So Solomon “set [his] heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven” (1:13). Remember that Solomon was the wisest mortal to walk the earth.
II Chronicles 1 tells the story of how God gave Solomon all his wisdom: “And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it. On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?'”
Solomon could ask anything he wanted. In a sense, God was giving him one wish to be fulfilled. Solomon already had enough wisdom to recognize that riches and fame were vain things, and he said, “Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of yours?”
The result? The following verses say that God gave Solomon the requested wisdom and knowledge as well as riches and wealth and honor!
Solomon eventually fell away from God though and it is at that time that his wisdom, knowledge, riches, wealth, and honor became useless to him. When he had the wrong perspective on life, everything became vain. So in Ecclesiastes he recognizes how all those good things profited him nothing when he wasn’t living for God. He saw “all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (1:14).
Now two things stick out to me. First of all, imagine a life characterized by grasping for the wind! Whether I try to grasp for the wind or grasp at the wind, I always will come up empty-handed. I’ve tried to catch leaves out of the wind, and it’s often a fruitless venture. Trying to catch the wind itself is impossible. With that in mind, I don’t want to come to the end of my life empty-handed after simply grasping for the wind all my life. That would be devastating.
Secondly, what does Solomon mean when he refers to all things “under the sun”? Does he simply mean everything that’s done, or is he referring to earthly things, things that are not done in view of heaven (above the sun)?
In the context of the book, it seems like he is referring to earthly things. If that is true, am I devoting my time and energies to things under the sun or things above the sun?
Finally in this passage, Solomon says in verse 18, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Sometimes, the more I know about life, the less I wish I knew. In a sinful world, not all knowledge is happy knowledge. The world is filled with sorrow and lies and destruction. Indeed, learning and being exposed to more wisdom and knowledge also brings a certain amount of grief and sorrow.
Several key ideas in a short passage. Well, am I grasping for the wind, or will I enter God’s presence with arms full of things done with Heaven in mind?
The things that I do under the sun
Will profit me nothing when life is all done.
But the things that I do with Heaven in mind
Will be worth something when I leave life behind.