The Teacher can give wise advice on how to survive in the corridors of worldly power but when it comes to the injustices of life he has no answers. No matter how hard he thinks about life he cannot get beyond its apparent meaninglessness. At one level he is able to apply the wisdom God has given him but when it comes to discovering the larger reality in which we fit it would seem that God has left us stumbling in the dark. Wisdom can only go so far before it proves inadequate to show us life's true purpose.
Is Ecclesiastes a counsel of despair? Is it a recipe of hopelessness? I think not. In spite of all the things that bring the Teacher to the conclusion that life 'under the sun' is meaningless he still commends the enjoyment of life, '...because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.' But this tick of approval is not an unqualified affirmation of life - throughout the book he cannot get away from the burden that is upon humanity because of our inability to untangle the problem of this present existence.
It is beyond all of us to really understand God and His purpose in the contradictions of this world. We need the wisdom of someone greater than the Teacher of Ecclesiastes - One (who is also a king and a son of David) who not only fully comprehends our situation but has eternally solved it with a wisdom and power this world has never known.
John DUNKLEY BTh, Dip.Min. and Dip. Pastoral Studies. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has pastored a number of Baptist churches. He has also ministered at Westcare Baptist Mission - an inner city ministry and served as a voluntary Police Chaplain.