“For many dreams bring futility, and also many words. So, fear God.” Ecclesiastes 5:7.
These are the words of Solomon, King of Israel, son of David. Among Solomon’s numerous claims to fame is that the Bible refers to him as the wisest man to have ever lived. Shortly after he became king, God visited Solomon in a vision and promised to grant Solomon whatever it was he desired. Solomon asks for wisdom, and God grants this to him, along with fame and fortune. Tales of Solomon’s wisdom spread throughout the Near East, as did his fame, and Solomon soon becomes an international celebrity. People come from far and wide to ask him questions and to be granted an audience with him.
Fast forward a few years; Solomon is older, caught up in his celebrity, and his wisdom has made him jaded and bitter. Unlike his father, David,–who we saw yesterday thoroughly desired communication with God–Solomon has taken his eyes off of God. He has pursued fame and fortune, power, desire; his own dreams and aspirations. He has allowed his 700 wives and 300 concubines to bring their gods with them from their lands, and he allows the worship of these gods to take place within Israel. The son with so much potential and promise allowed himself to be corrupted, and now, when he pens these words, he is alone, nearing the end of his life, and his kingdom is falling apart.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes, though beautiful and poetic, has a visible theme of regret and bitterness that runs through it; Solomon is looking back over his life, lamenting the follies and errors of his youth. He understands the causes of his woe, and he is compelled to pass on these cautionary tales that someone of only his wisdom and experience could relay. It is sad, that after everything Solomon witnessed and experienced because of God, that he is reduced to such a forlorn and malcontent state at the end of his life.
The word “futility” appears constantly throughout Ecclesiastes, one could almost summarize the entire book with this one word. In English, futility often carries with it a meaning of hopelessness or meaninglessness; a sense of being lost and pointless. The same connotation is true in Hebrew, however, futility can also connote a sense of being temporary in Hebrew; a sense of being fleeting. When Solomon says “dreams bring futility, also many words,” he is saying several things: the dreams of this life are fleeting, things we say often are fleeting in nature and people seldom follow through with what they say. He is also saying that the pursuit of such fleeting and temporary dreams can drive a person to a sense of hopelessness, to the point of wanting to give up. When viewed in the context of his own life, we see what Solomon means– seeking only to serve ourselves and after our own fame and desires ultimately leads to a very bitter end. Yet, at the end of his life, an even in such a bitter and jaded state, Solomon still offers a piece of hopeful advice: fear God. Solomon now fully understands that the only thing that is not temporary in this life, the only thing that keeps us all from desperation and hopelessness, is God. Solomon is pleading with us to avoid his mistakes, to learn from what he did, and avoid his errors by fearing God and serving Him rather than seeking the fleetingly futile fame of this world.