Posts Tagged ‘Ecclesiastes’

Ecclesiastes 12

Ecclesiastes 12 has Solomon wrapping up his discourse on life making the conclusion of what is, has been, and will be.  He has given us plenty to think about through these twelve chapters, and as he summarizes his teaching, he begins by telling us to “Remember also your Creator”.  He’s looking back from his old age to the days of his youth, to a time when he wasn’t quite so pessimistic and jaded in how he views the world.  He recalls the many things that he’s experienced in life, and recognizes that God has been part of all of it as Creator.  We have no right to ourselves.  God has created each one of us and we exist to love and serve Him.

Solomon taught God’s Word.  “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care”.  He has given us much wisdom and prods us toward the true wisdom that only God can provide.  He has taught us well as he “wrote words of truth”.  We are fortunate to have God’s Word to read, study and obey.  There really is little excuse for our lack of knowledge of what God expects – it’s been written and taught by many of God’s servants.  Guzik shares these observations of how we should proclaim God’s truth:

  • He should teach the people knowledge.
  • He should seek to find acceptable words.
  • He should seek to bring forth that which is upright – words of truth.
  • He should make his words as goads and well-driven nails, with point and direction.
  • He should bring forth the words given by one Shepherd.
  • He should realize that good study is wearisome to the flesh and be willing to pay that price.

Solomon boils down the summary of his teaching to this statement: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man”.  That’s about as simple as it gets.  If we want to please God and fulfill our destiny it boils down to one things – obedience.  Solomon had learned that it was worth it to fear and obey God.  This is man’s all – the entire destiny to which God has called us.  We are to be in relationship with Him, know His truth, and live it in fear of God.  There is no other mission for which we have a higher calling.  It is His purpose for our life.

And soon we’ll stand before God and give account around how we have done.  “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”.  There is and will be an eternal accounting around everything we do.  In the end, everything will have meaning.  Every decision we made, every choice we selected, every action we executed – we’ll stand before God and have to explain our actions.  Things matter to God.  All things, little or big, will be on the table.  We’ll fall short and need the grace of Jesus’ death on the cross to cover our sin, but we’ll stand there condemned on our own.  That is the outcome of life – we’ll face God and give account.  Are you ready for that meeting?

Ecclesiastes 11

Ecclesiastes 11 has Solomon giving us some insight into the future.  He paints a picture of needing to be prepared for whatever comes our way.  We can’t know what lies ahead, so we must do what we can to try and be ready.  “You know not what disaster may happen on earth”.  God’s definitely in control of all things, but He doesn’t necessarily broadcast what lies ahead.  We need to realize that good and bad happen and wisely prepare to deal with whatever might come across our path.

He goes on to talk about the reality of the land.  He talks about clouds and rain and falling trees and wind.  All facets of nature that are completely in God’s control.  There is often a cause and effect to what happens in the world around us.  Things may not be as mysterious as we sometimes think.  God wants us to move on, even if things are perfect.  “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap”.  A farmer who waits for conditions that are favorable may never plant the crop thus preventing a harvest for sure.  Life is seldom perfect, so we have to move on in spite of the circumstances.

None of us have perfect knowledge and understanding.  “You do not know the work of God who makes everything”.  While we think God owes us an explanation to everything He chooses to do, He doesn’t.  As humans we are very limited in our knowledge of God’s ways.  We will never full understand how and why God does what He does.  But that is not our place.  We merely need to accept His activity and press on.  “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes”.  We just need to keep on.

As we continue through life though, we have to realize that God does have a standard that we are going to be held to.  “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment”.  We will stand before God and deal with the result of our choices.  Judgment is a reality that we will face.  We need to live life with that reality in mind.  We need to be ready to stand before Him.  How we face that judgment will determine our eternity.  It matters as eternity is a very long time.  Are you ready?

Ecclesiastes 10

Ecclesiastes 10 has Solomon teaching us the difference between wisdom and foolishness.  He begins his discourse with something that might be interpreted through a political lens, but that is not his intent.  “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left”.  Solomon is not talking about our politics here.  Right and left are natural symbols for the strong and good, on the one hand, and for the weak and bad, on the other hand.  He’s saying that a wise man’s heart is based on his strength, skill and favor, while a fool’s heart is weak and bad.

He goes on to teach us the importance of sharpening the ax.  “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed”.  Scripture talks about ‘iron sharpening iron’ as a key principle.  A dull knife or ax is much more difficult to use than a sharp one.  But you don’t sharpen anything without some pain and effort.  There are times all of us are blunt, through much usage . When that happens we need to pray and ask God to let his power be magnified in our dull state and weakness. While having a sharp tool is important, more work is done by a blunt edge and divine power, than by a sharp edge and our own power.

