Why You Should Preach Through Ecclesiastes
How quickly can you find Ecclesiastes in your Bible? How quickly can those in your church find it? Ecclesiastes is an often overlooked book in the Bible. When people do read it, they often remain confused, not knowing what this book means or why it is included in God’s Word.
As a result, this book has proved to be one of the most difficult in all of Scripture to understand, and through the centuries many widely different interpretations have been developed. The great Reformer Martin Luther wrote about Ecclesiastes: “This book is one of the more difficult books in all of Scripture, one which no one has ever completely mastered. Indeed, it has been so distorted by the miserable commentaries of many writers that it is almost a bigger job to purify and defend the author from the notions which they have smuggled into him than it is to show his real meaning.”
So why should you preach through Ecclesiastes? Here are five reasons:
To Solve the Big Questions of Life
Who are we? Why are we here? How should we live in this world? These questions are embedded deep within all of us, and there are many different answers out there. This leaves people in our congregation and in our community confused, because there are so many voices among us trying to get our attention. They are also left frustrated, because we cannot live without some kind of answers to these questions. What consumes our thoughts, our time, and our energy depends on how we answer them. Ecclesiastes forces us to wrestle with these questions so that we will come to the right answers.
To Share a God-Centered Worldview
Ecclesiastes is not merely one more voice out there seeking to give us answers to these questions. In this book, our Creator is revealing to us who we are, why we are here, and how we should live. So Ecclesiastes cuts through the fog of all the other answers and shines light into the darkness of our souls. We will only recognize the meaning and purpose of our lives through our relationship with God, who created us as His image bearers to live for His glory in His world.
However, the world we live in is not how God created it to be. It is corrupt and filled with frustration and futility. And we are not who God created us to be. Instead of shining and spreading the glory of God, we live in rebellion against Him and selfishly live for ourselves in sin. Ecclesiastes provides us with an honest and realistic view of life in this sinful and fallen world.
To Show Christ from the Old Testament
Since Christ is the focus and center of all of Scripture, every book of the Bible—including Ecclesiastes—shows us Jesus Christ. All too often, the people in the pew and Christians around us don’t understand how Christ connects to Old Testament books, especially in the wisdom literature. So we have a responsibility to connect the dots from the sorrows of Solomon to the cross of Christ! I appreciate how Graeme Goldsworthy emphasizes this truth: “The ultimate concern of the preacher should be to preach the meaning of the text in relation to the goal of all biblical revelation, the person and work of Christ. Can I maintain my integrity as a Christian preacher if I preach a part of the Bible as if Jesus had not come?”
Ecclesiastes opens by declaring: “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” (1:2). The theme of vanity in this fallen and corrupt world is developed and demonstrated through the rest of the book, with this key word which is translated different ways appearing throughout Ecclesiastes 38 times. Therefore, we must move from the vanity of this world to the hope of the gospel! Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility [or vanity], not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Christ delivers us from the vanity of life!
To Spread the Gospel through Evangelism
We were not created to be selfish and inward focused individuals, but to love God and to love our neighbor. God has entrusted to us the responsibility to help others recognize who they are, why they are here, and how they should live. In this way, Ecclesiastes becomes a God-given resource for our evangelism. Everyone struggles with the questions and the issues raised in this book! Our neighbors and friends need the clear and certain insight and understanding that this book gives to all of us. They need to see that Christ is the hope to our vanity in this world!
To Savor Satisfaction and Joy in Life
Answering the big questions of the meaning and purpose in life must not simply be an intellectual pursuit. Ecclesiastes has not been given to us as a way to solve a philosophical puzzle in our minds. This is a practical pursuit. We struggle with frustration, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness without the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes. But God has not intended for us to live this way! When we take to heart the truths of this book, our lives are fulfilled with true satisfaction and filled with lasting joy. Ecclesiastes leads us down a path of enjoying our lives satisfied in Christ!
Now, do you see why Martin Luther said that we should read “this noble little book” every day? Then are you willing to do the hard but rewarding work of introducing this wonderful book to your people by preaching Ecclesiastes? I hope so, for the glory of God and the magnifying of Christ’s name!