E(eek)cclesiastes: Finding Meaning in a Meaningless Life

E(eek)cclesiastes: Finding Meaning in a Meaningless Life

by Joyce H. Hondru

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Overview

As noted in the introduction of this study, I find Ecclesiastes to be an odd duck. I mean it isn’t a book filled with pearls of wisdom, like the book of Proverbs. And it isn’t a book filled with praise, like the book of Psalms. Nor, will you find it to be like many of the books in the Old Testament, which give a history of God’s chosen the people, the Israelites. And, you won’t find any major or minor prophet here either. In fact, this book, with all of the author’s laments about the meaninglessness and vanities of life, for the most part, can be downright depressing! Yet we know that all of the books in the Bible are there for a reason. So, while some people shy away from the book of Revelation because of its somewhat frightening and symbolic text and others skim over books like Leviticus, Numbers and Lamentations because of their dry, repetitive or mournful tone, I don’t want people, who love God’s word, to do the same with this book. I want my readers to see Ecclesiastes in a new light, from a new perspective. Finding a new approach was relatively simple. I didn’t consult a bunch of theological, heady books that provided someone else’s understanding of what the author, whom I believe to be King Solomon, was trying to say or was feeling when he wrote this book. Instead I simply sat down with my Bible, started reading at the beginning of chapter one and asked the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to what He wanted me and my readers to glean from this most unusual book. The title of the book, E(eek)clesiastes- How to Find Meaning in a Meaningless Life!, came to mind almost immediately. The EEK part, because of how crazy this book it, but the second part, the finding meaning part, because to me, this is the bottom line of what Solomon, consciously or unconsciously, brings to the table in this book. While he struggles throughout the entire twelve chapters of this book with life’s meaning he, through this struggle, actually reveals to us what there is in this life that does provide meaning. However, you really have to look for it. In addition, as one of reviewers of this book points out, like all of the books of the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes, is no different in pointing the way to the New Testament and thus to Jesus Christ and life eternal. She notes that I show “the reader how the books of the Old and New Testament are related, giving us a clearer understanding of what we read. By this we begin to see how it all relates to one work, the work of God through the Holy Spirit, the Holy Bible.” We have all struggled with the meaning of life. Consider walking through this book as we try to unravel what that meaning might be – together.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595558305
Publisher: Elm Hill
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 100
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Joyce H. Hondru is a retired financial planner, involved with youth, young adults and women’s ministry for over 30 years. Joyce is also an approved speaker for Stonecroft Ministries (aka Christian Women’s Clubs) and has written two other Bible studies, one called The Whole Armor of God and the other, on prayer, called What Do You Really Want?  She and her husband, Bryan, have homes in Pittsburgh, PA and Durango, CO, but love to travel.  See more about Joyce on her website www.re-joycestudies.com

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

A Grumpy Old Man

Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2

Hmmmm, what an interesting couple of chapters, right? Life, it seems, is meaningless. And just to make sure the reader doesn't miss this point, my Bible comes with these headings:

Everything Is Meaningless Wisdom Is Meaningless Pleasures Are Meaningless Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless Toil Is Meaningless

Boy, what a great way to start a study! Stick with me, though. I promise it will get better.

But before we begin dissecting these first two chapters, I think it is important to reflect on the person who wrote this book. Unfortunately, though, as is often the case with scripture, theologians disagree on who that person might be. However, for the sake of argument, and since the opening line says, "The words of the Teacher (Preacher), son of David, king of Jerusalem ..." and verse 12 states "I, the Teacher (Preacher), was king over Israel ..." I suggest we follow the more traditional belief that it was King Solomon (the son of David), who authored this book.

(Keep in mind, it is not overly important that we agree on this book's authorship, but it is important, however, that we agree that all scripture is "God-breathed" and that this book, therefore [whoever wrote it], is included in the Holy Bible with a purpose of helping us learn more about God, and ourselves, as we relate to Him.)

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

(2 Timothy 3:16–17, NIV)

So, a brief background (or history lesson, if you will) on King Solomon:

1. Many, many years before Solomon was born there was a woman who was barren, who desperately wanted a child. Who was she and what did she promise God if He gave her a son according to 1 Samuel 1:10–11?

