Sunday, September 26, 2010

Solomon Remembers the Terrible Years

Lesson Four
Study Reference Ecclesiastes Chapter Four

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

I cannot ever remember a time when there was not a war going on somewhere in this world. I was born in a time when everyone just knew we could never afford another war like WWII. This had to be the end of all war. But it wasn’t. Solomon remembered the years of war his father fought and was brought up in terrible times also. Like myself, Solomon never was called to bare the sword, nevertheless, the ripple effect found its way into Solomon’s life, and my life. I have come to the realization that there will always be someone who oppresses the innocents and weak. They are the ones with an alter ego or an idealist with radical views always trying to push their agenda on the unaware to the extent that it becomes a matter of life and death. History is repeating itself again and again and so it is today.

I was surprised to read Solomon praising the dead. I thought that to be an odd thing to do, but I began to understand its meaning.

To quote Stanley Baldwin; “War would end if the dead could return.”

Or, to quote my favorite, Plato; “It is only the dead who have seen the end of war”.

Although I enjoy quoting Plato, I would have to agree more readily with Stanley Baldwin.
My wife and I spend some of our leisure time walking through graveyards collecting names and dates from the headstones for our ongoing genealogy research. I have always known a secret in my heart as I wonder around grave after grave that I will tell you now. I have realized that the dead are time capsules of hidden knowledge, wisdom, and have secrets hidden away and the answers of life we only guess at. I have found myself wondering as I stand over a grave, what was it that this person took with them that could have helped others know the truth about things in their life? People take a lot of things to the grave, things that should have been known, things that could have possibly changed history. Solomon knew this to be true also because this is what he was saying. But Solomon goes one step further.

Solomon begins to praise those who have not been born yet. He praises them because they know no heartache, they know no pain, they know not what it is like to worry and fret over things that threaten change to our lives. Yes, it is the absence of sweet bliss, not knowing about anything, that upsets us. Only that person that is taken before they live life dies in peace. Maybe, this is why God allows abortion to prevail in our society today? He could put an end to it, but doesn’t. God will put an end to war, which is a fact.

I can say assuredly, I love the life that I have and enjoy its simple pleasures. I do have feelings of sadness for the dead and for those who have never lived a life here. But, in the end, the truth will all come out and be known amongst all living things. Almighty God will see to that. But those who die without Jehovah God and Lord Jesus in their lives are those who will fare worse off than all the rest. To have lived life without Jehovah God is the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to them according to God’s Word.

For example, the unborn and aborted children will be right back where they came from God in an instant. Can you imagine with me for an instant what it would be like to have a precious gift thrown back at your face? It happens to God everyday with the aborted children that are run through the social killing program. That is a truth from God’s own word. But, for those who live life knowing and experiencing God, live joyful and happy lives despite the hardships and pain. The reality of it is, their bodies go back to the earth from whence it came, and their soul, bought and paid for by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, is ushered into Glory, their eternal home with Jesus. From now on, where Jesus goes, they follow.

For those who live life and experience it without Christ Jesus and the Holy Father, Jehovah God, it would have been better if they had never been born. As Solomon would have to agree, this is also vanity and vexation of the spirit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Solomon's Analysis of Time Management

Lesson Three
Study Reference Ecclesiastes Chapter Three

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I believe that this Scripture is one of the most quoted passages of the Bible in the world today. It introduces thought that is provoking but comprehensive, almost to the point of futility. Solomon injects the idea that life could be useless because of mankind’s finite nature. He also suggests that life has a cycle to which we are all bound by. I look forward to the cooler months of the year and can remember the ones were there was an abundance of snow and ice. My wife and I love walking down the beach in October and November with the cool salt mist in the air. I enjoy tasting the salt on my lips and the wind whipping up the foam from the incoming waves. But the thing I enjoy the most about winter is how the color of the sea changes from light aqua colored blue-green in the summer when the warmer waters of the gulf stream has moved inshore, to the colder waters, deep dark greenish black of the winter. When I observe the greenish black sea I can imagine the recesses of our minds to things we hardly ever observe about the passing of time in relation to ourselves.

An example of this can be found in the story of the Bible concerning the woman with the issue of blood that plagued her for 12 years of her life.

“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, who touched me? And Jesus said, somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48

As Solomon has declared, there is a time,and a season, but most importantly, a reason for everything under the Sun. It is hard to comprehend with us that certain things just take time and have to run their course in life. We live in the day of instant gratification where almost everything is produced in microwave speed. When we are dealing with God and His time table in which Solomon is referring too, we are thrown into granny gear and frustrated beyond belief. I think the only time we enjoy God’s time table is when we are planning to go on vacation. Then we complain about how fast the time went by! God’s time table is something to reckon with and many people have to have many thing added to their lives to help them pass the time more quickly. This is one of the reasons people are so busy in their daily lives. They add busy work to themselves so the time will seem to pass more easily.

I feel that the woman with the issue of blood wished probably prayed many times for the remedy to come along just to get passed this unanswered health problem. Many times we are impatient and desire to cut the chase with a cure all medicine or surgery that doctors most often prescribe. But have we ever asked God what is the real purpose for the illness to begin with? Is our illness just a fluke? Is it just by unfortunate circumstances that we have this incurable disease? Can my illness serve a real purpose for others? As Solomon has pointed out, there is a reason for everything but in our unreasonable condition we tend to leave out or ignore all together the Creator of all living things.

Rest assured, God had a real and intended purpose for this woman’s illness despite the suffering and anguish incurred along that twelve year span. First thing I would like to point out is that I feel God intended for her to exhaust all her resources. The numerous doctors’ visits had to be exhausted then the barrage of specialist’s consultations, and only to mention the expensive medicines that each and everyone prescribed. How long did it take her to do this? The Bible says, twelve years. There is one thing that God wants us to learn from this passage of Scripture and that is that everything is either by design (creation) or allowed, including good and evil. We can get a better understanding of this by studying the Book of Job. We must realize, God has designated everything to a specific purpose, regardless whether we understand it or not. This is a hard thing to comprehend for some of us, especially those of us who are sick and infirmed. How can we tell someone suffering that this is the way God intends it to be? People have a tendency to begin to direct their feelings of hate and disapprovement of how God is handling their case. Some people hold a grudge against God all their lives without talking to Him to see His reasons or intensions to get a better understanding for our lives. We ask how God can be so distant and uncaring. How can God be so cruel and callous? There are many questions to ask about the intensions of God’s purpose, but have we taken the time it takes to inquire of God His reasons for this dilemma? It is like questioning the doctor’s decisions or specialist’s practices without first consulting with either to be able to come to an understanding of some sort. But why won’t we consult the one who allows the situations of sickness and illness?

I feel the real reason for all illnesses and sickness is for the opportunity for God to inject His divine power, wisdom, and knowledge of the situation into our lives. God allows a lot of things to happen on this earth without our permission or much less, our understanding. God encourages us to inquire of Him and ask Him, what is going on? Sometimes, God uses or allows a plethora of illnesses to get our attention just so we can be introduced to Him. Would we seek Him if we deemed we really didn’t need Him? Why seek out a doctor if we have no need of one? This particular woman that had the issue of blood didn’t know of Jesus and would have never been introduced to him if it had not been for her relentless quest for healing and restoration of her life. I feel that she was at the end off her rope when she finally decided she had to do something or face death. After her money was gone and had been turned away from everyone that knew of her condition, this woman’s last resort was to come to the one who allowed the disease to come into her life. The reason for her sickness was for God to show her who He really was, Jehovah GOD, and all that entails. All her friends and all her neighbors had heard her story over and over and over for twelve long years and still no results. But finally, one day when Jesus passed by, by faith she made her way through the hot dust and throngs of people in the way and just by faith, she touched the hem of His garment and it was all over for her illness. Unquestionably, this was the intended purpose for her life, to see and experience what faith in Jesus Christ can do for her and her situation. For twelve long years she bent the ears and brows of her friends and neighbors with her sad story. No doubt, they hated to see her coming their way just to be bothered by that sick woman. But now, everything is different, things have changed! She now has the opportunity to go back to those very ones and give praise and adoration to God for this miracle of healing! I feel this miracle of God was really for the purpose of those skeptics and doubters of God that in no other case would even give God the time of day. God chose to use this little woman with her issue of blood to work her way into lives of people that in no other way could be touched. She influenced her friends (if she had any left) and neighbors with love for her new found friend, healer of her illnesses, her LORD and Saviour, Jesus.

