I'm working my way through Ecclesiastes and (in my opinion) watching Solomon flail between faith and the faithlessness that has come with all of his selfishness and worshipping other gods. He vacillates between seeing the real purpose we have in the Lord and no purpose as he walks in his own strength trying to use God's wisdom without obidience to the Lord.
At the House of God (verses 1-7)
He seems to be sober-minded and speaking words of godly wisdom about the proper posture in worship.
- guard your steps
- be careful what you bring before the Lord
- let your words be few
- if you make a vow to God you better pay it
- fear God.
It is all wise, as would be expected from the man God has imparted with so much wisdom. However, it is unclear how any of this ties to his bigger thesis. It's as if Drunk Uncle Solomon sobered up enough to be lucid and began giving us more proverbs.
His words are holy scripture, and this particular advise is an area of weakness of mine, so I would be wise to spend more time heeding it and less time mocking him. But it's tough for me to follow the flow of his case when he flies from subject to subject and POV to POV without much connective tissue.
Maybe that explains why he did the horrible things he did, all the while knowing God's commandments for Israel's kings...
In verses 8-9, he seems to be back to downplaying the sin of oppressors. He tells people not to be surprised if they see people oppressing the poor and denying justice. He goes on to explain that there is a hierarchy of corrupt government officials but it's ok; because the land is better off when the king is cultivating it.
I wonder if that's godly wisdom or his self-serving side speaking. In the modern day, there are very few things government can do better than private enterprises. It would surprise me to find out that ancient kings could do things better than if individual enterprises were less oppressed.
Having said that, the category of ancient king should be set apart from the King of Israel, who is supposed to be receiving guidance for the Maker of Heaven and Earth. So THAT government could be expected to run the most efficient ever seen. A bright light to follow and emulate. However, Solomon was not following the rules for that king; but was acting like the other kings of his age- gratifying himself at the heavy heavy cost to his people.
Verse 10 starts a new paragraph in which he explains that, for those who love money, will never be satisfied with money. He lists this too as vanity. He goes on to further comment on the downside of being rich, hoarding wealth, and the fact that no matter how much we accumulate; we take none of it with us when we die.
Verse 17 is a completely depressing and confusing summary of this section, "Throughout his life he also eats in darkness with great vexation, sickness and anger." It's unclear if he means just men who love money from verse 10-14 or all men from verses 15-16.
Finally, we return to encouraging godly wisdom that seems to directly contradict the ideas from earlier in the chapter, even the verse immediately prior- giving further weight to my Drunk Uncle Solomon theory. When he sobered up and reflects through the eyes of the man so very blessed by the Lord, the real reality of life is obvious and contrary to viewing from the world.
Here's what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink, and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life that God has given him; for this is his reward.Ecclesiastes 5:18
He goes on to describe how God has given a gift to all men with riches and wealth that they can eat of it and enjoy and rejoice in his reward.
He ends with stating that these men of riches and wealth will rarely even consider their days, because their hearts are so full of gladness.
That's quite a pivot from everything he just stated about the rich man, where his wealth came from, and how his wealth will affect him.
When seen through the world wealth is corrupt, toxic, taken from the little guy and leaves a man vexed, sick, and angry.
But if God has blessed a man with riches and wealth it is a blessing. A reward. And brings rejoicing in his labor. The days pass fast and with great gladness when God keeps us occupied.
I think there are two trues here that we see modeled in Solomon's life:
- It's always better with God. The same events, the same outcomes are drastically changed when walking with God. The world can ruin even the most bountiful blessings from the Lord.
- Perspective. Some of these are truly different outcomes. But some are just a shift in perspective. When Solomon is being morose and emo he can't always see the truth of God as he can when he is seeing the world through the wisdom granted from God.
- Let's go see what fawning things Warren Wiersbe has to say about Emo Uncle Solomon.
Wiersbe's chapter on this Ecclesiastes chapter is a beautiful sermon on the consequences of the love of money and seeking first the Kingdom of God.
He attributes all positivre intent to Solomon. He sees Solomon intentionally making positive arguements through negative examples. Which Wiersbe is able to do.
He also fills in a positive message when Solomon leaves a negative one, as when Solomon says that corruption is acceptable because things are better with a King in the land.
He doesn't see an Emo Uncle Solomon; he sees a Clever King Solomon whose message is pure and positive.
I just don't think that bears out in examining Solomon's life.
So...The Bible is God's Holy Word. God-breathed. And the point to be learned, whether be it by seeing Emo Uncle Solomon or Clever King Solomon, is the same. The Lord gets to his message about how to act in the Temple, how to act with the riches provided to you, and how to number our days by seeking the kingdom of God.
The Living Word.