Ecclesiastes 1 (4)
Pray Psalm 104.33, 34.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the LORD.
Read Ecclesiastes 1.12, 13.
1. With what kind of orientation did Solomon “set” his heart? What does that mean?
2. Why is this a “burdensome task”? Should we find whatever God calls us to do as easy?
Solomon reflects on his beginnings as king. The verb, “was” (v. 12), can be translated, “became.” When Solomon became king, he immediately appealed to God for wisdom (2 Chron. 1.7-12), so that he could govern the people of Israel in a proper, responsible manner.
God granted his request, but apparently Solomon was not granted such wisdom all at once. Believing the promise he received in his dream, he set his heart to acquire wisdom, gave himself to the task of seeking it, and studied, learned, observed, reflected, and listened as much as he could, ever growing in the wisdom God had promised to grant him.
God gave Solomon wisdom as he needed it, and to the extent that he demonstrated, through difficult and diligent effort, his desire sincerely to attain it. Moreover, Solomon insists, this quest for wisdom, though a “difficult task” (Hebrew; NKJV: “burdensome task”) has been appointed to all the children of men. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Ps. 111.10), as Solomon demonstrated in seeking and submitting to God in order to gain wisdom. But the acquisition of wisdom requires a lifetime of living and working in relationship to God by grace through faith.
Here Solomon introduces the second key phrase which is something of a hermeneutical cue for Ecclesiastes. “Under heaven” (or “under the heavens”) refers to life as lived in relationship to God, with a view to His eternal existence, purpose, and will. This phrase occurs only three times in Ecclesiastes, and each time it is clear that Solomon is reflecting on things as they ought to be understood, according to the divine economy and plan.
God calls men to understand the whole of life as He does; and He charges and enables us, by difficult study and obedience, to gain the wisdom He promises to give. For the redeemed of the Lord – those who trust in Him and enter into His life through the Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ – the way to the restoration of all things is along the path of wisdom. Wisdom is simply the Christian worldview, increasingly realized through diligent study and faithful obedience.
Perhaps no one since Solomon (our Lord Jesus excepted) has come as close to a full understanding of the worldview that corresponds with the mind of God; nevertheless, the challenge to pursue that worldview falls to each of us yet today, who have the mind of Christ, and are therefore without excuse for not failing to embrace this difficult but glorious calling (1 Cor. 2.16).
1. Why is gaining wisdom such a “difficult task”? Shouldn’t it be easy to become wise? Explain.
2. Solomon said he set his heart to this task. How does one set his heart for anything? Mediate on Proverbs 4.23. What is the heart, and why does it matter so much?
3. What would you say are the critical components for a life of seeking wisdom?
The reason for our Lord’s dwelling with men is to give his heart over in wisdom to consider his actions done under the sun. For man is not allowed to consider what lies above heaven just as healthy persons do not require doctors. Evil belongs to the earth…For this reason Ecclesiastes gives his heart over to careful consideration of every activity done under heaven. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), Homilies on Ecclesiastes 2
I know that I need to increase in wisdom, Lord. Help me do so today as I…
Pray Psalm 104.24-35.
Ask God to allow you to see Him at work all around you today, and to prepare your heart to praise and thank Him as you do.
Sing Psalm 104.24-35.
Psalm 104.24-35 (Creation: Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim)
How many are Your works, O Lord, which You have created by Your Word!
The earth and sea with creatures teem – they look to You to care and feed.
You give to them, they gather all; You hide Your face, they fail and fall.
You take their breath, they gasp and die; You send Your Spirit, they revive.
Lord, let Your glory long endure. Rejoice! His works are ever sure!
He looks on earth, it quails and quakes, as we our songs of praises make.
Lord, let our meditation rise and bring great pleasure in Your eyes.
Consumed shall sinners ever be; O, bless and praise the Lord with me!
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).