ECCLESIASTES - THE ANSWER TO LIFE'S QUESTIONS
Solomon knew all about "the good life" for he tasted all that life could offer: all that wealth could acquire, all that wisdom and love of learning could devise, all that fame could bring. Solomon had it all in full measure. He had a proud ancestry, a godly father, a rich national heritage, and a personal knowledge of God and His word. Solomon experienced what life "under the sun" could offer and wrote this book to show that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit." While much of the book might appear as being pessimistic, the last chapter is positive in its note of assurance. The lasting value of the book is right here, for it proves that only God can satisfy the deepest desires of the heart.
Ecclesiastes deals with fundamentals: Why am I here? How can I be happy? What is the meaning of life? It is one of utmost relevance for the society in which we live. In its simplicity, the message of the book is that life is pointless without God. We find this divinely inspired book in our Bibles, not merely because the answers to life are in it, but also because Solomon's life proves that the ultimate answer lies only with God.
In his last remarks, Solomon addresses himself to young people for he would have them profit from his mistakes. A former Prime Minister of the British Empire came to the conclusion that "youth is a mistake, manhood is a struggle, and old age a regret." Solomon could have taught him that. Power, prosperity, popularity, pleasure, and prestige in their fullest measure cannot satisfy the thirst of the soul. This can be satisfied in God alone.
Ecclesiastes is a most difficult and profound book. It is the record of one man's search for meaning in life and happiness. Solomon, at the end of a long search for an answer, concludes that life is vain and meaningless. As he himself said in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Everything proved to be like a vapor and an illusion, nothing led to happiness. He determines that happiness lies in the acceptance of our ultimate purposelessness - "Enjoy what little life you have, for soon you will die and that will be that."
Ecclesiastes was written by an old man facing death. He sees all too clearly that his time is short. For Solomon, death is a defeat, not only of the physical body, but also of the dreams, of the hopes, of the ambitions of life. Because man dies, nothing in life means very much at all. Since Solomon could never come to grips with death, he never came to grips with life. It is at the very end of the book that we have a hint of an alternative. "Fear God and keep His commands" stands as the only alternative to vanity in life. For Solomon, the answer may have come too late. But it is a great gift to us that his own wasted life becomes an object lesson for us to listen to God rather than our own wisdom.