Ecclesiastes: Find God's Perspective on Life

Our autumn Sunday morning studies are from the book of Ecclesiastes. It is one of 5 books in the Bible that are described as ‘wisdom literature’. It contains teaching that will remind us of Proverbs, or the Psalms. It will explore aspects of life that are also explored in the Song of Songs and in Job.  The writer will make use of metaphor and poetry as he considers life as he sees it from the perspective of earth. All with the intention that we take on the wisdom found in following God. For this “life lived under the sun” is fleeting like a breath, vapor or mist.

Commentators traditionally have taken King Solomon to be the author and that what he is writing about is akin to an autobiography of his life.  We cannot be certain that Solomon is the author and the book never confirms this.  Rather we are introduced to a strange and untranslatable title for the author ‘Qoheleth’ which we can simply understand as ‘The Preacher’.

Who he is, doesn’t particularly matter. This Preacher has a message to bring, one of raw honesty about life’s experiences that we will find empathy with.  His teaching will challenge our assumptions about how life should be lived. In the glimpses he brings of God’s character we will learn what is the right perspective on life: God’s perspective.

Making Sense of Life - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Saturday, August 15, 2020
The message of the book of Ecclesiastes is incredibly apt for our times. Ecclesiastes takes a serious look at life, addressing our life expectancy. The pandemic has forced us to reflect on life too as it has disrupted normality. God reminds us that life is a merest of breaths. Like vapor, life is fleeting, short and unpredictable. Life resists our attempt to capture, control and contain it. Therefore toiling for gain is a chasing after wind. Jesus himself said: what does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul. May we heed Ecclesiastes' warning and take on his challenge to face reality for what it truly is. And may his message humble us, driving us towards God who through Jesus Christ gained for us what is lasting, Life in all its fullness.
Ecclesiastes 2: Life is for Living Right? - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, August 23, 2020
In Eccl.2, Qohelet, the teacher seems to test his conclusions of chapter 1 that life is a mere breath. To find out what is worthwhile for men to do during the few days of their lives he sets himself 3 life projects: wisdom, pleasure, and achievements through hard work. He seems to succeed (v.9-10) yet his conclusions are the same (v.11). There is no ultimate gain to be had. Why? Because of the reality of death (v.14-15) which strips us of everything we hold dear. Through the reality of death God says: If I'm not your security you've got no security. Yet because Christ defeated death (Hebr.2:14-15) we do not have to live in fear of it. Instead, to see life and every part of it including pleasure, wisdom and work from God's perspective we must learn to: live life backward; enjoy life as a gift from God; and live to please God the way Christ lived to please His Father.
Ecclesiastes 3: Tick Tock - Bob Akroyd (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, August 30, 2020
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions Key Verses in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 Verse 1: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven Verse 11: He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Verse 21: Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? In this chapter, we have one of the most well-known portions of the Bible. Pete Seeger wrote a folk song based on the first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3 entitled, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ in the late 1950s and the song became a number one hit for the Byrds in 1965. We know that the author of Ecclesiastes is a wise man. The preacher knows something about life but more importantly he knows something about the author of life, God. In chapter three, we learn about the variety of experiences in life and we are also reminded about the inevitability of death. God has made us, given us life and the ability to enjoy life. God has also implanted eternity in our hearts – deep down we all know there is a God. With God in our lives, we can find meaning and purpose. Without God, there is always something missing. We are restlessly searching for something that eludes our grasp as Augustine captures so vividly in the introduction to his Confessions, possibly the most important Christian book ever written apart from the Bible. So, as you read the reflections of wise Solomon, the key to life, the key to death and the key to what lies beyond life and death can only be found in knowing God. It is only possible to know God through trusting in his Son, Jesus Christ – He alone gives life the way God intended for us to enjoy it. As the Apostle John states in 1 John 5:11–12, "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Ecclesiastes 4: - Adrian Armstrong (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, September 6, 2020
