Getting Above “Under the Sun”

So, I’m thinking that King Solomon might have been a little too smart for his own good. He may have over thought things a tad. I’m suspecting this guy was a bit “type A” . . . a little anal-retentive. I’ve entered the world of Ecclesiastes and it really isn’t the memoirs you’d expect from the guy who built the great temple . . . or from the writer of Proverbs. What happened to this guy? You sense he was a powerhouse in his youth, but in these twilight years you’re kind of sensing a bit of a shell of man. Maybe the clue has to do with something I read in James this morning . . .

But let’s start with my Ecclesiastes 2 reading. “I hated life,” says Solomon (Eccl. 2:17). What? This guy had it all . . . had done it all . . . in fact, he owned it all. Check out the first part of Ecclesiastes 2 . . . he constructed great works . . . built fabulous houses . . . planted amazing vineyards. He not only planted magnificent gardens and fruit orchards but also constructed massive water pools in order to keep them irrigated. And possessions . . . did he have possessions or what? Servants . . . . lots of servants . . . and herds . . . and flocks . . . and silver . . . and gold . . . and special treasures . . . and choirs of singers . . . and musical instruments of all kinds. Anything and everything that could bring pleasure to the senses he had title to. It seems that his was almost a manic pursuit of happiness . . . “And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” (2:10). Been there . . . done that . . . got the T-shirt. But his frustration just oozes from the page . . . “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (2:11).

Grasping for the wind . . . that might be kind fun for a little while . . . but if you’re really trying to catch it . . . good luck! Can you imagine being obsessed with capturing the wind . . . with boxing it up . . . with being able to contain it and say, “Here it is!” Crazy man . . . literally. But that’s what it sounds like Solomon’s life experience had become. So what’s the deal? What happened?

Here’s a clue, I think. I did a quick computer count of the number of times the word “I” or “my” is used in these first seventeen verses of Ecclesiastes 2 in my ESV. Check this out! The word “I” is found in every verse except for one . . . 16 times Solomon talks about what “I did”. And his “my” obsession isn’t a lot better . . . found only in 7 verses . . . but, it’s there 15 times. I, I, I, . . . my, my, my . . . wise man . . . blessed man . . . self-centered man . . . frustrated man. Cue James . . .

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17).

Solomon was way bent out of shape because he saw all his good works as just that, HIS good works. And thus, they were vanity, because time would consume them all eventually. What was the purpose of building his legacy . . . someone else would own it . . . and eventually time would destroy it. It was all under the sun . . . and, as such, was all meaningless. But, if I’m catching what James says, our pleasures . . . our blessings . . . our possessions . . . the pursuit of our dreams . . . far from being just “under the sun” can, in and of themselves, be a connection to heaven itself and the One who is enthroned there.

When we view every nice thing we own as being from the Giver of every good and perfect gift . . . when we consider every accomplishment we may have achieved as being from the hand of Him who never changes . . . when we pursue every desire acknowledging that desire’s root is from the Father of Lights with whom there is no shadow of turning . . . then it all becomes a foretaste of heaven . .. and it all takes on intense meaning and purpose. Far from being about me, it’s all about Him. Far from being vanity, it is a veritable connection with the One who created me, redeemed me by His grace, and has determined to fulfill His perfect will in my life.

Oh, to shift my gaze from “under the sun” to the “Father of lights!” To stop keeping score of my accomplishments and possessions but to count His many blessings. It’s the difference between the frustration with that which is passing and the worship of Him who is eternal. All glory be to the Father of Lights!

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