Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 11-12: A WORD TO THE YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE

 

“Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.” (11:5)

The context of this passage is somewhat unclear to me.  The Preacher begins with the command to “cast your bread upon the water…” (v.1) and “sow seed” (v.6) as perhaps an allusion to the cycle of sowing and reaping which is realized ultimately through God’s activity as the sovereign over all creation.  This is the wonder of life which is designed not accidental, it’s purposeful not meaningless because God is there.  This activity is as much marvelous as it is mysterious, like the formation of a child in the womb or the course of the wind.

It seems that somehow the Preacher commands us to walk in wisdom by trusting in God’s power to multiply our efforts even if we don’t understand all the details.  He continues:

Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. 10 So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.

 In America, there seems to be little rejoicing in today’s youth.  Instead there’s much anger, confusion and despair in a culture given over to self-indulgence, leisure and entertainment.  A life lived for others is increasingly not the norm, the pied pipers of sex, drugs and rock n roll have not helped but rather aided this cauldron of foolishness and we are not the better for it.  Included here are professing followers of Jesus who neither know his book nor his pleasure.

The point the preacher is making is that your Creator is going to personally judge your fleeting life so what are you living for?  The same applies to adults and the old who often refuse to think again in light of eternity.  Throughout this book the Preacher has emphasized the futility of life…if God does not exist.  He concludes chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes with sobering words:

In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.  11 The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

In the midst of his nihilism, the Preacher comes to the conclusion that God really does exist, therefore the way we live really matters for every act whether hidden or not will be judged by Him.

The way we live does truly matter, the motives of our hearts are actually laid bare before the Creator and all is therefore not vain for God as the author of all life and existence gives these meaning.

The words of this book come from Solomon, noted for being the wisest man to have lived apart from Jesus of Nazareth.  Life without God is meaningless, but because God is there, it is absolutely meaningful even though we don’t understand many things in it.

For the believer in Christ Jesus, this is a wake-up call to follow the Master even when life becomes difficult and pain starts drowning out the truth of God’s revelation in scripture.

For the nonbeliever, this too is an alarm to bend the knee to Christ who will judge the living and the dead.  Understand that the love, comfort, justice and peace you deeply long for can only be found in the Righteous One who perfectly executes justice and mercy and that…righteously!

So LORD, help your people live in light of your existence.  Tenderize our hearts to your promptings, open our minds to your thoughts, empower our lives with your strength, so that we may live this short life apportioned to us with passion, ardor and increasing resolve for the kingdom of God and your righteousness, so that it may truly be said of us when our time is done here on earth that we were people who loved God and neighbor.

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 9-10 “THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND THE GLORIES OF GOD”

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          Looking at a picture of the Eastern Sierra Mountains with snow-capped tops is a delight to behold.  At times it seems as if the photographs taken of these majestic peaks have been tampered with in order to make them look better than they are in reality.  But then seeing, smelling, and walking the base of such mammoth rocks illuminates the reality that its pictures are a faint glimmer of the actual glories they possess.   And, the joy of both experiences can’t compare for the former is a taste in abstraction, whereas the latter is a plunge into actual elation.

The queen of Sheba had a similar experience when she heard of king Solomon’s fame.  After answering all of her questions with absolute clarity all that was in her heart, the text reads:

When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless.(9:3-4)

Note that to “hear” or to “see” through the words eye picture is one thing, but to actually taste and see the reality is incomparable.  The text continues to unfold her experience:

“ Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” (9:5-8)

There are many lessons here to note.  First, there’s a difference between hearing about, as opposed to seeing and tasting this wisdom.  Now while Solomon’s riches astounded her, it was the wisdom with which he answered and disclosed to her every question that threw her over the edge.  How about Jesus’ wisdom, do we ever consider him as a top tier thinker among the great thinkers in recorded history?  According to Mathew 12:42, not even Solomon can compare to Christ’s wisdom and knowledge:

“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” 

 This wisdom and knowledge that’s from another age came in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God where much confusion had to be corrected for the Jews regarding the Torah (Mt.11-12).  Unlike any Old Testament prophet, Jesus preached himself as the message; he was God incarnate and thus superseded the splendor of Solomon.

Second, when the queen says, “the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me”, reveals that there’s so much more that words could have described.  Solomon serves as a shadow example of the breath, width, height and depth of God’s wisdom and splendor that surpasses our ability to imagine or think.  It’s precisely this wisdom that culminates in the cross of Christ and its preaching that’s hidden from all of us until God the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see and taste the glories of God’s majesty revealed in Christ Jesus (1 Cor.2:1-16).

Third, to be continuously before said wisdom is cause for deep happiness in the soul.  “How blessed are your men…servants…”  Why, because it’s utterly rare and delightful.  That is, the knowledge and wisdom of God was given to Solomon by God because the king feared the LORD.  If the notion of God’s wisdom and knowledge conjures up a boring notion, then we haven’t tasted said knowledge or wisdom.

Jesus said that he was greater than Solomon (Mt.12); the Hebrews writer explains that Jesus upholds creation by the word of his power (Heb.1:1-3) and thus by virtue is better than the rest of creation combined.  And the reason the generation of Jesus will be judged more strictly than other generations is based strictly on the ontological status of the one speaking.

Fourth, the place of power belongs to God always, but Solomon is placed as God’s vice regent to do justice, and righteousness (v.8).  The qualities of love and delight, justice and righteousness are what moved God to make Solomon king over Israel.  God delighted in Solomon and thus set him up on the throne of power which ultimately belongs to God, not man.  Moreover, it was God’s love for Israel that moved Him to choose Solomon to be their king (v.8.c) for the purpose of doing ruling justly and righteously.

Since God by virtue of being the Creator, is the ground of what is just, right and true, when a nation departs from His ways and ignore the Designers understanding of reality, what ultimately awaits is misery, not bliss.

(SDG)