Monday, April 29, 2013

Problems with "the Preacher"...Now Resolved

"So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin: and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Matthew 6: 28-29

When I was a young believer, immature and questioning many things, I came across a huge stumbling block when I read the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon. He was the successor of King David, his only son to do so, though several others tried and failed.

God gave Solomon more wisdom than any man on this earth, because that was Solomon's wish when God asked him what he wanted above all things.(I Kings 3: 5-10) God was highly pleased with this request. Solomon started his reign so well, but it ended in disgrace, with the nation divided and going into captivity. Solomon became ensnared and found one thing that he ended up desiring more than God's wisdom: beautiful women.

The hundreds of wives and concubines of Solomon stole his first love away. The Scripture says:

1Kings 11:4 "For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as [was] the heart of his father David."

Solomon had it all. He had the legacy of his father, he had all that wisdom God had bestowed,and he had been the one privileged to build God's temple in Jerusalem. Solomon also was indescribably wealthy, and yet all the lovely ladies lured him away from all of these blessings and from the Holy God of Israel.

Indeed God had warned anyone who would be King in Israel in the book of Deuteronomy beforehand, this was nothing new. The monarch of the Jewish people must not complicate his life with many wives.

Deuteronomy 17:17 "Neither shall he {the King} multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

Solomon tried everything he could to reach his "pleasure principle." But after a while, he realized you could not find it with multiple partners. Was that the reason God had ordained one man and one woman brought together for life in the first marriage ceremony in the Garden of Eden so many years before?

Solomon finally reached his old age and realized he had been duped by his own lust and carnal pleasures. He realized that he'd been a fool. The man with the most had given away his inheritance and was a loser by his own choice. He was the opposite of his father, David. He'd heralded the nation's division and being carried off captive to Babylon.

Well, I read the book of Ecclesiastes for the first time back in my early twenties and became utterly depressed. Especially when Solomon (ie, the Preacher) kept saying all was vanity. Here I was, a new wife and mother, wife "my whole life ahead of me."

"Why, oh Preacher, are you telling me everything is vanity? Guess I should just quit now before I try to "get ahead!"

At that time, we attended a small group at our church. Another young couple came who also had a young baby. The husband's name was Scott, and he was a young theologian, looking at the time for where to go next to minister. In our fellowship time, I confessed to him:

"I just read Ecclesiastes. That book depressed me so much."

"Really," he said. "That is my favorite book in the Bible."

He went on to explain to me how Solomon had reached the end of himself, and it was outlined in that book.

Eccles. 1: 2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher: Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever.
14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Grasping for the wind? Now that is depressing, Preacher!

The book is bad news if you think you are someone, if you think you have something to offer God in and of yourself.

But to those who are nothing and know that God is everything, that book and the message it preaches is welcome news. It shows that man and all his plans, his contriving, his thoughts, and plans for this world are nothing to the Lord. His five year goals, ten year goals, his retirement plan, according to the Word, according to the Preacher, who is speaking after wasting his life, in one word, is: "vanity."

The whole world,then, really is in His Hands, not in our own little grubby ones.
Everthing can change in just one moment.

I like this line from an old Rich Mullins song:
"We must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are"

(from the song: "We are Not as Strong as We Think We Are")

So I was completely despairing. But Scott's words planted a seed in my mind. I wish I could talk to him today. I would like to tell him how my opinion has changed. For now, I see the Preacher's message as good news. If the richest, wisest, King could look back on his life and realized his squandered opportunity, and warn others NOT to take the same path, then Ecclesiastes was certainly no mistake. It most definitely needs to be in the canon of Scripture, for without the Word deeply inside our souls, believed and treasured, we would all end up like the Preacher.

Ecclesiastes 11: 5 "As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything."

Solomon the Preacher's final conclusion:

Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14 " Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil."

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