Solomon’s Warning

I’ve never liked the book of Ecclesiastes. I thought parts were cool—a cord of three strands cannot be broken, for instance. And a time to laugh, a time to cry and so on. But the book? I didn’t really get it.

Then some pastor explained that the phrase repeated over and over, “under the sun” was Solomon’s way of saying, “Apart from God.” I wasn’t convinced. How did the scholars know that’s what Solomon meant? Finally I became convinced that’s truly what he was saying, but that just made me angry. I mean, the wisest man on earth, and he came up with some of the nonsense in that book?

And there was plenty of nonsense. Mostly his conclusions are nihilistic. Everything totals out to, zero. Even that passage made famous by the folk rock band The Byrds in their song “Turn Turn Turn.” I used to like that passage. Yes, I thought. It’s a statement of the rightness of the place all these things have in a person’s life. In my life. Until that same pastor pointed out that actually what Solomon was saying was that these things cancel each other out and the sum of them all is, zero.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

It gets worse when Solomon says, essentially that riches and poverty make no difference because the one who is rich and dies and leaves all his wealth to . . . he doesn’t know who. Will the one who takes control of his estate use it well or squander it? Or how about the wise man and the fool? No advantage, Solomon says, because they both die and end up going to the same place.

Uh, no, I think. This brilliant guy Solomon, is missing the truth. He is ignoring God and the ways He makes a difference, now and in the hereafter.

And that’s the point.

I heard a message by one of my favorite pastors on the radio, Philip De Courcy, and it “happened to be” his introduction to his series on Ecclesiastes.

What I learned from Pastor De Courcy is that God used Solomon and his own personal struggles to find meaning in life, to inform us, so that we don’t have to go through the same crash into meaninglessness before we resurface and find God to be our anchor.

That was Solomon’s trajectory. He was the thirsty man building broken cisterns that could hold no water. He tried to achieve by building all kinds of awesome structures. He tried to acquire by gaining more wealth than anyone. He lived for personal pleasure—wine, women, and song. He tried to hone his wisdom. In the end, he concluded none of it was satisfying. It all left him empty.

And that lesson is for us. We don’t have to follow in Solomon’s steps. We can read his testimony, and we can skip to the last chapter so that his end and be the guide in our own lives:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecc. 12:13-14)

Instead of being angry at Solomon, I should be grateful to God for including in His word the struggles of this intelligent, capable, powerful king who “had the world on a string,” yet strayed from the truth. All those women he married brought into his palace and into his heart and mind, the foreign gods they brought with them. Which explains how someone so wise could go so far astray.

He lost his relationship with God and that left him trying to find meaning apart from God. It wasn’t in any of his stuff, his pleasures, his brilliance. Earlier in the book he said everything added up to zero. Life was futile. A miscarriage was better than a rich man because he didn’t have to face the struggle.

That’s worse than sad. It’s bleak, the words of someone who has no hope. But for the grace of God, his life, and the book of warning could have ended there. But no. God gave him clarity before it was too late. His conclusion to all his struggles is the most important part of the book: fear God—treat Him with reverence and awe—and keep His commandments.

Published in: on March 11, 2019 at 5:39 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. Solomon’s life is an interesting illustration of the principle that sometimes a gift (or gifts) in the wrong hands becomes a curse instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At first …I kind of resisted this post, fore (until you continued to unfold the story line) the whole reason for Solomon in the bible “IS FOR OUR BENIFIT.”
    But…I read on and you told it the way it’s supposed to be understood. I use to think I would love to be even that wise, but as the story unfolds about Solomon…the flesh and desires are the same in all human beings. Apart from God…and His mercy, fearing God as it’s supposed to be, we will ultimately err. Thank you for your post. It’s good to be reinforced in our stink’n think’n.
    The word is always our ruler to judge or thoughts and intents. It what we judge everything by, or we as it’s seen though out all history & today…will repeat what Solomon did. HISTORY! Reeee-peats.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It “just so happens” that our pastor did a series on Ecclesiastes last month, and he presented an interpretation I had never thought of before o the passage about “a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” etc.
    Bottom line is, none of it lasts. If you are in a time or mourning, take heart, it won’t last. If you are in a time of laughing, sober up, that won’t last, either.
    This seems to reinforce the way someone described the Church’s mission – “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. LOL! I really enjoy Ecclesiastes. That makes me laugh because it just doesn’t sound right. My favorite is really, “all is vanity?” Seriously?!

    I think Nietzsche said it best, “if you gaze into the abyss long enough, the abyss will gaze into you.” Often it is in those dark nights of the soul, when all is lost and you’re just staring into the abyss, that you discover we’re not actually alone in the universe. It’s as if God is carefully watching you tip toe about in the darkness and you just suddenly see Him, like, Oh hello there! God is actually real, more real then we are. Wow!

    I also take comfort in the fact that the richest, wisest man blew it. So did Adam who was created perfect and actually walked with God. So not only are we totally dependent on the Lord, but how patient and merciful He is towards us even more flawed creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think when we stop hiding in all our man-made distractions and idols, we will either stop with the vanity conclusion or turn to God who IS there. So in truth, Solomon had to reach the end of his schemes before he could reach an end of himself and a realization of who God is. But, my, it’s not a pleasant place to live, and I’m so glad for the grace of God that warns us by these people of Scripture so we don’t have to make the same exact errors they made. Yes, we sin, but how much has God spared us because of His word??

      Thanks, IB.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post. Your writing brings clarity. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person


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