ECCLESIASTES 1:1–3:22 and 1 TIMOTHY 5:1–25
We now look at the life of Solomon at a much later phase of his life from that seen in the Proverbs. His life here is seen in direct contrast to his earlier years when he authored the Book of Proverbs. Solomon is an enigma. His life gives a vivid portrayal of what the millennial reign of the Lord will look like from his younger years. Now at the end of his life we see many of the attributes that the antichrist will seize upon when he comes on the scene. How is it possible for one man to give such polarizing portrayals through his one life? How is it possible for a man who had an early reign of glory, a man filled with wisdom and wealth to come to such an abysmal climax in his life? This book proves to be most instructive as we approach the last days. As believers we must never think of ourselves as immune from slipping down the wrong path. If it can happen to Solomon it can happen to anyone.
He begins by asking the question as to what profit is there to man for all of his day to day labour. He contrasts this question by making observation as to the cycle of life as seen in the sun’s rising and setting; one generation passing to another, the wind going south then cycling back to the north and the course of a river to the sea (vs 3-7). In other words the life and labor of man is nothing more than a cycle that comes and goes. These words go a long way in helping to make clear that life has lost its meaning for Solomon. We need to pay close heed to what Solomon is saying because the same danger is knocking at the door of the church.
The enemy has no peace and rest (Isa 57:21). As believers we must come to know the rest and contentment that comes from a relationship with God. We need to take stock on a daily basis and thank the Lord for all things and learn to rejoice in that which God has given. We need to observe and uphold the boundaries that God presents to us through His laws and commandments. Once we cross over those boundaries we expose ourselves to the torrents of the world’s pulse of entanglements. What may begin as a “little fox” (SOS 2:15) soon becomes a thousand (1 Kings 11). Once one’s heart tastes of the forbidden fruit it cannot help but cry out for more. The heart and life of such a person becomes indifferent and immune to the voice of God while pursuing even greater heart demanding fulfilment. The fruits of an uncircumcised heart is a heart that is never content or satisfied. The end result of an uncircumcised heart is what we are now seeing expressed through the words of Solomon.
In verse 8 Solomon speaks of both the eye and ear that is never satisfied. God has put within man both a natural and spiritual appetite. What is it that we are to have a hunger for? Jesus spoke concerning those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Mat 5:6). What is the blessing that coincides with this? It is the blessing of being filled and satisfied. The question comes down to what we hunger for. If it is the Lord, and His ways there will be joy and contentment. If our appetite sways from God, it will then pursue things that in the end will never satisfy; it will keep crying out for more. Pleasure seeking is now the national and international pastime. It may bring a temporary pleasure but it never satisfies in the end. The Lord is the only true joy-giver.
It appears that Solomon’s undoing came as a result of allowing his heart to be given to seeking out the wisdom of man (vs 13). He sought to know what it was that made man pursue hard after the things of life. He quickly discovered that it was all vain but in doing this he too fell into its trap. Here you have a man with a measure of wisdom superior to all others seeking after the wisdom of man. He concludes that having this wisdom resulted in grief. What a torment that was now plaguing Solomon. His wisdom did not keep him from making the mistake of exposing his heart to the ways of the world. True wisdom would have made him contemplate and decide to not allow his heart to be defiled. In later years we will see a man by the name of Daniel who did not make this mistake. He made the intentional decision to not allow his heart to be defiled. This act resulted in his growing in wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Dan 1:8, 17-20). Solomon’s latter years were a living torment of vexation; knowing that he violated the very things he warned against while writing the Proverbs. He had the recollections of the intimate love relationship he once had with God which has since waned because of his divided heart. The warnings of his parents probably resonated over and over again within his spirit.
Pro 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Solomon was pursuing wisdom without the understanding of God’s purposes. He allowed himself to taste of the forbidden fruit. There must have been something that held an attraction to him that would bring into future bondage. One of the first indicators of a problem was the taking of Pharaoh’s daughter to be his wife (1 Kings 3:1). This event took place before he asked the Lord for wisdom (1 Kings 4). He had a love for the Lord and he grew mightily in the establishment of his kingdom. This was also before the dedication of the temple (2 Chr 5). This alignment with Pharaoh’s daughter opened a door in his heart which resulted in a growing curiosity as to what was in man. All it takes is one little inroad into the heart. This is why it must be guarded with all diligence.
