Summary: God was pleased to give Solomon His wisdom and Solomon often spoke of the importance of seeking that wisdom. So, why was Solomon telling us here in Ecclesiastes that wisdom is empty and disappointing?
TITLE: Is There Wisdom In Wisdom? TEXT: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18/2:12-16
The average public library has between 10,000 to 15,000 books on its shelves.
During the War of 1812 (between England and America), the British invaded Washington D.C. and burnt much of it to the ground… including the Library of Congress with its 30,000 books. After the war was over, Congress purchased Thomas Jefferson’s personal library – 6487 books – to restart that library.
Nearly 6500 books.
That’s a lot of books for one man to own.
But those collections pale in comparison to that of Abdul Kassem Ismael in the 10th century. He was the grand-vizier of Persia – and a very wealthy and educated man - and he had a library that consisted of 117,000 volumes (more likely scrolls rather than the bound books we have today).
Abdul loved his books so much that even when he traveled (and he traveled a lot) he never parted with them.
How did he do that? Well, he used about 400 camels which were loaded with his library, and these camels that were trained to walk in alphabetical order so that he could obtain the volumes he wished at a moment’s notice.
(Readers’ Digest, June 1981, p. 16)
Down through the ages, knowledge and wisdom have been highly prized by civilized men. And the mark of wisdom – for many people – has been the number of books they possessed.
But Solomon’s wisdom wasn’t measured by the number of books he owned.
His wisdom was measured by how much he wrote… and how much he knew.
According to I Kings 4:
“He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.
He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.
From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” I Kings 4:32-34
Amongst those who came to hear his wisdom was a particular Queen you may have heard of. Do you remember her name? (The Queen of Sheba)
She traveled nearly 1500 miles to present Solomon with gifts and to ask him hard questions to discover just how “wise” he was. She was so shocked by how well he answered that she said:
“I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (II Chronicles 9:6)
Now, if I were to say the name “Solomon” what would be the first word that would come into your mind? (WISDOM) That’s right, and that’s because Solomon was so wise that, to this day, his name has been forever associated with wisdom.
So, it’s a bit odd to read what Solomon wrote in the passages we read this morning.
“… I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”