Wisdom, Knowledge and Vexation

W. Terry Varner
July 21, 2013

When God created man in His image, man was/is unique of all that God created. Of the animals of the field there is great diversity, uniqueness beyond compare, and possess unique individual traits, but they all lacked the uniqueness of man; i.e. man possesses a living soul that continues to exist after death into God’s eternity. With man possessing a soul, comes also accountability as how we live on earth which determines where we live eternally. Solomon set his mind to search secular wisdom and knowledge, he found they produced nothing of enduring value. We can learn great lessons from secular wisdom and knowledge, but it lacks in sustaining life here and preparing for eternity (Eccl. 1:12-18).

Man’s position in life. Solomon writes that as king, the highest authority in Israel, he had unusual opportunity to search secular wisdom and knowledge and to understand its value and its limitation to furnish man life here and prepare him for eternity (Eccl. 1:12-13). His position as king of Israel enabled him to do what he wanted without challenges by the people. He ruled 40 years in a time of peace in Israel, that is, Jerusalem had not been attacked by enemy nations and he attacked no foreign nations. At his fingertips was great wealth amassed by his father, David. When Solomon began his reign as king, he prayed to God for wisdom to rule and God blessed him just so (1 Kings 4:29-30). His wisdom was so well-known that the Queen of Sheba came to hear him. Solomon had the opportunities to observe life by searching secular wisdom and knowledge. He found it produced, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).

The lesson for each is obvious. We live in a world of great wisdom and knowledge at our fingertips. The technological age has given us opportunity to secure knowledge about any topic and to do so in a matter of minutes or rather seconds. It is amazing that computers, iPhones, iPads, etc., all are outdated by the time they are available for purchase by the general public. If I am looking for a certain book, I can know in seconds where it is available, how many, condition, the price, and when I can expect to receive it. When it is all said and done, the opportunity that is ours, because of the time in which we live, enables us to know that the knowledge at our fingertips is as Solomon stated, “Vanity!” It does not and cannot satisfy the soul and its preparation for the eternal state with God in heaven.

Bafflement from inadequate understanding. In his search of secular wisdom and knowledge, Solomon was baffled with it all. Solomon found that “what is crooked cannot be straitened, and what is lacking cannot be counted” (Eccl. 1:15). One of the great bafflements of life is the inability to set some things aright and to long for information you long to possess. It was this way for Solomon and it is this way for us.

Solomon writes: “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase in knowledge increase in sorrow” (Eccl. 1:18). True, but sad! However, this is no argument against securing wisdom and knowledge, as the alternative is even worse, ignorance is foolishness. There is indeed frustration in the search for wisdom, for the more Solomon knew the more he knew he did not know. Sir Isaac Newton said, “I have been paddling in the shallows of a great ocean of knowledge.” While the vexation of wisdom fails to give life stability, this is not so with God’s wisdom (cf. Eccl. 12:13).