One idea I encountered in preparing last Sunday’s sermon was the connection between Solomon’s experiments and the pre-fall garden experience in Genesis 1-3. Solomon’s efforts to find lasting profit in this world through wisdom and joy were, in a way, an attempt to recreate the Garden of Eden.
Consider some of the parallels between the two sections of the Bible: Solomon sought comprehensive wisdom and knowledge just as Eve did when she ate the fruit (Eccl 1:12-18; Gen 3:4-7); Solomon sought to create all that pleased him just as God did (Eccl 2:4, 10; Gen 1:31); Solomon filled his gardens with “all kinds” or “every kind of fruit tree,” just as God filled the original garden (Eccl 2:5; Gen 2:9); Solomon filled his creation with people and animals just as God did (Eccl 2:7-8; Gen 1:20, 24, 27-28); and Solomon intended the inhabitants of his creation to adore and serve him in his greatness in a way reminiscent of God’s own purpose for creation (Eccl 2:7-8; Ps 148:1-14).
Strikingly then, according to these parallels, Solomon in Ecclesiastes was not only trying to create his own paradise, but he was also seeking to make himself the god of his new creation.
And are not all man’s efforts to find lasting gain in this world a form of these two goals? We seek to create our own mini utopian kingdoms in which we are the center, not God. Yet how instructive is Solomon’s own testimony! For Solomon labored as much as he could to realize his self-centered utopia, but he still found no lasting profit or satisfaction. In the same way, even our best efforts to recreate paradise and to self-deify are doomed to fall short. Only the true God can restore paradise, and that paradise is one in which he is rightly center and not we (Rev 21:3; 22:3-4).
I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Nevertheless you will die like men
And fall like any one of the princes.”
Questions to Consider:
1. How is escapism a form of idolatrous paradise seeking? How is the prosperity gospel another form?
2. Why is letting go of the notion of paradise now on earth so key to both true godliness and true happiness?
3. Where are you seeking a paradise kingdom?