Ecclesiastes is the book King Solomon wrote in his old age. He wrote Song of Solomon as a young man, and Proverbs as a mature man. In between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, King Solomon married many wives (700), and gathered gold, silver, and possessions to himself in abundance. His wives from the nations turned his heart from serving the LORD God, in that to please his wives, he had altars built in Jerusalem to their gods. Eventually he also joined them in sacrificing to them. But in the end, he repented, and realized his great folly and his great vanity. It helps, when reading Ecclesiastes, to know this background, because the book seems so somber. But Solomon had the wisdom of his own experience behind him.
So, Solomon comes to the conclusion that a man can labor his entire life, build up his wealth, his possessions, his family, his fame, and yet what does his labor profit him, in the end, that he has spent his life on? Nothing, because he will die, and all he has done will not go with him, and even future generations will forget all about it.
He realized that a wise man and a fool will both die; that a wise man’s end is the same as a fool’s end.
This is a very important truth that is recorded in the Scripture: that all alike will face death. The greatest works of the greatest and wisest man who has ever lived, did not change his destiny of death which was waiting for him. Solomon’s heart cry in these chapters is, I need a Savior, because my works and my wisdom have not saved me from death.
This realization is a pillar of wisdom. But this is why he said that the end of wisdom is grief (Ecc 1:18), because by wisdom, he clearly saw his need, and he saw that there was no way to meet his need. The power to do anything about it was not in his hand. At least a fool doesn’t know that he is lacking something crucial.
Solomon, for all his wisdom, could not see Yeshua who was coming, and take heart in Him. Paul says that God kept His answer to man’s great need shut up, that salvation in Yeshua was a mystery kept hidden, because if the enemy had gotten wind of what God was planning to do, he would have never crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Cor 2:6-8). Remember that scene in Narnia, when the witch is so delighted that she gets to kill Aslan? She did not realize that her act of murder would result in her own demise, and this was the secret that the LORD was keeping, so that not even Solomon could discover it.
Solomon concluded that the wisest course of action a man can take, is to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow he will die. Seriously! The end of Ecclesiastes chapter two is where that phrase comes from (Ecc 2:24). He does not mean it like we mean it today, to go full force into debauchery; but to enjoy what your hands have provided for you today. To provide for today (not labor and store up greatness which you will not enjoy) and to take joy in today. To stop and smell the roses, so to speak. To make today count. 🙂