“Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Is that true?  If it is, then what’s the point? Why should we even bother getting up in the morning?  Solomon answers these questions (and more) in the book of Ecclesiastes.

This study was taught during the summer months of 2012. Outlines are below:  

Study One – Vanity

1.  The word translated as “vanity” occurs 38 times in the book and literally means “breath” (1:2, 12:8, etc.).

2.  The phrase “under the sun” occurs 29 times and explains the perspective from which everything appears as vain (1:3).

3. The preacher establishes and illustrates the felt-vanity of life through the inevitability of death (1:3-4, 11).

4.  The preacher explores man’s vain plight to find satisfaction through earthly pleasures, projects, and possessions (2:1-10).

5.  Nevertheless, man will never be able to escape the futility of life as seen and experienced while “under the sun” (2:11).

Study Two – Time

1.  The seemingly cyclic progression of time causes life under the sun to appear as vain (1:4, 9, 11).

2. The preacher poetically states the unfathomable mystery of God’s hand of providence in time (3:2-8).

3. The preacher acknowledges that God, in his sovereignty, somehow makes everything beautiful (3:11a, Romans 8:28).

4. Because we are made in the image of God, our hearts long to escape time and experience eternity (3:11b).

5. Nevertheless, time-related vanity should not prevent us from enjoying our time on earth as appointed by God (3:12-15).

Study Three – Work

1. The inherent dignity of labor under the sun is established by God’s example and appointment (3:10-11, 8:17, 11:5).

2. Those who engage in honest labor will enjoy the temporal rewards of food, drink, and sleep (5:12,18-20).

3. Sometimes (and for some reasons unrevealed), God deprives man from enjoying the ordinary fruit of his labor (6:1-2).

4. Sinful motives and selfishness certainly spoil the rewards God offers to laborers (4:4-8, 5:10-15).

5. Nevertheless, work is our present appointment/heritage and we should work diligently until we die (3:22, 9:10).

Study Four – Friends

1. Personal isolation is not only vanity, but a symptom of sinful selfishness (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8, Proverbs 18:1-2).

2. Cooperating with friends makes our labor under the sun far more easy and productive (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

3. Having good friends provides safety, support, and strength (Ecclesiastes 4:10-12).

4. Choosing good friends is difficult and requires much discernment (Proverbs 12:26, 13:20)

5. The best way to find and keep friends is to show yourself friendly and reliable (Proverbs 18:24, 17:17).

Study Five – Worship

1. Not all acts of worship are acceptable in the eyes of the Lord (5:1c, Proverbs 28:9, Luke 6:46).

2. We should always “watch our step” when we walk into God’s presence because he is holy and we are not (5:1a, 2b).

3. We should also “hold our tongue” when attending worship so we might receive God’s word (5:1b, Acts 17:11).

4. The taking and performing of solemn oaths and vows is an occasional part of our religious worship (5:4-5).

5. Our words flow from the heart; and will ultimately justify or condemn us (5:6-7, Matt. 12:33-37, Romans 10:10).

Study Six – Injustice

1. Saints should have an attitude of respectful submission toward earthly rulers (8:2-4).

2. Rather than resorting to rebellion, the saint will rest in God’s coming judgment (8:5-8)

3. We must expect men to rule over others wickedly; even appearing to prosper and go unpunished (8:9-13).

4. The existence of such injustice will perplex us greatly and we will never understand or resolve it (8:14, 16-17).

5. Rather than worrying about all this, we should simply leave it with God and enjoy our lives (8:15).

Study Seven – Aging

1. God has blessed the days of our youth and calls us to enjoy them as a good gift from his hand (11:9-10, 12:1-2).

2. God motivates such enjoyment by inviting us to explore the aging process in a painfully poetic manner (12:3-7).

3. Whether young or old, the words of our Good Shepherd bring sound instruction (12:8-12).

4. Whether young or old, our duty/calling remains the same: Fear God and Keep His Commandments (12:13).

5. For it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment (12:14 and Hebrews 9:27).

Grace Reformed Church is committed to promoting and defending the biblical and reformed faith by providing Bible study guides and online. Please feel free to download and distribute these lessons (with appropriate attribution).