2. What was the outcome of Hannah's prayer according to 1 Samuel 1:20?

3. Did Hannah keep her part of the bargain according to 1 Samuel 1:27–28?

This, to me, is amazing! Hannah wanted a child desperately but then she was willing to give him to the Lord "for his whole life." Wow. Although if you really think about it, don't all our children belong to the Lord? Still, her decision was pretty remarkable.

4. What was the result of Hannah "giving" Samuel to the Lord according to?

1 Samuel 2:21

1 Samuel 3:19–21

Up unto this point in time the Israelites were governed by God himself. Unlike their many neighbors they did not have a king. However, just like many of us today, even though what we already have may be great, we still want what the other guy has. So it was with Israel. They wanted a king.

5. What is the name of the new king and why did God allow this change, according to 1 Samuel 9:15–17?

6. Read 1 Samuel 10:17–19; what is God's reaction to His people wanting a king and what are your thoughts on this?

Unfortunately, Saul did not last long as king, as he did not follow God as he should. So (and I promise I'm getting to Solomon), Samuel was asked by God to find a new king. This new king was the son of a man named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons, of which David (the man who would be king) was the youngest.

7. Is it surprising to you that God would choose the youngest son (David) versus the oldest (especially if you consider the culture during Old Testament times)?

8. What does His choosing David tell you about God?

9. And finally, what do we learn in 2 Samuel 12:24 and in 1 Kings 1:28–30?

See, I told you we would get to Solomon!

10. What do we learn about Solomon from 1 Kings 3:7–13?

11. What lessons can you learn from Solomon?

12. How do the words of James 3:13–17 tie into the previous two questions?

13. What else do we learn about wisdom in James 1:5?

14. What, in your opinion, is the difference between godly wisdom and earthly knowledge?

15. Which of the two do you think is more important and why?

At this point you may be thinking, What does any of this have to do with our study of the book of Ecclesiastes? It's a fair question. The answer is manifold. First, I believe it is important to know some basic biblical facts and background if we are going to understand our book's author and what he brings to the table as far as his personal perspective is concerned. In addition, if you haven't read much of the Old Testament, I hope these few scriptures will whet your appetite to read some of the wonderful biblical history that can be found in these often less-read books.

Also, since we don't always get to see how the decisions we make today (good or bad) play out in the future, I thought you might be encouraged by Hannah's story. Hannah, who obediently chose to return her child (Samuel) to God, to thank Him for giving her that child, might not have lived long enough to see all the ways God blessed Samuel. However, because of her obedience and her thankfulness, her son was given the privilege of crowning Israel's first two kings, and he walked with God all his days. (Plus, Hannah was given more children.) Therefore, keep in mind, your obedience and/or thankfulness today may have long-term (even eternal) implications (whether you see them in this life or not). Of course, your disobedience may have long-term (even eternal) consequences as well (whether you experience them in this life or not). Keep in mind, though, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9, NIV)

And finally, I want you to:

grasp the importance of godly wisdom.

appreciate the need to ask for godly wisdom.

understand how applying godly wisdom during this study

(and beyond) will be vital.

As you may have already guessed, this book is no "cake walk"!

All right, now that we have a little background on Solomon (and Samuel), let's return to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes.

16. As we read these first two chapters, it seems as though Solomon has lived a fairly long life. How do you think being of an older age might affect one's perspective on life?

17. What in your life do you see differently than you did ten years ago? Twenty years ago?

18. Reflect again on the question about God choosing David, the youngest son of Jesse, to be king. Can you see any advantage(s) in David's youth?

19. Do you think movies with titles such as Grumpy Old Men are an accurate reflection on what happens to us as we age? Why or why not?

Do you remember the movie City Slickers? Do you remember the scene in which Billy Crystal's character, Mitch, addresses the children in his son's grade-school class with these words?

"Value this time in your life, kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices. It goes by so fast.

When you're a teenager, you think you can do anything and you do. Your twenties are a blur.

Thirties you raise your family, you make a little money, and you think to yourself, What happened to my twenties?

Forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud, one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Fifties, you have a minor surgery — you'll call it a procedure, but it's a surgery.

Sixties, you'll have a major surgery, the music is still loud, but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale. You start eating dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon, you have lunch around 10:00, breakfast the night before, spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate soft yogurt and muttering, 'How come the kids don't call? How come the kids don't call?'

The eighties, you'll have a major stroke, and you end up babbling with some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand, but who you call mama. Any questions?"

These are pretty funny words coming from a very funny guy who, in the movie, is going through a midlife crisis. So, it makes me wonder if Solomon was thinking something similar, if he was going through some sort of a midlife crisis. More importantly, I'm wondering if Mitch's words summarize some of your thoughts as well.

20. However, what does Job 12:12 say regarding aging?

21. Does this change your answer to question 19?

22. Compare what you have learned so far about Solomon as a young man (according to the previously read verses, 1 Kings 3:7–10) to what is written about him when he was older in 1 Kings 11:1–8.

23. How then would you relate these changes in Solomon to his being "grumpy"?

Solomon was grumpy because he was missing the point (and maybe because he was trying to keep so many wives happy!). When he was young he got off to a good start. He recognized the fact that he was naïve and needed help. God loved him and he loved God. He sought wisdom over everything else and, thus, when Solomon walked with God he had true wisdom (and dare I say, meaning in his life). As he got older, though, he turned from God and tried to find fulfillment (or meaning) in everything from earthly knowledge to carnal pleasure, to money. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

24. How was that working for him, according to the very last sentence of Ecclesiastes chapter 2?

25. What is Solomon's particular frustration in Ecclesiastes 2:17–19?

26. Yet, how does 1 Kings 2:1–4 and 1 Kings 11:9–13 address Solomon's frustration?

Do you understand that Solomon was dealing with an "if/then" situation? When his father, David, transferred the crown to Solomon he made it very clear that IF Solomon continued to follow God as David had, THEN their "line" (their descendants) would remain on the thrown. However, as noted earlier, while Solomon started on the right path he soon lost his footing and turned from God, His commandments, and, therefore, His blessings.

This is one of the reasons I believe that Solomon was indeed the author of this book. It seems quite clear that he knew someone other than one of his heirs would inherit the throne (and his possessions) because his father (David) had warned him of this many years earlier. And yet, while it was of his own doing he was frustrated.

27. Have you ever "lost your footing," disobeyed God, and then were forced to deal with the consequences?

28. Were you surprised or frustrated, as if God's word somehow didn't apply to you? (Maybe that was Solomon's thought, too.)

29. Yet, what can we learn from Isaiah 48:17–18?

30. There was another frustration with which Solomon wrestled. What is it according to Ecclesiastes 1:11 and 2:16a?

31. How do you view Solomon's concern (about being remembered) in light of the following verses?

Psalm 25:6-7

Hebrews 8:12

Revelation 3:5

Unless you are a descendant of someone quite famous (or infamous), it is unlikely that you know much about your grandparents' parents. Even if you do know the names of those a generation or so before you, you undoubtedly don't know much about who they really were — their likes/dislikes, quirks, sense of humor, etc. So, Solomon's comments are accurate.

However, in light of the previous scriptures, this should not concern us. If we trust in Christ as our savior, He will remember us. And it won't be a casual "Hey, you look familiar" remembrance, either. He will remember our name and acknowledge our name before God and His angels, but He will forget our sins! It doesn't get any better than that!

God will remember our names, but forget our sins! Woo-hoo!

Two Bright Spots

With all his moaning and complaining (which we'll talk more about later in this study), there were times when Solomon recognized God's goodness and offers of hope.

32. What are your thoughts on these verses?

Ecclesiastes 2:13

Ecclesiastes 2:24–25

Thankfully, it seems Solomon recognized (to some degree, anyway) that it wasn't life that was meaningless — it was life without God that was meaningless. When I mentioned before that Solomon was missing the point — this is the point:

Life without God is meaningless!

