I have been fascinated with the Book of Ecclesiastes, which has been called the last chapter of King Solomon’s life. You can tell it was written by an older man whose life culminated with the idea that all of life is futile. Solomon’s opening statement in Verse 3 says it all about how he feels about life: “What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?” It is that question that he continues to draw upon as he writes out the twelve Chapters of his interpretation of living on earth. I should say that the word Ecclesiastes means: “one who convenes an assembly” so Solomon was convening people around his thoughts on the meaning of life.
Now, in my senior years, I understand Solomon’s point of view much better than I did when I was younger. I felt he was rather pessimistic and negative about living, Solomon certainly wouldn’t be asked to speak at a faith conference because he would drive everyone to a therapist.
However, Solomon was a realist. He called it as he saw it, and his experience verified what he saw. ”What do people get for their hard work and toil while they are here on earth?” Solomon reminisces about how you will leave the proceeds of all your hard work to someone else after you die. Doesn’t that seem futile? You put your nose to the grindstone to make a living, and if you succeed in doing so, all the fruits of your labor now belong to someone else who knows nothing about you or your hard work. In fact, you won’t even be remembered by those who follow you.
Ecclesiastes 1:11 No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.
How true it is that we forget the meaning of past generations who passed along their examples of perseverance, strength of character, and the promise hope brings for the future. When the British Parliament asked Winston Churchill to lead England as they faced a war with Germany, it was recorded as the following: “When he met his Cabinet on May 13, 1940 he told them that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” These characteristics were common in many of the past generations, and often forgotten in the present age.
Solomon would say even heroism would be futile, for what cause is worth the cost of your life? Even in getting wisdom and knowledge Solomon was generally glib.
Ecclesiastes 1 17So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned first-hand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. 18The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
It seems that Solomon did not have much good to say about having the experience of being human. Yet, Solomon was not only wise, but he was also the ruler of the land and was extremely wealthy. You could possibly say he was the richest man in his world. How does a man whose life is at the top of the food chain say all the things Solomon says about life, and compares it to chasing after the wind? I think his analysis is credible because he achieved all there was to achieve, yet it seemed meaningless and unfulfilling. Only someone who had nothing more to gain or achieve could equate life to chasing after the wind. Solomon was saying that nothing satisfies, no matter how hard you try. Solomon was right, “all that this life has to offer, is like chasing after the wind.” The wind will change, it cannot be caught, and you don’t know the origin or the destination of the wind. Chasing it is futile and meaningless and that was Solomon’s point in determining life is futile.
Seems a bit bleak, doesn’t it? I’m sure Solomon would not be a candidate for writing a daily devotional based upon his attitude found here in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Yet, his insights are profound and meaningful. It may not seem at an early glance that there is much here to encourage you, but there is. Solomon was building a case that taking life too seriously about achievement on any level in the final analysis is quite futile. Meaning in life does not come from the things we do, or have, but it’s about being the person God would be proud in creating. So much of our lives are lived in chasing the wind, and at the end of the day, at the end our lives, will any of it really matter? Your resources go to other people, and you are forgotten, not much meaning in that. Solomon is trying to get us to realize how sterile life can become because we spend so much time doing the same thing year after year in chasing after the wind.
This will be the first in a series I am doing on the Book of Ecclesiastes and the reflections of an old king who understands life. I hope you will join me for this series of reflections.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler