The Key to Life
The Key to Life
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person.”
What is the key to life? Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon searches diligently and turns over every stone to find the answer. He has examined all the answers that people might give. For many, life and meaning are found in a life of happiness and the pursuit of materialism. But after closely examining these, he concluded that it was chasing after the wind. It was an endless pursuit with no conclusion (2:1-11). For others, their mantra was “success comes for those who work hard.” But this, too a futile pursuit, for in the end, it brought only pain and grief with no rest (2:18-23). Finally, he examined the pursuit of wealth and riches, which many see as the key to security in life. But it brought only vexation for, after hard work and sleepless nights, his money was through bad investments (5:10-17). Solomon examined everything that man has done to find the key to happiness with in-depth scrutiny and, in the end, discovered that all of these things had no value or substance. To try and find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in pursuing these things only left one grasping at the air.
Yet, for all his search he frustration in pursuing answers for meaning, he saw that life was a gift from God to be enjoyed. For all its paradoxes and frustrations, God gave us life to enjoy. For all his frustrations, he still recognizes that God did not provide us with life to torment us. Instead, he gave us life to enjoy and celebrate. Every time he comes to a dead end in his search for meaning, he brings us back to this theme (2:24-26; 3:11-15, 3:22; 5:18-20; 9:7-9; 11:8-9). This is not the conclusion of a hedonist and nihilist who concludes that all we can do is “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Instead, he sees life as a gift from God.
Yet throughout the book, he continually leads back to the incongruities and paradoxes of life, not to depress us but to enlighten us. Having examined all things, he then gives us the key in his final statement. The key to life is found in God and living life before him. After searching, he brings us back to the starting point of his search for wisdom. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon stated that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” After conducting his investigation, he concludes that the fear of the Lord is the goal of knowledge as well. It is the governing principle that gives meaning and significance to life. For all our inability to know the present and future, we can find purpose and meaning by pursuing God and walking in obedience to him. In verse 11, he points us back to God. Wisdom comes from the one Shepherd, the God of Israel (Psalm 23). Purpose and meaning in all stages of life, from the beginning, the middle, and even the end of life, is found in knowing and trusting in the living God and aligning ourselves with his word. Learning to enjoy the life God has given us by living in obedience to his word; seeing all events as part of his plan; living with the enigmas of life knowing that even if we do not understand the purpose, God does; recognizing that his word is true and his moral law is right; these are the key to life. The key to life is not found in accomplishments, wealth, pleasure, or success. The key to life is found in a person—God himself.