ECCLESIASTES 7:1 – 9:18 and 2 TIMOTHY 1:1–18
Solomon goes about making a series of comments on aspects of a man’s life. One of the first statements is a contrast between being in the house of mourning as opposed to a house of feasting (vs 2-4). In a house of mourning one considers the brevity of life and the consequences of choices made throughout one’s life. In a house of feasting it is easy to cast all restraints to the wind. I have an understanding of this contrast in my role as a pastor on several occasions. There have been occasions where I had to do a funeral and then later attend a wedding reception dinner on the same day. You talk about contrasts! There is nothing wrong in attending reception dinners and celebrating with a couple but the perspectives are quite different. There are people who live for continual feasting and it is this group that can lose the sense of eternal perspectives and consequences. Solomon is once again sharing on a subject of which he has become a victim. He chose to indulge his heart in life’s pleasure’s to now come to the place of knowing its folly. The prayer of Moses should ever be before us when contemplating our lives. “Teach us Lord to number our days that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa 90:12).
There are many quick one line observations that Solomon makes which we should take some time to consider. In verses 8-9 he speaks about not being hasty in our spirit. The tendency in man is to quickly react to a matter; oftentimes in anger when provoked in some way. A patient man can see through a situation and respond appropriately when tested. The key in being able to prevail in such situations is knowing how to ask the following question: What is the end of the matter? In fact, Solomon would have done well to ask this question earlier in his life to possibly avoid the consequences he is now experiencing. Praying and considering the end of a matter will help us to make right decisions in our life. In verse 10 Solomon speaks about how one should reflect upon their past. One can reflect and learn from the past but not be one who lives in the past. Today, I look at my country and admittedly long for the days when it better reflected its godly heritage. I can learn from the past but I cannot bring it back. The focus needs to be on what can be done now to change the situation. If we constantly look back and relive the past, we hinder the work and responsibility that God has placed upon us today. As believers living in these days we cannot afford to make that mistake.
Solomon makes some comments about those who prosper as opposed to those who suffer through adversity. Prosperity is not necessarily a sign of God’s approval on one’s life. Contrarily one who is in adversity does not signify God’s displeasure. It is a measuring rule that still seems to apply today, even in the church. In verses 16-18 Solomon speaks and warns neither against being overly righteous or overly caught up in wickedness. There can be a problem with being over-righteous. We can become so zealous over something that may be right or good to a fault. I have experienced this to my detriment on a few occasions. I could not let go of something that I felt was right to the point that it ended up doing some damage in my life. We must know our limitations and level of authority. If we have discharged our responsibilities in a prudent and proper way, we can rest in the outcome. In my case I was undertaking another person’s offense. We must know the strength and beauty of knowing when and how to yield. This is one of the attributes of wisdom (Easy to be Entreated-James 3:17).
In verses 23-29 Solomon speaks of the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. There is nothing wrong in these pursuits provided that is ordained of God. Solomon allowed the gifting of wisdom that was given to him to be channelled in inappropriate ways. He mixed his gifting of wisdom and godly knowledge into worldly avenues of pursuit. This can be traced right back to the Garden of Eden. The serpent seduced Eve into partaking of the forbidden tree for the secret and restrictive knowledge that could be obtained (Gen 3:5-6). It was knowledge that God did not make available but became a realm of knowledge that was now opened up and tapped into. It is God’s intent that we grow in knowledge and wisdom, but on His terms. Remember, wisdom, knowledge and understanding are 3 of the 7 attributes of the Spirit of the Lord (Isa 11:2-3). These are holy place anointing’s that reside (spiritually) in the Holy place of Moses Tabernacle. These are anointing’s that do not come to the casual believer. Solomon took the pure anointing that was resident within him and perverted its use by indulging in the things of the world. It all begins with openness in the heart, one little area of entrance, one little fox that can eventually spoil the vine. Solomon in all his wisdom could not steer his wives towards the things of God; rather they apprehended his heart toward their gods resulting in his making provision for them. May we learn from these examples so that we live a separated and sanctified life for the Lord.
Solomon will now address the importance of submitting to authority in verses 1-7. The Bible is filled with examples where the authority structure of God is on display. The Bible is just as instructive in citing people who were not under authority and the consequences that came about as a result. We can note the example of Eve having her discourse with the serpent outside the covering of Adam. How this separation came about is unclear but its resulting fruit proved devastating. The only remedy in being able to undo this transgression was the giving of the Son of God to die upon the cross. It is God who has established the authority structure that governs the world today. You see a similar structure of authority in the heavens and in the godhead as well. The key for us is learning to respond properly to the authorities that God brings into our lives. As the years have passed by I have come to see how much emphasis God places on how one responds to certain situations. This is often seen in the relationships where one is serving under another in some capacity.
