Coping with Futility

KEY VERSE: “Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” —Ecclesiastes 12:13

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11; 12:13, 14

SOLOMON, in looking back over his life, is recalling the many futile ways he had sought to find satisfying and lasting pleasure. He had tried in vain to circumscribe his exposure to life with those activities which would bring only mirth, enjoyment, and laughter. But the general unhappiness of man’s present state superimposed itself in such a way that it could not be ignored. And he concluded, “This also is vanity, I said of laughter, It is mad, and of mirth, What doeth it?”—Eccles. 2:2

He says that he tried to escape through giving himself to wine, but this, too, was “folly.” (vs. 2) He busied himself with the acquisition of great wealth and material possessions, and was successful in this “more than all that were before me in Jerusalem, … for my heart rejoiced in all my labors.” (vs. 10) But, as Solomon grew older and his health began to fail, he was more conscious than ever of the fact that in the end he too, like others, must die and leave it all behind. His wealth was only of use in this present short span of life, and if employed selfishly and only for personal pleasure it would serve little or no benefit toward what the Lord will have in store for him in the latter time.

Weighing the value of material ambitions and pleasures of this life against the future, Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”—Eccles. 12:13

Solomon was a good man, but he chose to learn the hard way that which many have known from the very start, that the highest pleasures obtainable in this present existence, and in the prospects of the life to come, are those associated with keeping the commandments of God. Whether rich or poor, whether king or slave, as the wise man wrote, “This is the whole duty of man.”

But keeping the commandments of God is more than a duty; it is a privilege which makes the heart glad and thrills one’s very being with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (I Pet. 1:8) David wrote, “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.”—Ps. 119:97

Yet, far above and beyond this present joy and satisfaction, is the future reward of those who now keep his commandments. Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, pointing out that there were some changes in the commandment for his followers, upgraded the concepts of the Mosaic Law into the law of the new creation. While the Law which came through Moses offered life, for which no one in Israel for nearly two thousand years could qualify, the new commandment offered the very obtainable prize of the kingdom of heaven. To receive this great reward, Jesus pointed out that it is necessary to have a higher law written in the heart. He taught:

Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Blessed are they that mourn [the sympathetic] for they shall be comforted.”

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”—Matt. 5:3-9

These are the higher spiritual standards, which Jesus went on to say should not in any way be compromised with the earthly things that Solomon sought. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is there will your heart be also. … No man can serve two masters. … Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”—Matt. 19:24

Jesus then pointed to a lovely flower, a lily of the field, and in assessing the ultimate value of Solomon’s earthly wealth, said, “I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (vs. 20) We are glad to learn from the words of our text that Solomon did come to a better appreciation of these higher values, and as a result developed a stronger fear (reverence) for God.

We must do likewise.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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