ECCLESIASTES 10:1 – 12:14 and 2 TIMOTHY 2:1–13
The entire chapter speaks to the blessings of speaking words that edify and build up. Such a person is likened to a wise man (vs 12). The tribe of Naphtali was known for the “goodly words” that came forth from their lips. These are not words of flattery but of genuine interest in blessing others. I am sure each of us can attest to having being blessed along these lines at times in our life. Solomon begins by speaking of a foolish man likened to a dead fly in a jar of precious ointment. This is a sobering characterization of how a good lifelong reputation can be destroyed in a moments worth of folly. The tragedy is that the folly is oftentimes more remembered than the lifetime of good works. Of course, God can allow for repentance but the mark is indelible and remains. Once again, Solomon can relate his own experience in this example. It is absolutely vital that we allow our hearts to be guarded at all times and that we seek daily for the Lord’s mercies. Think of an expensive jar of precious ointment all going to waste because of one little stinking fly. A lifetime’s worth of accomplishments for God can be undermined with one moment’s worth of folly. I know I am repeating myself but this truth just keeps resonating in my Spirit. Lord, we cry out for your mercies.
In verse 4 there is another important truth that is brought forth. It is so easy to respond when provoked but are we responding with a right spirit? The flesh loves to seek to vindicate self when challenged, especially for something that is not true. How we respond will have at least two very different outcomes. This is where the fruit of temperance is so needed; the same fruit of temperance that the Lord exhibited while dying upon the Cross. When Jesus yielded His Spirit to His father’s will He brought forth the salvation of mankind. What would have happened if He responded in anger for something He was not guilty of? Where would we be today? In learning to yield our spirit as opposed to responding in anger we pacify a potentially bigger problem. It takes strength and the working of the Holy Spirit in learning to respond rightly. May God help us to major on giving a soft answer, especially when going through challenging situations (Pro 15:1).
In verse 8 we see what happens when the hedge of God’s protection is broken down. It opens the door for the serpent to enter and inject his poison. This is why we must zealously guard the laws of God. God’s law provides the covering and hedge that shields out the enemy. The only way he can gain access is if we allow him too. That is what transpired in the garden. God gave a law which served as a protection around the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). All man had to do was to keep and obey God’s instruction. The serpent was able to penetrate the hedge by inducing Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. Today, the laws of God are being redefined in society and worse still in the church. The message of Restoration is all about rebuilding that which has been broken down. It requires a people who know the heart of God; priests who are schooled in God’s law and are able to enact the process of rebuilding. You have one of the most dynamic combinations of Restoration leaders in both Ezra and Nehemiah. They serve as a prime standard (other than Christ) of the kind of leadership needed today. The enemies of Nehemiah were squeezed out of Jerusalem, a territory that he occupied without resistance over a period of time. It is time to reclaim that which has been lost and refortify the walls and hedge of protection so that the Kingdom of God can once again flourish.
In verses 12-14 we see the primary theme of this Proverb centred on the speaking of good and right words contrasted with that of the foolish man. We need to be very careful with what we say, especially if we are in a position of leadership. One little slip up can do great damage. You can see this in the American Political system. A biased media that has an agenda looks for opportunities to deliberately trip up a candidate by way of soundbites. One little word or phrase, oftentimes taken out of context is all that is needed to portray a candidate in an unfavourable light. As leaders in the church we must not back down from speaking the Truth; there is no room for Political Correctness in the preaching of the Gospel. There is too much worrying about being politically correct that the Truth can get compromised. That is the primary objective of Political Correctness; to undermine, distort and ultimately redefine Truth. On the other hand, church leaders need wisdom in knowing how to address certain matters. We do not want to unnecessarily provoke incidents due to our being overly zealous in our righteousness. (Just ask Peter how this can be a problem.) The words that come forth from our lips derive from that which is in our heart. A man or woman flowing in the anointing can bring forth beautiful truths that strengthen, uplift, convict and edify to the glory of God.
Psa 45:2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
We see the fruits of sowing in verse 1 as Solomon shares about casting our bread upon the waters. This is where vision and patience is so important. We live in an instant gratification, got to have it now kind of society. It is reflected in culture through movies, song and education. The danger is that it is now being reflected in some of the doctrines being taught in churches. To fully appreciate the principle of sowing as seen in verse one we need to have God’s perspective in how He sees things. Let’s consider some verses from Isa 55.
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isa 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
There is a process or a circuit that is established when God’s Word goes forth. It goes forth as seed or like rain to the earth but does not return to Him as rain. The rain gives seed to the sower who then plants the seed into the ground which brings forth a harvest. It brings a return unto the Lord that is vastly different from the way it went forth. Our responsibility is to hear the Word of the Lord and to sow the seeds of the kingdom. He is the one that will bring the increase. We more than likely will not see immediate fruit but years later there is no limit as to what can be accomplished. We sow in obedience to God and He will ensure that the seed sown will not return unto Him void. His ways and thoughts are far greater than ours.
