"Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 4:7).
Solomon uses the phrase "under the sun" at least twenty-nine times throughout the book of Ecclesiastes to describe life "down under" -life here on earth. Everywhere he looks "under the sun" he sees meaninglessness, "Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun" (2:20). Though he has it all (wealth, wisdom, women, position), he possesses nothing of permanence. Solomon's life testifies to Jesus' statement, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will man give in exchange for his soul" (Matt. 16:25-26).
Solomon's Ecclesiastes reveals the meaninglessness characterizing the life of the one who invests his life only in the seen, temporal, and "under the sun" rather than life "beyond the sun," where God inhabits eternity (Ecc. 5:2). Throughout Ecclesiastes Solomon evaluates his life and his extensive building programs and concludes, "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him" (3:14). Solomon realizes that the praise of man and the vastness of his earthly kingdom bear an expiry date. Nothing under the sun lasts.
Indeed, the passage of time has removed all evidence of Solomon's extensive kingdom. All that remains are his writings: Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. The wise person studies Solomon's life and avoids living his life "under the sun" only.
Solomon's legacy leaves its imprint on the life of the one who views and lives his life "beyond the sun".
"Ecclesiastes seems like one of God's ways to say to us, This world and your life are more broken than you now realize and what God created for us is more satisfying than we believe. Like Adam and Eve, we too still strive for things out there and damage ourselves in the process all the while God's gift and presence were right in front of us" (Zach Eswine, Rediscovering Eden: The Gospel according to Ecclesiastes (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2014), 37).
What has life taught Solomon about pleasure?
Solomon spent much of his life building: the temple, his palace, houses for his many wives, military outposts, etc. What has life taught Solomon about labor and wealth?
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