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One of the most familiar episodes of the Old Testament is the affair between King David and Bathsheba and the resulting murder of her husband to cover up her pregnancy with David’s child. After it all took place, David and Bathsheba were married and their child was delivered. Nathan the Prophet visited David and told him the story of the two men in a city, one rich and one poor (2 Sam 12). Nathan told David that the rich man owned many sheep but the poor man owned only one ewe lamb that was more of a pet than mere livestock. Nathan continued that when the rich man entertained guests, he had his people butcher the poor man’s pet lamb rather than his own. King David was enraged and told Nathan, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die” (2 Sam 125). Nathan told David that he was the man and the story he told was that of the King stealing the only wife Uriah the Hittite had and then having him killed in war.
The King repented of the sins he committed as documented in Psalms 51, but the punishment for his sins would be that his child would not live. David and Bathsheba were in deep grief because of the loss of their first son, but their second son was Solomon who became the wisest King of Israel. King Solomon wrote three Books of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. 2 Samuel 12:24 says that the Lord loved Solomon was also known as Jedidiah by Nathan the Prophet. The name means “beloved of the Lord.”
Proverbs was written around 1000 BC but was compiled by Hezekiah between 726 and 698 BC. Solomon was the primary author of Ecclesiastes with contributions from Agur, son of Jakeh (30:1-33) and King Lemuel (31:1-9 and possibly 31:10-31). In addition to the three Bible Books attributed to Solomon, there was one noncanonical book named the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha.
The purpose of the Book of Ecclesiastes was to document the results of Solomon’s searching for the real meaning of life, and to apply his discoveries concerning the fear of the Lord to daily living for God.
The formal study of the Bible Book of Ecclesiastes is done each Sunday morning at 9:15 in Room 150 at the Lakes Church (First Baptist Church of Lakeland, FL. All are welcome.
The seed material for the study is the SBC Bible Book material out of Nashville, TN. Our author uses the outline of the study to stay on same schedule as the handout materials. He then does the Bible study and exegeses to provide meaningful applications for those attending the classes.
The author then issues the results of the preparation to all on the Fishers of Men Blog List early each week. Questions are welcome during the formal study or directly from the Blog. Use the "Contact Us" button in the webpage. Enjoy!!
Dr Dave Felsburg
Fishers of Men Ministries
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Understand the Context (Eccl 1:1- 2:26)
The Book of Ecclesiastes documents King Solomon’s search for the meaning of life. The initial observation of Solomon is that everything around him seems to have no real meaning or value or substance worth considering. It is a feeling of reassessment after a long struggle to accomplish a major goal in life. Sometimes it occurs after completion of some milestone in life like completing high school, college or seminary. Sometimes it might be the completion of a probationary period at a new job or assignment. It might be the end of a period of military service. The common trait in all of these things is that the mind realizes a need for reassessment. In the normal determination for living a meaningful life, every period has a start, an execution period and a completion. Completion usually introduces thoughts about “what’s next?”
Ecclesiastes seems to document that period in the life of King Solomon. There seems to be a message of frustration in the words of Solomon as he says, “1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Eccl 1:1-3). With the meaning of the Hebrew word for vanity (hebel) being something of little consequence or value, transitory or meaningless. It seems that Solomon is saying that everything he looks at or owns really has no value or meaning for him. Because the saying is at the very beginning of the Book, there is no indication whether he came to this summary after finishing some personal milestone or has just became frustrated over all his kingdom. Further, if everything seems to be vanity, what is the purpose of working at anything all across the world (under the sun)? For Solomon, the results of labor have become empty, useless and transitory (vs. 3). He looks toward the great cosmic void and sees the Earth continuing on its axis or path regardless of what else takes place. To him, it seems like reasoning through everything in sight is a frivolous effort like chasing after the wind. As we read on, we will see Solomon evaluate wisdom, pleasure, possessions, and inheriting more of the same to be just as vain as the first look at them. In short, the meaning of life cannot be found in these. It must be somewhere outside all these.
Ellicott observes in his commentary, “It is no disparagement to the authority of the Book of Ecclesiastes that no direct quotation from it is to be found in the New Testament. A few coincidences of thought or expression have been pointed out (for instance, Ec 11:5 with Joh 3:8; Ec 9:10 with Joh 9:4); but none of them is decisive enough to warrant our asserting with any confidence that the Old Testament passage was present to the mind of the New Testament writer.”
Limited Perspective (Eccl 1:12-15)
In Verse 12, Solomon identifies himself as the Preacher or the Hebrew word quoheleth. It means an assembler and briefer of information. It is interesting that he uses the feminine form of the active participle. There is no explanation of this choice; just an observation that it is. He fixes his location in Jerusalem as if to say, “from this perspective, this is how I see it.” He reports that he has applied his whole heart to doing this search for wisdom to understand all things done under heaven (here, the sky). He says this “sore travail,” that is, this great and weighty task is laborious and troublesome, but it is given to be common to all men to consider.
Solomon believes he has seen all the works or labor of man regardless of where that man might be located and they are uniformly vain (useless) and a vexation (testing) of the spirit of man (vs. 14). It appears to Solomon that everything that needs attention (crooked) cannot be fixed (made straight) and that which needs help (wanting) cannot be sufficiently quantified to effectively deal with it.
Inheritance Blown? (Eccl 2:18-21)
So, everything Solomon observed appeared to be vanity (useless and frivolous), he hated his work and wondered what the person who inherited his life’s work would do that has not been done before? (vs. 18). Beyond that, Solomon has no knowledge of whether that person will be a wise man or a fool (vs. 19). He continues, that person will rule over everything he had labored over throughout all his time under the sun and showed himself as wise in what he did. He felt the idea of such a thing was indeed the epitome of vanity and was useless, absurd and totally unfair.
Therefore, Solomon continues, he began to be sorry for all he had unvested in his important work. It was beginning to look like it his work might be wasted by an inexperienced successor. Now, he feels disappointed that he took the work so seriously and worked so hard (vs. 20). If a person inherits his work and has the wisdom, knowledge and equity to work it properly, it could continue into great success. But to the person who does not have the experience or background to work it properly, it might fade into nothingness. That would be a perfect example of the vanity and uselessness that Solomon dreads.