In verse 3 we are introduced to a truth that speaks of eternity. How we die does affect our eternity. This is why we should ever seek to finish strong. Where a tree falls it dies and lies there. We are the planting of the Lord (Isa 61:3) and we want to pray to be fruitful to His glory and honor.
In verses 5-6 we see the exhortation to diligence. We have shared this thought on previous occasions but it really all comes down to attitude. We can make every excuse not to do something and there are times when the reasoning may be rather sound. On the other hand, we can make every excuse to do the needful provided we are in the will of God. There is no room for the slothful for those called to be the bride of Christ. The qualifying process is underway and it oftentimes comes down to simple attitude that makes the distinction.
In verses 7-10 Solomon speaks on a subject that he would know all too well; the blessing of learning to remember the creator in the days of youth. Once again, can you imagine the lament going through the mind of Solomon as he shares these thoughts? Do you think the joys of what he once had is being called to mind? This is another reason why we must pray and invest in young people because habits become increasingly harder to change as the years go by. The decisions that are made in the years of youth can establish an eternal destiny. In verse 9 there is the warning that we will be accountable for the decisions made and the way that we lived our life. This thought will be carried over into the next chapter.
Solomon continues the thought of remembering God in the days of our youth. There is still an ability to adjust and alter areas of character and habit before they become established and rooted. As life goes on we become patterned in the way we live and it becomes increasingly difficult to make changes.
Pro 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Is it any wonder that the enemy targets the younger generation with his full arsenal of devices? He not only knows their potential but he also knows that if he can lay hold of their thinking and inculcate his values at a young age he will be in a better position to enslave them. This is the tactic that has been used over the last several decades. It became clear that modern day secularism could not be implemented over night. It had to begin with the progressive inculcating of values, primarily through the education system. This is reinforced by media and entertainment platforms. A better more understandable term would be that of programming. The young generation represents a battleground where the forces of darkness are contending with the purposes of God. The knowledge of the Lord is acquired through disciplined reading of the Word, prayer and devotional time given to God. The devices of the enemy can be countered with the knowledge of God accompanied by wisdom and understanding. As cited on previous occasions it requires an intentional seeking of the Lord. There are treasures to be uncovered and it is given to those who seek the Lord with all their heart.
In verse 5 we have a picture of what death is like to one who lived life on his terms. That person departs to the blackness of darkness forever without a lament or remembrance of his name. At death we either will hear the joyful words of “well done thy good and faithful servant” or the words of “depart from me for I never knew you”. Which will it be for us? Will we have the joy of knowing that we have finished our course and accomplished the task that God has placed before us? The Apostle Paul could say with full assurance that he has finished his course in life. (2Tim 4:7) What absolute joy it must have been to know he was about to enter into eternity without an earthly regret. Here we have Solomon who is about to finish his life’s journey in misery and regret. What a contrast between the two. In the earlier years of both men it looked to be quite the opposite. Solomon displayed every indication of being the one who would live triumphantly through life. Paul on the other hand was persecuting the early church and giving every indication that his life was destined for evil and destruction. Their respective lives convey two very different messages: First, in Paul we see how a life can change through the transformational power of God. Secondly, in Solomon we are warned that nothing can be taken for granted. He had every advantage, privilege and opportunity. He had a glorious beginning and yet through idolatry and the disobedience of God’s law for kings he ends on a terrible note. His wisdom is now allowing him to see a very big picture and it is not a pretty sight as it pertains to his life.
In verse 9 Solomon reminds us that our God is one of order. He does not do things in a random fashion. In our spiritual development we must begin with foundations and then seek to build upon them. The Apostle Peter instructs us accordingly in his last epistle. It begins with the foundation of faith and then goes forth from there (2 Pet 1:5-7). Paul states in Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). The enemy is well aware of the importance of strong foundations and he goes about seeking to undermine them.
Psa 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Take for instance the first 4 words in the Bible. “In the beginning God…” In most schools today you have alternative theories of creation that are taught. If you can undermine this very first foundation you undermine everything. The enemy attacks foundations so it behoves us to be strongly established in the things of God. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; it is a progressive work that is accomplished by heeding instruction and walking in the light (Rom 1:17). The ways of the world put a high emphasis on the growth in human wisdom which can result in a weariness of the flesh (vs 12).It also results in emptiness as Solomon has discovered to his regret. Remember, it is God that puts a desire in man to hunger and thirst after truth. If we walk in God’s ways we will find satisfaction in our pursuit. The purposes of God come to be known one step at a time, line upon line, precept upon precept. In life’s pursuit of Truth there are seasons of rest and refreshing as we press on to higher heights. This is the kind of life that God is calling His church and people too. Solomon by way of his example is making this point clearly known. So what is the ultimate end of the matter? How does Solomon reconcile all that he has put forward in this Book? He concludes by exhorting each of us to Fear God and keep His commandments. Was this not the message of Moses throughout the Book of Deuteronomy? Has this not been the instruction throughout the entirety of church history right up to our day? Will we give heed to Solomon’s words; will we learn from his sobering example? This truly is the conclusion of the whole matter; to Fear God and keeps His commandments. This is the New Covenant reality for our day.
