In Jesus’ name.
Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen