Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

TALKING POINTS

When there is no certainty.

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Ecclesiastes 1:1
Outline Points:
Why Eccelesiastes? Why now?
Talking Points:
  1. What are you most looking forward to in this study of Ecclesiastes? What are you most apprehensive or unsettled about in this study?
  2. What are you most wanting to learn or understand in this study of Ecclesiastes?
  3. What do you most want to see change in you through this study?
Hevel havalim, says the Teacher, Hevel havalim!
All is hevel.
Ecclesiastes 1:2
Outline Points:
A challenging reality: Hevel
  1. Hevel is in some way insubstantial: the difference of expectations vs. reality
  2. Hevel is in some way transient: the difference of absolute, unending vs. not lasting forever
  3. Hevel can become foul: that which having started good turns bad 
Talking Points:
  1. How does your Bible translation relay the word “hevel”? What does that interpretive choice do to the meaning of hevel? What does that do the meaning of the book of Ecclesiastes?
  2.  What is the Teacher’s goal in using a word like “hevel” throughout the book of Ecclesiastes?
  3. What most challenged you in the ways “hevel” can be used?
What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, a generation comes, and the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow, they continue to flow.

Ecclesiastes 1:3-7
Outline Points:
A deep question: What do we gain ‘under the sun’?
Talking Points:
  1. The first line of vv.3-7 is a question, then the Teacher uses a handful of images to get his point across. What are those images? Do you notice what is common or the same in each one?
  2. The Teacher chooses time, wind, and water for his imagery here. How can those 3 elements be transient or insubstantial? What does this show you about the way he uses hevel?
  3. The Teacher’s question in v.3 is a big question in Ecclesiastes: “what does it gain man?” Or “To what advantage is it?” How much do you think thoughts like, “What gain is there for me in...?” ”What could I profit if I...” “What could I improve if...”
  4. The Teacher’s cycles in vv.4-7 seem to be universal — the shared experience of everyone who lives on earth. What cycles have you seen play out in your life? What should you have learned from those cycles?
All things are wearisome, more than one can express.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in the ages before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10
Outline Points:
A surprising answer: we do not gain ultimate absolutes
Talking Points:
  1. The Teacher seems to go right for our search for satisfaction, significance, and surpassing the problem of our limits. Which of these 3 do you search most for? What challenged you most in this portion of the text?
  2. How have you responded to COVID-19 and its shutdowns? What have you worried most about losing, or what have you been most upset at losing? Regardless of what’s right, wrong, or legitimate in that, what does this reveal about what drives you?
  3. How might embracing / admitting your limits help you see life rightly? How might embracing / admitting the limits of earthly satisfaction and significance help you see life rightly?
  4. What might God be saying to you right now? Do you sense yourself growing in trust, hope, or faith as you consider these things?
Bottom Line:
Apart from God, life doesn’t make sense.
Application:
How are we doubling down on counterfeit confidence?
Talking Points:
  1. How did the application of this sermon most challenge you? What should change from here on out in your perspective, your actions, or your words?
  2. Spend some time talking about your language, time, and activities. The way you use these represents or indicates something about your perspective and your anchor points in life. How does your language, time, and activities indicate where you’re doubling down on counterfeit confidence?
  3. Be honest about what’s being revealed in you and in us right now. How vulnerable do you feel? Can you admit that you are always that vulnerable? What is God’s invitation to your vulnerability?
  4. Be realistic about what you can do. Accepting limits in ourselves and in the things we hold or enjoy — that seems to be a part of the Teacher’s goal for us. If you accept those limits, what would change in you? What would change in your relationship to others? To God?
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