9So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced from all my labor;
And this was my reward for all my labor.
11Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And the labor in which I had toiled;
and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.
The Story: In Proverbs 4.23 Solomon advised his son to watch over his heart “with all vigilance.” The heart is the seat of affections – our desires, passions, aspirations, and hopes. Blinded by lust, Solomon let his covetous heart become the dictator of his soul’s wellbeing. Whatever he wanted, whatever he thought he might find pleasure in, he took for himself. Perhaps he had a lingering sense that this was not the way he should have been living. The reference again (cf. v. 3) to his wisdom remaining with him suggests as much. His pangs of conviction notwithstanding, Solomon had reached a point where mere pleasure and abundance were the driving forces of his life; yet, when he achieved the acme of such success, there was nothing there to give his soul the satisfaction he desired all along. His conclusion, “there was nothing to be gained under the sun,” is the primary lesson, although not the primary theme, of Ecclesiastes.
The Structure: Ecclesiastes, as we have said, does not unfold according to a tight, logical order or sequence. Instead, Solomon intrudes his lesson and theme in various places, often repeating them in one way or another to make sure his reader doesn’t miss them along the way. Here is the second great statement of the primary lesson Solomon wants his son to take away. Just as you can’t find satisfaction in mere observation and experience (chapter 1), you won’t find it in pleasure and prosperity. In our increasingly secular age, this is a lesson believers need to proclaim with confidence. We should note also Solomon’s statement about his wisdom persisting with him through all this foolishness. Even though unbelievers deny the existence of God and act like they have no need or regard for Him (Pss. 10, 14), still, Paul tells us they all know Him, deep in their souls, and have the works of His Law written on their hearts (Rom. 1.18ff; 2.14, 15). They know the same pangs of guilt and doubt that Solomon did, and they are always open to hearing a word from Him concerning their real need.
Are there any people in your life who remind you of Solomon at this stage in his? Do you pray for these people? Do they know that you do?
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, “Solomon’s ‘I’ Problem: Ecclesiastes 2,” 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.