“Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Living life apart from God is futile.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is greatly misunderstood. It is a difficult book to read simply because it is hard to understand. Everything in it appears wrong and as if it doesn’t fit with the rest of Scripture. But it is part of the Old Testament wisdom literature because it is a statement of human wisdom. Ecclesiastes tells us how man perceives his world, God, and the realities of life.
Most scholars believe Ecclesiastes was penned by Solomon. They debate whether he wrote it before he was a true believer or after. He may have written it in retrospect, or he may have penned it sometime before he had a full understanding of the life-changing truth of God.
Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book because it reveals the folly, uselessness, senselessness, and frustration of human wisdom—that which James calls “earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:15). In Ecclesiastes 1:16 Solomon says to himself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me.” That verse shows me that when God initially gave Solomon wisdom, He gave it to him on a human level. He gave Solomon wisdom to make successful decisions and judgments as king. But although divine wisdom was available to him, I believe Solomon opted for human wisdom the greater portion of his life. And that wisdom was never able to answer his ultimate questions.
The sum of Solomon’s perspective on human wisdom is in Ecclesiastes 4:23: “I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed.” That’s a death wish and is the logical end of worldly wisdom—futility.
Fortunately, Solomon did eventually embrace true wisdom. At the end of his book, he said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (12:13). What then can satisfy your heart and make life worth living? The wisdom of God alone.
Suggestions for Prayer
Ask God to help you follow His ways for a blessed and fulfilled life.
For Further Study
Read Proverbs 3:13-26, noting how the benefits of true wisdom are in contrast to what Solomon experienced.
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187