When Solomon became king of Israel, God granted him a request: “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kgs. 3:5). Solomon responded by humbly describing himself as “a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (vs. 7). He then asked God for “an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (vs. 9). Solomon’s request was for wisdom that he might lead God’s people effectively. God bestowed upon him a degree of wisdom that made him the wisest man who had ever lived (vs. 12). And, because Solomon’s request was so selfless, God bestowed upon him great wealth (vs. 13).
The case could be made that Solomon’s wisdom not only surpassed that of all people who were alive during his day, and all who had ever lived before him, but that it also surpassed the wisdom of all who have lived since him and all who will ever live until Christ comes again. The only exception, of course, was Jesus Himself when He lived on this earth as a man.
Many of the proverbs, noted for their pointed wisdom, were written by Solomon. He also wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. While Ecclesiastes certainly bears a different tone than that of Proverbs, it is, nonetheless, filled with Solomon’s wisdom.
Solomon begins that book by declaring that “...all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). He was talking about life. He then proceeded into a fairly lengthy discourse demonstrating why all is vanity. Later in the book he stated that he had indulged himself in fulfilling his desires. Still, he reasoned, “all was vanity and grasping for the wind” (2:10-11). One might feel kind of bummed out, reading through most of Ecclesiastes, and think that Solomon was a really negative guy.
But he was actually laying the groundwork and developing the central theme of the book. In next to the last verse of the last chapter Solomon’s wisdom shines through crystal clear. He writes, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” (12:13). When Solomon had lived his life, when he had experienced life through the eyes of divinely enhanced wisdom, when he had enjoyed the far reaching pleasures that the power and wealth of a king could satisfy, he recognized that the most important, most meaningful, most accomplishing, most fulfilling thing man can do is to simply obey God!
That truth has not changed. We would be wise to learn from the wisdom of Solomon. The conclusion of the whole matter is still the truth that the best we can do in life, the best life we can live, is a life of obedience to God. The compelling question for each of us is, “ Am I, are you obeying God?
Gary L. Hutchens