Solomon as nearly no other person in
history had the world at his feet. He was possessor of uncountable wealth and
possessions (2:8); he was unsurpassed in education and knowledge (1:16); he was
in the peak of worldly fame, popularity and prominence (2:4-6); he was
unbridled in his ability and desire to pursue and find pleasure (2:3). After a
life of pursuit he confesses with Christ that one may well gain the whole world
and still lose his own soul (Matthew 16:26). Only in the Lord is
there any hope for this life! We must meet that “One Shepherd”
(12:11) who alone offers “abundant life” (John 10:9-10).
Remember we are in the fourth of the five Books of Hebrew Wisdom Literature. Each is a Divinely Inspired insight on a facet of life.
In JOB He is our Sure Redeemer. This book gives THE TRUTH FROM GOD ON SUFFERING.
- In PSALMS He is our Shepherd. This book gives THE TRUTH FROM GOD ON WORSHIP.
- In PROVERBS He is Wisdom Incarnate. This book gives THE TRUTH FROM GOD ON LIVING (principles not promises).
- In ECCLESIASTES He is the only hope of contentment. This book gives THE TRUTH FROM GOD ON LIFE.
- In SONG OF SOLOMON He is our Beloved. This book gives THE TRUTH FROM GOD ON LOVING.
Some have said that the three books Solomon wrote may have arisen from the three stages of his life.
- Song of Solomon from the young man in love.
Proverbs from the wisdom of a mature man at his zenith. And
Ecclesiastes from and old and bitter man looking back on his wasted opportunities. . .
With incredible Divine Blessings. With personal visits from the God of Heaven. With wisdom unsurpassed on the planet. With wealth beyond the greatest kings of the Earth. With wine, women and palatial living . . . nothing ever satisfied him. The hands spread out to God in prayer were pulled back and instead grasped the idols of paganism. The heart of zeal for the Living and True God became cold, distant and empty. From this final era trickles ECCLESIASTES.
God divinely inspired Solomon to
record the truth of what it takes to have contentment in life as a believer.
This a philosophy of life for us as Christians. The Lord has given us
revelation to help us govern our temporal lives on earth. He didn’t leave us
alone to try to come up with our own plan!
We might distill down the essential truths of these 12 chapters as being:
LIFE APART FROM GOD IS VAIN.
LIFE WITH GOD CAN BE VAIN IF CONTENTMENT IS NOT PRACTICED!
The key WORD of the book is “vanity” (37x) and the key phrase is “under the Sun” (only in this book; 28x; it means from an ‘earth is all there is’ perspective). They are the basis of contented living as we see that life apart from the intervention of God is like breath that is transitory, vapor that is insubstantial and fleeting. The times that this book sounds wrong(3) it is because Solomon seeks to show what those who merely live life “Under the Sun” find it empty “vain”. Solomon shows in his life that satisfaction can never be found merely in:
- HUMANISM (you are glorious so exalt yourself) 1:4-18 this makes life a constant promotion of human dignity, personal worth and inherent value totally apart from the Lord. Mankind is in charge and by study and hard work we can continually better ourselves.
EPICUREANISM (life is a party, go for it) 2:1-11 this makes life a chase for satisfying lust, which is impossible!
MATERIALISM (possessions can satisfy so get all you can get) 2:12-26 this makes one’s worth based on things material not things eternal.
FATALISM (life is rigged, resign yourself and live passively) 3:1-15 this life produces despair, resignation and cynicism.
MERE RELIGION 5:1-8
SELF LIFE IS FUTILE, CHRIST LIFE IS
EVERYTHING! Frustration is produced by putting out gaze on self or
circumstances instead of on the Lord! (Heb 12:2) When we look at
self or the world around us it is depressing because both are not designed to
last forever! Note in chapter 2 the personal pronoun “I” is used 36 times.
This is much like Romans 7 where Paul describes the self-life struggle
personally over 30 times. Then in Romans 8 life in the Holy Spirit almost
erases Paul’s self awareness.
Many doctrines are found in this book:
- Mankind and Labor
- LABOR IS GOD’S GIFT TO US Ecclesiastes 2:10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. (NKJV) Ecclesiastes 5:18 Here is what I have seen: [It is] good and fitting [for one] to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it [is] his heritage. (NKJV)
- LABOR MUST BE ENJOYED Ecclesiastes 2:24 Nothing
better for a man [than] that he should eat and drink, and [that] his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. (NKJV) LABOR IS HARD Ecclesiastes 2:23 For all his days
sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity. (NKJV)
- LABOR IS TEMPORAL Ecclesiastes 7:14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing [that will come] after him. (NKJV) Ecclesiastes 1:5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. (NKJV) see also 3:1; 7:14
- LABOR ALONE NEVER SATISFIES Ecclesiastes 5:10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also
vanity. (NKJV)Ecclesiastes 6:7 All the labor of man [is] for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied. (NKJV) Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 He who digs a pit will fall into it, And whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent. 9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, [And] he who splits wood may be endangered by it. (NKJV)
- EVEN OUR LABOR IS GUIDED BY GOD Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned and saw under the sun that — The race [is] not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. (NKJV)
- Wisdom versus Folly
- Ecclesiastes speaks of wisdom in a non-moral way. It is skillfulness, practicality and common sense. The advantage of wisdom is you are not foolish.