Enjoy Work (Eccl 2:22-26)
Solomon sums with the question, what does a man have to show for all the labor of his life? He labored with all his heart in the sun all the days of his life. He invested his emotional and physical seriousness in doing the best work he could do to achieve his personal goals. While the worker’s days are filled with sorrow and his efforts filled with grief, his nights go without rest because his mind is still fixed on the goals of the work. Solomon says, this actually defines the idea of vanity.
At the same time, there is nothing better for mankind than that he should eat, drink and enjoy the rewards of his honest labor. Solomon says he sees this as a reward from the hand of God, that mankind can enjoy the fruits of their labor and be grateful for a completed day of hard work doing what they are called to do for his livelihood. Solomon feels he has a personal testimony on this subject and inserts it here. He says who can eat or facilitate others in getting nourishment or solving other needs than I?
Now, Solomon finishes the discussion in verse 2:26 saying it is good in the sight of God’s wisdom, knowledge and joy that He gives mankind with his calling to the life’s work he does. The man may see it as travail to gather, harvest and heap up so that he might that which God intends as good for him. Nevertheless, this too is vanity and vexation of the spirit of man.
Understand the Context (Eccl 3:1-4:6)
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 and the early part of Chapter 4 establish the context for today’s study. Chapter 3 is divided into 3 Sections. The first section consists of verses 3:1-8 addressing the fact that God has a season and a time for everything under heaven. The second section covers verses 9–13 and addresses God’s rewards for all the hard work of the people. Verses 14-15 discuss God’s setting of eternity in the hearts of humankind. Together, verses 1-15 form the focal verses of today’s study, “What Time Is It?”
The remaining section in Chapter 3 contains verses 16-22 and cover Solomon’s consideration of the state of man and his final judgment. He sees the fact of God’s judgement on all humankind; both the righteous and the unrighteous. Note that the first observation relates to judgement “under the sun” which speaks to judgement on Earth. Solomon suggests that there is evil here, even in the courtrooms (vs. 16). But it drives a thought in his mind that all humankind will eventually (in their own time) be judged for their deeds, good and evil (vs. 17). This is certainly consistent with the combined judgement of sin on Christ’s cross (Rom 5:8; Col 2:13-14) , the Judgement Seat of Christ (Rom 14:10 & 2 Cor 5:10), and the Great White Throne of Judgement (Rev 20:11-15). He likens humans to the animals and mentions some similarities: both live and both die, both breath, both came from the dust and they shall return there (vss, 18-20). But then he comes to the spirit of man and asks who can say whether his spirit goes upward while the spirits of animals go downward (vs. 21)?
He closes Chapter 3 with a standard thought many lost people have regarding the future of humans after death: “No one will bring us back from death to enjoy life after we die.” (vs. 22). Of course, there are numerous Scriptures which answer Solomon’s question about who will bring us back after death. For example, when Jesus was preparing for His death, He said, “2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:2-4). At the Transfiguration, Jesus brought Moses and Elijah to the mountain and all three appeared in transfigured bodies (Matt 17:2-3 & Mark 9:1-4). Both Moses and Elijah lived hundreds of years before Christ, yet both were alive with Jesus. In Luke 16:19-31, we see the rich man and Lazarus both died and immediately entered their assignments after life.
Chapter 4 begins with Solomon observing all the oppression taking place under the sun. He sees the tears of the oppressed and observes they have no comforter to help them in the oppression. The oppressor has power, but the oppressed do not. (Recall that Jesus told us He would not leave us comfortless, but would provide a Comforter that we knew because He was alongside us but now would be inside us (John 14:16-18)). Here, Solomon is lauding the dead because they no longer experience of oppression under the sun and the unborn because they are not subject to oppressors. It is the living who endure oppression and are without comfort or comforter. Their labor is long and hard but appreciated by his neighbors. Solomon insists it is just more vanity and vexation.
Time and Place (Eccl 3:1-5)
Many will recognize these verses as the lyrics for the 1965 hit song by the Byrds entitled, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The message of the passage is that God has created the world and all that is in it, so that there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl 3:1). Solomon establishes the context of God’s involvement in verse 2 by relating the period of performance of His involvement between man’s birth and his death. That encompasses everything for the human experience from its beginning to its end.
Verses 2 – 8 drive home the point that God controls all and blesses greatly in the application of them. God has determined the time to be born by the gestation period of a baby from conception to delivery. He certainly determines the length of time we will live. Even so-called accidents are subject to God’s plan. Murder is sin because it happens when a person decides they can modify God’s plan, or said another way, they feel they can be God by ending the life God ordained to exist. Here, the point is focused on the time for a birth and a time for death. God sees them and has foreknowledge of each. In the same way, God has set the times for planting and harvesting. To successfully harvest before Fall of the year, the farmer has to know how God set up the growth period before the harvest. Planting too late might allow a frost to come in and destroy the crop before it is fully grown. Harvesting too early denies full growth.
Time and Place (Eccl 3:6-8)
The list of couplets runs through verses 3:8 and details of the times and seasons in which God had Solomon include. It illustrates the detail with which God is involved in our lives and that involvement provides a direct measurement of how much God cares about every detail of our existence.
He also solves some of the dilemmas of our time showing that there really is a time to kill. The Hebrew word for kill is harag and includes both English words “kill” and “murder” in the definition. Does that speak to capital punishment? How about the right to life? It certainly applies to killing in war and provides further strength to that argument in verse 8, “A time of war, and a time of peace.” It is difficult for man to exclude some of these terms (kill, war, etc.) when God’s Word includes them here and says there is a time for them.
Enjoy Life (Eccl 3:9-13)
Ecclesiastes 3:9 seems to take us back to Solomon’s earlier theme of “vanity, vanity, all is vanity and vexation of man’s spirit.” The wording of the question of “what profit has he” suggests he believes there is none. The profit of “working in that wherein he labors” is demonstrated in the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of refusing to work. From the physical perspective, a person who does not perform work loses body tone, muscles begin to deteriorate and ability to return to the level once achieved is reduced with every week of not working.
