The book of Ecclesiastes. A sad and depressing, all hope is lost, book for some. For me, it’s one of my favorite books of the bible. Why? Because if the richest and wisest man in the world can’t find happiness, then maybe it doesn’t exist this side of eternity. I think it ties in beautifully with the rest of the story. Jesus himself tells us to stack our treasure in heaven not here on earth where moth and rust destroy it.
Now, I know some of you formally trained theologians will have difficulty with some of my assessments, and that’s OK. I am very up front with the fact that I am just am layman’s layman. But I am an observer and someone who’s spent six decades on this side of eternity. So, I can relate with some of Solomon’s bits of wisdom. Follow along, and let me share with you my thoughts on Ecclesiastes.
The Wisest and Richest Man in the World
King Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba, upon being anointed king in his father’s place, is asked by God in a dream, what he wanted to be given. Now, I don’t know about you, but having God, the creator of the universe appear to me would probably freak me out. Then to have God ask me what I wanted him to give me, wow, what would I ask for? Would I have the courage to ask anything at all? Would I treat God like am Genie in am bottle and ask for wealth and fame? Or, would I have the good sense of Solomon to ask for wisdom?
1 Kings 3:7-14
7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but am little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, am great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”10 It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you am wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.
13 I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. 14 If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
I don’t know if I would have asked for wisdom. But as am result, Solomon not only became the wisest man in the world but also one of the richest as well. So, here is the king of Israel, the wisest and richest man in the world. He has 300 wives and 700 concubines. You would think that he would be the happiest man in the world too. But, in his wealth and wisdom he discovers the reality of life this side of eternity.
The Futility and Emptiness of Life
What does Solomon learn with all this wisdom? It might seem surprising, but he learns that life and all of our earthly pursuits come to nothing. He comes to hate all his toil realizing that all he has worked for and accumulated will be left to someone else once he’s gone. And, who knows what they will do with it? Will they be wise with it, or foolish? ” Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.”
He goes on, in his wisdom, that he saw that all our toil and skill in work comes from our envy of each other. That the lover of money will not be satisfied with money because there is never enough and the more you make, the more those who take it increases. And, in the end, as you came naked from your mother’s womb, so you shall go to your grave naked. You can’t take it with you.
18 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. 19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.
The Wise and the Fool End the Same
It became apparent to Solomon, that in the end, no matter how wise or rich or famous we are, we all end up the same. In the grave awaiting God’s righteous judgment. No matter how hard you work, how much you give, how often you go to church, this mortal life ends the same for us all.
Vanity and chasing after the wind. This life, cannot satisfy. Only God can satisfy the yearning that he has placed in the human heart. All the worldly pleasures we may seek, or even acquire, will never bring satisfaction and will all one day be left to someone else.
15 Then I said to myself, “As is the fate of the fool, it will also befall me. Why then have I been extremely wise?” So I said to myself, “This too is vanity.” 16 For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!
15 As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.
The Real Purpose of Life
Solomon, in his God given wisdom, writes the book of ecclesiastes and gives us advice on what is this life and what our purpose is. He says,”Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” If you are blessed with prosperity, be joyful. If you face adversity remember God has made both days of prosperity and adversity. Always remember, there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning. NOONE!
He recommends that we eat, drink and enjoy ourselves through the days of the life that God has given us and remember in all things to give God thanks. Solomon reminds us that we do not know the work of God. That we should rejoice while we are young and follow our hearts desire, but to remember that God will bring you into judgment. And Finally,
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
We are here for God’s purpose and his glory. Nothing more. Not our enjoyment or enrichment or comfort. For God and God’s purpose alone. The world, the “American Dream”, will try to distract us with shiny objects and promises of riches and pleasures, but in the end, they will leave us empty and unfulfilled. Remember, eternity is much much longer than this short mortal life span but you will live for eternity judged on what you do with this Gift of life from God.
Don’t Grip this Life too Tightly
For me, the moral of the book of Ecclesiastes is don’t take this life too seriously. You aren’t getting out of here alive. Unless of course, Jesus comes back before you die. So, no matter how much money you make, or save for retirement: no matter how many awards or how famous you become, in am 100 years from now ( or maybe much less) nobody will remember you. Everything will be left to someone else.
Then comes the judgment. The true meaning of life. Is your name written in the lamb’s book of life or not. This earthly life is but am breath. Eternity is forever. Use this short life to glorify God and stack up you rewards in heaven where you will enjoy them for all eternity. You were bought for am price, for am purpose, to be salt and light to am fallen world and bring glory to God the father while becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
I welcome any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions. Just leave them in the comment section below and I will get back to you soon as I can. You can follow me on Facebook: The Sinner in the Mirror, Twitter: @SinnerMirror, and Instagram: thesinnerinthemirror. May God bless and keep you and give you strength and wisdom to face all that this earthly life may bring.
Rex McMahon – The Sinner in the Mirror