Category Archives: Ecclesiastes

The World is Upside Down

“There is an evil that I see under the sun, like an unintentional sin coming from the presence of one who rules: the fool is made high and great and the rich dwell in a lowly state. I have seen slaves on horses and ambassadors walking.”

(Ecclesiastes 10:5-7)

There are two ways in which one can read this text. The first is perhaps the more obvious manner of Solomon’s witnessing how oftentimes the affairs of life reverse the roles that people ought to find themselves playing in culture. And, our temptation might be to think that this is just an illustration of ironic justice, but more often than not, when employed, it becomes a dangerous thing.

One of the dystopian novels that George Orwell is best known for is Animal Farm. This story is meant to illustrate the dangers and changes of fortune that took place during the communist revolution in Russia, but it illustrates Solomon’s point as well. Here there are the pigs, lowly and wallowing in the mud, leading the animal’s rebellion against Farmer Jones. Yet, by the end of the story, it would be the pigs who dressed as men, but this time, abusing the rest of the animals on the farm. Essentially, the slaves were riding horses and making the ambassadors of kings walk beside them. 

In my own country, a whole new generation of people are advocating for forms of socialized government due to the problems and corruptions that our own government contains. Now, there is no doubt that our government needs reform, but socialism is not the way to accomplish that aim. Historically, it is the bloodiest and most corrupt form of governmental control that has been known to man…and what is more, it creates contexts like this, where the poor fools are honored and those who have built businesses wisely are torn down and treated as fools. He who shouts the loudest gains and audience with the masses and before long, the pigs are in power, turning the whole farm into a sty.

There is a second way of looking at this that embraces more of a spiritual reading of the text, for if we define the fool and the rich man not in terms of worldly wealth or success, but interpret that in the context of the wisdom that comes from the Scriptures, then once again we see Solomon lamenting how those who are foolish spiritually are often exalted and those who are spiritually wise are often in poor places. And again, we see that this evil is just as prominent today as it was in Solomon’s day.

In our day, it is the rich and famous that we celebrate as a society — actors, musicians, athletes, etc… not those who bring wisdom to the people: pastors, teachers, counselors, etc… The first group is exalted more, is paid better, and is given tremendous grace for the antics they pull. The latter group often is treated as expendable — bring them on board, use them until they are spent, and then replace them with the next guy. This is a more recent phenomenon in our American culture. There was a time in which old pastors and old teachers were valued, honored, and sought after. There was a time when what pastors were expected to do most was to study the scriptures…now that is often the thing that is least valued of the things they do.

And, as a result, the spirituality of our broader culture in America is collapsing. The fools are celebrated and the spiritually wise are largely ignored. The loudest voice continues to attract the attention of the crowd. And with Solomon, I too would pronounce it as evil.

How to Respond to An Angry Boss

“If the spirit of a ruler rises up against you, your position shall not be put to rest, for calmness will put to rest great sins.”

(Ecclesiastes 10:4)

Both Jewish and Christian translators wrestle with how to handle the translation of this verse…and both groups fall on various sides of the conversation. Literally, the text begins, “If the spirit of the ruler…” — the term in question that is used here is רוּחַ (ruach), or “spirit.” Most are in agreement that what Solomon has in view here is when a ruler or other man of power happens to become angry with you — he loses his temper or is enraged (the idea of that spirit “rising up”). As a result, many translations will render it more idomatically (see the ESV, NASB, NIV, etc… along with Rabbinical Scholars like David Altshuler {Metzudot}). Other translations (see the KJV, YLT, WEB, etc… along with the Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda) render the text more literally as “spirit.”

My purpose here is not to extol the “more literal” or the “more idiomatic” approach to translation issues, though it is an important conversation to have. Instead, it is to point out that the variations we see between the translations we use do impact how we read and understand the text. Every translation, no matter how formal in nature, is an interpretation and when we understand that important truth, I think it helps us have more confidence in the texts we have when we see differences between our preferred translation and the preferred translation of another.

If we get too hung up here on debating the differences in word choice, though, we will lose the more important application that is found in the text. When you make a ruler angry, don’t just leave your position, don’t step down (unless you are commanded to do so by the ruler), but stay firm and stay calm because that calmness will cover over great sins.

Let’s bring this into our own context and then take it back into the ancient world of the Biblical context. How often people, when their employer is upset with them, just throw up their hands and storm off to write a letter of resignation — or worse yet, storm out the door, saying, “I Quit!” What was that country-western song that was popular several decades ago? “You can take this job and …”

Again, don’t hear me wrong, there is a time to resign from a job. If, perhaps, your employer would require you to do something unethical or that is contrary to God’s word, then you have to obey God and not man — in many cases, this would mean stepping down from your job. Yet, in very many cases, that’s not the context of which I speak. I am speaking of that impulsive response — your employer doesn’t like the way you handled a particular situation or client or perhaps your employer is unhappy about some decisions you have made. True, the meetings that follow may prove to be tense, but a level head and a calm demeanor will go a long way toward working through the problems and over time, allow you to earn the respect of those for whom you work.

I am reminded that when I first started as Chaplain for the Christian School in Florida where I served, the Superintendent and the Principal both told me that the scope and sequence for the Bible department was broken and that the Chapel program needed to be overhauled. When I was hired, the Superintendent told me his plan to fix the chapel program. I tested his plan out and realized very quickly that his plan was going to further damage the already broken system and would not restore it to prominence. Because Chapel was almost entirely under my jurisdiction, I put an abrupt end to the model that had been used, restructured the program, and rebuilt it from scratch. 

This did not make my Superintendent happy, it did not make some of the teachers happy, it angered some of the pastors in the community (who were used to coming in and doing their own thing in our Chapel program), and it made some of the students and parents upset. Gratefully, my Superintendent “gave me enough rope to hang myself” and though he did not like my decision, gave me his support. It was a bumpy year and I received not a little bit of grief. Nevertheless, by the grace of God and with the counsel of Solomon in passages like this, I responded gently and with a calm spirit. Further, the whole tone and tenor of Chapel changed for the better and something very healthy (though not perfect) replaced something that was unhealthy and was otherwise broken. “A soft answer turns away wrath,” as Solomon teaches in Proverbs 15:1.