2 Tim 2
Paul now expresses to Timothy that he has to take what he has learned and be able to effectively pass it on to others who will be faithful in carrying on the work of the ministry. We are seeing some of the pieces of generational transfer being emphasized; an earlier version of succession planning. Paul taught by instructing those under him through the Word and by his life’s example. There is that expression often heard about how that which was taught needs to be caught. Timothy observed and absorbed the life of the Apostle Paul and is now being charged to be a similar example to others. It has to bring joy and satisfaction to Paul knowing that he can trust Timothy and others like Titus to carry forward the work. The ministry and work should always be able to outlive the leader but it is only done by properly investing in the next generation on the Lord’s terms.
Paul tells Timothy in verse 3 that he needs to endure hardness like a good soldier. There will be many contrary winds that a leader will have to face. Jesus was able to set his face like a flint against those who opposed him (Isa 50:7). His enemies were not just natural but also spiritual. The same is true today. A leader who endures hardness is a leader who can stand in the midst of great opposition for the establishment of God’s kingdom. To be effective in such warfare a leader must not be caught up or entangled with the world. There are many subtle distractions that can get in the way of the work of the ministry. King Solomon warned of this and eventually fell prey to this entrapment himself. The soldier of Christ who will be effective in these last days is one who is focused, not of a double heart while knowing his position and identity in Christ. These attributes can be seen in one of the tribes of David’s army who were effective in warfare.
1Ch 12:33 Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.
Paul reminds Timothy once again that he suffered persecution and imprisonment as an evil doer and that he can expect the same. His primary point of emphasis however was that the Word of God throughout his ordeal was never bound (vs 9). Paul physically was in chains but the Word of God knows no such constraints. What is amazing that after almost 2000 years we all still benefit from Paul’s being in prison. Though he was chained and bound the Word of God was penned and released bringing life to those in Paul’s day right up to ours. Paul then picks up on this theme of reigning with Christ provided we learn to die to self and become acquainted with his suffering (vs 11-12). This is not very popular theology but it is the reality.
There are aspects of Christ we can never know unless we experience a measure of his suffering while learning to die to elements of self. The flesh fights against this truth in a battle that is all too real. The flesh desires ease and comfort and it seeks to find a suitable type of Christianity that will accommodate its pulse. This is why the church contends over different kinds of doctrine. Speaking of doctrine, Paul now speaks to the importance of the study and meditating upon the Word of God (vs 15). There needs to be the ability in rightly dividing the Word of Truth. As Paul comes to a close in his writings we will see this as being a primary concern of his. There were different doctrines being propagated by different teachers. Paul is warning Timothy that many of his challenges will come from with the ranks of the church over doctrine (2 Tim 3:4). In the end the doctrine that we teach and uphold will only be a reflection of what is in the heart.
Paul adds to this thought by making clear that there will be both vessels of honor and dishonour in any great house (vs 20). This is true of the church; there are those who are all out for truth and those who will take issue with it. Why would there be such people? It will be because they do not have a love for truth in their heart resulting in them being given over to a lie (2 Thes 2:10-12). Some of the keys that will help us to be men and women of the truth is to be able to be purged from the works of uncleanness and the people who hold fast to them. In verse 22 we are called to flee youthful lusts. This verse came to me very strongly about 7 years ago concerning an activity I was engaged in. the activity itself was not evil (many people I know still participate in this activity) but it was something that the Lord was putting His finger on in my life. I had to admit that it had become a bit of an obsession so I decided then and there to let it go. There is the need to be sensitive to the voice and leading of the Lord; in so doing we position ourselves to become more and more a vessel of honor that can prove to be useful to the Lord.
Paul emphasizes that the servant of the Lord is not to strive, become flustered or angry when dealing with people. He or she should be patient, exhibiting the fruit of meekness so as to have a greater ability to build a bridge into the lives of people (vs 24-25). It may be that our approach in how we minister with people will be that which paves the way for them to receive repentance from God and to come to the place of acknowledging the Truth. If we are contentious it will provoke the same in their lives making it all the more difficult to be effective. We must be able to know the Truth, teach the Truth and minister the Truth in love to all men.