And the damage is not only inflicted on physical capabilities of humankind but on the emotional and spiritual ways, also. From the emotional side, humankind learns through their work and other opportunities for socialization how to handle various challenging interactions with other members of the species. The capability to react with maturity, self-control and wisdom sours quickly when a person is denied adult interaction. In technical fields of work, both scientific skills and routine responses to technological challenges become less sharp and precise without regular challenges. And last, the spiritual aspects of a person’s life begin to dissipate as well. The judicial or theological aspects of a person’s being dwindle in terms of the relationship between knowledge and wisdom; that is, the learned portion of a person’s relationship with God remain more constant as the applications-oriented aspects, the reason why we believe what we believe, become less astute with time away from regular interpersonal challenges. The Bible speaks of “being ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you the reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). Wisdom is the application level of knowledge and will lose sharpness without the regular challenges we have at work. These are “the profits” one receives by labor and the associated socialization.
Verse 10 documents Solomon’s acknowledgement of the travail God has given to the sons of men to be exercised in work and that it was made a beautiful thing in His time (vss. 10-11). God has set man’s partial understanding of the world in his heart, but even so, man cannot fully comprehend the whole way of God’s working from beginning to end. Solomon’s comment here, “I know that there is no good in them” sounds a lot like Paul’s statement that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (vs. 12 & Rom 3:10). Nevertheless, it is good for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. The rejoicing is in man’s acceptance of his relationship with God and the blessings accompanying a right relationship with Him. In this sense, a man can eat, drink and enjoy the good of his labor (vs. 13). Solomon adds that this level of joy is a gift of God to humankind.
God Works (Eccl 3:14-15)
So, how does Solomon finish up his idea of what time it is? He starts verse 14 with a statement that God is eternal. He says, “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever.” That seems terribly obvious to us, but recall this book was probably pre-Genesis; i.e., the first of 66 books. He continues that nothing can be added to it or taken away from it. All the way at the other end of the Bible is Revelation 22:18-19, “18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.” Solomon says that God did it so that men should fear or have great respect for Him. In the warning written by John in Revelation, those who did not heed God’s warning not to add to His words would have the plagues of the Book added to them, and those taking away the words of this Book will have his part taken out of the Book of Life.
All writers have different ways to express the eternal nature of God. Solomon uses verse 3:15 to say that “whatever is happening now, has happened before, and whatever will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again” (Eccl 3:15, NLT). This is Solomon’s way of stating, as he said earlier, the God is eternal. As He sees the world and the happenings in the world, there is nothing new under the sun.
Understand the Context (Eccl 4:13-5:7)
The first third of Ecclesiastes (Chapters 1-3) has been dedicated to introducing Solomon’s theme of his search for the real meaning of life. He started his search because everything around him seemed to be meaningless, wasted and major sources of stress. He uses the words vanity and vexation of man’s spirit. He presents the positive side of the story by saying that humankind should get their joy out of eating, drinking and doing meaningful work. At the same time, he warns against becoming dependent on these things as final solution for life. Solomon has found them to be soothing in the short-term, but subject to dissipation and temporary satisfaction. He generalizes nearly 40 times in Ecclesiastes that all things built or made by humankind, are vain or futile. And finally, life as he finds it, is fleeting and elusive.
God, on the other hand, transcends time and history. Unlike humankind, He does not fade away or pass with time. God is permanent. He is the One who allotted the time and space within which we live, die and prosper. God is sovereign in His dealings with humankind, and therefore has earned and is due the respect and fear of each of us. Those choosing a lifestyle of fleeting are doing so in vain, while those choosing to live a reverent life toward God are deemed wise. The teachings of the Scriptures now turn from the abstract to the more concrete ideas of serving God and keeping His commandments for such is the whole duty of humankind (Eccl 12:13).
When Leading (Eccl 4:13-16)
Political correctness has come a long way since Solomon wrote these words, and I am sure he was not trying to say that the age of a leader might be the determining factor in his performance. For the rest of the description, we would probably agree the poor wise person would be a better choice than an old, foolish and stubborn one. It appears that the word “prison” in verse 14 is figurative and means that the ruler comes out from the bondage of his own circumstances and is stuck in the rut of automatic rejection of new ideas for reigning. It seems that people born into this monarch’s kingdom have a propensity for losing their wealth to the point of becoming poor, including the monarch, himself. The wise young ruler might even rise above poverty and succeed as the monarch here (vs. 14).
But the cyclic nature of this monarchy does not end with this gifted young ruler. Verse 15 speaks of the nation’s population gathering in support of still another youth to replace the current monarch. The description shows that there would be great support for this new king just as there was in the early days of the first youth. He continues the illustration to show the population growing in years and their aging results in their support for another leader (vs. 16). Solomon correctly sums that this is also vanity and chasing the wind. While true, the description of the older monarch includes the words “foolish king who refuses all advice” (vs. 4:14, NLT). This suggests that a monarch who is not stubborn or fixed in his ways might be able to sense the changes in his population and modify the way he rules to better fit with the changing population. In other words, being a leader who listens to his constituency and adapts to changes seen there would be the desired monarch for this people.
When Worshipping (Eccl 5:1-3)
Entering Chapter 5 supports the suggestion that the leader of Chapter 4 might want to listen to his or her subjects while ruling. Solomon offers that a person (not necessarily a leader) should enter the house of the Lord intent on listening more than offering sacrifices (vs. 5:1). The KJV calls these offerings made with large fanfare “the sacrifices of fools” while the NLT calls them “mindless offerings to God.” In either case, the message is clear; a person must make room to listen to others, so he can identify the kind of solutions they feel are necessary. The suggestion of the Lord is so strong that Solomon ranks it higher than offering the sacrifice He mandates.
Verse 2 continues with behavioral suggestions for the person entering the house of the Lord, Solomon says not to be too quick with speaking or making promises in the Lord’s house. Every person is generally surrounded by others, even when entering worship. We must realize that God is in heaven and already knows what our thoughts are. So, speaking out loud to the Lord in the worship environment offers no new information between the person and the Lord, those words shared out loud between himself and the Lord can be heard by the other worshippers and may be reported by lead as promises to the Lord. Solomon recommends we say very few words in the worship situations. Words intended for the Lord may not be suitable for the general population, so keep your comments short. Solomon correctly says that a person who speaks volumes of words would be easy to catch in an error, or “a fool’s voice is known by its multitude of words” (vs. 5:3).
