Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. – Ecclesiastes 1:2-5 ESV
This is not a plea for better fixtures in the bathroom. This is not about staring into a mirror to see how precious, or beautiful you are- or are not. This is an existential quagmire. Have you been to that place? Are you there now? Where you wonder, “What is the purpose”? David, many a Psalmist, me and hopefully you, have had moments where we wonder, “Is this it God? Why? What is this all about?” King David did this, one of many times in scripture. Psalm 13 begins: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2) Solomon is the author of this book. Solomon, who was one of the richest men in the history of the world, was also called the wisest man in the world. According to Constative, his Net Worth was over $2 TRILLION. According to God his wisdom was unsurpassed. Hear the Word of the Lord; God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else…. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:29-34) 2 Chronicles 1:11-12 documents God responding to Solomon’s prayer and petition for wisdom. ‘God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”’ See also 2 Chronicles 9:13-29. Solomon had it all; Wisdom, Money, the Kingdom, the women, the opportunity, the privilege…. Yet at the end of his life he said; “Meaningless! Meaningless!” – “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Leader, let us be mindful of where Solomon is in relation to his life and in relation to the rest of the Bible. Solomon wrote it late in his life, approximately 935 B.C. He had become aware of the mistakes that he made throughout his life and began to document them. 1 Kings 11, brings us to the time of his life where Solomon asked and considered the questions he later pens in this book. The section is labeled, ‘Solomon TURNS from the Lord’. Hear the Word of the Lord: Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” And the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon.” “Futility of futilities,” All is futility.”
Conduit, the WISEST man in the world, the RICHEST man in the world- the KING OF THE WORLD wrote this book near the end of his life. There was no fantasy, sin, desire, experience that Solomon missed out on. He could have, and did have- anything he wanted. Solomon took all his experiences and with a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. Biblestudies.com has this exposition on Ecclesiastes: The author of Ecclesiastes puts his powers of wisdom to work to examine the human experience and assess the human situation. His perspective is limited to what happens “under the sun” (as is that of all the wisdom teachers). He considers life as he has experienced and observed it between the horizons of birth and death — life within the boundaries of this visible world. His wisdom cannot penetrate beyond that last horizon; he can only observe the phenomenon of death and perceive the limits it places on human beings. Within the limits of human experience and observation, he is concerned to spell out what is “good” for people to do. And he represents a devout wisdom. Life in the world is under God — for all its enigmas. Hence what begins with “Meaningless! Meaningless!” (1:2) ends with “Remember your Creator” (12:1) and “Fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). The wisest man in the world lived a life of pleasure, fantasy, fame and did some good works too; built God’s temple, ran a great business, taxed the heck out of his people, so he could have all the money and came to the end of his life and realized, what we will all someday realize= if we haven’t yet. “Life apart from God is MEANINGLESS”. The things we do, that have nothing to do with God, His love, His word, or His will- are all vanity, a hunting of wind; in all the pursuits and labors that men undertake there is no real profit, no lasting happiness, nothing to satisfy the cravings of the spirit. To come to the end of your life, or the end of the TIME OF THE GENTILES and now realize, all was vanity and vexation of spirit; to find yourself suddenly disappointed and wholly dissatisfied in your course. Realizing there was no profit; the pleasure was past and gone, and you were never the better for it, but as empty as before, and had nothing left but sorrowful reflections upon it. God has made foolish the wisdom of the world. And God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save. The world’s wisdom is empty, but more, it is deadly. And many are going to their eternal reward still looking for the pot of gold. They have lived a restless life and they face an eternally restless death. Many times in this book Solomon talks about, UNDER THE SUN. We need to be UNDER THE SON. Everything under the SUN is vanity, everything with\under the SON is eternal, it is Holy, it is by Grace and Mercy, Love and Peace with God. This book ends; “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Remember we are working for treasures in heaven, NOT, pleasures, or treasures, in this world.