In verses 4-17 Solomon seeks satisfaction in the building of houses and other assorted interests. This is another violation of the law of kings seen in Deuteronomy.
Deu 17:16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
Deu 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
Deu 17:18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
As mentioned before Solomon violated every one of the law of kings. In spite of these pursuits his wisdom still remained in him (vs 9). This is when it gets dangerous because one can then assume that God’s favor and sanction is upon his life. We can get fooled into thinking we have God’s approval even though we are doing things not pleasing to the Lord. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom 11:29). Solomon did not withhold any desire from himself; the intoxicating effect of the world has now stung and apprehended him. He came to the place where he gathered and achieved so much only to see it all as vanity, without any profit. The accumulated riches that Solomon gathered would be plundered through future invading armies. His son Rehoboam, though wicked in his own right, was not rich. So whom did Solomon gather all his wealth and riches to? Within 5 years of his death his son lost everything to the king of Egypt. This is the fruit of unbridled lust in the heart of a king. He denied himself no pleasure and now at the end of his life he is seeing the vanity of it all. Solomon was misguided in much of his thinking in his later years. He saw no difference in how the wise and the fool are remembered (vs 16). This contradicts scripture and certainly is not true. The Lord makes clear that the name of the righteous will be remembered in all generations (Psa 45:17). Solomon came to despise and hate his life. He is experiencing a torment that comes from walking outside of the path and light that God has given. Solomon did know better and had every advantage. That knowledge only adds to his restless state.
In verses 18-23 Solomon came to the point of questioning his work and labor. He did not bring generational blessing to his son and the people. Think of all that Solomon had done in his early years yet in the end he had nothing to pass on that would last. What will be our legacy? Are we sowing into the next generation of leaders? Solomon had no ability to rest in the night. There were constant fears and worrying as a result of his indulgences. This should be contrasted with the righteous who have peace, contentment and rest even in the midst of difficulties. This is a blessing that comes from the Lord. It is a treasure that cannot be purchased or bought at any price and it is a treasure that many who seem to have everything desperately seek to lay hold of. The question ultimately comes down as to who do we live for. Do we seek our own pleasure and way or do we choose to live for Him who gave his life?
In verses 24-26 we see Solomon making true statements as he comes to the realization of what true contentment is all about. He desperately longs for that simple pleasure that now proves evasive to him. In addition to this measure of contentment the honest man receives wisdom, knowledge and joy. This allows the honest man to have perspective and understanding in the areas of his life. The capstone to these beautiful treasures is the joy of the Lord (vs 26). This is in contrast to the travail and anguish that comes to the sinner. It is the joy of the Lord, not of the world, that brings true satisfaction. Solomon is coming to know this in a most painful way.
In verses 1-8 we have the familiar verses that relate to times and seasons. This is such an important principle that must be understood. We see in the creation that God has an order to everything He does. The courses of the stars in the heavens, the 24-hour cycle of a day all contribute to an understanding as to how the kingdom of God functions. The key for us as believers is to gain a measure of understanding and perspective of His kingdom through the revelation that comes from His Word and by the Spirit.
The tribe of Issachar had an ability to discern the times and seasons of the Lord (1 Chr 12:32). There are those who over-speculate in this area; feeding into the curiosity mind-set of many who do not have a deep committed walk with the Lord. It is through intimacy where God brings forth revelation. The beloved Apostle John had a very close relationship to the Lord. He was the one who received the revelation of who the betrayer was (John 13:25). Is it any wonder that he later received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last Book of the Bible? These series of contrasting seasons help in being to appreciate the balance that is seen in God’s kingdom. Esther, in her preparation had a season of 6 months of myrrh and bitter experiences. She then had a season of 6 months of pleasant odours speaking of a more fruitful time (Est 2:12). If we do not understand the times and seasons of the Lord we can easily lose heart and become discouraged. There may be times when a church or an individual may be going through a pleasant time while another is experiencing just the opposite. Make no mistake, the enemy seizes on such opportunities to try to bring fear, discouragement and even bitterness to a person going through the trial. David came to know well these moments and seasons. This is what helped in strengthening his spirit man in contrast to his soul.