When Promising (Eccl 5:4-7)
In the previous point, we were in the Temple for worship and were cautioned about verbiage spoken that others could hear and the possible misinterpret to others. Here, a person is in the Temple for one-on-one discussion with the Lord. Specifically, he is warned about making a vow to the Lord and the associated time in keeping that vow. The simple advice from Solomon is that when a person makes a vow (or promise) to the Lord, he should not defer or delay in paying it. Solomon adds that “God has no pleasure in fools” (vs. 4). Only a fool would make promise to God and forget or delay keeping that promise. The longer the payment is delayed, the more things might enter life to make the promise hard to keep. The completion of verse 4 says simply to pay the vow you have promised. I would add the adverb “quickly” to emphasize the speed with which one should repay. Further, it is not good to share with people what you promise to the Lord. A person might interpret the promise to be too large or too small. The promise is made between a person and his or her Lord and needs no further advertisement. Our relationship with God is a private thing and the communications between us should be kept private. The Lord knows a lot more about the value of the vows we make than the person overhearing it. Recall Jesus saying that the widow who gave the offering of two mites gave more than all the others because they gave out of their abundance and she gave all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12:42 & Luke 21:2).
In verse 5, Solomon says it better not to vow at all than to vow and not pay. Then he says that some might want to let their mouths cause their flesh to sin by telling the angel (the Temple messenger) that the vow was a misunderstanding or error (vs. 6). This would anger God immeasurably and might cause Him to destroy all the fruits of your labor.
Solomon closes the discussion with the comment that in the imaginations of humankind there are many false words that one might say regarding their vows to the Lord to enlarge their reality or distract from the command that they must pay it quickly, but all these imaginations are pure vanity. The most important idea for us is that we must have a holy fear and great respect for our God. Anything that modifies to enlarge or decrease the value of the vow must be cast out of the imagination. So, when promising a vow, we must listen to the Lord to keep that vow holy between ourselves and our God.
Understand the Context (Eccl 7:1-8:17)
Solomon set up the context of this study in the previous chapter to this one, Ecclesiastes 6:12. There Solomon writes, “For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow.” His tone in asking this question implies frustration with it, that is, “How can anyone provide good advice to a person on how he should live his life?” He continues by revealing why it is difficult, “All our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on earth after we are gone?” (Eccl 6:12, NLT). So, Solomon wants to be able to provide counsel to those living their lives that will make those lives more valuable to those living it and those who reap the benefits of it. Given that Solomon has already revealed his attitude of life being vanity and full of vexations of the spirit of man, we know he believes that life is somewhat meaningless from the beginning. He states in the second half of verse 12 that life is like a shadow, so it is almost meaningless to guess what will take place either during our time here or after. The style of this kind of response is proverbial and practical. It is proverbial because Solomon builds on his previous distaste for the apparently meaningless feel to life and practical because he provides wise advice in finding the right balance for preparation whether life is long or short. So, the wise person prepares for both and as he discovers which outcome is more likely, he can react in that direction. Preparing for both outcomes allows the wise person the option of correcting choices as life unfolds. Selecting either the long-life option or the short-life option will lock in the decision and deny the option of mid-life adjustments.
Chapter 7 provides more information on why life is an enigma; a mystery, paradox or conundrum. Solomon looks at the people around him as those supporting the claim that life is vanity or vexation. He sees great people who die young and evil people who live long. He misses the significance of the plan for justice in it all. Whether good or bad, people seem to simply dedicate themselves to living the choices they have made despite the apparent cosmic injustices. I would ask Solomon, “What other choices do we have?” We all know that God has a clear and clean purpose in everything and all people who live their lives. We know of His love and His plan for us (John 3:16 & 10:10). There is no room for doubt once the statement is made, so we live life in light of these truths. Paul said to the church at Philippi, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). So, we live life as if it will never end and when it does end, we are blessed even more. Sounds full of wisdom to me.
Understand the Context (Eccl 7:1-8:17, Cont.)
Solomon, with his eyes fixed fully on God, warns that we should not see God’s apparent slowness in punishing those we think should be punished as His standing up for injustice. God still has a master plan to accomplish and is certainly permitted to use good or evil people to get that plan done. It is God who has the authority to let the wicked live or the just die too soon. We can resent it, tolerate it or appose it, but it remains God’s singular responsibility to chose how to “make all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Solomon seems to resign himself (finally) to the truth that the bodies of the just and the unjust, alike will return too the dust from which they came. Our spirits, however, will open their eyes in either Paradise (in that day’s context) or Hell in the instant that we close our eyes here (Luke 16:19-31 & 23:43). So, while money, power and personal ideals are useful for setting goals and measuring achievement, they are of little value beyond this short existence we have here.
Accept It (Eccl 7:11-14)
Beginning today’s study in Ecclesiastes 7:11, we find a statement very easy to accept, “Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.” In today’s language, Solomon would have said, “Wisdom is even better when you have money. Both are a benefit as you go through life” (Eccl 7:11). It is much easier to be wise in decision making when one does not have to worry about daily survival being impacted by a mistake. It makes wisdom look more wise when error costs less. Solomon goes on to say that both wisdom and money are defenses (vs. 12). But he separates their values by saying that while both can buy one almost anything, only wisdom can save your life. Wisdom tends to cause a person to make better decisions and will generally lead to a more fulfilling life. Money has no capability to influence correct decision making or impact a person’s real quality of life. It can only cushion the errors made.
Verse 13 triggers a switch between the philosophical and the theological. The trigger is seen in the introduction of “God” into the otherwise secular conversation. The word “consider” is a direction to “look at,” that is “look at the work of God.” When God makes something a certain way, the only way it can be undone or corrected is for God to change it. Neither man’s wisdom nor his money can undo what God has done. Solomon’s implied suggestion is to accept what God has done and work within the parameters resulting from that decision. He continues in verse 14 that we should accept God’s decision for what it is and celebrate the days of prosperity as His gifts to us. But when adversity strikes, recall Lynda Randle’s song, “The God on the Mountain is the God in the Valley; the God of the good times, is still God in the bad.” Regardless of how we feel about God’s way of doing business, He is still God, and He establishes the environment within which we are directed to work. Solomon’s suggestion is to accept it and move on.
