1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless”.
This is how Solomon begins the book of Ecclesiastes. We should remember that Solomon had been given the gift of wisdom by God- a gift that went beyond mere knowledge about things to an understanding of what lies behind the information that is visible. And not only blessed but also burdened with this gift of wisdom, he goes through the myriad experiences of life not just experiencing things like most people do but gaining an insight of what lies behind. Every person these days uses computers and the software that runs them but only those few who design and program computers have an insight into what lies behind what is used by many. So also Solomon immerses himself in the various pursuits of life but also comes away with more than just experiences, he gets an insight into what life is about and that is what we read in Ecclesiastes.
Solomon says, ‘What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? (Eccl 1:3). Every person goes through life toiling away at the burdens that are laid on his heart. Working at a profession, doing projects, sustaining a family, researching something,—- the list goes on. Solomon continues, ‘4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well–the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me’ (Eccl 2).
Sure enough, Solomon ruled over the nation of Israel at its zenith of splendor. His father, David, a man after God’s own heart, laid the foundation for a stable kingdom and Solomon presided over a prosperous nation. He did not have to toil to build up a kingdom and was freed to do whatever he wished. And he did accomplish many things. Yet despite his efforts and toil, he arrives at a disappointing conclusion, ‘ 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun’ (Eccl 2).
Can we not readily identify with Solomon’s statement? Can man at the end of his long journey, full of toil and sacrifice, find meaningfulness in his efforts? When he is done with life, can he look at his life and say, ‘That sure was satisfying!’ Can man look back at his research or years of hard work or accomplishments and say that life became meaningful because of what he did? Perhaps never! What Solomon is hinting at is that labor and toil, taken in isolation can never satisfy. But meaning does spring up when man is able to connect with the living God and in the reality of a relationship with God, find meaning in his toil. ‘13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God’ (Eccl 3). Without God, in the words of Voltaire, ‘Life is a bad joke’, but for a man who has found God, it is the fullness of life.
- I HAD A DREAM
- EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS-2