Now, with the principle before us, I encourage you to think about the examples set by Joseph, Daniel, and Esther. Each of these were in positions of power and influence and each had to face challenges brought upon by an impassioned king. Yet, rather than throwing their hands up in the air, they calmly continued doing what God had called them to do and each would be rewarded for their wisdom and tranquility. Shall we not do the same? 

Solomon and Reality TV

“And also along the road, as the fool walks, his heart is lacking — he says to all that he is a fool.”

(Ecclesiastes 10:3)

A fool is not so merely in private things, but in public things as well. As he goes through his life, the actions he takes, the decisions he makes, they way he converses all point to his foolishness and little more. In many cases, the fool revels in the attention that his foolishness brings — if he cannot gain fame through wise things, he will gain fame through folly. And for this, his heart (mind, personality, etc…) is lacking.

Daytime television amazes me. Actually, anymore, television in general amazes me. Whether it happens to be a matter of talk shows or the supposed “reality television” that is popular, people will do almost anything to get on television. I must confess, many years ago, I went through a phase where I would occasionally watch a show like Jerry Springer or Judge Judy. And I would sit there amazed, asking myself, “where do they find people like this?” Understand, at this point in my life as a pastor, I have been “around the block a few times” and few things surprise me when it comes to family dynamics. But these folks choose to air all of their “dirty laundry” out for the world to see. That is amazing to me. But, that’s the fool.

Yet, the fool is not just a fool when it comes to earthly things, but with spiritual things as well. The fool lives a life that betrays little or no understanding of the demands of God upon his people nor does he try to live them out. Instead, he acts foolishly and flaunts his spiritual foolishness saying things like, “Yeah, but God will forgive me anyway.” Those who think this way ought to be forewarned of two things. First, that genuine repentance is turning away from the things that you once did and living differently — even thinking differently with respect to those things. Second, God gives a stern warning to those who flaunt their sin thinking God will forgive them anyway. Of this group, God says that he will not be willing to forgive (Deuteronomy 29:19-20). 

Friends, pursue wisdom until you live wisely. Along with that, subdue your foolishness and do not flaunt it…that too is a step in the path of growing wise. Pursue God with your whole being and repent of your pursuit of the folly of men.

Bigger, Better, Faster, More

“The words of the wise while at rest will be heard; in the cries for help from a ruler with fools.”

(Ecclesiastes 9:17)

Wisdom will never be listened to in the midst of a mob. How sad it is that in today’s world, the mob who yells loudest is considered the one who has won the day. Wisdom will never be listened to in the midst of panic; the bells of alarm rob our ears of being able to hear. Wisdom will never be listened to in times of fear; self-defense mechanisms are like a trumpet sound we cannot ignore. Wisdom will never be listened to during times of hectic activity — the tyranny of the urgent does not value deep contemplation.

Wisdom is listened to during times of rest. Wisdom must be reflected upon, meditated upon, and pondered. Wisdom must be dined upon like a fine steak, not consumed like a $5 lunch at a fast-food store. Wisdom requires that time be set aside and that all of our attention be given to it. Time to listen for wisdom does not just happen; it must be set aside and it must be protected from the encroachment of the activities of the day.

One of the challenges that we all faced when I worked at the Christian school in Florida is that of setting aside time for reflection — “Is what we are doing the best thing?” Could we be doing things better?” “Is God being glorified in this?” And, the questions go on. The same challenge holds true in the church. There are so many demands that fall into the week that sometimes one wonders if there is a way to just stop the world from turning and get off. There are so many things to do that sometimes budgeting time to talk about spiritual things — about wisdom — seems like a waste of time. We fall into the trap of wanting to “Get it all done” without ever asking why we are doing it and how Christ is glorified in these things. It is not that the activities of church are bad…just the opposite, they are quite good and beneficial…but only when handled with and cared for by wisdom.

As a parent, I find it fascinating that timing has so much to do with having those parental conversations that are designed to impart wisdom to our children. How radically different the outcome of the conversation when things are peaceful and time can be had to talk while at rest than in the busyness of the day. How much less confrontational those conversations are when rest is the key component that defines the context. How much more the wisdom sinks in both to parent and child. Solomon is giving us one of the most practical insights for living that can be offered in the modern age of hustle and bustle…an age “where one more thing” is always being added to life. Friends, “Bigger, Better, Faster, More,” is not always to be desired.

Laboring in Useful Obscurity

“This is also what I have seen of wisdom under the sun — and it was great to me. There was a little city and the men in it were few. A great king came toward it and surrounded it and he built a great siege tower against it. Yet, there was a man in it who was impoverished but wise and saved it — the city by his wisdom. Yet, the man was not remembered for he was a poor man. And so I say that wisdom is better than greatness though the wisdom of an impoverished man is scorned and his words are not heard.”

(Ecclesiastes 9:13-16)

Which is better? To be useful and forgotten or to be a fool and remembered forever? How often, in our modern age, the desire to be remembered is so great that many embrace foolishness just so that they will be remembered. Yet, what kind of legacy is that? We all have a natural desire to be remembered and to leave our mark on the world, but this hardly seems the way to do it. 

When I served as Chaplain of the Christian School in Florida, the Superintendent, Michael Mosley, used to cite a medieval phrase quite often: “to labor in useful obscurity.” His point was two-fold. First, not everyone can be the hero or the person in the limelight…and not everyone ought to be because the person up front needs people working behind him to make it possible to be up front. The second reason that he used this phrase was to be a reminder to all that the only person’s whose name needs be remembered is that of Christ’s. If our name and all of our accomplishments are forgotten, but Christ is glorified in our interactions with others, then our lives will have great meaning. 

In the case of Solomon’s story (perhaps a parable, perhaps a historic account, either interpretation will suffice), a city was besieged by a greater power and (by human standards) seemed doomed to fall. Yet the city was delivered by a poor but wise man. The deliverance was remembered, but the name of the man was soon forgotten — who wants an impoverished man as a national hero anyway? 

Solomon’s conclusion, though, is the right one. Wisdom is better than might. Nations rise and fall but wisdom endures in the hearts of God’s people. Might will bring short-lived glory, but what is better — glory for a season and then captivity or wisdom that endures and preserves freedom? Need I say any more?

Though our names may be forgotten, if Christ is exalted, what more ought we want? The right answer is nothing. Let Christ be remembered — and we are remembered in the midst, so be it; if we are forgotten in the midst, so be it. It is Christ to whom we (and our works) must point.

