ECCLESIASTES 4:1 – 6:12 and 1 TIMOTHY 6:1–21
In verses 1-5 Solomon speaks to the problem of oppression that was evident in his day. It is a problem that has existed throughout history right up to our time. We must always see God as being sovereign and over all things. The reasons for oppressions can vary. God allowed Israel to be oppressed by Egypt for a long period of time before setting the stage for their deliverance under Moses. Joseph and Paul had to go through seasons of imprisonment and yet through their ordeal God was very much at work. Once again we come to see the importance of having a vision. A vision can hold us through seasons of difficulty. A vision helps us to know that seasons of oppression are not permanent, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A vision helps to give perspective of a bigger picture. Make no mistake; a season of darkness can be overwhelming bringing one to a place of hopelessness. We must know God’s promise, His Word and His ways to help us at such times. It is during such times when two groups of people emerge. Take Moses and Israel for example as they were at the brink of the Red Sea. They had the same challenge before them but two very different perspectives. Moses saw God at work and was able to declare the salvation of the Lord as the Red Sea opened up. The children of Israel could only focus upon their familiar oppressors as they were drawing near. The spirit and forces of oppression are only going to intensify in the days before us. Which of the two perspectives best reflects us?
In verse 6 Solomon contemplates the blessings of quietness and contentment. This was another elusive joy and pleasure denied Solomon seeing the many wives and concubines he was responsible for. While writing the proverbs he warned often concerning the contentious and odious woman. His heart eventually opened up to such women resulting in great misery. You can see his longing in wanting to be in a place of such peace and contentment. The apostle Paul later writes one of his best words of instruction to his junior ministers and church leaders.
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
In verses 7-8 Solomon speaks to those who allow themselves to be isolated and alone. This is not God’s intent for a believer. There may be seasons when God allows a leader to go through solitary moments but it is only for a season and for a specific purpose. God uses the body of Christ to polish, sharpen up and encourage one another. We need to be careful about alienating ourselves as individuals and as congregations. This does not mean we seek unity at the expense of truth but there are areas of common ground that can be struck for the edifying and building up of the saints. It is especially true as the last days are quickly approaching. The forces against Christ are uniting and are becoming increasingly formidable by the day. The church and its members need to seek the unity of the Spirit and find that common ground of identity. A loner is one who typically refuses to allow God to deal with certain issues in their lives. When they are isolated their issue can be dormant hence their staying away from people. It is in the midst of the body where these things can suddenly be made manifest. People who isolate themselves are oftentimes guilty of pride; seeing themselves as more spiritual than others. This same problem can be evident in churches and organizations as well.
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Solomon then contrasts isolation with the friendships that can be gained through fellowship (vs 9-12). The prominent verses are 11-12 which is oftentimes quoted at weddings. The 3-fold cord can be likened to an isosceles triangle that has God at the top and the two other ends as the husband and wife. As the husband and wife look up and draw nearer to God in effect they are drawing nearer to one another. This is the kind of unity so needed in a marriage. The home will be blessed as well as the community and church where such couples exist. These close relationships are not limited to marriages alone. It also speaks of people who can be trusted, people whom we can be accountable to who help to make us stronger in the things of God. The blessings of counsel are also evident when surrounded by people of character and integrity (Pro 17:17, 18:24).
In verses 13-16 we see a sad commentary which illustrates the condition of Solomon. Notice the contrast he makes in verse 13. It is better to be a poor and wise child than a foolish king who can no longer be admonished. Solomon was not surrounding himself in his latter years with men who could give good counsel. This is the result of years of tasting of the forbidden fruit of the world. He did not heed his own instruction and writings from earlier years. We will see his son Rehoboam make the very same mistake. His reign would rise or fall on how he responded to the appeal from Jeroboam. He heard from wise counsellors (1 Kings 12:7-8) and from the foolish (1 Kings 12:11). In the end he hearkened to the wrong counsel which affected the rule of the kings throughout all of Israel. Let us take heed to Solomon’s words concerning counsel and be wise.