Wisdom is an important characteristic to seek.  “The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him”.  People are drawn to wisdom.  There is foolishness at every turn, but wisdom is like gold and people seek it.  When we have it, we must be willing to share.  God grants us wisdom not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those in our patch.  It is His gift to those He blesses.  As it is shared, we have to understand that not all will receive it.  Wisdom is not about changing others, but sharing God’s truth.

Solomon hits on another of his principles here.  “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks”.  There are a couple meanings related to this.  The first is the leadership of a nation.  He understood that a land was blessed by good, faithful leaders, but cursed under wicked and incompetent leaders.  But it also applies to the individual in caring for his home and family.  We have to be diligent in our work, both as a nation and as individuals.  If we aren’t things will fall apart.  It’s a pretty simple reality!

Ecclesiastes 9

Ecclesiastes 9 begins with a very simple truth, yet one so powerful that it is one of the ultimate realities we must face.  We will all die someday.  “The same event happens to all”.  Solomon helps us get down to the basics.  There are many things that differentiate people from one another.  He calls out things like love and hate, righteousness and wickedness, clean and unclean, sacrifice and no sacrifice, even saint and sinner.  But he boils down the reality of life to this: we live our individual lives and “after that they go to the dead”.

That’s the truth of life – it will end in death.  And while most of us think like Solomon that “a living dog is better than a dead lion”, it doesn’t really matter.  When our time comes to leave this life on earth, it will happen.  We won’t take anything with us, so all the stuff we accumulate and trade our time to gather while we live will be left behind when we die.  So the most important thing we need to address is where we’ll spend eternity, not how much money we can make or how many toys we’ll have in storage.

Eternity is coming for each of us.  And if there’s one thing we need to recognize about eternity, it is a very long time.  So we need to carefully consider how we prepare for that reality which is the outcome of death.  We will move on to eternal life, and there are two potential outcomes.  We can spend it with God in heaven, or apart from God in hell.  There aren’t any other choices.  And the outcome isn’t something we vote on or pick.  It is determined by our preparation ahead of time.  Our eternity is decided by how we live – and in particular what we do about the big problem we have an mankind – sin.

Sin left undealt with will place us in an eternity apart from God.  He can’t tolerate sin.  He is perfect and just and sin will never enter heaven.  So if we live and don’t deal with our sin, either by never committing any so we are pure (which will not happen) or receiving God’s grace through Christ’s blood on the Cross, we’re going to live apart from Him.  That’s not a good choice since eternity is a very, very long time and we don’t get to do life over if our eternity isn’t what we like.  We have to address sin while we live, and Jesus is the only way to do that.  We’ll stand before God and give account.  The bottom line will be ‘what did you do about sin’ which can be boiled down to ‘what did you do with Jesus’?  If we received His grace and made Him Savior and Lord we’ll be invited into eternity with God.  If not, we won’t be entering heaven.  It’s that simple.  Solomon says it straight.  We will die.  We better know what the outcome will be!

Ecclesiastes 8

Ecclesiastes 8 has Solomon continuing to share his thoughts on wisdom.  “A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed”.  He knew that wisdom makes a man happier and changes him.  A shining face indicates the glow of the facial expression of a man who knows things from God’s perspective.  There is confidence and understanding.  Wisdom changes us.  As we allow God’s perspective to take over the way we see the world, our heart becomes more aligned with His and our external impact is changed.

Solomon continues by challenging us to walk in submission to authority.  “Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him”.  This is a tough pill to swallow, as often we don’t necessarily like or agree with those who are in authority.  But scripture is clear that we are to obey those in authority over us.  It is part of our obedience to God.  Obedience is not based on agreement, but rather a choice to do what God has commanded us.  In the event that an earthly authority asks us to do something that is in conflict with God’s commands, we then need to tactfully refuse the earthly authority.  Obedience to God takes precedence over all others.

Our time on earth is limited and no one knows when that time will come.  “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death”.  We don’t have assurance about most things in life, but we certainly do this one.  100% of mankind will die (unless Jesus comes first).  We can’t control the time or place.  We can’t determine the how or why.  We merely can know it will come and we need to be prepared for that time.  We will stand before God when death comes.  That’s another thing we can be assured of.  There is a judgment we will face.  We need to be ready for that as well!

