Ecclesiastes, aka Qohelet, is much more than a book that is asking difficult questions. Chances are you will not hear many homilies on Sunday morning from this book. This need not be the case as there is much in this book that the believer can relate to. We all struggle and wonder why evil is not being eradicated in our day. During the time of the postexilic period, there were many times when the future of Israel was threatened. As strange as it sounds, Qohelet was most likely a comfort to them during trial. Asking tough questions about what is happening around and to us does not mean rebellion. It certainly could be, but it could be the result of trying to understand.
Ecclesiastes Asks Tough Questions
In Qohelet, deep questions about the meaning of life are presented. Is it meaningful, or is it just fleeting and the end result is a death with nothing after? Or is there meaning and perhaps we have not stumbled upon it yet? These are questions that Qohelet asks, and they are questions that many run away from. Qohelet investigates everything “under the sun”, and these are still the things we explore today. In a fallen world when we look to ourselves as the final authority things will seem to be meaningless eventually.
No matter how much money you have you will want more, will want the nicer car, and the bigger house. What we have and what we pursue are meaningless because in the end it will never be enough. In Romans 8:20 Paul uses the Greek equivalent for meaningless in Qohelet and deems it “frustration”.
It Is Real
In Qohelet we get a realistic view on life and not a sanitized morality play as seen in Proverbs. What Proverbs is saying is correct and should be taken to heart, but Qohelet lays down a real human element. He is challenging the status quo to ask why bad things happen to the righteous and why the wicked are prospering.
In chapter 12 Qohelet brings it full circle and says that the meaning of life is to fear God and follow his commands. This occurred in the epilogue, but in the preceding verses there was much symbolism and allegorical language that points to soul being united with God after death.
What does any of this have to do with the Gospel? After all that is most likely the top reason why Qohelet is not preached from as often. When we look in the Old and New Testaments we can see some overarching themes about sacrifice, the Messiah, and redemption. On its surface Qohelet has none of that, but is very explicit about other issues. It is tempting to explain it, and it would not be wrong, as teaching us about the meaninglessness of a life that does not have God front and center.
Peel Back The Onion
When the layers of the proverbial onion are pulled away we find an exquisite teaching on the nature of grace. For example we are told that God delights in the work we do no matter how good or bad we may do it. We are all recipients of grace. Our work is meaningless because grace is a gift of God that we cannot work for. One of the themes we see in Qohelet is how everything is meaningless. If we try to work for salvation that is meaningless because it is a free gift.
When we speak of the Gospel, we always speak of the life to come and being in Heaven with our Lord. However, Qohelet has a repeated message and focus on the grave. From a Gospel presentation perspective, especially when it comes to a postmortem judgment, there is difficulty but no conflict. We will die. This is a promise and a guarantee. We do not know when it will happen. People in our world, even confessed Christians, are involved and living in things they should not be.
To many there is always time to get right with the Lord before the final breathe leaves out lungs. Sometimes we need the hard reminder that death is a certainty. We need to be ready at all times, and that is why Qohelet tells us to fear God and follow Him in the epilogue. Qohelet may not speak of the atonement or of the resurrection of the dead, but his last words are about how we will be judged for what we have done in this life.
Ecclesiastes Tells Us Judgment Is Coming
Notice how this judgment takes place after urging the listener to fear the Lord. To respect, honor, and worship the king of Kings is something we do out of love. Not because of something that we can get. This acceptance of the mercy and grace of God to live your life in association with his commandments is an act of faith. It is giving God control to change us and orient our minds towards his will so we can live as we should. This is what we normally would say about good works in the life of a Christian. It is a manifestation of a life changes by Christ. In a real way, this is similar to what Qohelet describes in the decalogue.
As Christians we believe and speak of the resurrection whenever possible. One cannot have a resurrection without first facing what faces all of us…death. Qohelet reminds us that we cannot earn grace no matter how many great things we do. While we are on this Earth we are to enjoy every blessing that is given from on high, be grateful for it, and keep the proper perspective.
The Gospel And Ecclesiastes
It is possible to make a Gospel presentation from Ecclesiastes. It will be nuanced, and one would still need to bring New Testament sources into the mix, but most would do that anyway. Qohelet is shocking, and it rocks our core. When sharing the Gospel we have this need to make it clean, and if we are honest we do not like when difficulties arise. Ecclesiastes supplies us with those difficulties because it deals with he human condition.
Life is not easy, and we should not present the Gospel in such a manner to say that one’s problems will go away if they accept Jesus into their heart. This is dishonest and we render a new found faith as vanity when the first sign of trouble arises. Qohelet shows us these issues, and shows us a God who is with us in those issues, Qohelet also shows us that life is so much more when God is in our lives. It gives us new perspective and a meaning to what is happening.