King Solomon was a great debater. As a young man he was visited by God in two dreams, promised incomparable honor and wealth, and a discerning mind like no one else, ever. He surrounded Israel with peace, nations came to hear his wisdom, and was privileged to build God’s Temple where he witnessed the glory of the LORD. What a blessed life.
God, though, gave conditional statements to Solomon and His people to live that good life: if you do this … then that will happen:
If you will walk in My statutes and obey My rules and keep all My commandments and walk in them, then I will establish My word with you … 1 Kings 6:12
But if you turn aside from following Me, you or your children, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight, 1 Kings 9:6-7
After writing the passionate and intimate drama, Song of Songs, early in his walk with God he wrote the book of Proverbs to guide God’s people but as he aged his commitment to God weakened. The wisdom of his instruction to repent and be forgiven (1 Kings 8:46-52) was silenced and he walked away from God.
Solomon became the Great Debater in his mind and heart in Ecclesiastes because he did not fulfill his part of the bargain: he left his first love. He fell into idolatry and sexual immorality as his focus shifted from God to the world. He had personally experienced Yahweh in the past but the world drew him and he succumbed to it.
God’s provision or providence became the distant past and he sunk into disillusionment, despair, and disappointment with God.
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after the wind. Ecc. 1:14
The Great Debate began with the phrase ‘under the sun’ as Solomon looked at the lower story, his circumstances in life, and believed that it was all for nothing. Yet, the debate in his mind continued as he swung his view to God’s perspective:
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Ecc. 2:24
We’re encouraged in this debate to find enjoyment in the good times and in the bad because we know that our free will never overrides God’s sovereignty. As we continue to walk with God, not apart from Him, we can make our soul see good in our troubles. There’s nothing better than living in the upper story: this is God’s gift to man (vs. 13b).