Solomon goes on to say “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him”.  It seems that sometimes those who do evil get rewarded for their actions.  And on earth, that may in fact be the case.  But it is only temporary gain.  We’re all going to stand before God and face Him some day.  How we live will matter.  Our entrance into Heaven and eternity with Him will be based on how we’ve addressed our sin – as we’re all sinners and guilty of disobedience and falling short of God’s requirements.  If we’ve accepted the grace of the blood of Christ’s death on the cross, we’ll gain entry.  If not, eternity will be apart from God.  There will be a day of reckoning.  We must never lose sight of that.

Ecclesiastes 7

Ecclesiastes 7 has Solomon continuing in his pain and sense of meaninglessness.  “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth”.  He starts out reminding us how important it is to have a good name – which likely means a name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Which could explain the second half of his statement, that the day of death is a better day that the day of one’s birth.  It is true for those of us who know Christ – our death will be a glorious day that will provide entry into eternity through the shed blood of the Savior.

Solomon continues by reminding us that we learn much through the hard times in life.  “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools”.  God often teaches us wisdom as we face adversity and suffering.  We don’t learn much while enjoying ease and comfort.  While we never like rebuke and being told what is wrong in our life, that is an important thing for us to hear.  He compares the song of fools to the ‘crackling of thorns under a pot’ which refers to a very short lived fire that lasts for but a moment.  We need to to hear words that can change us long term for the future – the wisdom of a wise rebuke.

Solomon reminds us of the place we fit in God’s creation.  It is His plan, done His way, in His time.  “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked”?  We may not like what God has chosen to do.  We may question God’s choices and decisions.  But we need to remember where we fit in all of Creation – we were created by God for a purpose.  We are His creation, not the Creator.  We need to learn to accept His decisions around what He has chosen to do and quit trying to take His place as the one who made it all.  God alone decides what is straight and what is crooked.  It is not our place to question that.

Solomon makes it clear that we have a problem as man on this earth.  “Wisdom gives strength to the wise man….Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins”.  Wisdom is a fantastic gift from God.  It is a blessing from God that we need to seek, learn, and make a part of our life.  God has shared it in His Word.  We can learn it from wise people in our patch.  It is powerful and extremely valuable in living life.  But it won’t keep us from making bad choices – we’ll still fall short of God’s standards – and that is called sin which carries a very big price.  Solomon says it clearly, just like many other places in scripture.  None of us will live life without sin.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior.  God provided that Savior through the death of His Son on the Cross.  Jesus paid the price for our sin – we merely need to receive that gift of grace to be set free!

Ecclesiastes 6

Ecclesiastes 6 has Solomon continuing to talk about the reality of life “under the sun”.  He talks about the reality of life for all of us.  He uses an extreme example for us about children and years of life. “If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he “.  Solomon knew that a man could have all the outward signs of a good life – but still not be satisfied with God’s goodness.

A hundred kids is a sign of blessing in terms used in the Old Testament.  One could have the things men dream of – which in Old Testament terms meant children by the score, and years of life by the thousand – and still depart unnoticed, unlamented, and unfulfilled.  We tend to measure our value and success in dollars and years, no longer the number of kids like they did in Solomon’s day.  But the reality is that stuff is not the way we measure success.  Validation doesn’t come from our bank account, but rather our character.  That is what God cares about.

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind”: Solomon knew that in a world of uncertainty and absence of meaning, that what one can actually see is always better than what one merely desires.  Many today refuse to know what Solomon knew. They believe that when they face God they will in fact tell God a thing or two. Unfortunately, they are seriously and sadly going to discover how wrong they are.  God is in control.  He will determine the outcome of life.

Solomon asks a deep question.  “For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun”?  The understanding of immortality was at best cloudy in the Old Testament.  Jesus cleared up these questions in the New Testament.  We will spend eternity somewhere.  There is life after our earthly death, and where we spend that eternity is dependent upon what we do with Jesus and the things God has entrusted to us.  Solomon asks the important question we all need to ask – what will happen to me after I die?  Do you know the answer for your life?  If not, it’s high time to figure it out!

Ecclesiastes 5

Ecclesiastes 5 has Solomon focused on worship.  “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God”.  Being in God’s presence is a big deal that we need to address carefully.  I love what Maclaren says: “Fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.”  We need to prepare before we come into God’s presence.  It is important that we remember who God is and put Him where He belongs as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We need to be wise as we honor God and walk prudently when you go to the house of God.  This isn’t some casual interaction.  We will be in the presence of the King!