Psa 30:11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
Psa 30:12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
One of the most tragic scenes we find in the scriptures is when the children of Israel missed their opportunity in not recognizing their moment of the Lord’s visitation (Lk 19:41, 44). This also happened when they were assembled at Kadesh Barnea in the Old Testament. The day, the season of their obtaining their inheritance had come but they forfeited due to fear and immaturity. They tried the next day figuring the season was still open only to find their moment had passed. It is not just a lifetime of regret it represents an eternity of regret. May we be like Abraham, David, John and others who knew the times and seasons of the Lord.
In verses 11-14 Solomon rightly declares that the Lord has made everything beautiful in his time. This is another one of those moments where Solomon speaks the truth; here it concerns the beauty of God’s creation. This creation however has been marred by the fall but the Lord is well able to restore that which has been broken. Man cannot help but stand in awe when considering the handiwork of his creation. Solomon concludes that it is enough for man to just be still and admire His Creator and live peaceably daily with Him.
In verses 15-22 Solomon speaks of God as the righteous judge. Solomon makes an important statement in verse 15. He rightly states that God requires that which has past and transpired. If this is true, then would it not be wisdom to seek the Lord to do a diligent search within our hearts? This was one of the keys to David’s life; he sought the Lord to search and examine his heart (Psa 26:2, 139:23-24). God is one who forgives but He is also a God of justice. This is why sin has to be atoned for. This is why the atoning work for sin is costly through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. True repentance is the ability to accept the consequences for sin. David was forgiven in his sin with Bathsheba but there were the consequences that he yet suffered through. Solomon in his later years now has the perspective that it is better for a man to live simply and happily in his own labor. He has a joy and contentment that can only come from God.
1 Tim 5
Paul now gives some instruction as to how various groups of people are to be treated. He begins by speaking of elderly men and treating them like father’s and the younger men as brethren. This is a reference to elders in age and not the title of elders. There should be a respect to people who are older taking note of their experience and positon in life. This was instilled in me from my youth. In my generation we grew up respecting those who were older; calling them by their respective titles. In all my years I could never come to the place of calling the parents of my friends by their first name. It was always Mr. or Mrs. so and so. Sadly, it seems the days of such civility have passed by.
In verses 3-16 Paul speaks concerning the care of widows. He makes the exception if widows have relatives that would be in a position to shoulder the responsibility for their care. A true widow is one who trusts in God and continues in supplication and prayer. One of the best examples in scripture would be the prophetess Anna ( Luk 2:36-38). True widows have much to contribute to the overall welfare of the church and they need to be ministered to and covered. A true widow should be well reported of for her good works which would include bringing up children, taking care of strangers and looking after the varied needs of the saints. Paul warns against the taking in of younger widows seeing that they have the opportunity to either remarry or find a way of providing for themselves. He also warns against taking widows who have left the faith seeing that they could do damage to the church. They can become involved as busybodies getting involved in things that do not pertain to them. To conclude, Paul states that widows need to be looked after and helped but he does lay down clear guidelines of help to be given. It is an important function of the church but it is one that needs to be administered properly.
Paul then speaks to the role of elders in the church (vs 17-21). They are to be honoured and esteemed for the work and effort they put into the study of the Word and Doctrine. A true elder is likened to an ox whose strength and manner of service is to be rewarded; their treading upon the corn and plodding upon difficult soil is symbolic of diligent effort. If an elder is accused of a transgression it is to be brought before two to three witnesses. It should be privately managed until such a time some sort of public declaration is given if the charge is proven to be true. The judgement that is administered (if appropriate) is to be fair and without partiality. Paul adds that any judgment is given before the Lord and the elect angels. When unrighteous judgement is given it sends a message that will contribute to confusion and injustice.
Ecc 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
As a minister we need to be careful about laying our hands on just any person. There is power in impartation and we need to be sensitive to the voice of the spirit. There should be a specific purpose for the laying on of hands. It could be in response to an altar call or personal prayer. It is advisable to ask some questions before praying for a person especially if there is going to be the laying on of hands. There is a danger where this can become more like a mechanical exercise. The altar is a very real place where transformation can take place. It can be a place of divine exchange. The Lord asked Jacob his name in Gen 32:27. Jacob was acknowledging his nature of deceit which allowed for an exchange of strength and character to take place. Jacob was made to know the opportunity he had in being changed. In recognizing the moment, he was not about to let go until obtaining a blessing. This should be our approach when ministering unto people. The laying on of hands can be likened to the encounter that Jacob had with God. It must not be presented as just some formality but as something that transforms. As priests and ministers we need to have this experience ourselves and provide opportunity for those whom we serve.