17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17
Strong words from Solomon. Do you ever feel that way? Many do, but we don’t need to if we learn from Ecclesiastes what NOT to live for.
Now before we delve into Ecclesiastes, it’s important to understand exactly who Solomon is. Solomon was King David’s son and became the king of the united kingdom of Israel in about 1000 BC. He was the greatest king Israel had ever known. Under his reign Israel was the richest and most powerful it had ever been. The kingdom of Israel was the largest during the reign of Solomon. When Solomon became king of Israel many historians believe he was no older than 20 yrs. old. Think for a minute to when you 20 yrs. old. Can you imagine becoming responsible for leading an entire nation? I could barely lead myself when I was twenty; nevertheless lead a nation.
So…at the age of twenty, Solomon becomes king of Israel. Not too long after his inauguration, something pivotal happens in his life. God appears to Solomon in a dream one night and tells Solomon to ask Him for any one thing and He’ll give it to him. When you were 20 yrs. old what would you have asked for if God granted you one wish? I probably would have asked for a Corvette or the ability to play professional football. Getting a wish like that at 20 yrs. old probably would have produced similar requests from you. Let’s find out what Solomon asked for.
5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
6 Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.
7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.
8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!
9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.
11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—
12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!
13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!
14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:5-14 (NLTse)
Just as intriguing as what Solomon asked for is what he didn’t ask for. Solomon didn’t ask for wealth, power, fame, possessions, political influence, or military success. All of which, at least from our viewpoint, would have been legitimate requests from a king. Yet, Solomon didn’t ask for these things. What Solomon did ask for is amazing, if not somewhat shocking. Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge.
From a human standpoint, there has never been a wiser man on the face of our planet than Solomon (until Christ). Solomon’s knowledge and wisdom and intellectual capacity have been surpassed by no mortal man. Listen to another passage that describes Solomon’s mind.
29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. 1 Kings 4:29 (NLTse)
Solomon had degrees of discernment, intellectual power, and memory capacity that exceeded the grains of sand on all the shores of this world. You and I can only dream of having such mental capacity. Yet, for someone blessed with the wisdom and knowledge of Solomon he still didn’t comprehend how to live with meaning and purpose until the end of his life. So as we talk about how we can live for the wrong things don’t feel dumb or stupid because even the smartest guy on the planet made the same mistakes!
You would think that at some point in his life, Solomon’s discernment and photographic memory would have kicked in. But…they didn’t. According to Ecclesiastes, the most brilliant man this planet has ever known spent his entire life living for things that brought disappointment and disillusionment. What a tragedy. Solomon lived his whole life with a sense that he was missing something. Some of us here know exactly how he was feeling!
Solomon was uniquely qualified for this search for happiness. Not only was he the most intelligent man he was the wealthiest man who ever lived. He had both the brains and the bucks to do his research and to try out everything to figure out what would make him happy. He was a king, so he had lots of free time. He accomplished more with his life than most of us will ever even dream of. He tries different things that we will look at in just a moment. Please hear me, he’s not saying these are wrong things. They’re not wrong at all. But these are not the source of lasting happiness.
Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes are honest, sobering, and confrontational. Many people shy away from the message Solomon reveals in Ecclesiastes because it is a reality check like no other. Maybe you’re wondering, what things did Solomon try to live for? Honestly? They’re the same impotent things that the majority of human’s are trying to fill their lives with today. Let’s take a quick perusal through Ecclesiastes and identify the things that didn’t bring meaning and satisfaction.
In the next post we will see exactly what doesn’t bring satisfaction and meaning and then what will.