It’s amazing the difference in perspective you get as you get older. Benjamin Franklin said that “Experience keeps a dear [harsh] school, but fools will learn in no other.” Solomon probably wrote the book of Proverbs in his earlier years, but he didn’t remain a young man forever. Quite frankly, he’s the best example I’ve ever heard of someone who needed to listen to his own advice.* He wrote very eloquently about doing things God’s way, about listening to Divine instruction, and doing this especially in the area of sexuality. But unfortunately, he didn’t follow his own counsel.
Traditionally the book of Ecclesiastes was also written by Solomon, and there’s no good reason to believe otherwise. The author calls himself a “teacher,” and now, near the end of his life, he’s about to give us some hard-earned lessons that he’s learned. I have to warn you in advance, it’s not pretty.
Where did I come up with the title for this study? People in this world, especially those who don’t know Christ, are living in twilight, the period between daylight and darkness. I believe that one of the main purposes in this book is make the twilight darker. Michael Card, when commenting on the book, tells us in one of his songs, “Remember darkness drives us toward the light.” Most people are happy walking around in twilight, not walking in the light but not wanting to completely abandon it either. I think the main purpose of this book is to shock us out of our half-sleep and see what our choices really are.
I do have to make a disclaimer before we go any further. This is a devotional, not a verse-by-verse commentary. I definitely won’t be talking about every verse. My goal here is to highlight some of the main points and themes.
One word you’ll see over and over in this book (35 times) is the word meaningless. It could also be translated “empty” or “vanity” or “futile.” The Hebrew word originally meant “breath,” indicating how unimportant something is. It’s quite possible that James had this word in mind when he said that our lives are nothing but a “vapor” or “mist.”
Another phrase which is heavily repeated is “under the sun” (over 25 times). This is something that’s really important to note, because this one phrase defines the Teacher’s viewpoint. Whenever you see this phrase, you can paraphrase it as “from the natural perspective.” This describes our situation as without any Divine revelation or intervention. He’s taking on the outlook of the materialist, the person who believes that matter is the only thing that really matters.
There’s another word that keeps coming through my mind as I read this: depressing. He looks at the cycles of nature, and instead of filling him with awe from the Creator, it fills him with weariness. Summer follows spring which follows winter which follows fall. The rain falls, is absorbed into the earth, flows into streams, goes back into the atmosphere, and the whole process starts all over. Nothing ever changes. Nothing ever really gets any better.
But again, there’s hidden hope, even here. It’s concealed within the phrase “under the sun.” Under the sun there is no hope. There is no real, lasting, positive change. There is no ultimate meaning. So it would seem to me to make sense to look elsewhere, right? Maybe Someone who promised us life to the fullest, maybe?
And for your enjoyment and edification, here's the before-mentioned song by Michael Card: "Under The Sun."
Lord Jesus, thank you for doing whatever you need to do to drive us towards yourself. You are our life, our hope, our everything.
* Did you know that there's an actual term for this, literally named after him? Solomon's Paradox is a common situation in which people "reason more wisely about other people’s social problems than about their own."
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