Lesson 248: "Around and Around We Go"
The book of Ecclesiastes is a little studied book because of its seemingly contradictive contents.However King Solomon is saying nothing that we, at some time, have not said to our younger generation. You know, when we say; “you did not invent this dress code. I remember when we wore bell-bottoms, duck-tails and shoes without laces”. This is what Solomon is trying to teach when he says; “meaningless! Meaningless”! He is driving home the point that the earth and the universe was formed and planned long before man appeared on earth and cannot be changed through man’s efforts to obtain riches or a longer life. Read the first chapter of this book and you will see that Solomon had it figured out that; “the sun rises and the sun sets; the wind goes round and round; what has been done will be done again. ”
Although Solomon did not seem to grasp the full meaning of life after death (and sometimes this is hard for us too) he did understand that no matter what you accomplish here on earth you cannot take anything with you when you die. Everything is meaningless including toil, righteousness, wealth, prestige, pleasure, youth and vigor. Vapor and chasing after the wind comes from a Hebrew word that means what is unsubstantial or without real value; or what is fleeting or transitory. Work, according to Solomon, produces nothing of lasting value and is often prompted by motives which sow the seeds of discontent; for example, rivalry and insatiable desire for added wealth. One must leave the fruit of his labor to someone else who has not toiled for it and the accomplished wealth could be squandered so ultimately his labor goes for naught. Wisdom does have an advantage over folly, physical strength or military might and makes it easier to succeed even in hazardous tasks; however, wisdom’s results can be corrupted through a little sin, a little folly, improper timing or even a lack of proper appreciation. Solomon, the wisest man in the bible, found this out the hard way through his many wives and misspent riches. Wisdom is not always appreciated, and a wise person suffers the same misfortunes as the wicked. Finally, the ultimate wisdom dies with the man and is forgotten just like the follies of a fool.
Solomon affirmed that righteousness is rewarded and wickedness is punished but sometimes just the opposite seems to happen and the wicked go unpunished. This could be explained through the fact that complete, absolute righteousness is impossible and the truth is that the righteous will die just as the wicked will. God is in control of all things and everything has its appointed time, therefore Solomon affirmed the inability of people to predict the future and to pick the best courses of action. Though he believed that God would judge people’s deeds he nowhere stated or even implied that this would take place after a person’s death. Solomon confined his discussion of rewards and opportunities to enjoy God’s favor to this life. The dead have no reward and it is now that God favors what you do. Life after death was obscure to Solomon and he did not understand the fullness of the benefits to come, therefore he was reluctant to speculate about life after death and kept his method to the “theme of life on earth”. He intended to demonstrate to people, from his own experience, the insecurity of all human effort to provide any real meaning, value or significance to their lives under the sun and to drive them to trust in God alone.
In spite of all of Solomon’s writings which may seem to some to be a “downer” or might imply that life is not worth living or that one can “just” be born and “just” sit and do nothing until death, he did not say that life should be abandoned or filled with despair. Rather, life should be lived in complete trust in God, be received and enjoyed as a gift from His good hand and be lived in the light of His future judgment. “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live” (Ecc. 3:11-12). “All come from dust and to dust all return” (Ecc. 3:20). “No man has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the day of his death” (Ecc. 8:8-9). Solomon may not have understood the full meaning of life after death but he did understand that we should always be clothed in white (Ecc. 9:8) and this is of great importance in the book of Revelation (Rev. 3:18, 7:14-15, 22:14). Solomon did not have the New Testament nor the Blood of Jesus Christ as we today have. We should have no excuse to rest on our laurels or over-do our existence. Our prayer should be for balance in each life that we might enjoy this life to its fullest and look forward daily to our eternal life with Christ in that new City. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this Book” (Rev. 22:7).