Let me begin by asking this question, “What kind of WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE is Solomon referring to in this verse?” He surely can’t be speaking of the “wisdom and knowledge” that comes from God’s Word, for Solomon informs us in the beginning of the book of Proverbs (which he was also inspired to write) that his proverbs were given to impart “wisdom and knowledge.” Verses 2-6 read, “To know WISDOM and instruction, to perceive words of UNDERSTANDING, to receive instruction of WISDOM, justice, judgment, and equity; to give PRUDENCE to the simple, to the young man KNOWLEDGE and DISCRETION—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of UNDERSTANDING will attain to wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.” And then in verse 7 he states the most important verse of the whole book, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of KNOWLEDGE, but fools despise WISDOM and instruction” (NKJV). If man is going to be WISE, he begins by giving the Lord reverential fear. This reference for God comes through studying His Word, which imparts the KNOWLEDGE and the WISDOM that we need to glorify God and to be blessed as we make our way through this world on our way to glory.

The point is there is a big difference between the wisdom and knowledge spoken of in Ecclesiastes 1:18 and the wisdom and knowledge in the book of Proverbs. The former is “EARTHLY wisdom” and the latter is “HEAVENLY wisdom.” One speaks of wisdom pertaining to this world; the other of wisdom related to the next world. We need to remember that in Ecclesiastes Solomon is looking back at a time in his life when he was “out of communion” with the Lord. He was trying to find meaning in life by searching things “under the sun” (a phrase that is found 29 times in that book). We read in 1:16 of his “travelling companion” that accompanied him on his search, “I communed with MY HEART.” Instead of communing with God and asking Him for His wisdom in his search, he simply consulted with HIS OWN HEART and tried to “reason things out.” He was NOT aided by Divine revelations from God as he took in all the knowledge he could gain of things under the sun. He simply observed things and came to certain conclusions based on his intellect and reasoning powers. Granted, he took a lot in, for he could say, “My heart has understood great WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE,” but in the end it failed to fill the void in his heart. Instead of bringing him JOY and SATISFACTION, it brought him SORROW and GRIEF.

Our universities are filled with people seeking to fill their minds with the “wisdom of this world.” But if they leave God out of their thoughts and never study His Word to gain HIS WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, it will leave their hearts empty and will indeed cause “much sorrow” and “more grief.” And the real tragedy is that if one is unsaved, the wisdom this world has to offer will actually take him farther away from God. Listen to Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 1:21, “The world through wisdom did not know God.” When men try to “figure out” the mysteries of man’s origin and why we are here, their intellect and human reasoning will lead to “ignorance of God.” When the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented to them they will call it “foolish,” as we see in verse 22-23, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks SEEK AFTER WISDOM; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks FOOLISHNESS.

How sad it is when we see true believers, like Solomon, turn from God’s Word and the wisdom it imparts, to the world and its wisdom in order to find purpose and meaning in life. Dear fellow-believer, may we learn from Solomon not to value “earthly wisdom” over “heavenly wisdom.” May we treasure the true wisdom that comes from above (see James 3:15-17) and realize that it is all centered in our Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). (294.5) (DO)