Find Balance (Eccl 7:15-18)
The natural question at this point becomes, how can I live a life within the boundaries of God’s established environment. The answer is to Find Balance. Solomon begins in Verse 15 testifying that in his life, he has seen good people die young and wicked people live to be very old. It seems that somehow God would always reward the righteous and punish the unrighteous. That is, why should an unrighteous person ever have a long life? Why should not long life and prosperity be reserved for the obedient? Our two favorite verses for the study of Ecclesiastes apply here. John 8:28 tells us that, “All things work together for good” and 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “There is no temptation given to us that is not common to man and God will not allow anything to happen to us that He has not prepared us to handle unless He provides an escape.” As God allows various things to influence our lives and prepare for future battles, He wants us to experience those things in order to prepare us to handle the bigger, more important things. So, Solomon advises that we do not focus so intently on righteousness that we miss God’s lessons, nor does he want us to focus solely unrighteousness in our lives. Rather, he suggests we establish balance in our ministries so that we understand both. He says in verses 16 and 17 that we should not be so righteous or so wise to destroy ourselves either way. In other words, do not make a life of focusing on the extremes.
Rather, focus on this one truth: anyone who fears God will naturally avoid both extremes. In Verse 18, Solomon says our love, respect and honor of God will keep us from experiencing the extremes on either side. Remember by the time we get to the last Chapter of Ecclesiastes, we will want to summarize just as Solomon did and say, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: For this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). Live with an open ear toward the Lord. Surrender means we don’t need worry about the extremes of behavior or the proper application of every jot and tittle of the Word. When we know God and His Son, we will continue to fashion our lives to be more like Christ’s.
Acknowledge Sin (Eccl 7:19-22)
Verse 19 uses an illustration that might not be obvious. Solomon says, “Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.” The NLT interprets it as “One wise person is stronger than ten leading citizens of a town.” In other words, a more wise our approach is to following God at the beginning, the better we will understanding that there is not now, nor has there ever been one righteous person on the earth, that doeth good and never sins (vs. 20). So, setting a personal standard of righteous perfection is frivolous and certain to fail. It may even reach the true definition of Solomon’s words, “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Recall the error of the monks in history. They would lock themselves in monasteries and submit to prayer and fasting with no contact with anyone for months at a time. They insisted on such behavior because they believed they could not control themselves in a way that was fitting their claim of being Christian ministers. What they achieved was exactly what the master of darkness wanted of them: solitude to prevent them from conducting their ministries and never winning a single person to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In verse 21, Solomon continues that we should not listen (or eavesdrop) on conversations about ourselves, or we may well hear critical words from people regarding our ministries or ourselves. Criticism comes from people far too easily, and we already know how we have harshly criticized others (vs. 22). Paul tells us, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way” (Rom 14:13). Time is at a premium as we approach the day of Jesus’ coming for us. As we focus on knowing God and submitting our wills to His, He will lead us to fulfill what He has planned for us. Hundreds of people watch us every minute. Will the ones without a Savior see the peace and joy in us and make the same Savior their Lord as well, or will they go and look for another because of what they see in us? May it never be!
Understand the Context (Eccl 9:1-10:20)
King Solomon continues his theme of the vanity and vexations of spirit associated with living life every day. In Chapter 9, he stresses how little control humankind has over life regardless of what we may have thought. Recall our earlier discussions in Job concerning the Doctrine of Retribution. Many people believed that God would see that only good comes to those who live righteously and that curses come upon people because of bad behavior or unrighteous living. Like Job, Solomon emphasizes that this doctrine is simply not proven valid. Solomon teaches that blessings and difficulties will enter every human life regardless of the righteousness or unrighteousness of the person involved. When Adam and Eve decided to disobey the only commandment God gave them, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” sin entered the world (Gen 2:17). As a result, Adam and Eve along with the serpent (the devil, Satan) were cast out of the Garden of Eden to the earth (Gen 3:14-15 & 22-24). Earth is now the dwelling place of humankind and Satan, as well. So, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people because we live in the dwelling place of the evil one. So, just as the sun will shine and the rain will fall on the good and bad, alike, so will the blessings of God and His curses (Matt 5:45). In short, bad things happens to good people because we live in the same space with Satan. But God assures us that there will be no temptation laid upon us than those which are common to all humankind, that He has prepared us to be able to face it and that He will provide an escape for us (1 Cor 10:13).
Here, Solomon assures us that God is in complete control over all that takes place regardless of the appearances of life, in general. “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb 13:5). Next, Solomon establishes the staunch contrast between wisdom and foolishness. In Chapters 9 and 10 we learn that regardless of our available resources, no one is guaranteed blessings or protection from suffering curses. Our decision to live in wisdom or foolishness determines the impact of blessings and curses. Paul said, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Put simply, the things that happen to God’s people will only go to making us stronger in our battle against the evil one; as the same things happen to the lost they will drive them farther into dissatisfaction with their current lifestyle and drive them toward a relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember that is it God’s will that all would be saved; that none would be left behind (John 3:16, 1 Tim 2:4 & 2 Pet 3:9). This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9).
Sober Truth (Eccl 9:1-3)
It seems that Solomon wants to speak directly opposed to the Doctrine of Retribution in his opening verses of Chapter 9. In verse 1, he states emphatically he has explored the whole thing and determined that even though the actions of the righteous and wise are in the hands of God, no one knows whether God will show them favor” (Eccl 9:1, NLT). He has researched all this and has come to the conclusion that no one can buy God’s favored treatment by works no matter how good those works are. This speaks directly to Paul’s observation (and the Baptist Magna Charta) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).
He gets even more specific in delivering the “Sober Truth” in Verse 2 as he delivers his findings relative to various righteous and unrighteous works of man. He insists that “the same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t” (Eccl 9:2, NLT). Notice the distinctions he called meaningless above. All of these are works and Paul states emphatically immediately after verse 2:8 (above), “9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:9).
