Trying to understand life can be like trying to solve a riddle. This book is Solomon’s look at what makes life profitable and is much like trying to solve a mystery. At times it is almost as hard to read and understand as life itself. The author is searching desperately for the meaning of life. He limits himself to his own gifts and abilities and becomes a humanist by deliberately leaving God out of his life in his pursuit of happiness and meaning. The life Solomon describes is a life lived without God, or, as he says, “under the sun.”
The author of the book says he is the King of Israel, a Son of David. The only person who could have possibly lived all the experiences this book describes is Solomon. Solomon was given a special gift of wisdom, but wisdom in itself is no substitute for a relationship with God. I Kings 3: 11, 12 The person who leaves God out of his life is living like a fool. Psalm 14:1 Wisdom cannot give life its true meaning; only God can do that. I Corinthians 1: 17-25
Here are keywords we find repeated to help us unlock the mysteries of this book.
Solomon begins his book with an outburst of frustration, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Repetition is the Hebrew way to emphasize something. Solomon is saying, “Life without God is the ultimate emptiness!” The Hebrew word he uses is a vivid picture of a soap bubble being burst. Vanity is all that is left when you burst the soap bubble. This is a picture of an empty, worthless life that is wasted without any real sense of purpose. Some of life’s biggest questions are:
This book is written like a road map showing one man’s pursuit of happiness. He takes some wrong turns and ends up on some dead-end streets, but we can learn from his mistakes as he finally reaches his destination.
Solomon lived an extraordinary life and is uniquely qualified to lead us. If you are looking for a guide, find one who knows the roads you will be traveling. Here is the man who had it all and lived at the top of his golden world. He was the richest and most powerful king of his day. He had more than his heart could desire but as he looked back over his life his conclusion was, “A life lived without God is like a soap bubble when it bursts. It is the ultimate nothing!”
Solomon asks a probing question that we must answer if we are going to find fulfillment in our lives. “What do you profit for all your labor?” The word profit is the opposite of the word vanity and means a surplus or that which is leftover. This word is found ten times in Ecclesiastes, although it is not found in any other place of the Old Testament. Solomon is asking us, “During all of the ups and downs of life, with its hopes and its fears, did you gain anything?” Jesus asks a similar question, “What profit is it for a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16: 26
There is something in our human spirit that drives us to seek answers in a world we have never known. We know there is more to life than what meets the eye and we long to understand the mysteries of a world we cannot see with our natural vision. It is only in God that we will ultimately find the answers to the riddle of life. A life lived WITH GOD is very fulfilling and satisfying, but a life lived WITHOUT GOD is such an empty waste.