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All Is Vanity: A Bible Study on Ecclesiastes 1-2

February 06, 2023
00:00 18:43
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Ecclesiastes is a complicated book. It’s meant to be provocative. It’s meant to be emotional, to create emotion in you. It’s meant to raise questions.

Ecclesiastes means assembly. Most people think it’s written by Solomon. You can think of it as a preacher’s manifesto. The opening line is “vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

Vanity of vanities is repeated 38 times in this book! The meaning of which becomes clearer as we go along. The literal meaning is’ vapor.’ Something that dissipates.

It’s okay if you can’t immediately interpret everything in Ecclesiastes. Right now, we want to hear it, Step back and read a larger portion, and see what the larger theme is. The theme of Ecclesiastes might be, ‘what is the good life?’ What is man meant to get out of the world, in his vapor of time on it?

You can find the full show notes at

Section 1: Finding Life in Wisdom

What does man gain?

This is the journey of the book. How do we make sense of a dark and broken and complicated world considering God’s promises and goodness?

What is it like to wrestle with the concept that life does not always improve? What do we do when righteousness doesn’t lead to blessing and goodness? All the frameworks we use to make sense of the world are being inspected and attacked here.

“Vanity of Wisdom”

v 18 – in much wisdom is much vexation, he who increases wisdom, increases sorrow.

The preacher is willing to address the flip side of wisdom. Solomon asked for wisdom, sought it out, gained it – and he admits, it’s a mixed bag. As you grow in wisdom, you can grow in sorrow. “Vexation” – sad and angry. We might call this an existential crisis – the more you know about the world, instead of finding hope, you find sorrow.

Everything can be hard. There’s a plus and a minus to everything in life, even wisdom.

Section 2: Finding Life in Self-Indulgence

The preacher tried wisdom, it led to sorrow, so he turns to pleasure to see what it can offer him. He found this was all also vanity.

2:4: “I made great works” – he became great through his work. This shows we can do good things with the wrong motive too, if we are trying to find life in them. If you want these things to hold the weight of your life, you will be greatly disappointed.

“There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” What emotions come up when you hear this? What do you wrestle with? What’s your response?

Takeaway Lesson: 2:12-13

After considering the vanity of wisdom and the vanity of self-indulgence, he decides both are a mixed bag, but still, it’s better to be wise than foolish. “There is more gain in light than darkness.”

The pastor is refreshingly honest about it all. When we move toward the light, it doesn’t take away everything hard, but it’s still way better than being in the dark.


Nicole’s Book: Help My Bible Is Alive!

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Nicole Unice is a Bible teacher, author, and passionate communicator who delights in bringing God’s Word to life in a personal and relevant way. Her training as a counselor informs her work, as she emphasizes the importance of facing our own reality and embracing the transforming power of God’s grace. Nicole is ordained as a teaching elder in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Her latest book, “Help, My Bible is Alive” is a 30-day experience designed to help people experience God through the Bible.

Nicole has spent twenty years serving the local church, first in student ministry (where she’s never lost her love of a great group game) and then leading start-ups of all kinds, from leadership development to capital campaigns. She now teaches and consults with churches and ministries to strengthen their stories and cut through confusion to discover the next right steps for success.
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