Solomon calls this situation tragic and warns that everyone under the sun will suffer the same fate (Eccl 9:3a, NLT). He feels that is the reason why people are not more careful to do good and not evil. Instead, they seem to just go through life doing whatever seems right to them, just as people with no hope at all. They believe they simply pass through this life on their ways to death where nothing matters. Solomon is leaving out what happens after death and even some of what happens before death. Our hope is very real in the promises of God in the Old Testament and of Christ in the New Testament. As we study the rest of the focal verses, keep in mind that the Gospel message of being saved by grace through faith is taught as early as Genesis 15:6 where Moses testifies, “6 And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he (God) counted it to him for righteousness.” Early in the first Book of the Bible, God makes it clear that believing and accepting Him are the keys to eternal life and not just the nothingness of the grave. Recall that both Moses and Elijah joined Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in the same body Jesus had (Matt 17:1-3 & Mark 9:2-4). If there is no life after death, who stood with Jesus as the preview of the Kingdom of Heaven?
Seek Life (Eccl 9:4-6)
Solomon seems to take a sarcastic look by saying that the only hope for the living is living as long as possible because, once they are dead, there is nothing. Therefore, seek life! The rest of Solomon’s comment in Verse 4 forms a metaphor comparing a living dog to a dead lion. In Solomon’s day, the dog was a cursed beast that went through the city’s trash heap where even the poor dead were thrown. Dogs were hated like rats are today. The lion, on the other hand, was regal beast; a symbol of power, might and pride. Solomon’s illustration is that it is better to be a living dog with at least a hope of death than a dead lion that has no hope beyond the grave (vs. 5a). The second part of verse 5 says that the dead know nothing and have no further reward because even the memory of them is soon forgotten.
Verse 6 tries to drive home the point that the dead have nothing further to do with the living. Their feelings of love, hate and envy are now gone, and they have no farther dealing with those of us who are alive and still live under the sun. Most of us would probably agree with Solomon as he limits his ideas about the dead to a lack of existence and even a lack of legacy among the living. He of all people knew the fallacy of that belief. The mentions of King David, Solomon’s father, are throughout both Testaments of the Scripture. Even the identification of God’s Messiah is based on His relationship to King David (Matt 1:6 & Luke 3:31). So, the negativity of Solomon’s description of death versus life must be taken as an earthly view alone. Our hope is that the description of verses 7-10 might hold a positive light for life and death.
Enjoy (Eccl 9:7-10)
So, Solomon identifies the contrast between what he is doing and what is real. He sets the goals of enjoying life and knowing there is more than darkness at the end of the tunnel between the lands of the living and of the dead. He begins with an admonition to enjoy life, “Go and eat bread with joy, drink your wine with a merry heart and know that God has accepted these works.” These are the first set of positive things Solomon has voiced in Chapter 9. But notice that the first two things he states in positive ways are eating and drinking followed by the assurance that God approves.
It is probably no surprise that it in his transition to a spiritual thought that he turns positive. Thinking of the great works God has done for us certainly drives smiles and good thoughts. And, of course, the mention of eating bread and drinking wine (or grape juice) reminds one of the Lord’s Supper which is certainly a positive thought as we “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 & 1 Cor 11:24-25). Verse 8 seems to continue that ceremonious tone by speaking of making sure our garments are white and our heads are anointed. From the Old Testament, we think of bringing forth the holy garments of Aaron and his sons as they minister in the office of priests (Ex 35). In the New Testament, my mind goes to the garments laid upon the backs of the donkeys and the road that Jesus traveled on during His Triumphant Entry, and the garments that were divided and cast lots for at the crucifixion. Both acts show the love of God for all humankind but certainly for those who believe. The whiteness of the robes signifying the sinlessness resulting from Jesus’ sacrifice and how Jesus, Moses and Elijah had robes whiter than any fuller could make them as Peter, James and John saw their glory at the Transfiguration.
Then, it is back to the living of everyday life with Verse 10. Solomon admonishes all people to sincerely plug into what ever they have chosen for a life’s work. He says whatever that is, do it with all your strength. Be committed to excellence and to making a difference while doing it. Some would say that Solomon’s motivational statement for why to do your life’s work with all your strength is somewhat of a let-down. He says we are to do it because there is no work, no device, no knowledge and no wisdom in the grave, and that is where we are going.
I would say that the reason to do your job to the best of your ability is because God expects us to use all the power He gave us to establish and leave a legacy of achievement that will last decades after we see that grave he is talking about.
Understand the Context (Eccl 12:1-14)
King Solomon opened his search for the real meaning in life after examining the value of everything that seemed to fill his current existence. His routine, according to Solomon, was vanity and vexation to the human spirit. The Hebrew word used for vanity here is hebel and means empty, meaningless, transitory or unsatisfactory. Some would say Solomon believed his routine was simply a waste of time. The term “vexation of spirit” is comprised of two Hebrew words pronounced, reh-ooth’ which means to draw upon or drain, and ree’-akh, which means breath or breeze. Jesus often referred to the Holy Spirit as a wind or breeze when explaining His characteristics (John 3:8). So, the combined words means something that draws upon or depletes the spirit or strength of a person. Taken together with vanity, the subject is something that is useless, meaningless and depletes or uses up the spirit of a person. As Solomon sought for the true meaning of life, he discovered most of what he saw was vanity and a vexation of the spirit of man.
But there were ten solid statements of value that Solomon discovered which will help him and us find the true meaning in life. The first three are on this slide. Item 1 is “Human accomplishment has no eternal significance and tends to fade away almost as quickly as it occurs.” Item 2 is “Only what God does has lasting impact.” As humankind takes on his response to God’s calling and influence, he is doing God’s work, and therefore, has lasting significance. For example, planting and/or growing a church changes the lives of many. Leading a person to Christ and/or discipling a person after their conversion lasts. Think of the person who led Billy Graham to Christ (Dr. Mordecai Ham). Doctor Ham’s action changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, yet at the time, it was just his routine way of dealing with people needing a Savor.
Items 2 and 3 are similar to Item 1 in impact for life’s real meaning. Item 2 says “The wise person finds meaning in life through faith in God.” If anything, this is an understatement. Humankind has no power nor inclination for doing God’s work without the converting faith in God. Paul said it best in his letter to the church at Philippi, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13). Without the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells a person upon his surrender to Christ, nothing of real value can be done by that person.
