Lifeway recently released my new Small Group (or personal) study, Ecclesiastes: Finding Meaning in a World of passing Pursuits.
I remember reading Ecclesiastes in both high school and college and having the same reaction: what is this weird book even doing in here? It was simply twelve chapters of confusion. In my mind it became one of those portions of Scripture reserved for checking boxes on a Bible reading plan.
Years later in the midst of just such a reading plan I found myself staring into the morass of Ecclesiastes again. Only this time, I began to get it.
What had changed? I had.
Ecclesiastes is part of the scriptural genre called wisdom literature. These are the books of the Bible (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) that most clearly speak into common life experiences. They draw on the grist and grind of everyday life to reveal truths about God, and shine those truths about God onto the grist and grind of everyday life. As I returned to Ecclesiastes a decade or more after that first encounter, I’d lived enough life to have the shine knocked off me. I’d had enough life experiences, both good and bad, to begin to learn what I didn’t know.
Which meant that this time around, Ecclesiastes rang true for me. Here was King Solomon (aka “The Preacher”)—one of the wisest and wealthiest men who ever lived—reflecting in his old age on what his life had come to. Here was a man who had many triumphs and glories, but who also made many moral compromises and sinful choices later in life. It was a context that I could understand (despite not being the wisest or wealthiest anything ever) because it was real—real successes, real enjoyment, real loss, real mistakes, real cost; and I’d had my share of those.
In the years since, I have revisited Ecclesiastes often enough that I am no longer a mere guest. I have my own key and am free to let myself in whenever I need a place to stay. It is a home in the midst of scripture’s 66 books. (All the other books are equally as hospitable, I simply find my way back to Ecclesiastes often.) Through life’s devastations and joys it speaks balance and steadiness. When I am tempted to place my hopes in something that cannot hold them it bluntly tells me just how foolish that would be. When I am inclined to pessimism and frustration it points me to the sincere pleasures and happiness that God has given in this life. Ecclesiastes will neither let me get too high nor too low.
The beauty of a book like this, and all the wisdom literature in Scripture, is that it’s for everyone who will listen. You too can find grounded, happy realism in its pages.
I wrote those words in my book Hoping for Happiness, and they explain as well as I know how why I wrote a study on Ecclesiastes for groups or individuals who want to better understand this rich book and dive deeper into the Bible’s wisdom. Here is what you will find in this study.
- Vanity Under the Sun
- Wealth, Fame, and Power
- Number Your Days
- Enjoy the Life God Has Given You
- Fear God and Keep His Commands
- 8 small group sessions
- 8 teaching videos and session previews featuring author Barnabas Piper—access included with purchase of Bible Study Book
- Bonus videos on challenging verses in Ecclesiastes
- Personal study opportunities for ongoing spiritual growth
- Reading plan for the book of Ecclesiastes