The Ever-Relevant Bible

“Indeed, there is not a man who is righteous on the earth who does good and does not sin.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:20)

Boy, this sounds an awful lot like the Apostle Paul when he writes:

“What then? Are we in a more prominent position? By all means, no! For both Jews and Greeks are already found guilty under sin, just as it is written: ‘No one is righteous, not even one; no one is understanding, no one searches diligently for God.’

(Romans 3:9-11)

Gee, it seems as if Solomon has a pretty good handle of the basics of the Gospel…Paul will go on and write:

For all have sinned and failed to reach the glory of God, but are justified freely in his grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus whom God sent as propitiation through faith in his blood, which is a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of sins that were done beforehand, in the clemency of God to demonstrate his righteousness in this time — to be just and justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.

(Romans 3:23-26)

Truly, Paul takes this further than does Solomon and leads us to Jesus Christ the Messiah, but Solomon understands the problem that is at the heart of the existence of man (see also 1 Kings 8:46 at the dedication of the Temple). We sin. We cannot, no matter how good we try and be, merit heaven. It just is not possible. 

And so Solomon makes it very clear to us that we will all fall short — we will sin and miss the mark of God’s perfection. This, of course, is not an excuse for failure to live with integrity nor is it a justification for our sin. It is a reminder of the reality that we need one to redeem us from our sins.

All too often, people think of the Gospel as only a New Testament thing, yet, it is impossible to understand the Gospel apart from the Old Testament. Contrary to those who suggest that we “unhitch” from the Old Testament, we must be assured that if we cast off the Old Testament as irrelevant or inapplicable, we enter into heresy and we render the work of Christ in the New Testament worthless. They are dangerous grounds on which folk such as that stand.

People sometimes ask me how a book that is several thousand years old can still be relevant to life. The answer is simple and is found here. No one does good without sin. No one. We all fall short of the glory of God. And because we all sin, no matter our culture, our upbringing, or our pedigree, we all share the same problem: “How are we reconciled to God?” The only answer is Jesus Christ. And the Bible is the only place that answer can be found. That makes the Bible the most relevant book that mankind has ever seen and a gift of God’s grace to fallen man. Too bad so many people despise and ignore this book (even some who profess to be Christians!).

What God has Bent

“Look at the work of God: for who is able to straighten that which he has perpetually bent? On a good day be in good spirits; on an evil day contemplative — the one and the other are made by God; with regards to this, a man can find out nothing of what comes after it.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)

God is sovereign even over the evil day. Too often I hear apologists arguing that darkness is but the absence of light, so evil is just the absence of God’s presence. That argument, of course, begs the question as to where is God when the evil things come? 

The Bible presents a much clearer explanation. God brought it about. Indeed, God has good purposes and not malevolent purposes in the evil day, but nonetheless, God brings about the evil day — as Solomon says, “God made it.” In fact, God himself declares the same (Isaiah 45:7). And, as Solomon continues, man stands befuddled as to what is coming next more often than not.

There is an additional spiritual application of these words if we are willing to apply the text to the soul of man. For indeed, while there are some whom God has elected to life, there are others whom God has predestined for eternal condemnation. And what man is able to “unbend” that which God has bent? What man can deliver another man from his rightful eternal judgment? We live in a world dominated with a decision-based theology — “the work is done for you, all you need to do is to choose life!” Yet, is this Biblical? The Bible says that those who were appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48), it does not say that those who believed were appointed to eternal life.

No man can unbend that which God has eternally ordained to be bent. At the same time, those whom God has elected to straighten — who can stop God’s hand? Oh how he is sovereign both in our salvation and in our sanctification. No man can undo, frustrate, or even speed up the hand of God and no man can add himself to the number of the elect by a force of their own will. God raises up and tears down and what man can know the designs of our almighty God (which is why we evangelize all — we do not know who are and who are not God’s elect).

The Dangers of a Welfare State

“For oppression makes the wise look foolish and welfare continually destroys the heart.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:7)

I think that I just got political without intending to do so. Then again, politics formed the vast majority of Solomon’s life for not only was he a king over Israel from Jerusalem, he grew up as the favored son of a king over Jerusalem. So, maybe we are not so far off chasing down this rabbit hole.

The oppression being spoken of is the kind of oppression that is harsh and heavy-handed, something Solomon knew well as a king when he was building the Temple and his houses and stables. It is using one’s power to force others to do things that they otherwise would not be doing…hence some translations will render עֹשֶׁק (‘osheq) as “extortion.” The real question has to do with why this behavior makes the wise appear foolish. The simple action is that when you oppress, you end up breaking God’s law. For example, believers are forbidden from oppressing  (same word) their neighbor or robbing from him (Leviticus 19:13). Similarly, believers are also forbidden from oppressing (same word again) a hired worker, especially if he is poor (Deuteronomy 24:14). And since wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10), one ends up looking like the fool when his actions go down this pathway. 

Thus, those who are in a position of authority, in businesses, in governments, and in institutions should always pay a fair wage to those who labor under them. One of the traps that Christian institutions often fall into is the idea that since their work is a “ministry,” those people who work for them should somehow be paid less than their secular counterpart. This too, is a form of extortion and it will be something for which many Christian overseers will be called to task when they stand before Christ’s judgment seat. It is not uncommon, for example, for Christian schoolteachers to earn only about 60% of what their public school counterparts earn. That does not mean that people ought not make sacrifices for the work of ministry, but a worker deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5:18).

So far, while the application may step on some of your toes, we haven’t found ourselves getting too political. Yet, the second half of this verse begs a question about the morality of the practice of welfare. Solomon writes that this destroys the heart. The term that I chose to translate as “welfare” is the Hebrew word, מַתָּנָה (matanah), which can be translated variously as a gift designed to gain influence (a bribe), a gift to provide for the needs of another, or as a gift to provide for the needs of the poor (welfare). This, Solomon writes, destroys the heart.

Let us begin by asking why a gift might destroy the heart. The simple answer is that when people begin to get accustomed to receiving gifts and benevolences from others, it is very easy for them to fall into the trap of relying on those things. And, when we rely on the benevolence of others, we often seek to engage in productive work ourselves. As human beings made in the image of God, we are made to work (Genesis 2:15) and our lives are not to be filled with passivity or sloth (Proverbs 6:9-11). In facing this problem in the early church, the Apostle Paul instructs the Thessolonians that if people are unwilling to work, do not give them food — insisting that believers in the church earn their own livings (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Even widows, if younger than the age of 60, were not allowed on the rolls of the church benevolence lest they become idle and gossips (1 Timothy 5:9-16). 