Ecclesiastes 4 looks at the world and sees oppression, envy, and power. The writer concludes that, ultimately, the pursuit of money and power are deeply unsatisfying ways to live. Instead he commends contentment – rooted in a right relationship with God, and community – living in right relationship with others. This passage asks us searching and urgent questions in a culture that is obsessed with money and power. Through it God challenges us to ensure that he – and nothing else – is the centre of our lives.
Ecclesiastes 5: 1-7 Serious Business of Worship - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only) Download Powerpoint
Morning Service, Sunday, September 13, 2020
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 helps us understand and be moved to God pleasing worship. Contrasted with fools worship which is a careless observance of religion, filled with words yet unfulfilled vows to God, God pleasing worship consists of carefully approaching God, humbly intent to listen and undivided walking in His ways. Not worship for (our) gain but worship as (our) gift to God. Other Scripture used: Isaiah 1: 10-17; Exodus 19:9-12; Matthew 6:5-8.
Is life all about Money? Ecclesiastes 5:8 - 6:12 - David Knowles (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, September 20, 2020
Money we can't do without it and as a result it can become a dangerous taskmaster.  The writer of Ecclesiastes looks at whether meaning and purpose can be found in the size of your bank balance, before eventually concluding that money is a gift from God and we need to find perspective on money in what he teaches.
Living life Seriously - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, September 27, 2020
Our passage (7:1-13) seeks to answer the question left us at the end of chapter 6: 'For who knows what is good for a man in life during the few days he passes through like a shadow?'. Qohelet answers it in 7:4 'The one whose heart is in the house of mourning' is wise and will know what is good for a person in life. Often seen as the last taboo, uncomfortable or morbid, Eccl reminds us that death can teach us things no one else can. And as we consider our own limitations we're drawn to the death of Christ. Death humbles us and drives us to God who through Jesus Christ's death on the cross offers us the gift of true life. Blessed are those who mourn and take to heart the destiny of all men.
How wisdom works - Alex Warren (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 4, 2020
In this passage the preacher is continuing to teach us what true wisdom is all about. The context is the difficult question of why good people suffer and bad people seem to prosper. He shows us that Godly wisdom doesn’t involve getting an insight into God’s secret purposes. It doesn’t mean knowing the key to ensuring that God gives us a long and trouble free life. Instead wisdom means fearing God so that we trust him with the things we don’t understand. It means living God’s way, trusting in Jesus who is the revelation of God’s greatest wisdom. If we live God’s way, then we will shine with God’s wisdom in the world and will be a blessing to many. However, godly wisdom is rare and often rejected in the world around us and so we look to Jesus for reward, and not for the approval of others.
It's all in God's hands - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 11, 2020
Eccl 8:2-9:10 touches on similar themes already dealt with earlier in the book: from the randomness and brevity of life to the call to enjoy the life God has entrusted to us as gift. At the same time God is coming more and more into focus. The teacher tells us (9:1): "So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hand." In light of the reality we are limited in our knowledge, insight and understanding and not in control the way we think or like to be, finding ourselves in God's able, guiding, saving hands is a marvelous truth we can cling to in all circumstances. However this re-assurance, security and future prospect isn't ours unless we humbly surrender to Jesus as King.
Ecclesiastes 11: 1-10 - Boldness and Joy - Ian Naismith (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, October 25, 2020
Ecclesiastes 11 reminds us that there are many things we don't know in life, and encourages us to be bold but careful in our ventures. It also tells us that the certainty of death means we should take joy from living life to the full, whatever out age. Jesus builds on this good advice in Matthew 6 and reminds us that real fulfillment in life comes from trusting in Him and building up treasure in heaven
Ecclesiastes 12: 1-14 - Remember, Remember - Christiaan Hofstra (Audio Only)
Morning Service, Sunday, November 1, 2020
In this last chapter of Ecclesiastes we hear the author commend the teacher and his wisdom to us (v.9-10). It's an invitation to listen carefully to his message and even more so to the wisdom of the ultimate teacher the Lord Jesus Christ. The teacher's final words are for us to remember our creator in the days of our youth. Such remembering is crucially important , not only as we all face the reality of aging and decline but because we live in the last days. Our intent listening and active remembering is to produce in us a true fear of God and a longing to obey his commandments. This is how we will find joy in the randomness of life and will be able to face our final judgement.