Turn your back on the past

Twentieth in the Solomon Series

The life story of Solomon in the Bible is a land of contrasts. From the mountaintop of his earnest prayer in the newly built temple, he descended to the starkest desert where he built high places for the worship of Chemosh and Molech, the abominations of Moab and Ammon. These were gods with strange rituals, even passing children through fire, or much worse.

From being the wisest of all rulers to attempting the murder of the rival God raised up to "tear the kingdom" (1 Ki 11:11) from him, Solomon rode down the steepest of paths, to the brink of hell. Perhaps you will ask, "How can we say that he ended in a level place, and that he remained beloved of God after his sinful exploits?"

We will now look further at Ecclesiastes. In the 18th post we covered Chapters 1 — 8.

At the end of chapter 8, Solomon acknowledged that God's ways are higher than man's, beyond our discovery. Then, at the start of chapter 9, he states he has determined to declare his conclusions: that the righteous are known by the Lord. Matthew Henry's commentary is worth reading to penetrate the first verses of Ecc. 9:

The great difficulty which Solomon met with in studying the book of providence was the little difference that is made between good men and bad in the distribution of comforts and crosses, and the disposal of events… Before he describes the temptation in its strength he lays down a great and unquestionable truth, which he resolves to adhere to, and which, if firmly believed, will be sufficient to break the force of the temptation. This has been the way of God’s people in grappling with this difficulty. Job, before he discourses of this matter, lays down the doctrine of God’s omniscience (Job 24:1), Jeremiah the doctrine of his righteousness (Jer. 12:1), another prophet that of his holiness (Hab. 1:13), the psalmist that of his goodness and peculiar favour to his own people (Ps. 73:1), and that is it which Solomon here fastens upon and resolves to abide by, that, though good and evil seem to be dispensed promiscuously, yet God has a particular care of and concern for his own people: The righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God, under his special protection and guidance; all their affairs are managed by him for their good; all their wise and righteous actions are in his hand, to be recompensed in the other world, though not in this... He lays this down for a rule, that the love and hatred of God are not to be measured and judged of by men’s outward condition.

The living are better than the dead: once you die it is too late to repent (Ec 9:4, 5). Enjoy your life now, for today is the day that the Lord regards your work (vs7).

Ecclesiastes 9:8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

Solomon was clad in white (JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" ( Mat 6:29 ), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear ( Rev 3:18 7:14 ). ointment — ( Psa 23:5 ), opposed to a gloomy exterior. (ibid, Faucett)

It would be nice to see more people in our society and churches dress and appear more refreshed and respectful.

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (vs 9) Solomon here acknowledges his failure.

To reach a level place, we must confess our sins and failures.

But is "vanity" a good description of our lives on this earth? Perhaps so. We are dust (Ps 103:14) For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. (1 Pe 1:24) The grass withers, the flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. (vs 25)

To honor God, we should do our work with heart and zeal, for we will not have this opportunity after we die (Ec 9:10).

Again, Solomon considered life's arbitrary ways and the fact of injustice, yet concluded, Wisdom [is] better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good. (vs 18)

Wisdom has the power to deliver nations, families and individuals from destruction, but a lone sinner can destroy himself, his family and an entire kingdom. Solomon had reason to be discouraged.

A level place in one's life is not devoid of times of depression and halting steps, but it is a place where we rest in Christ by his help. We will not go back.

Of things hoped for

Nineteenth in the Solomon Series

Some commentators have assumed that Psalm 45 is an "epithalamium" – a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom – written for Solomon to celebrate his marriage to his Song of Songs bride. Others see it strictly as a prophetical psalm, a wedding song for Christ and his bride, the church.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible states that it was a song:

Of that perfect love that ought to be between the husband and the wife… Verse 2, "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever" speaks of Solomon’s beauty and eloquence to win favour with his people, and his power to overcome his enemies.

Verse 6, Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom [is] a right scepter likens Solomon's just reign to the perfect judgments of God. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (vs 7) Solomon is lauded for his exemplary kingship; his subjects rejoiced for him on his wedding day.

To the bride, the psalmist sings, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he [is] thy Lord; and worship thou him. (vss 10, 11) This princess should forget her roots.

The expressed hope for greatest blessing was: Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. (vs 16) The Geneva Study Bible explains that their children "will have greater graces than their fathers."

In a general sense, Solomon's descendants born after the coming of the Lord did have greater graces. However, of those born to him, we never hear about any but Rehoboam, the son of an Ammonitess (1 Ki 14:21). If Solomon and his bride of Psalm 45 had children, we know nothing of them. Was the singer's hope for that blessing unfulfilled?

King Rehoboam probably was Solomon's first son, since he began to reign at age 41 (2 Ch 12:13), and Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Ki 11:42).

The epithalamium ends with the prophecy, I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. (Ps 45:17) This must refer to the Father's desire and power to lift up the name of his son, Jesus Christ, whose likeness faintly glimmered in Solomon, the imperfect type.

Psalm 127 was also written for Solomon. It is a "Song of Degrees," to be sung as one ascended the mountain to Jerusalem. About this psalm, Charles Spurgeon wrote, We are here taught that builders of houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labour in vain without the Lord; but under the divine favour they enjoy perfect rest. ... It is THE BUILDER'S PSALM. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Ps 127:1, 2)

One can picture Solomon walking up the mountain to work on the temple, and comforting himself with these thoughts. It was such a massive project; only the Lord could complete it. All of his hard labor could never amount to anything if the Lord did not help him. Perhaps he did stay up late and rise early, hardly eating, to figure out how to complete what needed to be done that day.

