Ecclesiastes, along with Job and Proverbs is seen as a wisdom book. In Proverbs the overarching message is live a good life and you will be blessed. Job, on the other hand, is about suffering and in particular how the righteous suffer. Being righteous does not result in blessing. Ecclesiastes holds this paradox, and it is a book about the mess of life.
In Ecclesiastes, the passage of time is certain and death is the great equaliser. Wealth, career, status and pleasure are hevel. Fearing God does prevent suffering. The key is to accept that life is completely out of our control and put our complete trust in God, enjoying the simple pleasures, sacraments of the present moment, as God gifts them to us. Family, friendship, food and sunshine.
The author concludes that while it is impossible for us to understand, even if we read and study endlessly, there is hope of a time of judgement when God will clear away all of the hevel and bring true justice.
Perhaps it is therefore not so strange how Ecclesiastes impacts on culture in such a powerful way. The Byrds and Joan Baez singing ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ are still heard on the radio and TV. The words of Ecclesiastes ‘All are from the dust, and to dust all return’ are reflected in the words from the Book of Common Prayer used at funerals: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.