I've heard a lot of sermons on Ecclesiastes. And a lot of them preach the book as displaying the futility of atheism. Of course when you preach it like that, what's the solution? Good old theism. Yay theism.
And one or two preachers then suggest that Christian theism gives the most amount of meaning. So yay Jesus too.
But let me state something that's pretty darned obvious but it seems like it needs saying. The Teacher is no atheist. He's a hard-core theist. Check it:
Ecclesiastes 1:13; 2:24-26; 3:10-22; 5:1-7, 18-20; 6:1-2; 7:13-14; 18,20; 8:2, 11-17; 9:1,9; 11:5,9; 12:1-14;
Here's just a sample of what he says:
God has set eternity in the hearts of men.... He's done it so that men will revere him... Stand in awe of God... God made mankind upright but men have gone in search of many schemes... I know that it will go better with God-fearing men who are reverent before God... God will bring you to judgement... Remember your Creator... Fear God and keep his commandments.
He's a theist right? A pretty ardent one.
Well what do you expect from a son of David, a king of Jerusalem? (Ecclesiastes 1:1) Here is a christ - an anointed king. But, here's the thing, he's not the King of Heaven. He's a king under heaven (notice how 'under heaven' and 'under the sun' are parallel 1:3; 3:1). He's not the One full of the Spirit without measure, instead he seeks to shepherd the Spirit (or chase the wind, e.g. 1:14) while he must receive his teachings from the true Shepherd (12:11).
The teacher is self-consciously not the Messiah (he's a very naughty boy!). He's not the Christ with a capital C certainly. But he is a christ with a small c. And so he embarks on a sustained meditation on life in which the king is subject to all the forces that we are. This christ is also under the sun and therefore under the powers that enslave mankind and even nature itself. This king, for all his wealth and power and wisdom cannot pierce through the shroud of sin, law, judgement and death. (see this sermon for more)
So what hope is there? None! Not with this king. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. And then we are judged - by the God is who is ever-present in Ecclesiastes. But ever-present as Judge. Who knows how we will fare under His judgement?
That's life under the sun. Here's what we can expect if the Teacher is our christ.
But if that's the problem, what's the solution? The glories of theism? The truth that God knows us and has a wonderful plan for our lives? The thought that my actions have eternal significance? The Teacher knows all these things and declares them utterly meaningless. Our only hope is Christ. The true Christ. The Christ from Heaven. The Christ who conquers sin and law and judgement and death and bursts through into resurrection hope. That's the answer to Ecclesiastes' meaninglessness.
Any other solution is vanity of vanities.