And so we come to the conclusion of Ecclesiastes. To be honest, it was probably one of the more difficult books for me to interpret. I suppose one of the questions that really goes unanswered is whether or not Solomon really repented or not before he died. We certainly see no signs of this in Kings and Chronicles. One could see Ecclesiastes as his repentance and many scholars see it that way. Others are not so sure. I’m not either. Either he repented, or he was basically saying, “It’s too late for me, but please learn from my mistakes.”
Now at the end of his journey, after wasting many years in a life that was at best half-hearted after God as he chased after other things, Solomon comes to this conclusion.
However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. (11:8-10)
His words are pretty consistent with what he’s said throughout the book. Enjoy your life. But there will be dark times that you can’t understand, that seem meaningless. But you can’t control these, so don’t waste your life worrying about them. Live your life to the fullest. But be wise with how you life your life, because God will judge you for what you’ve done.
Then in chapter 12, he charges us to remember our Creator while we are young. All things come to an end. The days of pleasure on this earth will end. This earth will come to an end. Strong, young men will become old and lose their strength. For that matter, all of our bodies will start to fail. And then our time will come and our spirits will return to the God who gave us life.
So Solomon ends by saying,
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (12:13-14)
The NIV adds the words “duty” after “the whole” but they are not there in the original language. If you want a whole life, a complete life, Solomon says, seek God. Make pleasing him your top priority. Only by doing that will you find a life worth living.
I can’t help but wonder if, when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, particularly from Matthew 6:19-34, he wasn’t thinking about what Solomon wrote here. In many respects, the two passages are very similar. And the conclusion is the same.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
May we always remember what’s really important, and seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. And if we do, all we need, and beyond that, a life worth living, will be ours as well.