MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron
King Solomon of Israel succeeded his father David. He prayed for wisdom, and in addition became one of the richest rulers in history. His writings included in the Old Testament are Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes.
As we complete the outline of Chris and Kerry Shook’s book, One Month to Live, this week will be looking at Solomon’s writings and life.
There are at least four indicators in the book that show ways Solomon sought to find meaning. First, he pursued every pleasure available – “ I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly” (Ecclesiastes 2:3). He reportedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and he wrote, “ I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 2: 8, 10).
Solomon wasn’t the last who found that pleasure led to emptiness. The 75th anniversary of George Harrison’s birthday was this week, and I read an interview from one year before he died, when he talked of experiencing Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. “That was the turning point for me ... when I went right off the whole drug cult and ... when I really went for the meditation.”
The projects of Solomon, especially the temple that David had planned, were magnificent even by today’s standards, and he wrote, “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.” He then addressed his possessions: “I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before” (Ecclesiastes 2:7). When asked how much it took to make a man happy, Howard Hughes answered, “Just a little more!”
A final attempt at meaning was sought in the prestige Solomon enjoyed. “I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. ... Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:9, 11).
However, Solomon also shared secrets to satisfaction. Enjoy the little things, we’re encouraged. “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). So many of us use “when and then” thinking. “WHEN I graduate - get a better job - the kids are grown, etc., THEN I’ll be happy.” Thinking of life in terms of years may be depressing, but Solomon advised, “However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all” (Ecclesiastes 11:8).
Next, we can appreciate all of life’s seasons. The most well known chapter of Solomon’s writings contains, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As my wife and I enter a winding-down season, I pray we’ll be able to savor time together and whatever lies ahead.
Finally, let us learn to do good and to put God first. “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live” (Ecclesiastes 3:12). “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Remembering Solomon’s words regarding his own prestige, Jesus speaking of himself told the Pharisees, “now one greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). He also told his followers, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
A reading of Ecclesiastes could leave one discouraged as Solomon spoke of vanity and death. But a closer look shows what’s truly important in living. “Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Finally, “I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives” (Ecclesiastes 2:3).