In a past post entitled “Life is a paradox…embrace it!” I shared how much I appreciate the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, even though it is viewed as pessimistic or hopeless by some. While reading through a book on Old Testament theology (Toward an Old Testament Theology by Walter Kaiser) I came across this great description and overview of Ecclesiastes that I wanted to share with you:
The greatest case ever made for the unity of all truth, so-called secular and sacred, is to be found in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s whole point was positive, not negative or a mere naturalistic point of view. Six times the theme of the fear of God appeared (3:14;5:7;7:18;8:12 bis 13) before the grand finale to his whole argument climaxed in 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the wholeness of man.”
No one has given a more programmatic essay on this book than J. Stafford Wright. In his view, Ecclesiastes 3:11 was one of the key verses: [God] has made everything beautiful in its time: also He has set eternity in their heart so that no man can find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end.
Man in and of himself was unable to put the pieces of the puzzle of life together – secular or sacred. Yet he hungered to know how to make it all fit because he had a God-created vacuum as large as eternity, craving satisfaction in that being which had been made in the image of God. The “vanity of vanities” of Ecclesiastes, then, was not that life was a bore, filled with futility, emptiness, or the frustrating conclusion that nothing was worth living for. No! Instead “vanity” was simply that life in and of itself could not supply the key to its own meaning, nor could it truly liberate the person. No part of God’s otherwise good universe could provide any all-embracing solution that would integrate truth, learning, and living.
Only when one came to fear God did he begin to perceive the unification of truth, learning, and living (Eccl. 7:14 and 8:14 as well). Life was deliberately sketched in such stark contrasts as life and death, joy and pain, poverty and wealth so that every man might realize that apart from a relationship of total commitment (“fearing”) to such a Lord, nothing would ever make sense – nor could it ever!
– From pages 172-173 in the book.