Item 3 states that “Time is a gift from God.” When I was born again, I was a senior pursuing an electronics engineering degree. I committed to God that I was going to read the Bible through in my first year after salvation. I consulted with my Pastor early in that effort telling him I just could not seem to get both done. He advised that I give a set time each day to God and see what happens. I started giving God the first hour of my study time every day. God actually multiplied my time. For example, as I struggled with a problem of multipath propagation of electromagnetic energy for hours, I set the work aside and asked God to work the problem for me. The next time I solved the problem after more than a dozen failed attempts, I got the correct answer. If you do not have enough time, give some to God and watch what He does.
Understand the Context (Eccl 12:1-14, Cont.)
Item 4 is on the next slide and presents a solution to a problem in which many people get caught. We frequently get tied up in repeating learned practices, certain prayers, religious rituals that God called us to do at one time but not as a repetitive task that had long since lost its significance. When Jesus was teaching the Apostles how to pray, He said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matt 6:7). Prayer is a conversation with God regarding a specific task at hand, not a memorized repetition using words which have lost their meaning over time.
Item 5 says that wise people trust God and His sovereign will as quoted from Ecclesiastes 7:11-14. First, unlike friends, relatives and coworkers, God is always faithful to keep His word and His promises. As early as Deuteronomy 7:9. Moses says, “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” God’s commitments are absolute, final and reliable without question. One frivolous discussion people get involved in is the sovereignty of God. They might ask, “Since God is God can He not do anything He wishes to do?” The answer is of course God can do anything He wishes but He WILL NOT lose His own integrity, He will continue to be “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8), and He will maintain His covenant and love with those who love Him for 40,000 years (a thousand generations). Let me give a specific example from a question asked of me several times, “Could Christ have sinned?” They will say that since Christ is God and God is sovereign, Christ had the power to sin. I respond to them that Christ could certainly do anything He wished, but if He chose to sin, He would not have been qualified to represent the final sacrifice for man’s sin on the cross. The sacrificial system required that every sacrifice and the priest offering that sacrifice must be without spot or blemish because any flaw in the sacrifice represented sin and disqualified that sacrifice. Further, the Bible exhorts us that we must be holy because our God is holy. Holiness is defined as sinlessness. So, there is no question that Christ is God and God is sovereign, however, Christ could not have sinned and remained worthy of dying on the cross to take away the sin of all humankind (John 1:29, 36).
Item 6 speaks to God’s feelings about man’s most sincere efforts to achieve his own righteousness. This reveals a valiant but flawed understanding about personal righteousness. Paul had the best statement on this in his letter to the church at Galatia, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law (works), then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal 1:21). Likewise, other forms of works to gain righteousness are just as frivolous. King David understood what God wanted when he wrote his response to the Prophet Nathan’s revelation that he was guilty of gross sin. David said, “16 For thou (God) desirest not sacrifice; else would I give [it]: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:16-17). David had just been told by Nathan that he was guilty of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. Further, he would lose the life of his new born child due to this personal sin. Instead of making excuses and stating his false idea of righteousness, he humbled himself and repented, fully. When God called David the man after His own heart, no doubt He remembered David’s heart at this particular time (1 Sam 13:14). Those of us who have received Jesus Christ as our Savior need to recall that we have no claim to anything but Jesus and Him crucified. The righteousness we wear is the blood of Jesus Christ that covers all sin. When Jesus said “it is finished” (Greek tetelestai) and all sin, past, present and future was defeated forever. Paul said, “There is therefore, now no condemnation to those in Jesus Christ” (Rom 8:1). Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!!! We have no hope of personally achieving what Christ has already purchased for us.
Item 7 looks closely at our internal feeling or opinion regarding the relationship between wisdom and recognition of our personal sin (that is, not the state of sin on all humankind, but our specific and personal sin). Almost every person I have led to Jesus Christ started with the prospect rejecting the idea that their specific and personal sin guilt had separated them from a relationship with the God who loves us. It was that sin that resulted in the great chasm between them and Jesus.
Recognizing that truth establishes the personal need for help in the prospect’s heart. David said in Psalm 51, “1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin [is] ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done [this] evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, [and] be clear when thou judgest. that he, and he alone had committed this terrible sin” (Psa 51:1-4). Admitting personal sin and speaking of your personal need for help is what Jesus wants to hear; not excuses, not your feeling of relative holiness, but a simple and humble statement of need. Surely, if the reigning King of Israel could humble himself, than you and I can do the same. And, when we realize how far Jesus had to humble Himself to suffer and die to pay for our sin, it requires that we pray and show kindness to sinners who have not yet realized that need. Further, it requires that we care for and try to reach them for Christ.
Understand the Context (Eccl 12:1-14, Cont.) The last of these introductory slides contains Items 8 through 10. Items 8 and 10 reference a part of todays study, so we can address them within the detailed slides to follow. Item 9 states that wise people enjoy life and the blessings that the Lord gives us as a part of that life. It seems that Solomon sets up his own paradox in these topics. That is, on the one side, he claims that what he has discovered is that the true meaning of life is elusive. It is nothing more than a frivolous pursuit of nothing worthwhile. His most often characterisation of his findings are vanity, vanity, all is vanity and all is nothing more than a vexation of the human spirit. On the other side, however, he continuously returns to the idea that humankind should love life and enjoy all its blessings. The goods news is that today’s study has the solution for that paradox. It is true that the meaning of life is elusive; it is hard to find. But when one finds a relationship with God throught Jesus Christ, life takes on a new meaning centered on learning more about about serving the Son of God. In that context all of life has great value.
Billy Graham once said, “The three most important questions humankind has to answer are these: Where did I come from? What am I doing here? and Where am I going?” He maintains the answer to all three is God. We came from God, we have come here to discover and serve Him, and we are on our way to join Him in a place created by Him for our everlasting life with Him. Now, we can finish the list of 10 items by studying Items 8 and 10 as presented in Ecclesiastes 12:1-14.
The Twilight (Eccl 12:1-8)
Notice that this first section of today’s study encompasses the second half of the reference for Item 8 in the Understanding the Context Section above. It states, “Wise people live lives of proper mortal perspective, realizing that life is precious & opportunity short-lived” (Eccl 11:7-12:8). Verse 12:1 sets the focus on remembering, specifically, to remember the Creator while we are young and before the evil days come. The evil days mentioned are the latter days of life as our physical, mental and emotional prowess decrease. Looking forward in Chapter 12 sets a mood of living into the advanced years of age when various functions of the body begin to lose their sharpness. The reference to the onset of evil days suggests that we set our vision Godward before the challenges of age overtake the joys of living, i.e., “When you will say, I have no pleasure in them.” Solomon encourages us to remember and honor the Lord in those earlier days while we still have the earlier days.
