He lived in palaces, had the best food to eat, a loving family, his choice of any woman in the kingdom, and a job waiting for him when he grew up. Surely Solomon needed nothing to make life better for him. And yet, he wanted to be more than just a king. Solomon wanted to be the wisest king who ever lived. So began a journey that would take him down many paths, some joyful and good, some sad and wrong.
One result of Solomon’s search for wisdom is the Book of Proverbs. If you read it, you may find yourself surprised at the kinds of things he addressed. He frowned on a good many things your mama told you were bad for you. He advised on everything from gossip to immoral women. In the book of Proverbs you can probably find a maxim for any situation that arises in your life . . . if you look.
How did Solomon get to know all this stuff? Did he just sit down and pen all these proverbs off the top of his head? Did his mama advise him, too? Or did God dictate the words to him? Having personal experience in the area of writing, I know that the answer to all but the first question is probably no. Good writing does not come easily.
Solomon might have been able to dash off perfect prose but most writers can’t. And while God has often given me things to write, it is never easy to get it right. The things that come from Him are the hardest to put into words.
As for God dictating the words, well, the Bible said “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” not by dictation. For those who don’t know, dictation is where someone literally speaks to you and you write down their exact words with omissions. Inspiration, on the other hand, occurs when you see, hear, or experience something that stimulates you to action, it motivates you. All writing is “inspired” by something – good or bad.
Take this one step further, in 2 Peter the Bible says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Holy men of God, motivated or inspired by the Holy Ghost, wrote the Scriptures and prophesied.
Something motivated Solomon to write as he did. An old, little used definition for the word inspire means “to breathe on” or “to inhale.” God “breathed on” all writers of the Bible and they “inhaled” that “breath”. What does that feel like? As a writer I can tell you that there is something insideme struggling, always struggling, to get out, to be said. That is what moves me to write. When I am able to put it on paper, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Today there are those who say because of this “inspirational” type of writing the Scriptures can’t be completely true because human bias is involved. It is accurate to say that human bias is evident in all writing. In the Gospels themselves, you can see this. You can tell something about the personality of the writer of one Gospel by the way he describes an event that is also described in another Gospel by another writer. The event did not change, just the way it is perceived changed.
However, I can tell you that when God is the motivator a writer will often write things he or she doesn’t want to write but which a driving urgency demands that he write. I suspect the same thing occurs in preachers. They choose the words they will use to convey a particular thought. However, the though is not their own but rather the direction of the Spirit. And two preachers may have the same thought but use different words to convey that thought.
Solomon knew what was required to succeed in life. He knew positive actions bring positive results, and associating with the wrong people will get you in trouble. He knew that there is a point beyond which it is unwise to go. Solomon had wisdom.
Wisdom is “an understanding of what is true, right, or lasting.” It is not “just knowing”. You may know something but not understand it. Wisdom is common sense, and it is gained from either experience or observation. Solomon experienced or observed the things he spoke about in Proverbs and he understood the truth of those things. Sadly, some of the things he experienced were not nice.
Proverbs is filled with positive instruction. You will find advice on how to live a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive life. It portrays a father instructing his son with all he knows about life. This is a loving teacher, not the “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes. Proverbs contains none of the bitterness and the “all is vanity” of Ecclesiastes.
What happened to Solomon between Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? It almost seems that these books were written by two different people and yet, their subject matter is nearly identical. It is the outlook that changed dramatically and the tone of voice.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is old. He has lost his joy for living and his view of life has become cynical, bleak, harsh and unforgiving. The loving father and teacher are absent. In his place, is an embittered, disillusioned old man focusing on his own past failures. He focused so much on failure that he could no longer see life as a gift. It was all vanity. All a man might seek to accomplish in life was vanity, no matter how good.
Solomon had succeeded in his quest for wisdom, but instead of letting it enrich him, he had allowed it to rob him. A journey began in the fire of youth had ended in ashes. He lost sight of all that was important in his search. Never mind all he had done for Israel and for God. He even saw the search as vanity. Solomon’s wisdom told him that once gained, his riches meant nothing, and once understood, life was a waste and death was preferable. “Therefore I hated life: . .” (Eccl. 2:17)
His wisdom told him that God was the giver of all good things, but it didn’t seem to matter because the gifts themselves were also vanity. He learned to recognize folly in his own search for wisdom and knowledge.
Solomon began his journey to find wisdom and knowledge and to recognize folly. During the journey he became wealthy beyond imagination and wise beyond his years. At the end of the journey he was bitter beyond endurance. “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Eccl. 1:18.
We should not take this to mean we should not desire wisdom or knowledge. We should pray for this gift. In fact, it is wisdom and knowledge that make life and it’s hardships easier to understand and thereby, easier to bear. If you notice, those who have the most difficult time in trials are those who don’t understand the purpose of trails.
At no time should we seek these gifts for their own sake but to give us discernment and better equip us to serve God. When attainmentis the goal, the value of the item is diminished.
Solomon took life by the horns, hopped on its back, and rode it to death.