- The Potential uses of Human Wisdom are:
- As a gift to God Ecclesiastes 2:26 For [God] gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who [is] good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to [him who is] good before God. This also [is] vanity and grasping for the wind. (NKJV) also 12.11
- Strengthens 2.19; preserves life 7.10-12; gives success 10.10; superior to weapons 9.13-18; superior to money 7.12; gives perception 2.14 and it is better than folly 7.4-5.
- Builds Moderation Ecclesiastes 7:16-17 Do not be overly righteous, Nor be overly wise: Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? (NKJV) life is not to be extreme in human terms. This is not altering the God ordained mandates of righteousness. It is just in everything else we are to be regulated by moderation!
- Protects Reputation Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name [is] better than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth; (NKJV)
- Encourages Socialization Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two
better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him [who is] alone when he falls, For [he has] no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm [alone?] 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (NKJV) Protects one from Slandering Ecclesiastes 10:20 Do not curse the king, even in your thought; Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter. (NKJV) Encourages Fiscal Conservatism Ecclesiastes 11:2 Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. (NKJV) The limitations of Human Wisdom are: ONLY GOD GIVES TRUE WISDOM Ecclesiastes 7:23-24 All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise”; But it [was] far from me. 24 As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, Who can find it out? (NKJV) ONLY GOD REVEALS SPIRITUAL SECRETS Ecclesiastes 11:5As you do not know what [is] the way of the wind, [Or] how the bones [grow] in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. (NKJV) ONLY GOD KNOWS THE FUTURE Ecclesiastes 10:14 A fool also multiplies words. No man knows what is to be; Who can tell him what will be after him? (NKJV) ONLY GOD CAN SATISFY Ecclesiastes 6:7-8 All the labor of man [is] for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied. 8 For what more has the wise [man] than the fool? What does the poor man have, Who knows [how] to walk before the living? (NKJV) ONLY GOD GRANTS ETERNAL LIFE Ecclesiastes 6:6 even if he lives a thousand years twice — but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place? (NKJV) Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there is] no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (NKJV) Reality of death and brevity of life EARTHLY LIFE IS SHORT Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (KJV) Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it was thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return. (KJV) EARTHLY LIFE IS TERMINAL Ecclesiastes 5:15 As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand. (NKJV) EARTHLY LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE Ecclesiastes 9:12 For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men [are] snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them. (NKJV) EARTHLY LIFE SEEMS TO END LIKE THE ANIMALSEcclesiastes 3:19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all
- EARTHLY LIFE ENDS IN DUST Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (NKJV) BUT DEATH DOESN’T END IT ALL!
- Pleasure and Living Life
- PLEASURE IS GOOD
- PLEASURE IS A GIFT FROM GOD
- PLEASURE IS OKAY! Pleasure does not dispel the vanity of life. It is not the answer to life. But pleasures lived to the glory of God are worthwhile. It is okay to do things in life just because we enjoy them.
- Mankind and our Creator
- GOD IS THE LIFE GIVER Ecclesiastes 7:29 Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.” (NKJV)
- GOD HOLDS OUR DESTINY Ecclesiastes 9:1-2 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works [are] in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred [by] anything [they see] before them. 2 All things [come] alike to all: One event [happens] to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so [is] the sinner; He who takes an oath as [he] who fears an oath. (NKJV)
- GOD IS SUPREME Ecclesiastes 7:13 Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? (NKJV)
- GOD IS TO BE FEARED Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God [is] in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. (NKJV)
- GOD IS JUDGE. HIS JUDGMENT IS:
- EFFECTIVE Ecclesiastes 2:26 For [God] gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who [is] good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to [him who is] good before God. This also [is] vanity and grasping for the wind. (NKJV) Ecclesiastes 5:6 Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger
that it [was] an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? (NKJV) COMPREHENSIVE Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (NKJV) FINAL Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does [it,] that men should fear before Him. (NKJV) MANKIND IS ETERNALLY ORIENTED PLACED BY GOD IN OUR HEARTS Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (NKJV) MANKIND ARE EITHER GOD FEARERS OR NON-FEARERSEcclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (NKJV) NO ONE IS RIGHTEOUS ON EARTH Ecclesiastes 7:20 For [there is] not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. (KJV) 1 Kings 8:46 When they sin against You (for [there is] no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; (NKJV GOD DESIRES RIGHTEOUSNESS OVER RELIGIOUS SACRIFICES Ecclesiastes 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. (KJV) 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams. (KJV)
Chapter 9 gives us four conclusions to live by:
- Be contagiously, overflowingly happy by choice. Rise above circumstances by the fruit of the Spirit called joy! Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. (NKJV)
- Be continually free of guilt and rid of its bondage as God’s children . Be aware His forgiveness and approval. Ecclesiastes 9:8 Let your garments always be white, And let your head lack no oil. (NKJV)
- Be constantly committed to God as a fearer in my personal life, married life, work life and so on . Ecclesiastes 9:9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that [is] your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. (NKJV)
- Be completely in gear throughout life by the power of the Holy Spirit live life to the max. Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there is] no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (NKJV)
1. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd
Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 35.
2. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p. 35.
3. Scofield says that there is no revelation in this book, just accurately recorded words of Solomon.
4. Swindoll, Flying Closer, p. 37-39.