Verse 12:2 amplifies the latter days Solomon referenced in verse 12:1. We are to remember and honor the Lord before our eyes begin to dim and the glories of the sun, moon and stars are not as clear as they once were. That darkness or dimness of our aging eyes is somewhat like the darkness of the skies as the clouds come and cover the brightness of those celestial wonders God put in place. Verse 12:3 continues Solomon’s less-than-encouraging description of aging. He says the keepers of the house (our legs) begin to tremble and our shoulders weaken, causing us to stoop as we walk. He mentions that our grinders (teeth) stop their grinding because there is far less of them, and our eyes go dim as we look out through aging lenses. Solomon is certainly driving the depressing point home.
The Twilight (Eccl 12:1-8, Cont.)
Unfortunately, he has not finished describing what happens in aging as we approach Verses 12:4-8. He suggests we remember the Lord before the door of life’s opportunities closes and the sounds of the workers in the street becomes faint. He says that today (in our youth) we rise even before the birds start their chirping, but as the years go by, even their beautiful song will grow faint. Verse 5 adds to the list of the signs of aging in Solomon’s reminders to focus on God and His blessings while we still can. Here he says we must honor God before we become afraid of falling and the dangers found in the streets. We must remember God before our hair turns as white as the almond tree in bloom, and simply walking along becomes a labor like a dying grasshopper, and the desires of youth begin to fade, and humankind heads toward the grave and the mourners weep for us.
By now Solomon’s description of aging is becoming humorous. Verse 12:6 adds comparisons of aging to the broken silver cord of life snapping, the golden bowl breaking, the water jar is smashed and the pulley on the wheel at the well is worn and broken. For then, he says, the dust of the physical body shall return to the dust from which it came, and the human spirit will reunite with God who gave it. Solomon finishes this section of scripture and Item 8 by returning to his own observation about life being meaningless and full of trials for the human soul (Vanity, vanity, all is vanity). He could have saved a lot of ink if he would have just said, “Remember God before age makes it too hard to do.”
The Truth (Eccl 12:9-11)
In verses 12:9-11, Solomon reminds us that he (the teacher) was considered wise and taught all the people he knew. He listened very carefully to many proverbs and studied intently to make sure he classified them in the right order for the best teaching experience for the learners. He worked hard to find the best and most acceptable words to present what he learned very clearly. Solomon desired to learn and present his findings of truth in the best words possible.
Verse 12:11 shows us that Solomon had full understanding that the truth of his teachings might be received as goads used to control farm animals as they plowed – they were painful but necessary to get the plowing done more perfectly. His words might be received as the sheep received the nail-studded poles the shepherds used to move them in the correct directions. Solomon recognized (as we have experienced) that his words could be painful to hear and understand, but his intent was to provide the guidance needed to get a full understanding of his findings and suggested applications for better living in the faith.
The Conclusion (Eccl 12:12-14)
So, here is the primary teaching point of the entire Book of Ecclesiastes. Verse 12:12 is the transitional tool to get us out of the study of how growing old looks, and into the findings of King Solomon after all his data collection, study, analyses and appropriate applications of results. Solomon says, “My Child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out” (Eccl 12:12, NLT). Solomon presents his findings to his son exactly the way we, who study in order to write, already know; that is, writing of books is endless and much study wears you out.” First, when writing a book, the most difficult task is not the writing, but the strength to declare when it is finished. The review cycle leads to rewrites and the rewrites lead to review cycles which result in adding or taking away of content and rewriting in more words which accomplish the author’s intended message. And the bad news is that when the manuscript is delivered for publication, the first thing discovered in the pages of the first printed copy is the need for corrections! And adding or integrating the results of fresh study into the draft containing the earlier study is full of mental and emotional torture (stress). It is tremendously difficult to edit out completed material that has been honed and edited repeatedly to replace it with materials which have not been edited at all, only to start the process over again. Certainly, Solomon expressed his full measure of wisdom when he said, “Of making many books there is no end.”
His second statement also demonstrates his extensive wisdom, “Much study is a weariness of the flesh.” The writer starts with the idea and performs the research to make sure the book is unique and there are no copywrites on the subject, title or material planned for the book. The second level research is to determine that there is sufficient separate and distinct, recently published material (no more than five to ten years old) to get supplemental ideas for the book. Then there is the research to fill in the gaps of knowledge discovered during the initial draft. This is followed by the research for transitional material between chapters. Then, when the manuscript is drafted, more research is required to remove any flaws or disjointed thought discovered during the subsequent drafts. In short, Solomon is saying that much more could be said about this topic, but it is now time for a summary thought from his findings.
So, here is the summary thought of the entire Book, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Let us not lose track of Solomon’s initial premise and his goal. His premise was that in all he observed, everything in life was vanity, vanity, all is vanity and the vexation of the spirit of man. Briefly, everything is meaningless and taxing to the human heart. His goal was to find out the true meaning of life. His stated goal rejects his premise that everything is vanity and vexation. Rather, it states there is something more important and meaningful in life than what Solomon had found to that point, and that people are to “fear God, and keep his commandments.”
Then Solomon adds a reason for “fearing God and keeping His commandments.” He says it is because, “God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Eccl 12:14). In today’s English that is, “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (Eccl 12:14, NLT). This truth is testified in the New Testament by the writer of Hebrews as he says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). For the righteous serving under Christ, that judgment is the Judgement Seat of Christ, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (Rom 14:10 & 2 Cor 5:10). This judgment is not a judgment for gain or loss because God had already judged all the sin of man at the cross on Calvary and summarizes our condition as Paul says in his letter to the Church at Rome, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1, NIV).
For those who have not accepted Christ, their judgment will take place at the Great White Throne of Judgment, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev 20:12). The summary condition for all of them is that they meet God still bearing the guilt for all their sin and stand with no relationship with Christ, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15, NIV). This is called the second death.
And so, ends the study of King Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes. The meaning of life he so diligently sought is found in our relationship with God. We are charged by Solomon to “fear God and keep His commandments for such is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13).
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