One Stands in the Place of Another
“I saw all life that walks about under the sun along with the succeeding youth who stands instead of him; there is no end to all the people, all of whom were before him. Also, in the future, no one will rejoice in him. This also is vanity and exasperates the spirit.”
Have you ever grown weary of responsibility? Have you ever grown tired of people challenging your authority? Have you ever come to that point where you just wanted to throw up your hands and say, “I’m done trying to lead these people; let them tear themselves apart!”? If so, know that you are in good company. Every faithful pastor has likely said that at one point in time regarding his congregation. Moses certainly experienced the same — as a pastor, I find the book of Numbers very encouraging and a reminder that if Moses had whiners and complainers to deal with, I shouldn’t complain if I face the same.
As we begin to round out this chapter, Solomon is looking with a more introspective eye and reflecting on himself. Because of Solomon’s wisdom, the scriptures tell us that people came from every direction to seek his counsel and advice. That is nice for a while, but I can only imagine that it could wear on you after a while. And then there is the whole next generation that is always vying for power. The phrase הַיֶּלֶד הַשֵּׁוִי (hayeled hasheniy) is a bit of an unusual phrase, which has led commentators to vary on how they expound this verse, but I will follow those in the school of Rabbi David Altschuler and the Metzudat David and suggest that Solomon is speaking of those who would supplant the rightful king, usurping his power for their own gain. Think again of Solomon as a young leader and of all those who must have either sought his throne or who sought to use their acquaintance with Solomon to their own gain. There is no end to such as these.
And as Solomon surveys the world around him and all of those who are calling upon him and he indeed says, this too exasperates the spirit. And, indeed it does. The lesson that children learn early — “Let’s pester mom and dad until they finally give in and we get our way” — is a lesson that is not soon forgotten when those children reach adulthood. And how often we find it amongst employees and from people in the life of the church.
So, what is the solution for this exasperation? When Solomon concludes the book, he will set his conclusion before our eyes. But for now, let me simply suggest that there are two parts to the solution. The first part is to rely on God for your strength — really, rest in him. Don’t try and go it on your own strength, you just cannot do it. The second part is to remember that God has called you for this task. Resting in God’s sovereign call is a reminder that it is not your wit or skill that brought you into the position that you are in. Thus, God has his purposes in doing so. Trust that and always keep your eyes open to see those purposes.
Remember too: in the end, it is not about you or me, it is about Christ. Further, Christ calls us to take up our crosses — an implement of gory death. God’s call on your life will kill you, but do not fear that reality; this world is not your home.