Preacher, King, Finding God
Walk with me… down the hallway and through the double doors of the library in this expansive home… with the exception of the doors and several windows well-placed to add to the light and beauty of the room, the walls of the room are lined with 20 feet tall shelves holding books reaching floor to the ceiling… the books include collector’s editions, reference tools, biographies, information on all the places to which one would travel and all the flora and fauna of sea, air and land one would see...tables in the room are strewn with opened maps and collected items from lands near and far… gadgets and toys, paintings, and sculptures show the renaissance-man tastes of our hoist... as we walk in, we see a Victorian-style plush chair sitting before a deep set, heavy-wood-mantle fireplace with a crackling fire giving heat and light...and as we approach we see the man, a pipe in one hand and his other hand toying with his cup of Earl Grey on the chair-side table… the wrinkles on his face shows the miles he has traveled--mountains, deserts, beaches, rivers, flatlands, and forests--conducting research in life’s laboratory having experimented with various pleasures, costly works, the accumulation of great possessions, as well as the pursuit of knowledge… he pauses… he strokes the neatly cropped beard on his chin… we focus our attention… we await his professorial voice to speak the platitudes of his life experience… He speaks, “Futility, emptiness, trying to catch the wind, but to what purpose?”
What have we achieved for all our doing? It seems the more we learn, the more we don’t know. Sure, we may have gained knowledge or acquired wealth but deep down inside for many there are questions unanswered, floundering fears, hapless hopes and that one more thing to do or see. In this series of sermons focused on Ecclesiastes, we find one who seems to have it all but he will admit he doesn’t know it all. Admitting we don’t know it all allows us to live life without acting like we have all the answers. Admitting we don’t know or have it all, allows us to seek a Savior.
Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12-14 Preacher, King, Finding God
The title of this book is from the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament. The word ekklesiastes means preacher and comes from the word ekklesia that is translated assembly in the Old Testament or congregation in the New Testament. The Hebrew word Qoheleth means one who calls or gathers the people--one who addresses the assembly. Ecclesiastes was always read in the synagogue at Pentecost. There are lessons to be taught in this book and this writer knows his place as instructor to the nation. He not only teaches but feels compelled to make a difference in the lives of those who read his book. He appeals for people to make a firm decision for the Lord.
His place: He is a King, responsible for the people. He is son of David, reared under the spiritual influence of David, a man after God’s own heart (I Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). The titles fit Solomon and the points of his message to the people follow the account of his life found in I Kings 2-11. Since this is an autobiography of the various experiments and experiences of his life, it would seem to have been written in his last years of life. So, here we have the experience of age being passed on to the younger generation. The truths found in this book answer some of the most challenging questions of life. Many of the answers found contradicted what Solomon expected to be the correct answer. This is one of the objects of our examination of this book. Our church has a desire to reach those younger than our average age. How? We must first remember the delights, the pitfalls, and the all encompassing energies and enigmas of our younger years. Yet, in examining this book with an eye to caring for and building up the faith of those younger, we must also look to the fact that we face the same issues. Maybe with a different energy and determination but we do walk in the same world with the same problems, temptations, and sins. Our destination is to avoid walking in the path of human wisdom/the flesh and to live by the revealed wisdom of God (Ecc. 12:9-14) The great lesson of this book is to realize that for all the unwise behavior and thought, Solomon never left his faith in God (12:13,14)
Solomon faced the accusation of entitlement. He was well born, well placed, well heeled (I Chronicles 28:5-21; 29:25). Mister goody-two-shoes--”As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (I Chron. 28:9)
The son of King David and Bathsheba, he comes to the throne at his mother’s desire and the prodding of the prophet of God, Nathan. He had at his disposal great wealth. This wealth would attract other nations that focused on material things to draw alongside Solomon… it would empower him to send out merchant ships and explorations… it would enable him to build a grand house for God… it would enable him to build palaces for his wives as well as build altars for their gods… but all of that would drive Solomon to see the emptiness of materialism... and to see the greater value of a relationship with God.
Solomon had power and pleasures at his disposal. Wine, women, song, and, yet, there was an emptiness, a whole in his heart, that would not be filled except by a living faith in God.
