“We go to bed late, we get up early, we go to work, we drive home, eat and go to bed, to get up early, to go to work, to come home ad nausea. And as if that were not enough, we are plagued with making ends meet financially, fighting off the latest virus, hoping to avoid some dreaded disease, mistreated at work, abused at home, and then we die. Every aspect of life seems vain like striving after the wind” (Stephen M. Lloyd, Coping: A Biblical Approach, p. 8).
How is your life? Is it satisfying and fulfilling?
Solomon hungered and thirsted for satisfaction, meaning, and fulfillment in life. His quest was thorough, as thorough as any man’s.
1. He looked to wisdom and knowledge (1 Kings 4:29-31; Ecclesiastes 1:16-18). He concluded that wisdom, knowledge or academic success wasn’t the answer. Ecclesiastes 1:18, “In much wisdom is much grief: And he that increaseth knowledge increases sorrow.” One man wrote, “This is true because the more one learns, the more aware he becomes of the myriads of ‘crooked’ problems that deny fixing. Also, he is doubly frustrated to learn that the coveted prize of knowledge fails to satisfy his soul’s deepest needs, which are spiritual (John Waddey, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon p. 14). Often the more one learns, the more he is keenly aware of how much he does not know, and such is frustration. Some wear themselves out in studying. “Much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12), and never find true fulfillment and satisfaction in life.
2. He looked to science, nature and agriculture (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, 7; 1 Kings 10:22). He planted vineyards, gardens, orchards [parks, ASV] and trees of all kinds of fruit (Eccl. 2:4-6). He appears to have even gotten into the zoo business (1 Kings 10:22); He described all of this as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). True lasting fulfillment was not found in these things, as wonderful as they were.
3. He sought it from music, pleasure, strong drink, and mirth (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 8; 1 Kings 4:32; 1 Kings 10:12; 2 Chronicles 9:10-12). Enjoyment and recreation is not necessarily evil (1 Timothy 6:17). Strong drink may be sinful, but it may provide pleasure for a season (Hebrews 11:25); It also brings much misery – hang-over the next day, damaged homes, hurtful things said or done” (Read Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35). Laughter can be good (Proverbs 17:22). However, sooner or later the laughter ceases and the jokes grow stale. Some are empty and hurting inside even when laughing on the outside: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness (Proverbs 14:13).
4. He accumulated possessions and great wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11; 1 Kings 3:13; 10:14-23; 2 Chronicles 1:15-17;9:20-21, 23-24). He said, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them…” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). Wealth without God doesn’t guarantee happiness (Eccl. 2:11). In an interview with John Stossell, Sherry Gagliardi ( a Lotto winner) said, “People have a misconception about having money. You go out and you go ‘oh, that’s what I want, I’ll buy it.’ Well, a couple of weeks later, it’s like, you know the emptiness comes back.” Stossell went on to report, “One reason more money doesn’t make us happier is because people adapt… it takes new increments – a faster computer, a bigger TV screen, or whatever – to rejuice the joy” (Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity, p. 269). Quotations like this could be multiplied by the thousands.
5. He put his energy into colossal building projects (1 Kings 7:1-12; 9:26; 2 Chr. 8:1-11; Ecclesiastes 2:4-7). Solomon’s own house took thirteen years to complete (1 Kings 7:1). The wood was imported from the forest of Lebanon. Its external dimensions add up to 11,250 square feet (1 Kings 7:2). It stood 45 feet high – so who knows how many interior square feet may have been contained. he built a fleet of ships (1 Kings 9:26). He built fortified cities and storage sites (2 Chronicles 8). He built houses for his numerous wives (cf. 2 Chronicles 8:11). He surveyed things and said “Then I looked on all the work that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I labored to do: and behold all was vanity…” (Eccl. 2:11).
6. He achieved position, power and prominence and fame (1 Kings 4:31, 34; 1 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 9). He had risen to fame throughout the world. He had surpassed all previous kings of Israel. Many fight and claw their way to the top of the corporate ladder only to be disappointed with the satisfaction they find once they get there; Solomon was like this.
7. He had the company of women. In fact, the Bible says that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3). Solomon knew romance (see The Song of Solomon). It is good to have companionship. It is good to have a good wife (Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 31). However, marrying the wrong one can bring much misery (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9, 19; 27:15). Alas, many of these women that he married, not only were married contrary to God’s plan ( Exodus 34:15-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 17:17; Joshua 23:12-13 cf 1 Kings 11:1-3) but also were bad influences on Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-13). One should be careful in selecting a wife (or husband).
Solomon, after wasting many years finally found his answer, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” [Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV (note duty is in italics, which indicates that it is a word supplied be the translators)]. The NKJV reads, “This is man’s all.” The idea is: This is what makes man whole, complete, fulfilled, satisfied.
Moreover, he urged the young not to waste their years as he did looking for fulfillment in all of the wrong places. He taught, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). In this Solomon was truly wise.