So, what about you? Are you struggling with the meaning of life? Do you view midlife as a time of crisis? Are you getting older and starting to wonder if you will be forgotten? Perhaps you have gotten wrapped up in only what this world has to offer? If so, reflect on the following lines from a wonderful old hymn:

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS, LOOK FULL IN HIS WONDERFUL FACE, AND THE THINGS OF EARTH WILL GROW STRANGELY DIM IN THE LIGHT OF HIS GLORY AND GRACE.

How to Find Meaning in a Meaningless Life

Lesson One

When we get bogged down in the meaninglessness of life here on earth, consider the fact that our time here is brief. Eternity is forever.

Instead of focusing on things like how much stuff we have, or who's going to get "our" stuff, or the fact that we are getting old and frail (and maybe grumpy) and that no one will remember us, focus instead on things above — on Jesus! Find meaning in a God who knows you by name!

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

(2 CORINTHIANS 4:16–18)

Let's Pray – Dear God, it is almost unbelievable that with all the people throughout the world You know me by name. When I get caught up in the trivialities of this world remind me of that fact and the fact that I will spend eternity with You! Thank you, Jesus! Amen.

CHAPTER 2

Chasing After the Wind

Ecclesiastes Chapters 3 and 4

As noted in last week's study and the last line of chapter 2, Solomon lamented that after all of his hard work and wealth accumulation, which would end up in the hands of who knows who, he felt as though he had been "chasing after the wind" In fact, he made this statement again and again throughout Ecclesiastes. Of course, this distressed him because, as we all know, you can chase after the wind until the cows come home, but you will never catch it.

Perhaps you feel like this sometimes. Why do you work so hard? Why do you care about putting a healthy meal on the table? Why do you save for retirement? Why do you exercise? Why do you run yourself ragged after those crazy kids? You get the point, why are you chasing after the wind?

Well, a little later in this week's study we're going to address this question. Before we do, however, let's look closely at the first fourteen verses of chapter 3.

Reread Chapter 3:1–14.

If you are of a certain age, you will remember a song that was adopted from the first eight verses of this Ecclesiastes passage. The song to which I'm referring is, "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)" written by Pete Seeger and recorded by the Byrds way back in the early 1960s. The lyrics to this song, except for the title and the final two lines, were adapted word for word from the English version of this Old Testament book.

I find it a little difficult to believe that a song from the Bible was as popular as this one was during the turbulent 60s, but on the other hand, I would be surprised if many people recognized the words of this song as coming from the Old Testament. Yet what isn't surprising, and is often the case, God's word speaks to all cultures, all generations, and all people whether or not they know it to be the source of what they believe, value, quote, or sing.

1. Which of these eight verses (chapter 3:1–8) is particularly relevant to you as you are working on this study? Why?

2. Do you believe there is a "time for everything"? Why or why not?

3. How is time relevant in these verses?

John 2:4

John 17:1

Romans 9:9

2 Peter 3:8

4. How might the previous verses challenge your thoughts about "time"?

5. How might these same verses encourage you if you are waiting for an answer to a prayer?

6. Speaking of time, what do you think Solomon meant by "He has made everything beautiful in its time"? (verse 11a)

7. Last week we talked a little bit about eternity. What do you think Solomon meant when he said that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men ..."?

8. Do you think God has set eternity in the hearts of ALL men and women? Explain.

9. Do you see a link between the first and second parts of verse 11?

10. Continuing with the eternity theme, skip down to verse 14 where we learn that "everything God does will endure forever ..." What is God's purpose (according to this verse) in allowing what He does to last?

11. In answering the previous question your Bible may say that God does this "so mankind will revere Him," or it might say "so mankind may fear Him." What are your first thoughts when you hear the word fear?

12. Do you believe that your interpretation of fear is how God wants us to approach Him?

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "E(eek)cclesiastes"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Joyce H. Hondru.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Week 1 A Grumpy Old Man 1

Ecclesiastes Chapters 1 and 2 3

Week 3 Being Quiet and Content 31

Ecclesiastes Chapters 5 and 6 33

Week 4 When Life Seems Off Balance 43

Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 and 8 45

Week 5 Sinners and Saints 59

Ecclesiastes Chapters 9 and 10 61

Week 6 The Maker OP All Things 71

Ecclesiastes Chapters 11 and 12 73

The Conclusion 83

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