Jesus Himself served under authority while He walked upon the earth. He was accountable to his parents at the age of 12 when speaking in the temple (Luk 2:49). He paid the taxes that were due by summoning the needed money through a fish (Math 17:27). (I would love to have that measure of faith for the paying of my taxes.) The laws that govern the land must be upheld as well. The problem comes when the leadership becomes corrupt which results in the enacting of unrighteous laws. How then should a believer respond?
There is a case taking place at the time of this writing involving a town clerk in the USA who is put into the position of having to put her name upon marriage licenses for same sex couples. This is against her conscience and she will not go along with the law of the land. Is she right to stay true to her conscience even if it results in her going to jail? This is exactly what has happened. Once the law of the land becomes so perverse there will be required acts of holding true to one’s conscience. This is what the three friends of Daniel had to do when everyone was forced to bow down to the image (Dan 3). In this case, God delivered them and we can expect to see similar scenarios in the last days. Another good example to take note of was David’s submission to Saul, even though he was being falsely pursued. David came to the place of seeing the sovereignty of God at work even when he was given the chance to be delivered of his foe. The authority structure that God has put into place is for our protection and benefit. There will be times when wisdom will be required in knowing how to handle and respond to certain situations. How we respond to the God given authority figures in our lives says more about us than we know.
In verses 8-17 Solomon speaks concerning the wisdom of God and its ability to direct our steps. He also speaks of those whose memories are forgotten after they are gone. Worse still, he speaks of those who once tasted of holiness and have left the path. I am afraid that this is a subject Solomon would know well. It is one thing to have never known the way and be forgotten but how tragic for those who were enlightened only to choose an alternative path (vs 10). One can only imagine the thoughts circulating through the mind of Solomon as he is reflecting on these truths. There is an exhortation to Fear the Lord especially in a time when the Lord is delaying judgment. Unfortunately, the delayed judgement seems to only embolden men to set their heart to greater evil. It is God’s intent, even in the midst of judgement to give opportunity for men to repent. This will be seen during the horrific judgements that will be released upon the earth in the last days. God is so good and there comes a time in a believer’s life where there must be absolute trust in His ability to lead and guide our steps. The path of the Lord is as a shining light that illumines our path as we take those trusting steps of faith (Pro 4:18). All the paths of the Lord are Mercy and Truth… (Psa 25:10). My wife and I would have never even come close to trying to depict the path the Lord has led us on these over 24 years on the foreign field. Still, upon reflection we can only marvel at His handiwork and ability to lead. It causes us to trust Him more and to believe in his ability to bring us into His desired haven.
Solomon continues to speak of those who lived a life that in the end was fruitless. He comes to grips with the reality of knowing that a life lived for pleasure and vanity is one of the greatest vexations that a man can know at the end of his life. Worse still, when such a man passes on there is nothing he can do to remedy the situation in addition to his name and memory being forgotten. The lament is an eternal one of regret coupled with the horrors and pangs of hell. Have you ever considered how a soul in hell would give anything to have the opportunity that we have today? Satan disguises well the reality of eternal torment; he has done this from the very beginning (Gen 3:4). The love, envy and hatred man has come to know in this life comes to an end at death and such a person is left to deal with its consequences.
Solomon now speaks wisdom concerning what constitutes true joy and contentment. In verse 7 he exhorts the reader to enjoy their daily portions in life. He goes on to say that we should look to the Lord to live righteously while keeping ourselves anointed with oil. Can you feel the up and down emotional state of Solomon as he pens this letter? Let us never forget that he is doing each of us a great service in sharing his experiences. His latter years epitomize all that man strives for today and yet look at his misery. Let his message hit home and sound off a warning; let us seek meekness and righteousness today while He still can be found (Zeph 2:3). He gives further instruction which can prove helpful and it is an area where he failed miserably. In verse 9 he speaks of living happily and joyfully with the wife that the Lord has given. We noted earlier the contrast from the last Proverb (31) where Solomon’s mother gave instruction to her son to the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. It is an amazing contrast seen in the same man. The tender young man who had a close an intimate walk with God has become a miserable, vexated old man. Something happened over the course of those 30 some years. This can be likened to a marriage which starts off well only to wane and grow cold where the couple becomes indifferent to one another. What I have been discovering is that how I treat my wife is rather similar to the way I treat the Lord. As the days go by I see myself as an increasingly selfish person. These instructions of Solomon are provoking something in me as I summarize these chapters.
The next thing that is advocated is that we are to have a strong work ethic (vs 10). You see this quality in the restorers who rebuilt the city in the days of Nehemiah. It will take a similar effort to accomplish God’s purposes in the last days. The lazy, casual and serving God on one’s own terms type of Christian will be noticeably deficient in being able to meet the challenges that are coming. It is best that we hear now what the Spirit is saying to the churches and prepare our nets in anticipation of the harvest to come (Mat 13:46-47).
