Ecclesiastes 1.17, 18
17And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
18For in much wisdom is much grief,
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
The Story: You can’t have it both ways. That seems to be Solomon’s lesson to Rehoboam from his own experience. At the height of his wisdom Solomon sought to indulge a little madness and folly. In his case, that took the form of foreign wives and their gods, as well as, undoubtedly, the political advantages such marriages brought with them. But no one can serve two masters, as our Lord Jesus pointed out (Matt. 6.24). When Solomon began to compromise on living “under the heavens”, his life and wellbeing started to unravel. He must have been mad and a fool to think he would be better off “under the sun.” The “vexation” and “pain” that accompany sound learning and wisdom are probably references to increased temptation. We need to recognize temptation for the madness and folly it suggests; and, unlike Solomon – so he appears to be counseling us – we need to hold our ground “under the heavens” and not think to find something better by turning away from the Lord.
The Structure: So Ecclesiastes 1 ends, a strong introduction to and overview of the themes and main character of Ecclesiastes. Wisdom is good; we’re made to have it. But it doesn’t come easily. We must seek wisdom from the Lord if we would enter into His plan for restoring the world to its fullest blessing. And we must resist the temptation to serve ourselves or to think that anything in this life can bring as much joy, meaning, and fulfillment to our lives as faithfully seeking the Lord and His wisdom. The opposite of seeking wisdom is to indulge in folly – the way of the fool – and madness – the way of the man who is not thinking straight. The redeemed of the Lord, called to serve Him for restoration and blessing, must dwell before Him, in the light of His truth, seeking His wisdom for every area of their lives, and resisting every siren voice that seeks to draw them on to the rocks of moral or spiritual disaster.
How can you see that the message of Ecclesiastesis relevant for the Church in our day? For you?
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.