This does not mean that benevolence is bad. There is a place for it and it is a good thing if applied wisely. At the same time, benevolence becomes a social welfare program when people learn to live on the gifts of the people rather than seeking gainful employment. Thus, benevolence is meant to be for a time and a season, not for an indefinite period. Furthermore, there is a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of self-worth that comes from putting in a hard day’s work and earning your wages. That self-worth tends to produce self-respect. And the heart (which in the Hebrew language speaks of the mind and personality of an individual) is then strengthened. But, when you live on the benevolence of others, that self-respect dwindles — the heart is destroyed.

Again, there is a place for benevolence and aide (though it should come through the Deacons of the church and not the government). Use it when you need it and there are seasons when hard-working people do need a helping hand. But, don’t fall into the habit of relying on it. As soon as you are able, go back to work and earn your keep; it is good for your soul.

American Hedonism and the Church

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning and the heart of the fool is in the house of jubilation.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:4)

Solomon may seem like he is beating a dead horse with these words, but his purpose is to drive home the importance of finding times of introspection. Even in the context of the worship of God’s people (which is a joyful thing), there must also be times where one ponders the deep things of God’s word and applies them to life. By nature, that does not appeal to us. It is more fun to celebrate and remain in the house of jubilation even if we are surrounded by people who are spiritual fools. Yet, such places is not where wisdom is found.

In American Hedonism, the house of jubilation is the treasured goal. In sports, everything goes to the winners of a game even if winning meant cutting corners or unsportsmanlike conduct. The trophy is the sought out goal. To nurture this obsession, when children are young, the practice is often to reward everyone with a trophy. This is done with the pretext of not wanting children to feel bad about themselves, yet, most often, what this does is to teach children to treasure the trophy that will one day come (hopefully!). Outside of sports, the same principle applies, whether we are talking academic achievements or in awards in a civic organization like Scouts (how often parents work harder at a children’s projects or badges than the children themselves!). 

Many churches have chased after the culture in this, preferring to make their worship services a house of jubilation. Singing is emphasized and sermons tend to be more theologically shallow — even superficial at times — focused on getting people excited rather than getting people to think deeply on the truths of the Word. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying, worship is a joyous activity — both in the gathered/corporate sense and in the personal sense when one worships in one’s daily life — but there also must be a place in worship to drive us into deeper contemplation about the Word of God and the implications thereof. The reality is that none of us are perfected yet if we are still on this side of the veil. That means there is room to learn, grow, and repent of sin harbored in our lives. Worship is not to be about our entertainment or about our being “recharged” for the week to come. It is not about us feeling good about ourselves or about our condition. It is about drawing near to a Holy God in holiness, and while joyous, it ought also make us tremble.

Again, Solomon instructs us to soberly ponder life in light of the word of God. It is something that most people that I know do not like doing because the Holy Spirit will convict you of sin and demand repentance (which includes a change of attitude toward that sin — as well as a change of behavior!). It will place you in the house of mourning if you take your sin seriously. And while unpleasant, it produces wisdom — which is better than folly.

Go Attend a Funeral

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for this is the end of every man; let the one who is living lay this to heart.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:2)

One could render the first part of this verse a little more idiomatically by stating that it is better to go to the funeral home than to the banquet hall. And just as with the former verse, this catches us off guard as a bit. It is certainly a more joyous thing to celebrate a birth than a death, or to celebrate a wedding than a funeral (the language of the house of feasting can be read as the celebration of a marriage — this too is a new life as two are joined together to become one flesh). It is certainly a more joyous event to baptize a child than to intern a body. So, what does Solomon mean here?

As with the previous verse, Solomon is helping us to learn perspective. At a birth there is only potential and the outward wonder at a new life. Yet, that new life is frail, it must be nursed, nurtured, and protected and even with that, sometimes the potentials hoped for are never realized. In Solomon’s day too, infant mortality was far higher than it is today, so there was a real threat that this child would not survive his earliest years.

In contrast, at a funeral, one has the privilege (assuming a life lived well) of witnessing the realization of his or her childhood potential. Having officiated more than a few funerals over the years, I can truly say that the time of sharing memories is a joyous thing and something that can bring great blessing and mercy to those suffering grief. 

Solomon concludes this observation with a reminder to us — that we who are living take this to heart. The Jewish Midrash applies this as a reminder to us to attend funerals so that perhaps others will attend our funeral. We can extend this out to say that we all ought to live in such a way that people will wish to attend our funeral and that though they grieve, they too will have many rich stories to share with our widows or widowers and with the generations we leave behind. Counsel such as this is wise counsel for us all.

Don’t Waste Your Life

“Even if he should live a thousand years two times over, but goodness he has not seen, is it not to one place that every man goes?”

(Ecclesiastes 6:6)

No human being that has ever walked the face of the earth has ever made it to his thousandth birthday…none. Methuselah was the oldest recorded living man at 969 years with Adam “close” behind at 930 years, but no one hit 1000. And so, Solomon’s point is driven home — even if one were to live as long as Methuselah and then live that lifetime all over again, but has not enjoyed goodness which comes from God and a proper understanding of the works of our hands, his life was not worth living. He will go to the same spot as that stillborn baby.

There are two ways to apply this. The first would be to highlight the hyperbole that Solomon is making and illustrate the fact that no matter how many good works you do, no matter how many children you father (or mother), and no matter how much wealth you accumulate, you return naked to the grave and your corpse will return to dust. You cannot merit God’s favor, even if you had two-thousand years to do so (or, as Abraham ibn Ezra, the medieval Jewish commentator renders it… a thousand times a thousand years). Yet, this idea we have previously explored as we have worked through Solomon’s text, so we will leave this one as it stands.

The second way to apply this is to look at the text in its more literal application. Though no human being has ever lived 1,000 (let alone 2,000) years on the earth, we must remember that humans are immortal. Thus, in a real sense, one can talk about those who have “lived” (in the broadest sense of the term) for thousands of years. When one dies, his spirit goes either into the presence of God or the presence of Satan based and this anticipates a resurrection to life and a resurrection to death that will take place at the second-coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The believers will be resurrected to glorified bodies and the blessedness of life-eternal in God’s perfect presence. Unbelievers will be resurrected to bodies of death that will be able to sustain the eternal torments of Hell — always dying but never eternally dead or annihilated. 

