11There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.In the previous sections, Solomon wrote about what he saw as the meaninglessness of life around him. In this section, he begins to focus on his own life specifically, as he searches to find meaning in his own life. He begins with a general note concerning the lives of men: "There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow" (vs. 11). Yes, we do remember Solomon (partly due to these very words that he wrote), but we have no remembrance, or even knowledge, of a vast, vast majority of people that have walked the earth. And so, if you are looking for meaning in life through fame or renown, such meaning, in the scheme of things, will be very fleeting at best. As the pages of time turn, the remembrance of even the most famous people grows dimmer and dimmer. The notable, and divine, exceptions to this rule are the men and women of the Bible. As a part of God's Word, they will always be remembered, for "the word of our God stands forever" (Isa. 40:8; I Pet. 1:25).
12I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 15What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
16I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17Then 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. 18For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
Our remembrance of Solomon through the ages is due to his reign in Israel, as well as his celebrated wisdom, about which he writes next: "I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven" (vss. 12-13). As king, Solomon's studies in wisdom were undertaken with the goal of trying to improve life as the ruler of the nation. The conclusion of these studies: "What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted" (vss. 13-15). Solomon realized that, despite all of his wisdom, and despite the power he had as king, he could not "straighten" what was "twisted", he could not supply what was "lacking". The burden on a man alone, trying to lead a nation by his own power, trying to "straighten" what is "twisted" and supply what is "lacking", was indeed "a heavy burden".
What Solomon did not immediately realize was that what is "twisted" in the world, and what is "lacking" in the world are due to the fall of man and the continuing sin of men. No man can remedy this. "The imperfection in the arrangements of the world result from the fall. All attempts to rectify this imperfection without recognition of the fall of man are vain. The dislocated state of all creaturely things, subject as they are to vanity, is designed to bring us, in despair of bettering them, to take refuge in God." Yes, "what a heavy burden God has laid on men!" But, Jesus invited: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus demonstrated His ability to "straighten" what is "twisted" when He straightened the crippled woman who had been bent over for 18 years (see Luke 13:11-17), and when He straightened the shriveled hand so that it was completely restored (see Matt. 12:10-13). And Jesus has demonstrated that he can supply what is "lacking" through the lives of countless millions who have come to Him for fulfillment. As He promised the woman at the well: "Everyone who drinks [the water of this world] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst" (John 4:13-14).
Solomon thought that human wisdom could solve all problems, so he set out to become the wisest man in the world: "I thought to myself, `Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge'" (vs. 16). But the more he understood wisdom, and the workings of the world, the more he understood the limits of human wisdom: "Then 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" (vs. 17). Not only did Solomon discover that human wisdom could not solve all problems, he also learned that there were drawbacks to being wise: "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief" (vs. 18). As we study and become wiser in the ways of the world, we see how truly dark and lost the world is: "With much wisdom comes much sorrow." As we learn history, or read about current events in the newspaper, we learn of the misery of fallen man: "The more knowledge, the more grief." Indeed, the benefits of human wisdom are limited. Oh Lord, come quickly. Bring in Your kingdom, and do away with the misery of this fallen world. Save us by Your wisdom and power.