Tuesday 9th February Bible study – Ecclesiastes

Led by Rev Suzanne Nockels


We have just spent a month going through the Book of Proverbs with its pithy nuggets of wisdom ‘do this and you’ll be wise and have a good life’ but then we come to the Book of Ecclesiastes and it seems to stand in stark contrast to the Book of Proverbs. Wisdom literature tends to set up two
paths; wisdom and folly and says that if you follow wisdom good things will come to you. The Book of Ecclesiastes is for everyone who took the right path and still got burned. It for those who have found that the rules don’t always work. There are two phrases that keep cropping up. The first is
‘meaningless’, in Hebrew ‘hevel’ which means vapour. In other words, transient and hard to keep hold of. The second is ‘under the sun’ which means the earthly realm and a human lifespan.
We don’t seem to read Ecclesiastes much, but I do think it is a book for our lockdown times. However, we do read (or sing!) this bit on a regular basis.
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
We tend to read this as a list of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’. What should I be doing right now? Should I be embracing or refraining from embracing? Has Solomon read the Covid-19 guidelines? However, in the context of Ecclesiastes there is no moral judgement attached. They are just things you might do in life. The first couplet unlocks all the others. Between your birth and death all these things may and probably will happen.
1) When have you been most aware of the passing of time?
The thing that never changes- is that everything changes. Sometimes this is painful and other times this is a comfort.
2) When does ‘everything changes’ challenge? When does
‘everything changes’ comfort?
Read Ecclesiastes 3:9-12
Notice the word ‘eternity’. We tend to think of eternity as forever
but in Hebrew it can mean a realm or experience that has no
connection to time.
3) When have you have experienced a ‘timeless’ moment?’
When you experience joy, time tends to disappear. God has placed this ‘timeless’ realm in the human heart. The human heart has no relationship to time. The body and mind change constantly but love is a constant. Our ability to love and be loved doesn’t change and our capacity to love
doesn’t deteriorate. Does our heart age? This is an important key to our spirituality. We can tend our hearts despite the circumstances raging around us. Jesus called this heart-place ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘eternal life’.
Read John 4:13-14
4) How can we pay more attention to the timeless realm of the human heart? What gets in the way?

We are convinced that the past and the future exist. However our memories can play tricks on us. Did it really happen that way? The future is a feature of our imagination. The only moment that is 100% real is now. It is only when we can comfortably rest in the now then we can perhaps access the
timeless realm of the heart. It does not mean the past, the future, our education, employment, families etc. and all the things Ecclesiastes describes don’t matter. These things can be incredibly beautiful. However, if like Solomon/The Teacher you get weary of all the changes and ups and
downs there is a timeless heart-place of the kingdom that Jesus points to. Life is a dance and you can get up from your chair and join in the dance but at some point the dance will stop and you will have to find the chair again. Ecclesiastes tries to show us where the chair is.
5) How might this reading of Ecclesiastes 3 help us during lockdown?

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