The race is not necessarily to the fastest and most gifted of believers but to those who possess wisdom and administrate it properly. A poor man who possesses wisdom is capable of delivering a strong city though no one gives him heed or regard (vs 15). This demonstrates how precious wisdom is and how we should be ever seeking after its treasure. Solomon knows something about this having asked for wisdom as a young man instead of worldly riches. In all thy getting, get wisdom, it is the principle thing. Solomon builds on this truth by speaking of a wise man whose words are heard in quietness as opposed to those who trumpet their cause and works as fools. Solomon concludes by saying that wisdom is much greater than all weapon of war. Help us Lord, to apply our hearts unto wisdom and live our lives with purpose and meaning for your glory.
2 Tim 1
This is considered to be the last of Paul’s writing as he was in prison more than likely awaiting his execution. What a life the Apostle Paul has led. He has lived two different extremes of ministry. He was a zealous tormentor of the church in his early years only to be converted while on the Damascus Road. Paul then became the greatest evangelist the world has seen; accomplishing so much in such a short period of time. How best to pass on this burden and legacy for the sake of the kingdom? This is the background we need to consider as we approach this last writing of Paul. It is his last chance to get his thoughts and impression to a beloved Son whom is trusted and capable in bringing the message forward. This is the primary purpose and burden that Paul is now carrying at this crucial period. The words and instruction that come forth can be likened to a last will and testament albeit on a much bigger scale.
Paul addresses Timothy as a dearly beloved son. In searching the scriptures, I can only find the term “beloved Son” referenced in one other relationship; that being of the Heavenly Father to His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (Mat 3:17, 17:5). Paul references Timothy as his beloved Son in Corinthians as well (1 Cor 4:17). Paul loved Timothy and fully trusted him to be able to carry on his work. In verses 1-8 Paul speaks specifically of Timothy whereby giving thanks for his life and for the godly heritage experienced through his mother and grandmother. Paul prayed for Timothy and thanked God for his life; he was acquainted with his tears and overwhelmed with joy in what God was accomplishing through him (vs 3-4). In verse 6 Paul challenges Timothy to stir up the gift of God that came by the laying on of hands. How can we do this? Being consistent in prayer, maintaining a strong devotional life, speaking in other tongues are but a few examples of things we can do to keep the fire hot within us. One of the enemies that helps to suppress the release of God’s gifting is fear. The enemy thrives on fear; it is fuel that keeps him strong. Fear can quench faith in the same way that water puts out a fire. Fear does not originate from God; it comes from the enemy. God gives power, love and a sound mind. These qualities remain strong when the gifts of God are activated while feeding upon the living Word of God. The prophecies of old, the praying and stirring of gifts and faithful adherence to God’s Word will give fear no room to operate.
Paul wanted Timothy to not be ashamed of the fact that Paul was in prison. Paul knew that it was God’s will for him to be in chains. Many probably disputed and wondered why such a mighty man of God would be subject to prison and suffering. Paul saw a bigger picture. He saw how the fruits of patience were being wrought through tribulation (Rom 5:3). This is a debated subject today. Many take issue with the thought that God would allow suffering to come upon his people or that they would be in a prison. There is suffering in the kingdom of God but we must understand that there are different reasons for suffering. The Lord learned obedience by the things he suffered (Heb 5:8). We can suffer vicariously on behalf of others, to help bring others through their trial or area of need. Paul’s suffering in prison has benefitted each of us since we are beneficiaries of his writings that came as a result of his incarceration. We can also suffer for our own sins and for this there is no glory. Paul was encouraging Timothy to be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel that will come and to experience the power of God.
The work and calling is a holy one and not to be taken lightly (vs 9). It is a work that cannot be achieved in one’s own strength but through the grace of God. Paul had authority as preacher, apostle and appointed teacher to the Gentiles. The mantle and baton is now being passed on to one of his beloved sons. Paul is now coming to the end of his race and he encourages Timothy that God has been faithful to accomplish and complete all that has been committed to his (Paul’s) trust and that God would do for the same for him (vs 12).In verses 13-14 Paul exhorts Timothy to hold fast the sound words and teachings that he has received through the years. How is this all to be managed and administered? It is through the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Peter, who was timid and filled with fear during the time of the Lord’s crucifixion, was transformed into a man of boldness and power through the Holy Spirit. This is why the gifts of the Spirit need to be stirred up within. It allows for the Holy Spirit to have a greater measure of expression through our vessel. Paul warns Timothy that there will be those who will oppose and make things difficult like Phygellus and Hermogenes; men who once knew the truth but have since turned away opposing the truth (vs 15). Paul is establishing a foundation in his instruction to Timothy in this first chapter. He makes clear the love and confidence that he has in his spiritual son. He gives some practical advice in how to grow in his relationship with the Holy Spirit and how to avail of the abundant grace of God. He will now build upon this foundation as he goes about giving his final charge and instruction in the chapters to come.