Lesson 376 - Senior
"God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God" (Ecclesiastes 2:26).
I The Vanity of the Things of This World
1. The Preacher shows there is nothing new in the world. Everything moves in a cycle, [ECC:1:1-11]; [PS:62:9]; [ROM:8:20].
2. He applied his heart to search out by wisdom the things that are done; he found this also to be vexation of spirit, [ECC:1:12-18]; [ECC:7:23-25]; [1TS:5:21].
3. He tried mirth and wine, houses and vineyards, silver and gold, musicians and singers, but all proved to be vanity in respect to the chief good, [ECC:2:1-11]; [LUK:12:19].
4. Then he looked at wisdom and folly, and saw that wisdom excelleth folly as light excelleth darkness, but that one event happeneth to all, [ECC:2:12-17]; [ECC:8:1]; [PS:49:10]; [PRO:17:24].
5. He perceived by experience that real pleasure or good cometh not with one's own striving, but from the hand of God, [ECC:2:18-26]; [JOB:27:16-17]; [PRO:28:8].
Solomon's Pursuits of This Life
The scope of Ecclesiastes is to show the vanity of all mere human pursuits in contrast with the blessedness that comes from God in wisdom or true religion. He shows the vanity of all human things to satisfy the soul, and that heavenly wisdom alone is the chief good.
It is said that the Song of Solomon was written in Solomon's youth when the love of God animated his heart and life. He spiritualised the subject in an allegory. It is thought the Book of Proverbs was written in his mature manhood and Ecclesiastes was the sentiment of his old age.
The Jews read Ecclesiastes annually at the feast of Tabernacles -" a most mournful Book at a most joyful feast.
When Solomon was young and was made king over Israel, his heart longed for God. He wanted peace, he wanted righteousness, he wanted wisdom to know how to judge so great a people. God gave him the desire of his heart and added riches and fame and honour. He had the most glorious reign of any earthly king. People came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
He tried everything in life to find what life really held in store for the happiness of man. He observed that everything went in cycles. One generation passed away and another came. The sun arose and then went down and hastened again to the place where it arose. The wind whirled about continually, going from north to south and then continued again in its circuit. All the rivers ran into the sea, then to the place from whence they came they returned. There was nothing new under the sun. What existed now had always been.
He gave his heart to search out wisdom and folly. He saw all the works that are done under the sun and observed that that which was crooked could not be made straight, and that that which was wanting could not be numbered.
Mirth a Failure
Solomon next tried pleasure and wine to see what happiness he could find in mirth. He said of laughter, "It is mad," and of mirth, that there is nothing solid to it. He tried the banqueting halls of wine and found that wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging; and he wrote, "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red . . . in the cup." Paul says, "His servants are to whom ye obey" [ROM:6:16]). How many people have become slaves of strong drink! Solomon found it all vanity.
No Comfort in Homes and Parks
Solomon next built stately houses and planted vineyards and made gardens and pools, the things that would gratify the artistic eye and taste. He was 13 years in building his own house. All that money and decorative art and skill could produce was lavished on that building. He made beautiful parks and planted trees and made pools of water to irrigate them. Some of the pools remain to this day. He had scenic pleasure grounds with flowers and shrubs near his own estate. He loved the beautiful. He possibly had everything as near a paradise as man could make here on this earth. But fine homes, beautiful parks, everything that money and skill could accomplish were still vanity and vexation of spirit.
Music and Literature
He tried music and literary art, a talent inherited, no doubt, from his father, David. We are told that he wrote a thousand and five songs and spoke three thousand proverbs. He wrote about trees, from the beautiful cedars of Lebanon to the little hyssop plant growing out of the wall. He wrote about beasts of the field and fowls of the air and fishes of the sea. His fame spread abroad in all the land. Kings of the earth came to hear his wisdom.
Fine Horses and Chariots
He had the finest of horses and chariots: forty thousand stalls for his horses, and twelve thousand horsemen. He had great possession of cattle, more than all that were in Jerusalem. He launched the first navy that the kingdom of Israel had. He carried on commerce with the nations around.
He compared wisdom with folly, and found it exceeded folly as light exceeded darkness; yet one event, death, happened to them all.
A True Report
"So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart" [1KG:10:23-24]).
When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon and propounded her hard questions, and saw his wisdom, the house he had built, and the meat of his table, and the attendance of his ministers, there was no more spirit left in her. She said, "It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom."
Satisfaction from the Hand of God
Solomon tried everything in the world to its fullest extent -" fame, honour, prestige, wealth, fine homes, chariots and horses, the love of women, music, singing, writing books, composing hymns. Not a stone was left unturned to find something to satisfy the heart in this life. Whatever his eyes desired, he kept not from them. He sought everything that he might find out what was good, and real pleasure for the sons of men here on earth. But God has kept a space in the human heart that He alone can fill. Unless God fills that space with Himself and His love, there is a vacuum no earthly thing can fill. Experience taught Solomon that satisfaction and real joy comes only from the hand of God.
Paul, the Apostle
Let us contrast the quests of Solomon with those of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He, too, started out to reach the hall of fame. He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the greatest teachers of his day. He was fast climbing the ladder to the top. But Jesus of Nazareth arrested his footsteps one day. His ambitions were changed. He suffered many hardships, but he found in Jesus all he needed: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Nothing could separate him from the love of God. At the closed of his life he wrote, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown o righteousness" [2TM:4:7-8]). He had a triumphant end. His name stands out in Christendom as one of the greatest of men, while Solomon, with all his wisdom and wealth, suffered defeat.
Peace Through Jesus
Solomon realised in his closing days that peace and victory came only through the hand of God; that the pursuits of happiness in this life through worldly channels were only vanity and vexation of spirit.
If Solomon then, with all his opportunities of enjoyment, failed utterly to find happiness apart from God, who could? Happiness here is truly the portion of the godly. Peter says, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" [1PE:1:8]).
At the close of his search, Solomon said, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" [ECC:12:13]).
Jesus said: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" [MAT:16:26]).
Paul said, "But godliness with contentment is great gain" [1TM:6:6]).
1. How many books in the Bible were written by Solomon?
2. When Solomon was made king, what did he ask of the Lord?
3. What did Solomon say of the sun, the wind and the rivers?
4. What was Solomon trying to find in life?
5. Where did he find was the source of true happiness?
6. Compare his life with Paul's.
7. What did Jesus say about gaining the whole world?