Solomon, or the author taking on his persona, has made his claim of the vanity of vanities. Now he continues to explain his grim world view.
In the earlier chapter, Wiersbe refers to Solomon's life as a lab. Solomon has everything, so he starts experimenting with what will bring him something more than the vapor he is experiencing.
Next lab experiment: pleasure and enjoying yourself. As with everything else he's disregarded as futility, it comes through a worldview that does not include God. I've come to see this in movie and TV shows. It's happening in this fictional world without God. And if they included God in their world...half of their plot would turn to vapor. So it is with the philosophizing Solomon is offering.
- He calls laughter madness
- pleasure having no accomplishment
- he gets drunk to see how long he can maintain reason
- he's trying to figure out what good there is for men and women under the heavens (notice not under the sun) for the few days of their lives
- he "enlarged his works"; but then goes on to define that as "built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself" I made gardens for myself. ...ponds of water for myself
- Then he counts his "possessions"...many slaves, flocks, and herds, silver, gold, and treasure
- pleasures of man
- "All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them...this was a reward for all of my labor."
- He decides wisdom is better than foolishness; but since they both die- it doesn't matter
What galls me is that he talks about this labor and being weary from all of it and needing rewarded because of it...but when he lists his labors they are all big ole treats for himself- houses, slaves, ponds, treasures.
And what else galls me even more is that God, in Deuteronomy, gave very specific parameters for the role the king was to take over Israel, and it wasn't a life lab experimenting with the wealth and people of a nation for your philosophical, selfish adventures. He was supposed to care for his countrymen like brothers and not put himself above them.
verse 17- "So I hated life..."
It's interesting that God seems to have built into the "algorithm" some maximum parameter that, if you're living only for yourself, there's only so much good you can get out of it. It would seem that collecting a bunch of good stuff would be additive; but it doesn't seem to be true.
That's a super important lesson to remember. Maybe one of the most important. Doing everything for yourself isn't going to make you happy.
And it will leave you neglecting the work you were made to do. He could have done so much for Israel. And some might look to all that he did to move Israel forward. But God's will will be done and how much more or better off would they have been if Solomon had been in God's will.
I don't know why, but Solomon bugs me. I felt this way while reading his stories in the other books. I guess he's the same guy I resent in my real life. Anyone I perceive as been handed everything and it turns them into a narcissist. That level of selfishness pushes some button in me. Making slaves do a bunch of building and work for him and then having him describe how weary he is and deserving of treats?!?! Yikes.
Here's the rub, though...anytime I find myself ranting about someone, I am sure I am judging them. And that's not good. I'm not judging fruit or doing it in some helpful manner for the greater good. I just don't like him. Personally. He's been dead 1000 years before Jesus; but I personally don't like the man.
I'm guessing there is sin in that. I'm guessing it includes jealousy and ignorantly believing that if I had all of his advantages, somehow I would still make the same choices i would make today. I'm guessing that is untrue.
God is sovereign.
He dealt with Solomon throughout Solomon's life. He's dealt with me throughout my life.
Playing judge and jury, even if only in my head, is wrong. And just as I accused Solomon of not fulfilling his mandates toward his fellow man- neither am I when I allow myself to sin against them in private.
Anyway...back to the chapter 2. In verse 19 he laments over who is going to get all of his stuff when he dies. Is this person going to be worthy of it?
Finally. We come to the verse I learned years ago when studying this book- it stuck with me and has provided guidance many times:
There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.
For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?Ecclesiastes 2:24-25
There is so much we cannot see in this time and space, let alone what's going on in heaven. There is so much we do not know and won't know this side of heaven.
My obedience is to what God has given and glorify Him with every thought, word, and deed. (Not doing so great on this front of the war; but He is renewing my day-by-day and I do see the progress.
He is in charge of results.
If that is the choice I make and the direction I go-I can avoid the helpless, hapless, selfish, childish, grim conclusions of Solomon.