The first 7 verses speak to the subject of worship. How do we approach the Lord when we come into a worship service? Is our mind preoccupied with other things as opposed to being focused upon the Lord? The Lord desires those that worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). We need to be very careful what we say in the presence of the Lord. It is easy to respond to an appeal but do we follow up? The leadership of the church may not be privy to that which you vowed but the Lord is. A foolish person is one who makes rash and quick commitments but yet does not follow up. The case of Jephthah is one of the most sobering examples concerning this issue (Jud 11:30-31). Solomon is affording real wisdom in these verses. It is better to not make a vow then to make one and not follow through. It is always good and prudent to ask the question, what is the end of the matter? A close and harmonious walk with God will aid us in knowing when and when not to make vows or commitments to the Lord. They should never be made rashly.
In verses 7-8 Solomon revisits the theme of oppression (Eccl 4:1-3). Solomon became oppressive in his rule in his latter years. He is actually instructing on a subject where he is guilty (2 Chr 10:4). We are to be those who rule over men in wisdom and care. What kind of authority do we wield? Do we drive people or lead them? The testimony of the people under Solomon at the end of his life was not a good one. As mentioned before this characteristic ended up being passed on down to his son Rehoboam.
Solomon is now going to pick up on a theme that plagues mankind to this day. It is the subject of money; the love, pursuit and usage of it. We all need money to live and survive so in itself it is not evil. The Bible states that it is “the love” of money that is the root of evil. How we think about money and how we spend money says much of what is in our heart. The more money people acquire the more they spend to try and bring some measure of fulfilment and satisfaction. The sad reality is that it never satisfies. The love of money is constantly looking for ways to gain more. It is a never ending cycle which was observed in the Proverbs. When we die we take nothing with us other than who we are. The other concern for people who accumulate money is what will be done with it after they pass on. Will they appreciate the hard work and effort that went into accumulating the wealth? These things vex the soul and cause many a sleepless night. There is no contentment, satisfaction or joy to a person who has a lifetime love for the accumulation of wealth.
In verses 18-20 Solomon speaks of the contentment that comes upon a man in his ability to eat and drink with satisfaction. It is a power that comes from God in one’s ability to enjoy wealth. This life is a temporary passage that passes away. If our heart is in tune with God we can enjoy an eternity of contentment and joy with Him. We can experience a taste of eternity in this life as we learn to enjoy and give thanks for each and every day. This gladness of heart will carry through to eternity which makes the transition from this world to the next that much easier.
Solomon continues on the thought of riches. He begins by speaking of a man who has been given the power to accumulate wealth but having not the power to enjoy and preserve it. It is likened to an evil disease that eats and vexes. So much work and effort has been given to the gathering of riches only to see it spoiled and taken by strangers. The story of the rich man who built a storage barn for his riches comes to mind.
Luk 12:19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
Luk 12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Do we live our life with others in mind or is it unto ourselves? Today’s narcissistic culture pays little attention to future generations. The work and efforts tend to be self-serving that carries no legacy or investment forward for the benefit of others. Solomon can only share now from his own personal experience. Think back to the glory days of the establishment of his reign; the splendour of the kingdom with its overwhelming administrative capacities as witnessed by the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:7). Solomon adds further lament by speaking of a man who lives many years with many children but has no power to fill his soul with good. This is a man who is not remembered at his death. A man who has an untimely birth is cited as being better off. Once again, this is a judgment playing out in the life of Solomon at the end of his life. There are popular songs that have been published and sung along these lines. It reflects an empty life which is void of any significant meaning. The pleasure seeking pursuits will never bring a person to a place of contentment and rest. Solomon is so vexed that he says that one who has never seen the sun nor any matter of life is better off than the empty man. It is a sad commentary of a life. It is too bad his words and instruction are not being appropriated today. The pleasure seeking apparatus is in full gear as we head toward the last days.
Solomon continues his lament regarding a life that lacks purpose and meaning. It seems like the wisdom he received as a young man is mixed with worldly wisdom and its ways resulting in a chaotic perspective of life that cannot be reconciled. He knows that something has been lost and cannot be recovered. He only has himself to blame in allowing his heart to become defiled and contaminated with the “forbidden fruit” of this world. Adam partook of the forbidden fruit in disobedience while Solomon did it in wisdom. It was not “wisdom” that made him do the things he did but it’s the revelation and insights that come with wisdom that now makes his life most miserable. To whom much is given much is required. When one sins in the light he is much more accountable than a person who sins in ignorance. This is Solomon’s plight. What does all of this mean for us? We have the advantage of years and testimonies, like Solomon to draw from. There is no generation that has been warned and as enlightened as ours. Will we faithfully appropriate the treasure and privilege that has been given to us? It is so important to spend time and meditate on Solomon’s state of life in this Book. As long as we have breath there is still a chance and opportunity, if God permits, to make things right by God’s grace. It begins by seeing each and every day as a gift given by God. The blessings of contentment; the ability to enjoy one’s daily labour is a far greater treasure than we realize. God gives man the gift and ability to create wealth but it must be accompanied by the ability and power to enjoy it. The Lord may not bring man into riches and wealth but if he can enjoy the fruits of a daily labour he is already a rich man. Just ask King Solomon.