Solomon’s journey had begun as a man of faith who sought God. That foundation of faith coupled with what happened in mid-life as Solomon departed from a godly lifestyle served to drive him back to his roots in faith in God. For all at his disposal, Solomon was on a life-long quest for truth, for the meaning of life, for the value of a life well lived.
His prayer: His search for wisdom began with a Prayer to God for wisdom (v. 13)
Solomon prayed for wisdom (II Chronicles 1:5-13). It was the night after God had exalted Solomon and the king had established himself over the kingdom. He spoke to the commanders of Israel’s army, to the judges, to every leader in Israel, and to the heads of each tribe. Together they went to worship in Gibeon at the tabernacle. On the bronze altar at the tent of meeting, Solomon offered up a thousand burnt offerings. “...that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’” With praise to God for His loving-kindness and promise to David, Solomon prayed, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?” God’s response was to give Solomon not only wisdom but also those things Solomon had not requested--riches wealth and honor.
Scripture gives us a picture of Solomon’s wisdom: David had recognized his son’s wisdom (I Kings 2:6,9--“...you are a wise man and you know what you ought to do…”) even before God gave Solomon more wisdom in a wise and discerning heart (I Kings 3:7-12--the same account as in II Chronicles 1). Solomon has a reputation for wisdom (I Kings 3:16-28--two harlots, one child) which attracted “all the kings of the earth” to his palace (I Kings 4:34). His wisdom proved to be extensive (I Kings 4:30-33--“Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt” and the named wise men of his day. He spoke 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He spoke of all types of trees, plants, animals, birds, creeping things, and fish).
His search for knowledge, his study and research, was time consuming and tiring (v. 13). For all that God had given him in application of knowledge/wisdom, Solomon sought to know more.
His Predicament: (v. 14) His work had been seemed futile, a striving after the wind.
Like the wind, what is desirable cannot be held in your hand. He set his mind/his heart to seek and explore. He wanted to see, to touch, to hold that which would define all the works under heaven. He was like an anthropologist working to gain an understanding of man and recording for future development the courses of human behavior, societal norms both past and present, cultural and linguistic changes that had brought mankind to where they were at that time. Yet, Solomon realized that he as a man would never hold in his hand or in his mind an eternal answer that summed up all of wisdom... He realized that all he could hold in his soul was to know that God holds his soul and that is the key to freedom, completeness, life!.
His work had the feeling of futility--”a grievous task [an evil] which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.” In perfect Eden, work was joy, toil was play, food was free. Sin came and man earns his bread by the sweat of his face until this body returns to the dust from which it came (Genesis 3). Solomon felt that his work was incapable of producing any useful result. If he had considered this search for wisdom the only meaning for his life, he would have concluded his life was pointless. If he thought this life-work established his worth, he would have felt worthless. If he defined his success in life by his work, he would have felt unsuccessful/unproductive. In this forlorn state of soul impotence, hollow and empty inside, he would have felt hopeless, doomed, and lost. Had he been Australian, he would have defined his life as “no good to gundy”.
However, keep in mind for all his negative thoughts regarding human effort and the empty handedness of life, he found his faith in God to be the hope for which all his longings could and would be fulfilled. So it is that for all the questions of life we seek to answer...for all the hopes of life we wish to hold… for all the processes of life that we desire to bring us peace, we can look to Jesus Christ, God in the flesh among mankind, the personification of wisdom (for by Him all things were made both in heaven and in earth-Colossians), eternal in the heavens at the right hand, in the seat of power, of God. He is our source for possession of a treasure that does not rust, rip, or rot. Old books decay, old relics return to dust, our minds become weak, our bodies become impotent. Yet, He is our hope in transformed life today--not conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we live in His wisdom for life--the knowledge of Grace and Truth. He is our hope in transformed life--from sin curse to salvation freedom. He is our promise of eternal life to come for all who believe. He is the source and supplier of a peace unlike any in the world for He reconciles us to God at the cross. He is the fullness of our life. His Spirit is the wind that blows in our life. He brings to us what Solomon found in God--more than this world. Solomon found and we find in the Messiah a reconciled relationship with our loving Father.