By Lori Gardner
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
What would cause a man who seemed to have everything this world has to offer to come to such a bleak conclusion about life?
King Solomon (also called the Preacher) wrote the book of Ecclesiastes under the direction of the Holy Spirit in order to teach us some valuable lessons. It’s an interesting and unusual book that was written from a different perspective than most Scripture. “Vanity” is the recurring theme he uses to convey how empty and pointless life “under the sun” can be from man’s perspective, apart from God. As Solomon began to question the meaning of life, he studied “all the works that are done under the sun” and concluded that they were all as pointless as chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
So, how did Solomon get to this dismal point? His private life is one of the key factors in understanding his feelings of futility and emptiness. He started his reign as king over Israel with the right heart and attitude. He is described as a man that loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of his father, David (1 Kings 3:3). Shortly after he was established as king, he asked the Lord for an understanding heart and discernment in order to lead his people. God not only granted him wisdom, but riches and honor as well (1 Kings 3:13). He truly was a man that had it all.
He was used by the Lord to accomplish many noble things during his reign. He built Israel a beautiful temple and composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs full of godly wisdom and praise for the Creator. His fame spread worldwide as a man that excelled in wisdom (1 Kings 4:30). Anything he wanted was at his disposal, including women. That is where we see the disastrous results of him not using his God given wisdom.
The Bible tells us Solomon had a total of 700 royal wives and 300 concubines. By the time he was old they had turned his heart away from the Lord and he built altars, burned incense and sacrificed unto his wives’ false gods (1 Kings 11:8). In anger, the Lord told him that the kingdom would be torn away as a result.
Is it any wonder that Solomon would then start to question the vanity of his life? His search for meaning “under the sun” started in Ecclesiastes 1 when he took a long look at nature. He watched the sun rise only to see it set. He saw how the wind blew one direction only to turn and blow the opposite way. He noticed how the rivers ran into the sea, yet the sea never filled up. After contemplating all of these things, he concluded that everything is full of labor and there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:5-9).
The king then tried to use human wisdom to find satisfaction in his earthly life. He says, “I gave my heart to seeking and searching” and “I spoke to my own heart” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18). He uses the word “I” seven different times. God is completely left out of his quest at this point and as a result he realized that this also was “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:17).
It is easy to be critical of Solomon, but how many times have we left the Lord out of our quest for meaning and satisfaction in this life? Our society teaches us to be constantly looking for the next new thing or new ideology that might bring us joy. Unfortunately, the things “under the sun” always lead us to the same conclusion as Solomon, “All is vanity.”
The things of this world can never satisfy. The only way we can find fulfillment and meaning in life is by having a personal relationship with the One that gives us eternal life—the Lord Jesus Christ.
To be continued—next issue.