Solomon asking for wisdom when God told him he could have anything he wanted has always strangely stuck with me. Lately it’s been on my mind more than ever.
I know I know, I’m only 26 years old, but looking back over the past few years has led me to examine life in a more introspective manner. As such I can’t help but relate to Solomon’s writings. Proverbs is a book that many herald and reflect fondly on–and rightfully so. It’s chock full of wisdom that in a nutshell can help teach anyone how to live a quieter, richer, and more meaningful life. Ecclesiastes is often overlooked though, and exactly why is something I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. I suppose it may have something to do with the subject matter, as a wise old sage imparting advice for sound living has broader appeal than a broken old man reflecting on the futility of life in the face of death’s eventuality.
I’ve found great comfort in Solomon’s opining in recent years though.
I used to believe Solomon asked for wisdom and God went “poof” like some Middle-Earth conjurer, dousing the young man in intelligence beyond his years. I also used to have a very narrow view of what wisdom entailed. To me “being” wise was akin to being smart or intellectual. If you could tell someone how or why something worked, win persuasive arguments, or articulate your points well you were laden with it. It’s ironic that I never put two and two together, as Solomon’s magnum opus, Ecclesiastes, is less about a man pontificating superior intellect, and more about a man who has realized the utter devastation and vanity of life without the hope of glory.
And that’s where you find true wisdom.
Solomon was a sinner before he asked God for wisdom. He committed foolish acts after his prayer. Some of the decisions he made as King of Israel had resounding effects on the nation’s chronological ripple. His wisdom was built by observing the effect that man’s actions had on the totality of the world we inhabit. His wisdom came from viewing the world through a lens shaded by God’s own heart.
His final assessment? All is vanity and grasping for the wind.
The penultimate conclusion of the wisest man who ever lived, and an honest appraisal of a fallen world.
All is vanity.
All is grasping for the wind.
Many feel Solomon’s Ecclesiastes are depressing, and as such they venture away from this uncomfortable account that seemingly stands out like a sore thumb from other texts. I find a comfort in his words though. We’ve heard the words, but wisdom lies beyond our ears inside the deepest reaches of our being. As the stench of death and futility are woven throughout the pages there lies a faint glimmer of hope–and from that hope springs the only thing I’ve found worth hoping for.
All is vanity in this life, but this life is not all there is.