“All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8 HCSB)
I know it is poor grammar. I recognize it as a double-negative—the kind of expression that would have nearly made my school teacher faint. That is also the title of what has been described as one of the top ten rock and roll songs of all time. The Rolling Stones became pop icons through that breakthrough song. It was an expression of futility. Here was a band that was able to indulge their carnal desires—and yet had not been able to find satisfaction. After fifty years of fame, fortune and feeding fleshly appetites that reality for the group does not seem to have changed.
It is also nothing new. Solomon said this, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, ‘Look, this is new’? It has already existed in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) While I would not suggest Mick Jagger as a source of theology, his heart cry, “I can’t get no satisfaction” echoes the experience of another man, whose life was so full of things, it was empty of meaning. The old king wailed, “’Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) This is a life that is barren of meaning, because there is no room for God—and without Him, you can’t get no satisfaction.
Not that Solomon didn’t try. If anyone could have found fulfillment in what this world offers, he would have. He had the best that money could buy. In “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” his story was unparalleled. The world was at his fingertips, but happiness was so elusive. Just when he thought he had it, it slipped away, so the frustrated, foolish monarch declared, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind.” (1:14)
NO SATISFACTION IN WISDOM
“I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, ‘Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over
There is wisdom from God that is a wondrous thing. In fact, God commended Solomon for his desire for it and sent this gift from heaven to him. The young king realized the gravity of his responsibility to lead the nation and his lack of experience to do so effectively. The Lord not only supplied wisdom, but also wealth and health and everything else—abundantly so.
But, there is another wisdom that is a wicked thing. It is the forbidden fruit—the knowledge of good and evil, “madness and folly” he calls it. The old king pursued the wisdom of the world, and his philosophy was shaped by the books in his library, rather than the timeless truth of God’s Word. He became arrogant in the abundance of information he acquired. This is a real danger if education is divorced from the eternal. Scripture warns, “Knowledge inflates with pride” (1 Corinthians 8:1b). In fact, I would commend the careful reading of the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians to get the New Testament perspective on this matter.
God is not anti-intellectual. All truth is God’s truth. The problem is that we don’t have all the truth about all truth—and due to our sinful heart—we take data and reason to the wrong conclusion. An omniscient God has transcendent truth; it isn’t irrational, but supra-rational.
Solomon had fallen prey to the limited perspective of life, “under the sun” (v.3), a recurring phrase which is the distorted lens by which he views everything. What he needed was the view from “above the sun”! He needed a mind-set shaped by Scripture.
James, in his typical blunt style, contrasted these two sources of wisdom:
“Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom's gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don't brag and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy.” (James 3:13-17)
Solomon’s shelves were full of books, but his soul was empty of the knowledge of the Holy One.
NO SATISFACTION IN WOMEN
“I said to myself, ‘Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.’ But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and about pleasure, ‘What does this accomplish?’” (Eccl.2:1-2)
Solomon became a party animal. The day was filled with preparing for the party, and the evening found the banquet hall stuffed with guests and filled with laughter—loud, lewd laughter. Before the night was over, Solomon would spot some pretty young thing to take to his bed. In his prolific promiscuity, he had a thousand women. A night of sensual passion, however, would give rise the next day to the dawn of discontent. Perhaps he would waken and look in the mirror and mutter, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
Sex is not sinful. God designed it. But, it is to be sacred—about love and not lust. It is giving rather than getting; the remarkable thing that as you bestow pleasure to another, you are blessed with pleasure and the two become one flesh in meaningful marriage.
Solomon decided if one woman was good, two would be better. He didn’t stop there. He had a harem! This is typical of our day. Multiple marriages, even mistresses, and yet though the one you romance is different, you remain the same—and there’s the problem. It was with Solomon. His bed was full, but his heart was empty of true love—the love that comes from God.
NO SATISFACTION IN WINE
“I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly-my mind still guiding me with wisdom-until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.” (Eccl.2:3)
Solomon decided that he could fill the hole in his soul with wine. He poured and poured. It brought temporary relief from the ache in his heart—like an anesthetic—but when he awoke the next day with a hangover, he had the same craving, and more. God had given him health and he was on a course to destroy it. In this, he would get no satisfaction.
I admit that the Bible never specifically says you cannot drink a drop of wine, though it emphatically states that drunkenness is sin, and that it is one of the characteristics of those who will be shut out of heaven and cast into hell. Why take that risk? Whether having an occasional glass of wine, or one beer now and then, is wicked might be disputed, but the question is, “Is it wise?” I believe not. The danger is too great.
How many marriages are shattered by it? How many children are abused because of it? How much carnage is on our highways because of it? How many foolish decisions result from a mind clouded by it? How many jobs are lost because of it? How many lives are destroyed because of it?
Solomon’s cup was full, but his soul was barren of joy.
NO SATISFACTION IN WEALTH
“I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs of water for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned many herds of cattle and flocks, more than all who were before me in
The net-worth of Solomon was staggering. His wealth was unparalleled. It is not an overstatement to crown him the richest man who ever lived. But he was bankrupt! His life had no purpose, no meaning. His closets were full of clothes, yet he felt naked before God. His palace was full of furniture, but the habitation of his heart was empty of God’s peace. He had a fast chariot to ride in, a throne to sit on, a golden crown to wear. Jewels adorned the rings on each finger. If satisfaction could be purchased, he would have been able to do so—but he could not get it at the store. None can—but still they try.
Solomon had a life full of stuff, but a soul void of satisfaction.
He was missing the key ingredient of life—the only source of true love, joy, peace—all that the human heart longs for and yet money cannot buy—intimacy with God! There was a time when the young man walked with God, when he was abiding in the Father’s house. Then, like the prodigal son, he decided to explore life in the fast lane. “Go on, take the money and run!” some voice whispered in his ear. It sounded at first like the hissing of a serpent, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed like music to his ears. The mid-life crisis comes and he begins to walk away from the Father’s house. What waited at the end of his journey? Bitter old Solomon said, “This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind.” (Eccl.2:26b).
Has, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” become your theme song? Here is another melody you ought to consider, “But I will see Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.” (Psalm 17:15) The great theologian, Augustine, got it right, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”