Monday, February 10, 2014

CCXXXII – Ecclesiastes 5 - 7

As we continue our study of Ecclesiastes, I must remind you to consider the state of mind which has consumed the writer at this point in his life, while bearing in mind that this writer (probably Solomon) was a deep thinker who has much for us to think about also.  As we continue with chapter 5 we see that the writer is still speaking reflectively, and actually is thinking out loud on paper.

Verses 1-7 in chapter 5 give precautionary statements about worship and our personal relationship with God.  It starts out by warning us to take seriously the entering of God’s house.  It’s not to be taken lightly with the attitude that you just happened by, and stopped in for a visit.  We’re talking about God’s house.  Verse 2 warns to be careful what you pray.  Your words to God should be chosen carefully.  Verse 4 speaks about making a vow.  The word vow means a solemn promise.  The Hebrews took this word very seriously.  A vow was an obligation.  When one made a vow to another person, it was made publicly so as to seal it legally.  Solomon urges that vows made to God are ions more important.  He is urging us to be careful of the vows we make, then be careful to fulfill them quickly before our minds allow their importance to be watered down.  This is good advice.

Chapter 5:8-6:12 – The Delusions of Wealth

Solomon changes the subject abruptly.  He dedicates this passage to wealth and its delusions.  {Allow me to remind you that the wealth of the current Queen of England feigns in comparison to the wealth of Solomon.  Therefore, if anyone is qualified to speak on this subject, it would be him.}  In this passage, Solomon dispels what are considered common delusions concerning wealth.  Those delusions are the same today as they were thousands of years ago.  Then, as now, it was thought that once wealth was acquired, it would be maintained, it would relieve us from all anxieties, and it would provide us with a sense of joy and accomplishment.  Solomon wants to set the record straight.  In verse 10 he reminds us that no matter how much wealth is acquired, it is never enough to make us feel that we are wealthy enough.  It is an appetite that cannot be satisfied.  Verse 11 suggests that those hungry for excessive wealth get the most pleasure out of observing their wealth.  This would include counting one’s money as a pleasurable activity.  From verse 15 comes the old saying “you can’t take it with you”.  In the last three verses of chapter 5 Solomon repeats advice that he gives a number of times in this book:  Enjoy the pleasures of life.  Do the work you have been assigned and find pleasure in it because this is your lot in life.  God’s gift to man is his work.  {It’s important to note that the term work in this context includes all areas of one’s responsibility, including his earning a living plus family and community obligations.}

Chapter 6

He continues his thoughts concerning wealth and work.  When he says in verse 1 that he has observed another evil under the sun, he means another unfairness.  {Remember from recent posts that Solomon is wrestling with injustices of life.}  When he says it weighs heavily on mankind, he is saying that this unfairness causes a lot of problems.  In verse 2 he is stating two problems.  One is that some are given wealth while others suffer poverty, with no apparent reason.  The second (I think this one bothers him about himself) is that the one who has toiled for his wealth will die, and his wealth will be enjoyed by others who did nothing to earn it.  {He mentioned this before.  I can tell that this is a thorn in his side.}  Read verses 3-6 and you will see him expounding further on the importance of enjoying life.  (This makes me glad I retired when I did.)  Verse 6 sums it up:  If a man acquires great wealth and lives a thousand years, but does not enjoy his prosperity, what’s the sense?  He will die and go the same way as the poor man.  The following verses he again reflects on the meaningless cycles of life in a depressing fashion, concluding that nobody can know what will happen in the future, after they are gone.  {I must remind you that there was no knowledge of the after-life in those days, and what little has been shared with Solomon, he has chosen to disregard.  We as Christians know that the best is yet to come.}

Chapter 7

Solomon begins a series of “proverbs”, but unlike his sayings in the book of Proverbs, these are written by a man whose state of depression reveals itself.  In the first twelve verses he repeats the meaningless and futility of efforts, and that death is better than birth.  This is to further stress the importance of seeking some pleasure in life, but he is careful not to cross the line of encouraging people to seek pleasures that would be against God’s law.

Solomon again abruptly shifts his thinking.  He says in verse 13 to “consider what God has done”.  He goes on to say that God has absolute authority and no one can change was He has done.  Also, nobody knows the future, and there is little we can do to effect it.  In verse 15 he self-reflects in his usual manner as he says “in this meaningless life of mine……”.  He further mentions the unfairness of a good man dying young while an evil man lives a long time.  The older Solomon gets, the more these things bother him.  He goes on to caution us not to be very wise or overly wicked, stressing moderation over extremes of anything.  Then he returns to laud wisdom and the seeking of it, going on to tell how he has tested all of life’s circumstances by his own wisdom.  As I stated in the introduction to this rather unusual book, Solomon was frustrated when he could not understand something.  And being the determined individual he was, he was not going to give up his search for understanding.  But this attitude is exactly what has brought him to his current state of despair.  If you read this chapter closely you will see all of the negative in it.  Such disparity and depressing thoughts.  He even says in verse 28 that there is only one righteous man in a thousand.  And there are absolutely no righteous women at all.  In the final verse of this chapter he suggests that God created man righteous, but man has corrupted himself.

We will continue on to chapter 8 in the next post.

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