Some books are better started at the end rather than the beginning. Why is this important for Ecclesiastes?
[Darris McNeely] Have you ever been reading along in a book, and you wonder, "How's this going to end?"? And maybe it's not quite what you thought, and maybe you're just a little bit confused about the plotline, the narrative, what's being said, and you're tempted to go to the end of the book to find out how it ends. The book of Ecclesiastes is such a book.
I started a series on this book, this wonderful short essay written by King Solomon here in the middle of the Old Testament, and one of the things that I learned years ago in looking at the book of Ecclesiastes is it's a book that you want to go the end of, chapter 12. As you begin to read the book and read the conclusion and then go back and read it from the beginning – let's do that. Let's go to Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Ecclesiastes 12:13-14  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
American King James Version×, the last two verses of the book, and read what Solomon concludes after all that he describes of his own life, learnings and meanderings throughout the other chapters. Here's what he says: "Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." And the book ends.
I propose that when you read the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, and then go back and begin reading with chapter 1, verse 1, through to the end, you then have a basis to understand all that you read in the book that can be at times, frankly, a rather meandering path because the book of Ecclesiastes starts out, and it is like a meandering path. It is definitely not a straight line until it comes to this end with what we just read. It talks, as Solomon writes, about his observations, his life, his style. And when you look into the rest of the Old Testament story about King Solomon you recognize that he was a very great king – he expanded the borders of Israel, he was very wealthy, he was very wise, but he also had multiple wives, and those relationships didn't always keep him tuned in to God, to God's way of life, and to what he had been taught by his father and especially by his mother. And he did himself a lot of things that he shouldn't have done and didn't always worship God in the right way. And that's what Ecclesiastes, I think, is showing us – that here was a man fabulously wealthy, powerful – a king who could have and do anything that he liked within his means, and did it, as the record tells us, and accomplished great things, but also had some significant downsides to his life and to his character. But at the end of the journey, the end of his life, he came back and he straightened it out, and he came to this observation, to fear God, to keep His commandments, because that's what life is about. That is the duty of man, and God will bring into a judgment all deeds and all actions.
And so when you read that book, Ecclesiastes, from that perspective, then you can begin to look at what he says about things being empty, meaningless, seemingly – wealth accumulated, then passed on to people who don't know what to do with it, from one generation to the next. And then you begin to realize, hey, that's life. That's what we read in history, that's what we read in our headlines every day, and the futility that often seems to be there as parts of life. You're reading a very realistic assessment, and God caused that to be put into the Bible to help us to understand how life can be, but certainly how it should end up. And ideally throughout the entire life we should have a straight line of obedience and worship and duty of God, but sometimes, as we all know, we vary from that, and others will as well. There's lessons for us to learn in this regard. Read the end of the book first and then you will begin to understand all that is there within the book of Ecclesiastes. We'll start into Part 3 next time.
That's BT Daily. See you then.