Worship is not about us.  When we enter God’s presence, it isn’t to focus on what we want or need.  “To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools”.  We tend to approach God with a list of things we want, almost demands we expect Him to deliver.  That’s not how it works.  We need to to pay attention and to obey, as that is what it really means to draw near and listen.  We come into His presence to learn how to live and we leave that interaction with understanding and desire to go and obey!

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth”.  Worship is not about us.  When we come before God, our minds are full of our own needs and business rather than with the worship of God.  That’s not acceptable worship.  Our focus needs to be on God and who He is.  Our lips should be full of adoration and praise.  We need to keep it in perspective.  God is in Heaven sitting on the throne as Creator of the entire universe, and we’re here on earth in desperate need of His blessing and goodness.  So how is it we can think worship is about us?

Solomon reminds us again that life is not about money and stuff.  “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity”.  We trade our hours to make money which will not satisfy.  Even those who have it, will never feel like they have enough.  We need to realize that our worth is not tied to what we have.  It is based on who we are in God’s eyes, and He doesn’t measure us in dollars and cents.  God’s measuring stick is our character and how we live in obedience to Him.  That’s what we need to focus on!

Ecclesiastes 4

Ecclesiastes 4 has Solomon starting with the reality that many are under oppression.  He recognizes the suffering of those who are oppressed.  Scripture is full of examples of many areas of oppression, so it’s not new, and certainly continues today.  “I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them”!  The oppressed often have no one to take up their cause and they suffer alone and without hope.

Success often brings envy from those around us.  “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor”. While you would hope people would celebrate success, often they struggle to rejoice in the success of others comparing it to their own.  They really have a hard time being excited about someone they know making it big.  Jesus faced it too.  “How can anything good come from Nazareth”?  People dislike success or seeing someone being elevated above their situation.

Sometimes success is not earned, but usually it comes as a result of very hard work.  Often times, work that is out of balance and taking priority over more important things, but non the less success often is related to hard work.  Solomon sees that in his wisdom.  “The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh”.  Scripture is pretty clear that work is part of God’s plan and is related to success.  But it isn’t just work. It’s work that is aligned to a plan that takes you in the right way.  “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind”.  Solomon knows that work without a plan is like chasing the wind.  We’ll never accomplish what we desire.

Solomon does call out one of the greatest failures in success – we never have enough.  He writes “there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches”.  When a person experiences success, they almost always want more of it.  Even when there is clearly more than is needed, they are still driven to do and accumulate more.  It becomes an obsession and we trade things that are more important – we let priorities get out of order – and we trade our time for stuff that doesn’t really matter.  It is a form of oppression too – that the pursuit of success and wealth pushes aside God and what matters more.  And life misses the mark and ends without the joy and satisfaction God designed it to.

Ecclesiastes 3

Ecclesiastes 3 is about time.  Solomon begins with this wise statement: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”.  From this start he goes on to make a long list of the different seasons of life, which while beautiful, also contains some of the difficult and troubling things that are part of life.  He uses the same words to define each thing, ‘a time to’ and then follows it with a long list of different events and activities that make up life.  Some are very good, some are not.

 

Solomon reminds us that God is the Master of time.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”.  God has beautifully woven together all things.  There are no mistakes or surprises as He is Master of all.  He also has put a yearning into man’s heart to understand eternity.  That’s true because we are made in the image of God.  He created us that way, with that desire to find and understand what eternity can be.

Solomon goes on to tell us what he knows about God:

  • there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live
  • everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil
  • whatever God does endures forever
  • nothing can be added to it
  • nor anything taken from it
  • God has done it, so that people fear before him
  • That which is, already has been
  • that which is to be, already has been
  • God seeks what has been driven away

God has given us many good and perfect gifts that we need to receive and enjoy as gifts from God.  The blessings of life are immense.

There are three aspects of God’s nature that we can learn in verse 14:

  1. God’s actions are permanent (endure forever)
  2. God’s actions are effective and complete (nothing can be added to it)
  3. God’s actions are totally secure (nothing can be taken from it)

We need to have a reverent fear and respect for God.  His ways never vary or change!

Solomon also reminds us that we will have to give account someday for our actions.  “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work”.  Scripture is clear in many places, and Solomon reinforces here, that we will stand before God to give account for our actions.  God will look into our heart and determine our motives and judge us for the deeds we’ve done.  Of course, what we do with Jesus will determine our entry into eternal life with Him, but how we live in obedience to His commandments will determine our destiny in that eternity.  This is serious stuff, and there is a time for all of it to happen in our life!

%d bloggers like this: