I love this idea that The Bible Project puts forth (regarding Ecclesiastes) saying that the teacher/preacher’s aim is to “deconstruct all the ways we find meaning & purpose apart from God.” Derek Kidner agrees with this, quoting G.S. Hendry, “His book is in fact a critique of secularism and of secularized religion.”
I think of it this way. Solomon was raised by his father David, the man after God’s heart. Solomon knew the Lord and followed him well at times. He also blew it pretty badly.I think of this book as Solomon’s life lessons for the rest of us. He writes from his experience and from the attitude of someone living life apart from God… resting on wealth, wisdom, pleasure, etc… alone rather than resting on God. He had already learned this but he writes as if he hadn’t in order to string us along.
As we listen to this wise old man we go through the same emotions. Tim Keller says (Book: Counterfeit gods) that idolatry is when we take good things and make them ultimate things. That is, we put them at the top, leaving God out of the list or else lower. The challenge I take from this book is to evaluate my life and try to get at my own elusive heart to see what I trust in the most. I want to deconstruct the idols I cling to so that I can learn to live the good life.
Peace to you!
The second book of this wisdom series is Ecclesiastes. We have a couple of videos from The Bible Project to help orient us in our studies.
The first is the video from the wisdom series.
The second is the read scripture video that helps us get the outline of the book.
We will spend a few weeks on Ecclesiastes. Let's dig in and make the most of it.
Mick Jagger said it well. It’s the anthem of mankind. Why is it so? One reason that comes to mind is unmet expectations. We expect certain things and when they don’t come about, we are left dissatisfied. Last week we considered the “Manifold wisdom of God.” We found that Proverbs 10-29 covered all kinds of topics; finances, relationships, career, happiness, emotions, parenting, women, and the list goes on.
A genius of the Word of God is that it brings up all these real-life topics. If we invested ourselves in reading it and meditating with our friends we would have thought through and talked through the stuff that is most important to us.
I think that often the reason we experience unmet expectations is that they have not been stated or carefully examined. We sometimes just assume certain behaviors of others. We assume they will meet our expectations. And often they don’t have that outcome in mind at all. If we had read God’s Word on the topic and talked about it with Him and others, then we would be prepared to make our expectations known. Further, when we have gained God’s wisdom we might learn that our expectations are out of line and then tweak them accordingly.
I am constantly amazed at men that expect certain things from their wives, which are unbiblical as well as uncommunicated. I am amazed at women that idolize things other than Jesus and put ridiculous pressure on their husbands. By the way, I also amaze myself with my own misguided thoughts and actions.
We've got thousands of years of tried and true wisdom from God, communicated by his wise people. Let’s take it seriously and put it to work. Let’s read and meditate, discuss and wrestle with the real stuff of life.
“...through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…” (Eph 3:10)
God’s wisdom is indeed manifold… it is many and various, covering every topic under the sun.
Proverbs 10-29 features samples of this wisdom. Here we find both one-liners as well as paragraphs given to living a good life. We imagine a father instilling these bits of wisdom to his child as they rise in the morning, walk through the day, and lay down at night. Over the years these truths sink into the young man’s soul so that he lives them out rather than the temptations to folly.
I searched around and found a website from Proverbs with clickable links on several key topics. Click here and scroll down the page to see the list. Dig in and enjoy.
In Proverbs 9 the way of wisdom and the way of folly are positioned against one another as two feasts. When we remember the garden scene of Eden we remember that God graciously and abundantly gives to the man every tree of the garden to eat from... except one. God offered a bountiful harvest. All were welcome to the feast. But the serpent tempted the woman to steal from the one tree from which they were banned.
The way of wisdom is a banquet hall where all are invited and fullness of life is offered. The simple and the wise alike can gather in this place a share a luxurious feast. The way of folly offers a far lower quality meal with death as the result.
The Israelites were known for their feasts. Their year was ordered around the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Isaiah 55:1 invites
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.”
Jesus was known for hanging out a grand dinner parties, even to the point of derision (Matt 11:19). He turned a wedding that was short on supplies into a festive occasion (John 2). He made claims about feasting that stumped his opponents (John 6:53). He looked forward to the day of a special feast (Matt 26:29) and we look forward with him to a future party (Rev 19:6-9).
Indeed, the way of wisdom is the way of the Lord. It is the way of Jesus that comes from Him and through Him. It is an invitation for all to enjoy a great feast in life and in eternity. We are invited to live into this hope for ourselves and to invite others to join us!
Reading Proverbs can get kind of scary. The second half of Proverbs 6 is a great example for grown men. Most of us, even many raised in a Christian home, had some morally sketchy years in our late teens or early twenties and further. A great example is v29.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife;
none who touches her will go unpunished.
After reading this you may expect a meteorite to fall on your head. Let's be careful to read Proverbs as a book of wisdom and not a book of witchcraft. A whole lot of it is good old common sense. Remember that this particular section is fatherly guidance to his son. This is the second of three parental appeals concerning adultery. The repetition screams “listen!”
A great device in wisdom literature is hyperbole. It is exaggeration to make a point. Jesus was a master of this kind of language. Another device is stark contrast… black and white statements. The point of it all is that adultery (and really all sexual sin) is like messing with fire. It was no different in the Old Testament times than in our New Testament times. If you go down this road you will most likely get burned because this road is really dangerous. Most would agree that when we get sexual urges involved, our ability to think sanely goes out the window. There are stern warnings in the NT that agree with this Proverb.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
In other words there are consequences to our actions. If you rob a bank, you might get caught. If you get caught, you will have to pay the price whether you feel really bad about it or not. Though, at the same time, sexual sin seems to have a special significance. See 1 Cor 6:18 and context.
Having a morally depraved past does not mean you should expect to be cursed the rest of your years. And, we should not expect that God either hates us or at best, tolerates us. In fact, I think this is one of the enemy’s greatest tools to keep us down. He convinces us that forgiveness does not apply to us. That our past is too bad to make any use of us from here on out.
But consider these truths:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
2 Cor 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Forgiveness has always been offered to the people of God, even in the times before Jesus. (See Gen 8:20-22; Lev 1:9; Job 1:5; Is 1:18-20) The question is, have you received forgiveness for your past? Have you recognized past illicit behavior as sinful? Have you asked God to forgive you? Have you done what you could to make things right?
If so, then receive forgiveness from God and don’t let the enemy steal any more glory, honor, and good hard Kingdom work in Jesus name. Receive forgiveness and shut your ears to the enemy.
A shepherd and his journey