Eternal Significance (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3) - Radical

Eternal Significance (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3)

“Vanity of vanities.” Says the preacher, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”
– Ecclesiastes 1:2–3

And thus begins one of the most depressing books, in one sense, in the Bible, and yet ultimately hope-giving. So we’ll pray through over the coming days, these different verses and Ecclesiastes. But the key from the very beginning is to hear that phrase, “Under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 teaches us that life is pointless without God.

So everything is vanity. In other words, everything is pointless. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? That phrase occurs 29 different times in the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes. It’s a reference to life without God, life without reference to God. This is so important to realize, if we miss this, then we will miss likely the whole point of Ecclesiastes, and we’ll think, “How does this fit in the Bible?”

But this book constantly points to vanity, meaninglessness, and pointlessness if there is no God. That’s what “under the sun” is a reference to. If this world is all there is, then wisdom is pointless because the more you know, you know how much you don’t know, and the more you understand, the more problems you see. Or pleasure is pointless, it’s just going to lead to an ever-increasing desire for more and more and more. You’re never going to be satisfied. Labor, work is pointless.

When you get to the end, you’ve done all these things, you die. It’s all gone. The person who comes behind you can do whatever they want with it. This is the picture we see over and over again in Ecclesiastes. Ultimately, life is pointless if this is all there is. But the good news of the whole Bible and what Ecclesiastes will show us at particularly important and climactic moments is that this is not all there is.

Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 reminds us that God alone can satisfy our souls.

In fact, there is something new under the sun. The beauty of the gospel shines so brightly in the backdrop of Ecclesiastes because we realize that Jesus has come, and God is real. God has come to us in love for us, and He makes us new creations. That we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth to come. We have meaning and purpose now because we have knowledge of God, we have a relationship with God, and we’re walking with God. Oh, let Ecclesiastes just drive you to see the beauty of the gospel and the wonder of what it means to know, trust, and fear and walk with and worship God in a world that has broken and fallen and will leave us empty in the end. We have a God who alone can satisfy our souls.

So we pray from the very beginning of walking through Ecclesiastes. God, we are hopeless without you. We are meaningless without you. We are purposeless without you. Oh God, all is vain apart from you, but with you, our Creator, our Sustainer, the Lover of our souls, the Savior from our sin, you make all things new. You give meaning. Oh God, you give purpose. You, oh God, are our hope. In you, with you, all things are not in vain.

This verse reminds us that if we live by faith, our labor is not in vain.

Think about 1 Corinthians 15, that our labor, our work, our lives today are not in vain when they’re lived by faith in you. So God, help us to live today by faith in you, with hope in you, amidst the fallenness of this world, amidst all kinds of things in this world that we long to be changed, including the presence of sin, evil, and injustice in the world, and the hurt, the pain, and the sorrow that we experience in this world.

God, we praise you that you are making all things new and that one day all things will be new. So God, help us to hold fast to faith in you today and to lead others to see you today, and for people around us who need you and the hope that’s found in you, help us to share, to spread the gospel today. God, we pray for people around the world who’ve never heard the gospel, who live without reference to you and who you are, Jesus.

Prayer for the Gtsang Tibetan People

Lord, we pray for the spread of the gospel today, specifically to the Gtsang Tibetan people of China. God, for this people group of over 750,000 Tibetan Buddhists. God, please, may the good news of Jesus spread to them, and may you give them a soft heart and open minds to hear and believe the truth about who you are and your love for them, so that they might experience your salvation and your satisfaction.

Oh God, we shudder to think where we would be if you, one, were not real, we’re not true, we’re not just and right and good and holy, and if you had not loved us enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we could know you. Oh God, we praise you as our Father, as our hope, as our joy, as our life, and we pray that you’d help us to hold fast hope, joy, and life in you by faith today, all according to your Word in Ecclesiastes. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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