There was a time, not long ago, when the Bible was the single most influential book or media on the planet. It was the reason that people learned to read and the reason that people wanted their youngsters to read. People wanted to know God (some of us still do) and the way to do this is to acquaint yourself with His Word. Even when the United States was in an incredibly tumultuous time as the 1960s, the Bible was the inspiration even for rock musicians. The band called “The Byrds” became famous with a song written from the book of Ecclesiastes. Here’s the tune on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6jxxagVEO4
The book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon. Solomon is famous for many things, but foremost was what he asked for when the Almighty offered to give him something:
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.” 1 Kings 3:5-14
Solomon pleased Yahweh by not asking for riches but rather for wisdom. This showed much humility, especially for one who had just inherited God’s earthly kingdom. The book of Ecclesiastes is intriguing because it is a candid look into the mind of wise King Solomon. When you find yourself ask the question “why did such-and-such just happen?”, Solomon can provide some interesting answers.
Quite often the more intelligent-type people fit a matter of fact, black and white, type mold. They are disciplined individuals who are driven in purpose and see things clearly. They do not often allow themselves to be controlled by emotion. Solomon asked for discernment in making judgments, which is a black and white business, but he appears to be none of these things. He sees that the world works in cycles, which is what The Byrds’ song is about. He understands pain and sorrow but also joy and wealth. He sees many things as folly, a chasing after the wind. He actually encourages the young to chase their dreams while they can in this verse:
Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. Ecc 11:9,10
Men, can you imagine your father telling you to, essentially, have a good time with your youth? Granted, he did mix in a reminder that all the deeds of that good time will be brought to judgment, but still, he is encouraging young men to follow their impulses and enjoy themselves while they can! What wonderful advice, but also dangerous advice that could be misconstrued to lead one down some pretty bad paths.
Solomon takes a long and winding road to arrive at the conclusion. He lists out pleasures and he lists out sorrows and tells us all of it is futility. That joy will follow pain which will precede yet more joy. Wealth may come or may not and it is not an indication of the righteousness of the wealthy or of the poor. But his conclusion is where his wisdom shines through. The long and winding road he took lands him exactly where he started. Remember what God said to Solomon when he asked for discernment? God said he could have it as long as he kept the commandments. And what does wise King Solomon impart upon mankind as the only thing that is not futile or folly?
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecc 12:13,14