The Scriptorium

Glimmer of Hope

Use your head, not your sinful heart. Ecclesiastes 2.12-14

Ecclesiastes 2 (4)

Pray Psalm 38.15, 16.
For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”

Read Ecclesiastes 2.12-14.

1. What is Solomon thinking about in these verses? To what do his thoughts lead?

2. Where does he want us to set our eyes? What does that mean?

Because his wisdom had “remained” with him (v. 9), Solomon was able to see, at the end of all his folly, that wisdom is the superior way. His indirect word of advice to Rehoboam is that he will not be able to achieve anything more than Solomon did, or know anything more or different. So (by implication) he should be content to know wisdom and spare himself the vexation and disappointment of a life in pursuit of folly and madness.

“Use your head, lad,” he seems to be saying in verse 14, “and don’t let your heart jerk you here and there into the darkness of sin.”

But then another sobering thought arrested him: We’re all going to die. So what difference does it make whether we live in wisdom or in folly? Solomon doubtless had this thought, but he worked through it to his satisfaction (as we shall see). Here he seems to be anticipating Rehoboam’s thinking this too, and so, in the light of death’s certainty, heading off to eat, drink, and be merry while he could.

If the main lesson of Ecclesiastes is that life “under the sun” can only disappoint; the main theme is that wisdom – life “under the heavens” – is the divinely-appointed way to live. The way of wisdom is never beyond the reach of any who will get their “eyes in their heads” and see things the way they really are, so that they turn away from folly and embrace the way of the Lord in every area of life.

In the structure of Ecclesiastes Solomon is never very far away from this theme, even as he drives at the lesson of his meditations by one means or another. His message to his son is thus not simply, “No, no, no!” It is a message of hope and wise counsel to help a young man find the meaning of his life before he squanders it in self-indulgent folly.

1. The fear of death haunts every person who does not know the Lord (Heb. 2.15). How should the Christian prepare for death?

2. Why is Solomon’s story so appropriate for our secular, materialistic, and narcissistic age?

3. What does it mean to “walk in darkness”? How can we know when we’re beginning to stray onto that path? What should we do then?

Let us make note of the fact that the body of a person is constructed like the world itself. As the sky is preeminent over air, earth and sea, which serve as members of the world, so we observe that the head has a position above the other members of our body… “The eyes of a wise man are in his head.” That is to say, this position is better protected than the others and from it strength and prevision are brought to bear on all the rest. Ambrose of Milan (333-397), Sis Days of Creation 6.9.55

Lord, let the vision of Jesus be the commanding vision of my life (Col. 3.1-3), so that I…

Pray Psalm 38.9-16.
As you pray let the Spirit search out the true desires of your heart. Are they what they should be? Do you need to refocus on loving God above all things? Wait on the Lord; listen as the Spirit searches the desires of your soul; and redirect your desires as the Lord leads.

Sing Psalm 38.9-16.
Psalm 38.9-16 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
You know all my desire, my sighs You know full well.
My strength fails and light’s holy fire my eyes dispel.
My friends and loved ones fail; the wicked do me wrong.
My life they seek, my soul assail the whole day long.

Their threats I will not heed, nor speak to their reproof.
To hear or speak I have no need – I claim Your truth!
Lord, hear my fervent prayer! Let not my foes rejoice.
Redeem me from their traps and snares – Lord, hear my voice!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

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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).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore