Today: [Ecclesiastes 6] How Much is Enough? In Ecclesiastes 6 Solomon speaks of the vanity of riches. Many times we can be distracted by the material things of life to the exclusion of spiritual priorities. We work in pursuit of nicer things for ourselves or our families and our spiritual life suffers because there is only so much time in the day to give over to higher priorities such as living for God. Solomon stands on the other side of attainment and material wealth and declares that the effort we put forth for natural acquisition in the end only produces vanity and vexation of spirit if our heart is not focused in pursuit of a deeper life in God.
[Ecc 6:1-12 KJV] 1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it [is] common among men: 2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this [is] vanity, and it [is] an evil disease. 3 If a man beget an hundred [children], and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also [that] he have no burial; I say, [that] an untimely birth [is] better than he. 4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. 5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known [any thing]: this hath more rest than the other. 6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice [told], yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place? 7 All the labour of man [is] for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. 8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? 9 Better [is] the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this [is] also vanity and vexation of spirit. 10 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it [is] man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he. 11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what [is] man the better? 12 For who knoweth what [is] good for man in [this] life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
In chapter 6 Solomon laments the vanity of earthly attainment and this world’s goods. Commentators for centuries have read these words and concluded that Solomon was in a backslidden state and therefore not inspired in his observations. Theologians dismiss the book of Ecclesiastes as an inspired record – yes but of uninspired sayings. They cannot read Solomon and think there is any true wisdom here – but only the corrupt and contaminated wisdom of a man out of fellowship with God. It is true that Solomon did not live his entire life in alignment with the heart of God. In his youth when he was small in his own eyes he cried out to God for wisdom and for understanding in order to be a just and godly king. He didn’t ask for wealth, or to defeat his enemies, he only asked for more of God in his life. 2 Chron. 1 records an encounter Solomon had in the night seasons where he was granted the wisdom that he drew upon to pen the words in this book that scholars have so blithely dismissed:
[2Ch 1:6-12 KJV] 6 And Solomon went up thither to the brasen altar before the LORD, which [was] at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it. 7 In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. 8 And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. 9 Now, O LORD God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, [that is so] great? 11 And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12 Wisdom and knowledge [is] granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that [have been] before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.
Notice that before God came to Solomon that there was an offering made. Solomon offered 1000 burnt offerings. This is referring to the whole burnt offering of a bullock or a ram upon the altar. The passage tells us that this was not something Solomon allowed someone to offer in his behalf – he actually performed the task himself. A burnt offering had nothing to do with sin. A burnt offering was a consecration offering. It didn’t represent God giving a sacrifice foreshadowing Jesus to cover man’s transgression. Rather it represented the man, in this case Solomon giving himself to God in wholeness and consecration. Can you imagine the effort that was involved? To personally offer up 1000 head of cattle or sheep on the altar? We have here an example of a gift given moving the hand of God in such a way that Solomon’s destiny was changed. If it were not for this one act Solomon’s name would have gone down as a mere footnote in the annals of biblical history. What might our own act of giving in such a way bring us to a new place of destiny? Solomon was without doubt completely and totally exhausted at the end of the matter. Yet that night was the night that God came to him.
When God came to Solomon he didn’t say “I am going to give you something because you have given so radically of yourself to Me…” Rather he asked Solomon what he wanted. Without equivocating as theologians and scholars often do – God simply asked Solomon “ask what I shall give you…” Without condition or qualification God was offering of Himself to Solomon and what came next out of Solomon’s mouth determines the man’s destiny. He didn’t ask for something for himself. He asked for wisdom and it was granted him – along with everything that he did not ask for. He was granted wisdom along with everything that he dared not ask for. Bear in mind now that he wasn’t just asking in faith. He was asking in faith and love demonstrated by an act of worship unparalleled in the biblical record up to this point other than by David himself.
Having received of God the wisdom that so changed his life, Solomon came to grapple with the consequences of the favor, riches and wealth that came along with it. Teachers often teach of the glories of being impoverished and destitute suggesting that God places a premium upon suffering so that you can be more like Jesus. Yet seated at the right hand of the Father Jesus is surrounded by glory and opulence that we find difficult to describe. Heaven is not a place of suffering yet Paul taught in Ephesians that we are now seated with Him and in Him at the right hand of the Father. Jesus Himself taught in this life (Matt. 6:33) that if we seek first the kingdom all things would be added. What wisdom was he drawing from? Remember that Jesus was familiar with the scriptures. No doubt he read of Solomon who in his youth sought the kingdom and as a result all things were added to the degree that Solomon’s wealth is unparalleled in human history.
Solomon received of the glory of earthly riches but with that came a burden that caused him to realize that all the riches in the world are without any gratification outside of the higher purpose of God in our lives. It is important to remember when you read of Solomon’s “vanity of vanity – all is vexation and vanity…” that it is all stated in a very specific context. The phrase “under the sun” appears 30 times in this very brief book of Ecclesiastes. In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul said “if in this life only we have hope we are of all men most miserable…” This is the context of all that Solomon is emphasizing here. Solomon is not questioning God – he is questioning (v. 12) the worth of this life is that is all there is and we are not committed to something beyond ourselves. Speaking as a man who has everything he is declaring that it is as nothing if life is only to be measured by what happens “under the sun” or in this natural existence without giving ourselves wholly over to God and laying up the treasury of a relationship with Him that makes every natural attainment or blessing nothing more than a total vanity by comparison to the depth and fulfillment of fellowship with the one that sits on the throne.
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