And, in this latter case, we can talk confidently of those who dwell for ages, even millennia but who experience no goodness. And Solomon’s words echo back to us that this too is not worth living…it is a waste from the perspective of the one living that life. Truly, in God’s economy, there is no such thing as a truly wasted life, for even the wicked who will be under the wrath of God are so punished as a demonstration of God’s power (Romans 9:22-23).

John Piper wrote a book a few years back, entitled: Don’t Waste Your Life. Solomon’s response to this idea would be to say to us that if we live our lives devoid of the goodness of God, then our life is truly amongst the things we have wasted.

Solomon on Income Inequality

“Also, every man to whom God has given wealth and affluence and the opportunity to eat from them and to take his portion and to rejoice in his anxieties — this is his gift from God.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:18 {5:19 in English Bibles})

It seems to me that people today are talking a lot about what they call “income inequality.” What they mean by that statement varies from person to person, but in the broadest sense, it simply means that some people have more money than others. And, were this a simple observation, it would not get a lot of press or excitement. Where it gets press and excitement is that there are some who think that they can change the scales, as it were, and take money from some to give it to others as a way of leveling the playing field. Of course, when the government mandates this, that is a form of socialism and socialism, as a political and economic movement, has been one of the most oppressive and murderous movements in the history of mankind (and normally creates an even greater distance between the “haves” and the have-nots” as it eliminates the middle class). 

Yet, that goes beyond our purpose as we look at this verse. Here, if you wish to view Solomon’s perspective on Income Inequality, we find it right here. Some will be poor and work hard for the bread they eat and others will be successful. This, Solomon says, is God’s doing — it is our portion in life, so enjoy what God has provided and give him thanks for it. With both wealth and poverty come advantages and challenges; make the most of them and glorify God in them. Don’t try and use power to steal from those who have more — theft is a sin as is covetousness. 

So, while some in our society will always rail against the wealthy, as Christians, let us hear the wisdom of Solomon and not be tempted into sin and evil. And, one of the glorious things about the American society is that for those who are willing to work hard and to sacrifice, there are always opportunities to work your way up from one economic class to another. In addition, when the free-market system in America is working the way it is supposed to do, then those who are lazy, corrupt, or who seek to manipulate the system always have the opportunity to lose everything, falling from one economic class to a lower one. That too may be our lot. Use it to the glory of God.

Satisfaction in Your Work is a Good Gift

“Behold, I saw that which is good and which is beautiful — it is to eat and to drink and to see the goodness of all his anxiety for which he works hard under the sun for the number of days of his life which God has given him — for it is his portion.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:17 {5:18 in English Bibles})

In the west, fewer and fewer professions demand genuine tradesmen. Manufacturing is highly automated or is done through repetitive activities on an assembly line. Much of the construction that is done consists of tract housing and even in my former trade of carpet installing, so much of that is basic covering a floor with the carpet being “flat and fuzzy side up” and not a lot of fancy borders or inset designs. Custom craftsmanship requires time and skill but sadly most people either cannot afford or do not wish to pay for skilled craftsmanship.

Currently our church is having its stained glass windows redone — they are 90 years old and the lead is breaking down — here is an instance where all the craftsmanship is done by hand as they must custom remake every piece of lead which mounts the colored glass in place — none of which are regular and none of which can be automated. It is taking a bit longer than we expected going into the project, but at the same time, we can see the pride in craftsmanship taken by those involved in the process. 

There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from a completed job that has been done well — when you have crafted something with your own hands which is distinct from all other things. And this is an experience that much of our society does not relate to…sadly, in many cases, jobs never seem to come to an end, but just continue on week after week, month after month, and year after year — and then we wonder why people are anxious to retire and don’t feel like there is a lot of meaning in their labors.

Solomon has addressed this before and will come back to this theme again, but his simple answer is that since we do not know how many days our God has given us in this world — take satisfaction in the things you accomplish and in the provision that you earn from those labors. In the end, that will bring joy to your life; it is your portion in life — make the most of it. 

No Farms – No Food

“There is profit in the land in all things; he who is king serves the field.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:8 {5:9 in English Bibles})

I have a bumper-sticker that I keep on the back of my truck that reads: “No Farms — No Food.” And indeed, therein lies the interpretation of this verse. Everyone is indebted to the ones who work the land. Without the farm, we have very little we can put on our table and without food on the table, even the king will wither and die. In some of the Science-Fiction shows they depict man eating things that are little more than a processed tablet, but how appealing is that? Food is more than medicine for the body, but it is a tool that blesses fellowship as it brings people together around a table to partake of it.

So, here is the check and balance that we mentioned in the previous passage — there are overseers of the overseers, etc… yet, the king is indebted to the land (and to those who work the land) for his own survival. So here is meant to be one more motivation to ensure that justice is done to those who labor in the fields and on the farms. 

One of the often neglected parts of the American Dream is the idea that we can own our own land. When we own our land, not only do we have space to build a home, but we have something of real value on which we can also produce things to sustain our family and to trade with others. The family farms that dot the landscape of our nation is a testimony to this reality, but even those with smaller parcels of land can establish gardens or small family businesses on that land they own. Many people that I have known in the deep south have plots of land simply covered by evergreen trees, which they periodically log to sell the lumber. 

It is getting more and more difficult to make a sustainable living from the land in our culture today. When you join that with high taxes and regulation, the benefits of the American dream are diminishing and getting harder to attain. One day, they may sadly be out of reach even to the hardest working and most industrious citizen. Then, America as our forefathers knew it will cease to be. It will be a tragic day.

In our technical society, people often look down on the farmer. It is hard work and it is not glamorous work either. Yet, it is essential work. If you doubt that, the next time you sit down to a meal, ask yourself, “Where did this food come from?” In most every case, you will be forced to conclude that it came from a farm. Even the king is indebted to the land.