1 Tim 6
In Paul’s day slavery was very common so there were instructions given to those who were servants as to how they were to relate to their masters. We can put a modern day twist to this by addressing those who serve under leaders or bosses who are of the faith and those who are not. The bottom line is that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed in the way we respond to our authorities (vs 1). The bosses who are believers are to be served in a way that strengthens them in their area of service. Say for example one serves as a staff in a church. He or she is not only doing a duty but they are serving the leader. This is something that the Lord takes note of. A staff worker should do everything in their power to help make the leader and the church a better person and place. Our attitude in the way we serve says much about the kind of person we are. Jesus took on the form of a servant in the moments leading up to the Cross (John 13:3-5).
In verses 3-7 Paul speaks concerning a contrary gospel that puts its focus on the things of the world. Instead of promoting the virtues of Christ the nature and spirit of the world is brought to light. The church and its effectiveness are measured by a new criterion of worldly standards that takes issue with the doctrine that promotes godliness (vs 3-4). Paul goes on to say that godliness with contentment is great gain (vs 6). It is interesting to note that the Old Testament portion of scripture being studied at the same time is the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon echoes the truth of verse 6 on numerous occasions in his writings.
Paul continues on this theme of contentment in the life of a believer. Where does this insatiable appetite for wealth and riches originate from? Once again we only need to go back to the beginning in the garden. The serpent was able to redefine the tree that God spoke as a warning to Adam. The needs of Adam and Eve were being met without having to being drawn near to the tree. The needs of the children of Israel were being met in their daily trek through the wilderness by way of food and provision. Discontentment comes when one is not thankful. It is an attitude that the serpent is able to seize upon while at the same time tempting man with forbidden fruit. Today is no different as man will do what he can to satisfy his varied lusts. If he cannot afford it he goes into debt which only gives the serpent added leverage over his victim. Paul makes clear that it is the “love of money” that is at the root of all evil. Money may be able to buy anything in life but it cannot buy contentment. Once again all one has to do is just ask Solomon. I am amazed how this New Testament study links with the current Old Testament study in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Paul exhorts his junior ministers to flee these trappings and rather follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. What a beautiful counter to the worldly pursuits so many follow after today. As believers in Christ may we follow after the beautiful attributes that Paul lists above.
Paul then exhorts Timothy and Titus to fight the good fight of faith. There is to be no mistaking that the kingdom of God is at war with the kingdom of darkness. This war is only going to intensify in the days ahead. One of the keys in being successful in battle is to be without spot and to be unrebukable till the coming of the Lord. Jesus was able to be successful in all of His battles up to the end due to being without spot or taint of corruption.
Joh 14:30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me
It takes a disciplined and intentional walk to have this measure of integrity but this is what is needed in order to fight the good fight. This speaks of a man who has allowed the finger of God to come within his own life so as to eradicate any semblance of sin. This disarms the enemy in his ability to lay hold of something within a man. Such a man will not be exploited or leveraged. The commandment and the laws of God are sufficient in their ability to do this work; this work which produces the attributes of godliness and righteousness within the priest.
Paul concludes by charging Timothy to keep that which has been committed to him (vs 20). He has been trained well and has the years of experience in serving faithfully under the great Apostle Paul. It will require an ability to stand strong against great opposition. Paul will further build upon his exhortation to Timothy in his 2nd letter which will follow a bit later on. What we see in Paul and Timothy is a true father/son relationship. It serves as a beautiful model of generational leadership for our day. Paul worked hard to the end but while doing so he planned for his successor to build upon the foundation he has had the privilege to establish. We need to see more of these father/son relationships in our churches.
Edited on 25 Sept 2017, 4pm.