Biblical scholars and church tradition both say that Solomon wrote this book near the end of his life. He started out as the wisest man on earth, recognized by foreign leaders all over the known world. If you actually stayed with me during the study on Proverbs, then you might grasp how shocking today’s passage really is. In fact, it might seem at first like a contradiction. His main point here? Wisdom is useless and worthless, a “chasing after the wind.” What?!?!?!
He starts out by detailing just how much he poured into this self-improvement project. Yes, he was given Divine wisdom, but he sought to cultivate that gift through study and by getting the counsel of other wise people. And the end result? Despair. It looks to me like he tried to make some major reforms using this wisdom, and he found out that fallen human nature can’t be changed by royal fiat. Vs. 18 almost sounds like he envies fools and less-than-bright people who just wander through life and who never ponder the tough questions.
But we need to take this in context. This has become sort of my life slogan, as you might've guessed since you’re probably sick of it by now. But here it comes again: No one in the history of mankind has ever done things God’s way who regretted it in the end. And does that describe Solomon? I looooove the book of Proverbs, but as we mentioned yesterday, he didn’t follow his own advice. Moses warned the people of Israel, when they got a king, that the new monarch must meet some requirements: 1) He can’t accumulate for himself a huge number of horses or a large amount of gold. 2) He can’t take for himself a large number of wives, and 3) He must write out a copy of the Law for himself to read, and he needs to read it every day. We know that Solomon completely failed in # 1 and # 2, and I would bet my last dollar that he didn’t do # 3.
So my proposition still stands. This is not a man who sought a right relationship with God, who feared the Lord and followed in his ways, and who was disappointed in the end. The “wisdom” that today’s passage is talking about is not the wisdom of Proverbs. According to Proverbs, real wisdom starts out with the fear of the Lord and knowledge of the Holy One. At best, right now he had knowledge about him.
By the way, you can tell this by the Hebrew. God is mentioned about 30 times in this book. Each time it’s Elohim, which emphasizes his sovereignty over creation. Not once in Ecclesiastes does the author use the term Yahweh, which is the covenant name by which the people of Israel were supposed to know the Lord on a personal level. It’s like addressing your dad as “Mr. [last name].”
Let me tell you, I’ve been through periods like this. I’ve gone through times in my life in which I knew what the Bible teaches without knowing the Author on personal basis. It’s quite possible to do so, and Solomon stands as a warning against it. He was completely orthodox in his beliefs, but his relationship with the Lord had fallen by the wayside. That’s where vs. 18 applies.
I suspect that at least some of the people who read this are not that familiar with the Bible, and haven’t been a Christian for very long. But for those of us who've known the Savior for years, this is a real danger. Familiarity breeds contempt. Maybe you’ve read the Bible to the point that you know it backwards and forwards. Maybe all your beliefs are completely in line with Scripture. But do you still have your First Love? If not, why not?
Lord Jesus, please don’t let me stray away. When my love grows cold, set it ablaze by your Spirit of Holiness. Whatever it takes.