One is the Lonliest Number…

“Two are better than one; for them there is good compensation for their anxieties. For if they fall, one will raise up his companion; woe to him who is one and falls, for there is not a second one to lift him up.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Every time that I read these words, my mind always goes back to a song made popular by the pop band “Three Dog Night,” namely to the words of One is the Loneliest Number. Indeed, that captures at least part of what Solomon is reflecting on here. God has created people to be in relationship with one another. And, when two people join together to accomplish a task, that task is most commonly completed more quickly and with more ingenuity than were just one to be working on his or her own. Fiction is filled with illustrations of this…Sherlock Holmes had John Watson and Don Quixote had Sancho Panza, but these relationships are found in history as well. David had Jonathan, Moses had Aaron, Jeremiah had Baruch, Paul had Timothy, Jesus sent out the disciples in groups of two, etc… There is great wisdom and benefit that comes from having an appropriate companion during every venture. When you stumble and fall; the other will pick you up. When you have success, your success will be greater and brighter than one will find when one walks alone.

In today’s society, this passage is very commonly used in the context of weddings. And indeed, God also pronounced that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) and thus God formed a helpmate from Adam’s rib and in this way woman was created and marriage was instituted. Man was given his first real companion. Thus, this too is an illustration of Solomon’s principle. 

Many rabbinical writers also like to point out that the study of God’s word also is something that is better done with a companion. This may be your spouse (with whom you ought to be studying the Bible) but it also may be done with other Christian friends. Here is where another one of Solomon’s proverbs applies: iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Indeed, we sharpen each other providing both resistance and encouragement as we labor with one another. 

A final application is death. Just as it is not good for man to be alone it is not good for a person to die alone. Friends, family members, the church, and the pastors all have a role in comforting and interceding in prayer for a brother or sister in the church who is suffering and dying. Indeed, two are better than one.

Love and Hate

“A time to love and a time to hate; a time for battle and a time for peace.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:8)

Much of human history can be parsed by the wars that nations have waged against one another. And while many wars in the history of man have been about the expansion of power, there is great wisdom here from Solomon when he talks about a time to go to war and a time to make peace. There is indeed a time when war is justified for the common good of mankind — resisting the Nazi’s during World War II, for instance (and there are numerous other examples). 

Yet, this verse is not just about geopolitical matters, it is about personal struggles as well. There is a time to love one another, but Solomon makes it very clear that there is also a time for hatred. In our modern society, hatred is considered a bad thing and something to be repressed, yet that is not the testimony of Scripture (so long as that hatred is properly directed). Indeed, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:27), so in what context are we supposed to hate?

We are to hate evil (Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15). We are to hate the works of those who tempt us to sin (Revelation 2:6). We are to hate the things of this world (Luke 14:26). We are to hate falsehood (Psalm 119:163). In short, we are to hate sin and to strive against it. Is there ever a place to express hatred toward people? At times, but here we must be careful for we do not always know who God will eventually call to faith in himself. Even so, the Bible speaks about hating those who openly stand against God and his Saints (Psalm 129:5; 139:21). 

The challenge for the believer is to discern between that which we will love and that which we will hate. Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters for we will end up loving one and hating the other (Matthew 6:24), so begin by asking yourself, whom do you serve? When an action comes in conflict with God’s command in Scripture, to which do you give priority? We often say we love God but then bind ourselves in sin…if that is the case, whom do you really love by your actions? Repent.

Solomon reminds us that there is a time for love and a time for hatred. The time for love is when you are doing the things of God and attending to His Word. The time for hatred is when you are gazing upon your own sins. The sign of maturity, though, is not only keeping those two things straight, but acting upon it. There comes a point in time that if you really hate something, you will strive to keep it out of your life. Yet, how often we do not do so. Repent if these words apply to you.

Life is a Lemon and I want my Money Back

“So, I hated life for the work which I did under the sun was evil to me — for it is all vanity — it exasperates the spirit. I hated all of my anxieties which I had been anxious with under the sun; I must put it to rest with the man who will come after me. And who knows? Will he be wise or a fool? Yet, he will have dominion over all my anxieties which I have been anxious for and have applied my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:17-19)

There was a song that was briefly popular in the early ’90’s which had the title: “My Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back.” The performer of the song, a man who goes by the name Meat Loaf, explained that the song was not one of utter despair and retreat from life. Instead, he asked, “Have you ever had one of those days — or one of those moments — when nothing is going right and in your frustration and discouragement you throw up your hands in disgust over what is taking place around you?” That, he said, is what the song is about.

Years ago, I worked as a manager for Dominos Pizza. I remember the point when I was finally promoted to running my own store and as I was settling in, I noticed that along one shelf in the office was inscribed a list of a handful of dates. I asked the former manager what those dates represented and his answer was: “Those are the days I wanted to quit.” That struck me, not because he wrote down those dates, but because he didn’t quit and each of those dates represented a time where he was sustained through a time of crisis or trial.

Over the years, that shelf has been a reminder to me of the importance of endurance and putting your hands to the plow as it were and working through difficult times. And though I have not written out a list of dates that “I wanted to quit,” like anyone else, there have been many across the years. And, to that end, I am grateful to God that he saw me through these times.

As you read these words about Solomon hating life, see him in this context. He is exasperated at the reality that all he has built, all he has taught, all that he has observed with his great wisdom, is going to be handed down to another. Some Rabbi’s suggest that Solomon may even have been given a vision of the mess that his son, Rehoboam, would make of the kingdom. While I am not convinced that he had a vision, I am convinced that a wise father has a fairly clear sense of the character of his children — and as he looked at Rehoboam, he despaired in what his son would do. And he was right to despair.

And so, Solomon looked upon the works of his hands and the things that he had labored at in Jerusalem. He looked at all of the things that had created great anxiety in his life as he toiled to see them come to pass and he said, “someone else will benefit from these things.” The lesson is clear; while earthly things do carry value, we must store up our real treasures in heaven where we can enjoy them eternally.

Leaving a Legacy

“For there is no eternal remembrance for the wise along with the foolish. With the days that have already come, are all forgotten and how the wise dies along with the foolish.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:16)

Do you see what Solomon is saying? As we have pointed out before, he is not falling into nihilism or fatalism of a sort. No, he is recognizing that death is the great equalizer of mankind and if we pursue earthly things, they will die with us and the legacy that we leave behind (the “remembrance”) will be short.