And then, to think — that God would cast this temple away from His sight — that it would be destroyed! Oh, the vanity! The vanity of vanities — the epitome of all vaporous results of devilment. The agony!

Had Solomon not proclaimed that God alone would preserve the temple? He set up the pillars in the temple's porch, calling them "Jachin" and "Boaz," or "God shall establish strength in it." (from John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

Where is the strength! Where is the Lord?

The purposes of the Lord will be established and his own people preserved, for the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19) In God's house there are two aspects of a sure foundation: God knows his children, and they must obey his law.

Christ has recompense for hopes that are disappointed. God had something even better planned for Solomon who had shown himself a man of faith, even though one who also disappointed. The Lord designed that he should not be made perfect without us. (Heb 11:40)

Over many generations we proceed to the wedding supper of the Lamb. We can learn from history and from the failures of our ancestors in the family of Christ. The Bible is wonderful in the way it reports all the sins and failures of God's people so that we can hope!

Faith is the assurance

Eighteenth in the Solomon Series

Ecclesiastes, the twenty-first book of the Bible, is a book of wisdom and of heartfelt discouragement and reaching to higher planes where acceptance in Christ steadies and comforts.

The root word of Ecclesiastes is qahal (with long marks over the a's), meaning "assembly, company, congregation." The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible chose Ecclesiastes, or "a member of the assembly," because of the relation of qalal to ecclesia (assembly). The English rendering "Preacher" follows Jerome's Latin word for "speaker before an assembly." (from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press)

A. R. Fausset, a 19th century Irish theologian, stated in his commentary,

The Hebrew title is Koheleth, which the speaker in it applies to himself (Ecc 1:12), "I, Koheleth, was king over Israel." It means an Assembler or Convener of a meeting and a Preacher to such a meeting… The substitution of the title Koheleth for Solomon (that is, peace), may imply that, having troubled Israel, meantime he forfeited his name of peace (1Ki 11:14, 23 ); but now, having repented, he wishes to be henceforth a Preacher of righteousness."

Early in his address, Solomon observes: There is nothing new under the sun (Ec 1:9). He had been a man who looked into all matters under heaven, yet his great wisdom and seeking brought him grief and sorrow (vs 18). He tried pleasure, wine; he built houses and planted gardens, orchards and made pools for watering his orchards; he increased in servants and in cattle and gold; he brought in singers and instrumentalists for pleasure. (Ec 2:3-8)

Yet when he looked on all that his hands had made, he could see only vanity and feel only vexation. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? " (vs 15)

He saw that in certain matters he had not been wise, and his sorrow caused him to hate the work he had done (vs 18). God will give a good man wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he gives only increase that will be given to another (vs 26). What an aggravation!

There is a time for everything; a time to rend and and a time to sew; to plant, to pluck up; but what profit is there in anything? (3:9) Well, in its time God makes everything beautiful. (3:11) We cannot understand all that God has purposed; we should instead rejoice in the Lord and do good. (vs 12) Enjoy the fruit of your labor as God's gift. (vs 13)

God's works are from all eternity and He brings into focus what has been perpetrated for evil; we should fear him (vs 15). We are like the beasts (vs 19). In that generation, Christ had not yet been incarnated, nor had the Holy Spirit been given. Yet, there was wisdom; there was God's Word, and one could commune with it. Then, faith could be nurtured.

Solomon considered the tears of the oppressed, that they had no comforter (4:1); recalled how men envied (vs 4); how the man without a family labored for no one (vs 8), and that two are better than one, for they keep warm in bed and can withstand an enemy (vs 11).

But thinking of companions, Solomon then preached, "Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished." (vs 13) Those born into his kingdom would become poor (vs 14).

When you are in God's house, listen to Him and let your words be few (5:1, 2); pay your vows (vs 4); fear God (vs 7); don't be impressed or troubled with those who oppress the poor and are unjust. God sees them (vs 8). The greedy rich have only the enjoyment of beholding their wealth; the sleep of a laborer is sweet — while the abundance of the rich will not let him sleep (vss 10-12).

And what about the man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honor, who cannot enjoy it, or the man with a hundred children and a long life who departs in darkness without proper burial? There is little difference in life between fools and wise men; but stop contending with Him who is mightier than we (6:1-10).

Indeed, "sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." (7:3) It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than the song of fools (vs 5): Better is the end of a thing than the beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud man (vs 8) or the angry one (vs 9).

Stop complaining (vs 10); neither be overly righteous or foolish or overly wicked (vss 16, 17)… We all sin (vs 20); we fail in our life's goals (vs 23); Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (7:29)

In chapter 8, Solomon reminds the hearers to keep the king's commands and not to challenge his judgments, for God made him the king (8:2-5).

A ruler at times governs to his own hurt (vs 9). If justice is not swiftly served, it nevertheless works to the harm of the evildoer. He begins to think he will not be judged so he becomes more persistent in his sin (vs 11) and comes under greater judgment.

It does seem at times that the righteous are as much destroyed by the wicked as vice versa, and this is another "vanity" (vs 14).

Solomon pulled back from this thought; he thought instead to eat, drink and be merry (vs 15); man cannot fathom the inscrutable ways of God (vs 17). Don't entertain frustrations, doubts, anxieties; be at peace.

Our faith in God demonstrates that we believe even though we don't see or understand. There was a time when Solomon thought he did understand the depths of God's ways, but he was much younger then.

In Ecclesiastes, we see that Solomon has returned from the heights and depths to a level place.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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