Undoubtedly, Solomon was telling the truth after all. Our personal experiences prove this fact of life every day we live. The truth of the matter is that it does take time for all things to culminate. Whether for good or for evil, we need to remember, it is Jehovah God who has the last say so in all things in Heaven and in Earth.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:26-28

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Solomon's Fustrations'

Lesson Two
Study Reference Ecclesiastes Chapter Two

As we begin chapter two, we can see a close resemblance of the previous chapter as it comes to an end. Solomon continues to go down this road of benign negligence in the name of wisdom. In other words, he is determined to find out what drinking, carousing, and pleasures, some possibly sinful such as lustful desires, can produce or not. What seems to be a shameful waste of time, Solomon is out to gain experience of something that could be detrimental to ones soul. Anyone who practices this kind of careless lifestyle can begin to like and appreciate this sought after pleasure. It is a well known fact of life that there is pleasure in sin for a season. Some are even consumed with it. Solomon deems this necessary to know for sure so he can relate better with his fellow man. What is it like to get drunk? What is it like to dance with other men or women that are intoxicated with lustful desires? Did this type of mentality account for Solomon’s 900 or so wives? Did Solomon accumulate wives as to study them and their idolatrous ways so he could make a clinical case study of his findings? Solomon claims he was determined to know the truth of the matter so he can make better decisions and come to better conclusions of the matter. From my way of thinking this in itself is not a show of wisdom, but of folly and foolishness. No good can possibly come out of such acts of character assignation. This mentality makes me wonder what kind of wisdom Solomon possessed. Ungodly and sensual seems to better explain Solomon’s actions and reasoning. In the reality of situations to be experienced, giving oneself over to licentiousness is in itself act of disregard to one’s mind, body, and spirit. To stain one’s mind of perverse and wickedness is only to witness something that isn’t a good practice, detrimental to one’s character. Solomon is about to see for himself how things can get out of hand though thought to be innocent and fun. These scenarios can get embarrassing to a man and his family that witnesses a falling down drunk at a birthday party or music event in which lewdness transpires. Even though, there are many that do practice these things because they feel after all the hard work they have performed, they are due time to let their hair down and have a good time, even if it is just for a short time. I have heard it said many times, “I deserve it!” We will begin to see as we proceed that this is a demonstration of futility and immaturity, to say the least. But, there are those that are determined to plan ahead for extended events for pleasurable, sometimes irresponsible, indulgences, possibly, even to the point of bankrupts by maxing out credit cards. One would think that just by watching others partake in this debauchery would be all the experience they would need to deduce the inexcusable behavior they portray. But as lust and covetousness creeps into the mind, the heart of man conjures up a way to give into it wishes and desires. While laying aside all reason and prudence one might have had in reserve. I feel after all was said and done, Solomon could have gotten a degree with his clinical case study of folly and foolishness. On this subject alone, he was the expert.

“I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, what doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.” Ecclesiastes 2:1-3

It seems that the next thing to do on Solomon’s agenda is to begin extensive building projects. He commissions great works such as the building of the Temple that his father, David had sought for much of his life. This was to be Solomon’s greatest achievement, but was it? It seems as history reveals that after the events of building the great Temple to Jehovah God was out of the way, Solomon had full reign to build the things he desired and sought pleasure by spending enormous amounts of capitol to please his many idolatrous wives.

“I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.” Ecclesiastes 2:4-10

Solomon makes claim to have done all this himself but in reality, it was all commissioned to others to perform. The point is, sure Solomon financed all this work, but he himself was hardly ever involved with the work outside of the planning department. Isn’t it a fact that the architects, engineers, and financiers, always take the credit from the little man? It is a fact that he commissioned building projects, but I cannot see Solomon mastering the hammer and chisel only to see his talent being portrayed in his skill. He also commissioned great cattle yards, but I cannot see Solomon herding the beasts out of the ranges and into the stockyards standing with the men of low stature covered in the hot and dirty dust. Of course Solomon had others to wait on him and his wives, enough people that eventually started to raise their own families under the same roof as King Solomon. Then there was the problem of boredom on those long hot summer nights in which arose the question, what to do for entertainment? In order to head off the sundry blues, Solomon commissioned an arts, dance, and music guild for their entertainment and pleasure.

I get the jest from reading Solomon’s writings that the joy and pleasure of accomplish was somewhat robbed of Solomon when he stood back and observed his finished projects. No doubt, these works of such grandeur probably could have never been carried out without Solomon’s wealth, but Solomon ended up wanting for more with an insatiable desire for bigger and more extravagant ventures. I feel Solomon missed the whole point of the joys of meaningful labor of the individual God given talents. To see what your hands can do and produce with little resources can bring such joy and satisfy the soul into knowing this work is honest and most likely helpful to others. Such rewards cannot be shared by those who write out the checks except they in turn take all the credit for the finished project. I suppose this gives them bragging rights even though their hands were never sullied.