One of the things for which most of us strive is a legacy. We want our name to be remembered by people. Yes, our name will be etched in stone and placed in a cemetery somewhere, but most of us are not content with that. People strive to all sorts of incredible feats just to get their name into the Guinness Book of World Records to leave behind a memory — “I was able to do this…” People leave money to institutions so that a wing of a new school, a part of a library, or a professorship will be named after them. I write books for much the same reason (I want the generations that follow me to know not only my name, but also the spiritual things that I value). 

Yet, eventually we will be forgotten. Even the most famous and infamous will be forgotten across the ages. And that reality can be sobering. It’s not going to stop us from seeking to leave behind a legacy, but it calls upon us to explore that which will last eternally — Christ, the Scriptures, and the things of God. This is the one thing that is truly enduring. Solomon is taking us there, but not just yet…he wants us to explore with him the various options that people seek as they seek to find purpose in life and only at the end will he offer the purpose to the one who faithfully walks with him through his reflections. For now, though, this is vanity if done for its own purposes.

Satisfaction and Vanity

“Thus, I became great and I did more than all of those who were before me in Jerusalem. Indeed, wisdom accompanied me. All that my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold any joy from my heart from all of my toil and this was my share from all of my labors. Then I turned away from all the work my hands had done and from my exertions in doing it and I beheld that all was vanity and exasperates the spirit; nothing was gained under the sun.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:9-11)

It is true, there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from the completion of hard day’s work. One of the things I enjoyed, during the little over a decade that I installed carpet vocationally, was that by the end of the day, I could look back with satisfaction at the transformation that we wrought in a person’s home…new carpet will do that. Solomon is saying to us, “look folks, I understand the satisfaction — the joy — that comes from one’s labors and from the pursuit of every earthly pleasure that is under the sun, but…”

It’s always the “but” that gets to us, isn’t it? It’s that little detail that puts everything into perspective. These things are good, but… And he is saying that he knows the joys and pleasures that come from these earthly things, but if one simply is living for such pleasure then your labors are in vain. New carpet gets dirty when it is walked on and it gets yellowed and stained over time. New construction breaks down. People grow old and die. Endeavors fade and people’s memories are short. They are vain and all of these pursuits will exasperate your spirit if this pursuit is an end unto itself. If you are pursuing God first, and these labors are a means to an end, then we have a different conversation entirely.

There is a saying that floats around American circles periodically that goes: “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” In other words, the process of learning that comes along with striving for a goal is more valuable to you in the long run than the goal itself. And, while I do not wish to discount the value of learning “along the journey,” we must remember that without eyes set clearly on the goal, the journey, no matter how valuable in the short run, will be of no lasting value because it is set entirely in earthly things that fade and disappear. For the believer, the goal is the glory of God and the journey we are on only makes sense in light of that goal. Else, at the final judgment we will look at all we accomplished and say, “It was vanity.”

Loads and Loads of Wealth

“I also collected for myself silver and gold and the possession of kings and provinces. I got for myself male singers and female singers and the delights of the sons of man — loads and loads.”

(Ecclesiastes 2:8)

Next to his wisdom, Solomon is best known for his wealth…and he had lots of it. The historical records go to great length to illustrate the grand abundance of wealth that entered into Solomon’s kingdom during his reign. This is significant not only because it demonstrates God’s faithfulness to this son of David, but Solomon’s kingdom becomes a bit of a type (a foreshadowing) of Christ’s eternal kingdom as is described in Revelation. If you ever have wondered why the emphasis is placed on streets of gold and gates of gemstones and pearl, remember that Jesus is the greater Solomon.

There is some discussion with respect to the meaning of the final clause, which I have translated as “loads and loads.” In Hebrew, the phrase in question is שִׂדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת (shidah weshidoth), which is essentially just the singular and plural forms of שׂדּה (shadah) joined together. Unfortunately, while we know that the placing of a singular and a plural together is a common Hebrew technique to emphasize the abundance of something (see Judges 5:30), but we are not entirely sure as to what the root word refers. 

Some of our modern translations render this as a reference to concubines, which is certainly consistent with Solomon’s life, though seems to take some liberties with the word itself. Rashi and some of the Hebrew commentators have translated this as “chests and chests” to indicate the abundance of material, connecting the usage of the term with Mishnah Kelim 18:3 which uses the phrase: “שׁדָה תֵיבָה וּמִגְדָל (shadah teybah wumigdal)” which translates as: “a chest, a box, or a cupboard” (see sepharia.org for the larger text). More idiomatically, the phrase is sometimes rendered: “greatness and greatness.” Given the context, it seems to be that Solomon is using this phrase as kind of superlative to add emphasis to the greatness of his collections.

What needs to be said about the vanity of accumulating great wealth for the sake of accumulating great wealth has already been said. We should be clear, though, it is never wealth itself that the Bible condemns, only the love of wealth (1 Timothy 6:9-10) that is sin. So, do understand that great things can be accomplished with wealth (and if you have great wealth, I am happy to offer some suggestions!), the real and operable question is what are you doing with that wealth? Are you building a kingdom for yourself or are you building Christ’s kingdom. If it is the former, that wealth will find a way into your heart and will wreak havoc there. If you focus on the latter, you will see the blessings of God as he multiplies what you begin to his glory.

 

Note: In America the government gives you a tax benefit for using your personal wealth to support non-profit organizations. Here are two organizations that are close to my heart and are actively seeking to build Christ’s kingdom rather than the kingdom of men. Both are registered 501C3 Charities so these gifts are tax Deductible (and I do not gain a dime from either).

R.I.T.E.: Reformed International Theological Education has been operating a seminary in Ukraine for close to 20 years. We train men to be pastors and Bible teachers and women to be Sunday School leaders and leaders of women’s groups in their local churches. Students are given a full, seminary-level education during this process and can graduate with either a Bachelors or Masters degree. Having begun in the Donbass region of Ukraine, we had to relocate to Kiev when the conflict broke out, but we have many students who remained in that war-torn region to minister to those trapped and unable to relocate.   www.riteukraine.org or (if in Canada) http://ritecanada.ca.

