Have you ever been semi listening in on someone’s conversation? Not intentionally, of course. But maybe you were in a restaurant, and your table was right next to someone who suddenly said to his or her lunch partner, “I am going to tell you a secret right now. No matter what, I don’t want you to tell anyone else this secret.”
What did you do? Did you casually put your hand over your ear? No, you listened more carefully. That is because we all love to hear secrets. We want to know the inside story. Even if someone is a complete stranger, we are still interested in his or her secret.
I have some news for you: God has a secret, and he wants to share it with you. The psalmist says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him” (Psalm 25:14 NKJV). In many ways, this isn’t really a secret, because it is plainly declared in Scripture. Unfortunately, because so few people have opened up the Bible to see what this secret is, they have missed out.
This is the secret of making life more full and meaningful. It is a secret that can help you avoid untold misery and heartache. You might say it is the secret of living – that is, living life to its fullest, getting the most out of life now and having the guaranteed hope that when you die, you will live forever in the presence of God in heaven.
If anyone could say, “Been there, done that,” it was Solomon. He was the hedonist extraordinaire. He was highly educated, yet he went on unbelievable drinking binges and chased after women like there was no tomorrow. He was an architectural genius, erecting the most impressive structures of his day. He was worth billions of dollars, yet he abandoned God in his search for meaning in life. And he records this journey in the book of Ecclesiastes.
The irony is that Solomon knew better. He was raised in a godly home. His father was King David. His mother was Bathsheba. Granted, David had his serious lapse of faith, but the Bible does say that David was a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22).
Shortly before his death, David gave Solomon these words of wisdom: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
Essentially David was saying, “Son, listen. You can’t live off your dad’s faith. You have to get your own. Serve God with an undivided heart and a willing mind, not because you have to, but because you want to. Don’t let your heart be divided; have it totally set on God.”
Initially, Solomon followed David’s advice. In fact, he did quite well at the beginning. He ruled Israel with great wisdom, because he had prayed for that. God appeared to him and essentially said, “Solomon, ask me now, and I will give you whatever what you want” (see 1 Kings 3).
Solomon said that what he really needed was God’s wisdom to rule his people.
So God told him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 Kings 3:11–12 NIV).
People came from all around the world to hear Solomon’s words. Even the Queen of Sheba said to him, “Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” (See 2 Chronicles 9:6–7.)
But after a while, Solomon allowed his heart to be divided. And it was only a matter of time until Solomon began to fall away from God. Then one day he decided to just go for it, to try everything this world has to offer. He abandoned God. And the book of Ecclesiastes is the account of what he learned in this backslidden state.
In the end, it turned out to be a nightmare. And he came to the conclusion that life without God is empty. Again and again in Ecclesiastes, Solomon used the phrase “under the sun.” He was talking about horizontal living, meaning life without God.
Another word Solomon used quite often is “vanity.” From the original language, various translations of this word include: “emptiness,” “futility,” “meaningless,” “a wisp of a vapor,” and “a bubble that bursts.” He was saying that life without God is nothingness. It has a hollow, empty ring to it. Solomon the searcher is telling us there is nothing on this earth that will satisfy us completely: no thing … no pleasure … no relationship. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong to live life. In fact, the Bible says that God has given us richly all things to enjoy (see 1 Timothy 6:17).
At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon records his final conclusion: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13–14).
Solomon was saying, “Listen to a seasoned pro. I know what I am talking about here. If you leave God out of the picture, then your life will be empty, meaningless and futile. But if you want to live a life that is full, with purpose, here it is: Fear God and keep his commandments.
That is what it all comes down to. That is what will keep you on track with God’s plan for your life.