Five books in a row, answering five important questions:
Job: How shall I suffer?
Psalms: How shall I worship?
Proverbs: How shall I live?
Ecclesiastes: What shall I value?
Song of Solomon: How shall I love?
In chapter two of Ecclesiastes, answering the question “How shall I live?”, the writer tells of his own personal journey. In that journey, he does something foolish for a wise man: he attempts to gain wisdom through trial and error. The Proverbs teach us that the best source of wisdom is the counsel of others. It is foolish to press on in foolishness to discover it is foolish – but that’s what Solomon does.
The short answer is that no one has ever been in Solomon’s position before – to explore the furthest reaches of mankind’s quest for satisfaction without the usual limitations of resources, social pressure, or legality. He is, after all, a king – and a rich one at that.
And so Solomon pursues pleasure, materialism, wealth, and education, and when he gets to the end of that journey, he observes that such pursuits are not all that fulfilling. Mainly, they are not fulfilling because none of them last forever. Sooner or later, one must give them up.
So what’s the point? Or is it all, all of life, really pointless?
It is not.
We live all of our lives, short or long, under the view and providence of God. We must learn to enjoy the gifts of God while we have them, knowing they are not forever so that when we have to give them up or pass them on, we can say “that was wonderful” and move to the next stage of enjoyment God has in mind for us. Solomon’s research is bounded by God (note 1:13 and 2:24). Our perspectives must be bounded by Him too so that everything else is kept in proper perspective.