T.N.A.R.S.: The North American Reformed Seminary offers a complete seminary education from an Associates Degree all of the way through a Doctorate in Theology. This education is offered to students totally free and totally online through books and lectures that are freely accessible. Students work through classes with an approved mentor and under the oversight of their home church. This permits classes to be taken at the student’s pace and without having to relocate to a seminary campus. The great benefits of this model ought to be obvious, not the least of which is that students not only remain under the oversight of their home church’s leadership, but the things they learn will get fed back into the local congregation.  http://www.tnars.net

 

Reforming the Culture a Temporary Thing

“What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is receding cannot be ordered.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:15)

When my wife and I first got married, our first house was what people call a “fixer-upper.” It was a home originally built in 1905 and while being structurally sound, it needed a lot of repairs and renovations. And, in many ways, it was a great learning experience for me as a “handyman” and my wife and I made it our home. One of the projects was to address the sagging joists on the east side of the house between the main floor and the upper floor. These were old, heavy oak joists that had bowed under the weight of time and years of life in the upstairs of the home. Overall, they weren’t too bad, but it created a noticeable sag and bounce in the upstairs of the house. So, I proceeded to acquire “floor jacks” and jacked the joists straight while also “sistering” new joists beside the old joists to add additional support.

There were two problems with the picture. First, in my lack of patience, I jacked up the old joists a little faster than I ought to have done…that was my error. The other problem is that the old oak joists had gained their sag slowly over a period of nearly 100 years and had conformed to a given shape (which included the bow). Further, the material that I used to sister the joists together was new pine, which is not nearly as strong as the oak. So, after all was done and the jacks were removed, it wasn’t long before the oak beams started sagging again and they pulled the pine beams along with them. Now, do understand, it was not as pronounced as before, but I imagine that in time, they settled back into their characteristic bow. That is just the nature of things.

And here is the point…in this fallen world that we live it, there is a tendency for things to fall apart, decay, rust, mold, and otherwise deteriorate. Entropy surrounds us in the cosmos and we grow frail and die. We may be able to do some things to mitigate the effects of deterioration — we renovate old homes, we take medicines to strengthen our old bodies, and we add preservatives to our foods so that we can store them for longer periods…but in the end, decay and deterioration wins. That is just the way it is in this fallen world. And to some people, that is depressing.

Yet, to the believer, who understands that the righteous live by faith, not our works, not our creations, and not by the orderliness of the natural world, there is hope. For while the creation is fallen due to Adam and Eve’s sin, God is not. And God sent his Son into this world to redeem a people for himself through faith, a faith that is divinely worked within us. And there is also in this found the promise of a new creation where the crooked will be made straight and things will no longer recede from order to disorder — entropy will be a thing of the past.

So, does that mean that we shouldn’t bother with trying to straighten that which is bet or to try and order that which is in decline — let it fall apart and then Jesus will fix it when he remakes the cosmos? No, absolutely not, that would be a most depressing response to the wisdom espoused here by Solomon. No, the church is called to be about the work of straightening in this world. We are to do justice as God teaches through Micah (Micah 6:8) and thus make laws that honor God and care for the poor and “bent” around us. Yet, we are to recognize two things. First, the unbending is ultimately a work that God is doing through us. The wrongs happen naturally, the “righting” of the wrongs is divinely worked through His agents. And second, we are to recognize that any reformations we make will not be eternal ones…they will be temporal and one day they will fall away…just like improvements and renovations done to old buildings (eventually the renovations will need renovating!). Thus, if we recognize that, perhaps we won’t take so much pride in that which we perceive ourselves to have done (remember, it is God working through us anyway!). 

And so the bent cannot be unbent and the things falling away cannot be numbered. And, though we may, for a season, see some “unbending” of the society around us, it will only be for a season and that which we have buttressed will begin deteriorating again. Yet, that means we have our work cut out for us here on this earth (we wouldn’t want to grow complacent!) and we recognize that in time, to suit the glory of God, Jesus will return once again and make all things new (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:5).


 

The Essential Preacher

“I, the Preacher, am king over Israel in Jerusalem and I put my heart to investigate and to discover through wisdom all that is done under the sun. It is an evil undertaking that God gives to the children of man to undertake.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:12-13)

We have already discussed the identification of Solomon as Qoheleth — “The Preacher.” The initial “to be” verb, היה (hyh) is a basic Qal stem in the perfect tense, leading many translators to render this phrase: “I, the Preacher, was king over Israel…” And while that is a perfectly legitimate translation, it implies that Solomon is looking back from a point of view where he is no longer a king — the nature of a completed action. In Hebrew, though, the Perfect can also communicate a state of being, which seems to be more consistent with the historical records that do not see Rehoboam as king until after his father’s death. It is still reasonable to see this book as something Solomon wrote later in life as he looks back at his failures, but he is still doing so as king over Israel in Jerusalem.

With this pronouncement of him being King, we now see the basis from which he observes the world — “everything under the sun.” And his approach is to use wisdom to discern the ways of man. His conclusion is that this is an evil (רַא — “ra”) undertaking. Now, do not let Solomon’s answer rattle you, instead remember his context. Here he is king, raised as a king in a household full of “court intrigue.” He has also been surrounded by wealth all of his life and now he rules over people with whom he could never have begun to relate to their experience…yet, he is called upon to rule over them and judge their affairs — debates between prostitutes over whose baby is theirs and the like.

I have heard that sometimes Judges get weary over judging the same sorts of cases and crimes over and over and over again. Why can’t people just live alongside of one another with a degree of modest civility? I know that as a pastor, I feel much the same way at times, wanting to throw up my hands in exasperation, thinking, “why can’t these people just act like Christians!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it. People don’t always behave like Christians and they don’t always act with civility toward one another. People are sinners and make a mess of things and that is why God saves his own by Grace, not by our works (even the “best” of us would fail miserably!). That’s why we cannot just live under the sun with the wisdom of men. We need the Gospel. Perhaps this is why Solomon chose the term “Preacher” to describe himself…a realization that the preaching of God’s Word is what we most need. We need it taught, yes. We need it applied, yes. But we need more. We need God’s word pronounced with authority over us to condemn our sins and then offer us the hope of grace that comes through faith. This is so much more than what a teacher or a judge might happen to do.

In today’s world, preaching is not popular. Churches are shortening the time allotted to it, bringing it down to the level of the people rather than elevating it, they are ignoring law in favor of a spineless grace, and some are eliminating it altogether, replacing it will small-group discussions and teaching time focused only on the basics. While this is surely what people want because they flock to it, it is not what we most need. And people are starving spiritually and they don’t even know it. Sad…no, it is an evil undertaking because it is done “under the sun” rather than commanding people to turn their eyes to the Transcendent Son.