The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes ranks as one of the most profound pieces of literature ever written. Known by the Latin transliteration of the Hebrew title, Qoheleth (The Preacher) is also the pseudonym of the author. Most attribute the writings of Ecclesiastes to King Solomon whom the Bible calls the wisest man that ever lived.
How then is it that Ecclesiastes is so easily misunderstood? Unfortunately, many who attempt to read the book never get beyond the preacher’s declaration at the beginning of the first chapter:
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).
Wrongly interpreted as fatalism, the introduction leads some to conclude that the pursuit of excellence in life is futile. Solomon, however, leads the persistent reader to an unmistakable conclusion via a series of personal experiential realities.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
Recently, I noticed a de-motivational quote circulating on social media. Maybe you saw it too? Every corpse on Mount Everest was once an extremely motivated person. That cynical commentary, however, is only part of a much bigger story.
Not everyone who climbed the 29,000 foot rock died in their quest. True, some 214 met an untimely demise on the ascent to the summit of Everest. Since 1953, more than 4,000 climbers have actually stood at the “Top of the World” and returned to talk about it. Do the math for yourself. The overwhelming majority achieved their goal! They succeeded in spite of peril and incredible challenges.
Pursue Life Zealously
Solomon didn’t do anything half-heartedly. He was motivated to succeed and was energetic in the pursuits of life. Solomon lived life zealously putting every available resource into achieving worthy and ambitious goals (2:4-10).
His life is a testament to astounding accomplishments. He accumulated great wealth. Solomon was the embodiment of success. (1 Ki. 4:29-34)
Reaching your goals, however, is only a partial measure of success. Solomon’s achievements were spectacular. Yet he admits that as an end in itself, success is empty and unfulfilling—as pointless as grasping for the wind (4:16).
To be clear, Solomon never disparaged success. His was not the pessimism that pervades popular culture. Today, increasing numbers conclude that the effort to achieve success in any pursuit of life is a waste of time that only leads to disappointment and failure.
Pursue What Matters Most In Life
Facing challenges and determining to succeed in spite of obstacles is an admirable character trait. Ecclesiastes teaches there is more to success than overcoming challenges and realizing goals. In one brief but profound six-word sentence, Solomon provides the defining secret for meaning and fulfillment in life:
“Fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13).
The simplicity of Solomon’s instruction belies the profound truth communicated. No matter how great your achievements, no matter how spectacular your success, if you leave God out of the picture, your life will be hollow, empty and unsatisfying—all is vanity.
Adam and Eve experienced this truth. They aspired to achieve god-like status by dodging God and acting contrary to His stated will. It cost them the one thing that brings true fulfillment in life—a relationship with God.
The imperative to fear and obey God is personal. Solomon described this priority saying, “For this is man’s all” (v. 13). In plain English, this is each man’s reason for being alive. We fulfill purpose and enjoy a meaningful life when we grasp and live out the imperative to, “Fear God and keep His commandments” (v. 13).
Move forward! Face the challenges! Overcome the obstacles! Achieve your goals! Determine to make every day a spectacular success! But more importantly, honor God and determine to live for Him. Herein lies the secret to fulfillment in life.
1) The Secret to Fulfillment In Life, as in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. (All images used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credits: Pixabay/Enhancements and photo montage, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2017 Charles E. McCracken (updated 2021), devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth, Rev. McCracken’s presentations are relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.