In the week approaching, as we continue as a church family in our 2020 Southwest Bible Project, you will have the opportunity to read the book of Ecclesiastes.
What to say about Ecclesiastes?
Here's the problem. All literature in all of the libraries of the world typically have a plot. Sometimes that plot is obvious and straightforward, sometimes it is subtle, or even concealed in elaborate ways. Most people like the former, and struggle through the latter, as can be seen by the movies we watch and talk about most. The same is true about our library of books in the Bible, and in Ecclesiastes, the plot seems to be so concealed that you can not even find it. One commentary admits that there is no universally agreed upon structure to Ecclesiastes at all.
So, I ask again, what to say about Ecclesiastes? Here is what I say.
First, Ecclesiastes is gut-level honest. Here at Southwest, we talk often about "taking off the mask" and really sharing openly and honestly, with ourselves, each other,†and especially God. If there is a book of the Bible that exemplifies and models for us what "taking off the mask"† looks like, it is this book. Buckle up, because just like you when you take off the mask, it can feel messy and dark in there.
Second, Ecclesiastes really has two main characters (and I've never seen this explained better than in the Bible Project video on this book. Watch it!). There is "The Narrato", who put the book together, and "The Teacher", who is responsible for the bulk of the book. So, the Narrator wants you to hear from the Teacher, because he is full of true, important, and useful observations. But the Narrator introduces the book, and finishes it up, leaving the distinct impression that he may not want you to draw the same conclusions or adopt the same attitude as the Teacher. As insightful and experienced as the Teacher is, his implications and conclusions are not always right.
Third, this book is perhaps the clearest example of something we are teaching you: The Bible is NOT a simple book. It is written by different people, in different eras, in different languages, in different genres, all of which require you to approach it in certain ways in order to glean from it what it intends to give you.
What does the Bible intend to give you? I'll say this forever: Wisdom, Love, the overarching Story that explains your life, and ultimately, the Bible intends to give you life in and like Jesus.