Ecclesiastes 1.12, 13
12I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.
The Story: Solomon reflects on his beginnings as king. The verb, “was,” 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.
The Structure: 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 on 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.
What are you presently doing to seek the wisdom of God and a better understanding of the Christian worldview? God offers us precious and very great promises (2 Pet. 1.4), but we must diligently apply ourselves in pursuit of these. How does the pursuit of God’s promised wisdom work out in your life?
Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Vanity of Vanities: Ecclesiastes 1,” simply click here.
T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.