“And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven” Ecc 1:13a
Before i begin to describe what Solomon has to say on the subject of wisdom and its uselessness, I feel i should take at least a second to explain the title of my blog. In studying the book of Ecclesiastes I was struck by a description of vanity that was given by Waren Wiersbe:
“It is whatever is left when you pop a soap bubble.”
So as we look into the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes we should be looking for those things that remain after Solomon bursts a few soap bubbles.
Solomon started out his final book on wisdom describing the monotonous way that life seems to progress. Nothing new happens and everything just cycles back to where it came from only to cycle back there again. It is strikingly similar to how many eastern religions view life!
On the surface you can see where these religions might get this idea, Solomon lays it out clearly for us. All of life that we can see is cycles, so why not believe that our lives are just on a cycle as well. What use is being good, or moral, or kind if we are just the latest cycle of a never ending pattern?
It is these traps of wisdom that Solomon describes as first catching his mind. In these very verses he changes from historian to philosopher as he applies all his wisdom and learning to the problems of life. Solomon then comes up with three basic principles that he sees in life.
1. Life is hard, but ultimately from God
“I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.”
Solomon found that ultimately life is a gift from God as is work, but that does not mean that life is in any way easy. Since the fall of man the work that God gave us has been cursed to be hard (Gen 3:14). The gift of God was corrupted and what was meant to be a joy and a purpose has turned into a chore. However we are still called by God to work and to find joy in him as we do the work that he has given to us.
2. Life once lived cannot be changed
“What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”
Solomon was using his wisdom not only, to look at what life was about now, but also to examine his past life. He uses this proverb to illustrate the point that to try and spend our days making the past where we messed up look strait is just “vanity and striving after the wind.” There is only one who can make our lives clean and that is God. Solomon ultimate statement here is that you can spend your whole life trying to make up for what you did, but it won’t change anything. Instead we should live our lives for Christ who has forgiven our pasts and made purposeful our future.
3. Life’s problems cannot always be solved
“And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.”
Solomon uses his last moments talking about wisdom to make clear that he was the smarted and most knowledgeable man that had ever lived at his time and the one thing he figured out was that he would never have it figured out. You could search for answers till you are blue in the face and still never find them because they are questions that will not be answered this side of heaven.
Solomon, in fact, figured out what philosophers years after him would describe this way: “Ignorance is bliss” He figured out the dirty secret that the more you know the more you understand that you don’t know anything. The smarter we get the more we realize its all useless because we can never truly have all the answers. That is why Solomon ends this chapter with this simple statement:
“For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”