“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.” Ecclesiastes 2:11-13

As Solomon’s heart swelled with pride as he gazed upon the grandiose projects of renowned, sadly enough Solomon’s soul and spirit came up short and wanting. This feeling of emptiness comes across when Solomon exclaims, “all was vanity and vexation of spirit”. We might wander by now, what is the matter with this man? Can he not see for the nose on his face? Can enough ever be enough? Well, you would think so if we were dealing with the average Joe, but we are dealing with a young man that was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, so to speak. In short, I feel Solomon was somewhat of a spoiled brat, always expecting some surprise at the end of each day. It is almost like his boyish whims fell short in his projects and became mundane in his enthusiasm for his accomplishments.

“The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. 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? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? As the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.” Ecclesiastes 2:14-18

Solomon’s main concern here is that there will be no one as he is to leave the works he accomplished to. His feelings expose the vanity that resided in Solomon’s heart. Solomon feels that anyone that comes after him will not be competent to continue as he has done. In short, the future of the Israelites looks bleak at best and this fact alone has burdened Solomon’s demeanor. It is a pretty rough statement to say that “I hated life”, as Solomon did. But what else could come from a man of this stature? I doubt seriously Solomon ever had to wrestle with a wheelchair everyday of his life, or, was cumbered by prosthesis due to injuries. Yes, I am afraid that Solomon was guilty of ‘looking the gift horse in the mouth’ when it concerned his outlook on life.

We still have to give Solomon credit for his accomplishments no matter how he perceived them. We had to admit, they were pretty stupendous and magnificent to behold. But there is one question I am forced to ask, where are those works of grandeur today? The Egyptian pyramids are still here, Nebuchadnezzar’s old city of Babylon is still with us today and only to mention the Roman Empire influences seen around the world. But what can be said of Solomon’s achievements? The Temple of Solomon is gone and all of Solomon’s treasures with it. In fact, very little of Solomon’s Kingdom of Jerusalem is with us today. Therefore, it becomes laborious to envision just what Solomon was talking about when he had all this work produced. I feel if it wasn’t for recorded history we would never know how grand the works of Solomon ever was.

To look at Solomon from a different angle for a moment, I believe Solomon might have had a vision of the future. It is easy to imagine him standing on his veranda one beautiful sunrise, while overseeing this breath taking panorama. Suddenly and without warning, Solomon felt his heart pierced thru with reality, thus Solomon’s distasteful conclusion that life itself is perdition. God might have given him the vision of the invading armies waiting on Solomon to die. This could have been the warning God used to provoke Solomon to forsake those idols and temples of Idol worship and turn and repent of the evil Solomon had reintroduced by having licentiousness propagated from his many pagan wives.

“For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.” 1Kings 11:4-10

Have you ever experienced the moment when it dawned in your mind that what you were doing was futile? Well, if you have as I have, we can understand somewhat of what was going on in Solomon’s mind and heart. Maybe it is a good thing for us not to know the future? If we did know, we might not accomplish what we have and find no reason to continue on. On the other hand, insight to what our personal behavior breeds could be all it takes to steer us back into righteousness and uprightness of heart and character. In my experience, there is nothing quite as radical as an honest reality check.

“And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:19-26

I am inclined to reason that if Solomon had a real fear and reverence of Almighty God, he probably would have never performed these idolatrous practices. This idolatry is proof enough for me to see that Solomon really didn’t fear God even though he has proclaimed this as a fact. Real fear of God produces actions laced with caution and wariness. To be truthful, if Solomon had displayed genuine wisdom from God, he would have steered clear of the folly and foolishness. Anyone with any real wisdom knows that foolishness and folly is wasteful with one’s resources that were not easy to obtain to begin with. It proves that a worldly education and wisdom with Godly fear, are two completely different things to possess. Who in their right mind would squander what it took so long and hard to bring into existence and add to their character. Unless, they are careless with their resources that really belong to others who have invested in your ventures and believe in you? We have to remember, Solomon’s wealth and stature didn’t come from his own works, but the hard work of others. Every man and woman in Israel had invested in the promotion of their King. So, Solomon looking for answers to silly questions, he really could not afford to know, actually squandered his treasury by seeking out pleasure at the expense of his constituents. Much like our own government today, nothing really ever changes in this old world. Why should Solomon be any different from any other man who has an over abundance of resources at hand and too much time lounging, looking for ways to spend it? It seems his many wives with their idolatrous practices would have gladly taken care of that area.

In conclusion, Solomon’s soul is not as innocent as he would like to think of himself and harbors sin. He cannot capitalize on the greatness of God but only of the greatness of himself. An innocent heart thrives on love and simplicity, but a guilty heart is motivated by a plethora of human emotions that without restraint can ruin a man and render him void of discernment. As for that man who has an education of the highest degree but is void of experience, so is that man who possesses so called wisdom that is void of the fear of God. Both are shallow in spirit and wells without water.