Song of Solomon.
Song of Solomon.
WISDOM LITERATURE. PSALMS. PROVERBS. ECCLESIASTES. SONG OF SOLOMON. JOB.
The Scriptures teach man about God and His purposes for this World in which he lives. Life is about making decisions – not just the huge life-changing decisions involving salvation, marriage, family and career. It also involves every small moral and practical decision. God is concerned with every aspect of the lives of His children and creatures. He is concerned with the animal World and the Earth itself. Every decision has its implications. The wisdom literature helps man to see God in every aspect of life and it guides him so that he makes every decision with God’s interests in focus. To live life in all its fullness involves coming to the truth about suffering (Job), enjoying salvation, (Eccles) being wise and making godly choices, (Proverbs) forming good relationships, especially a relationship with God (Song of Solomon) and speaking to God through prayer (Psalms).
In days without records or tapes music was very much made to be sung. The Hebrew name is the Book of Praises. The Psalms were well known by all Jews and sung regularly and used liturgically. When Jesus on the cross spoke the first line of Psalm 22 He knew that those present could recite the whole Psalm and would understand that He wanted them to think about the words of the Psalm concerning Himself. He was the subject of the Psalm, which had been written centuries in advance for this special occasion. They were set to music for Temple and Tabernacle worship. Every Psalm is a direct expression of the soul’s consciousness of God. They cover the whole gamut of human emotion from despair to Heavenly praises. There are 8 categories of Psalms. 1. Personal Psalms. 2. Penitential Psalms. 3. Psalms of praise. 4. Prayer Psalms. 5. Messianic Psalms. 6. Historical Psalms. 7. Liturgical Psalms. 8. Psalms, which attribute majesty and power to God. Some are a combination. Selah “to lift up” was probably a direction to the orchestra to lift up their music loud. Whereas the rest of Scripture is God speaking to man, the Psalms are man speaking to God, through words given to man by God. Each Psalm has a theme expressing a thought concerning God and in their entirety they build up a picture of the glory of God.
Archaeology has brought to light literature with wisdom from many people of antiquity. This wisdom is from the Lord. Solomon and his men culled the wisdom of the East to compile their proverbs but would not include anything, which was not in line with God’s standards. Other advice may be good in itself, but Proverbs have as its basis the desire to please God. It seeks to bless and not cause confusion or curses. There is advice for every area of life -family relations, business dealing, social relationships, self-control, personal morality, laziness, justice, control of the tongue and so on. A proverb is a short, pithy saying. It includes short snappy sayings, which points to the fuller truth. The proverb springs to mind like catchy music. If studied, the Holy Spirit can quickly call the Word of God to the conscious mind. The wise man learns to master his tongue. The basis for Proverbs is reverence for the Lord. If there is that attitude, then the person will want to choose the option, which will bring respect to the name of the Lord. It will help a man to make choices, which please the Lord. The beginning of wisdom is reverence for the Lord. Proverbs help man to make godly choices. There are stern warnings against sin and ultimate punishment is promised. When read and practised they form character and godly habits. There are regular warnings against sexual exploits, drunkenness and dangerous company.
In practical terms this book guides a man as to how to place God at the centre of his life. The book is an honest look at life without God and the realisation that without God life is worth less than if God is at the centre. The key verse is ch 3 v 11. God has left a hole in the centre of each person. If that hole is filled with God, everything else will fall into place, but people generally with fill the hole with someone or something else. True worship of God places God first in life. To place anything else first is idolatry.
This book addresses the age-old question of suffering and the relation with sin. Nothing could be more practical and helpful. It has to be read as a complete book and not in parts or the message is lost. Job was a wealthy man, living a semi-nomadic life, free from care and anxiety, when sudden disaster struck and he was faced with the problem of human suffering. The intriguing aspect is that Job is not made aware of the conversation between God and Satan, either at the time his suffering begins or after he has been restored to health. There are events, which happen in the unseen World, and bring changes on Earth. Most men are unaware of the events in the unseen World. Why does a loving God allow it and is there a purpose and explanation for it? All Job’s friends attempt to explain the question to him in an attempt to find an answer, which will comfort him. At the end of the day, God speaks. No one can fathom the purposes of God or the will of God for the individual. The more man attempts to fathom the providence of God, the more confused he becomes. This is a practical question, which each person has to settle in his own life in accordance with the Word of God. At the end of the day God will use anything to bring one of His children back into a right relationship with Himself. A man comes into the World naked and he departs from it in the same way. All a man can take with him into eternity is his integrity. God may use Satan to refine his character.
SONG OF SOLOMON.
This book is to teach about marriage and relationship with the Lord as a love affair.
SONG of SOLOMON.
This is a collection of love poems. They have been interpreted as the relationship between God and Israel and Christ and the Church. However the poems give no direct warrant for this interpretation. There is a frank and open delight in physical attraction, which underlines the fact that God intends a man to enjoy physical love as well as spiritual love within the laws He has given. The poems are full of imagery drawn from nature. Solomon had 900 wives and concubines. He was hardly the one to write about faithfulness and single-minded devotion.
It was sung annually on the eighth day of the Passover Feast. It points to Jesus as the Passover Lamb. It may be a real story of a humble and virtuous woman engaged to be married to a young man in like humble circumstances, who was tempted to transfer her affections to one of the richest and most famous men who ever lived – Solomon? It celebrates the victory of chaste love in humble life over all the attractions of Worldly advantage – true love, which no splendour can dazzle and no flattery can seduce. It is a picture of human love. Singing seems to have flourished at the time.
Marriage is central to the purposes of God. The Bible starts with marriage in Genesis and finishes in Revelation with the marriage of the Lamb and His bride – the Church. The first miracle was at the wedding in Cana. Marriage between one man and one woman is the central building block of society, ensuring a safe place for children to grow and develop. It is a process of being married and is a picture of the commitment of God to His people. Divorce is an abomination to God, which is why the enemy is concerned to break marriages. There is a systematic attack to undermine and destroy marriage with some countries redefining marriage between one man and one woman. Faithfulness is one of the four pillars of the throne of God and God wants His children to be Christ-like in their faithfulness to one another and to Him. The book is situated at the very centre of the Bible as marriage is at the centre of life.
Marriage is the work of the Holy Spirit. If a couple marry and think that they have made a mistake, remember that God could have stopped it. God is in the marriage whether they know it or not. The virgin birth was supernatural. The child came out of nothing conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is a mystery. There is a similar mystery in marriage. There is a mystical union – one flesh – one unit. God is in it and overshadows it. “I created it. Do not dare break it.” Celibacy is a gift. The celibate person still has a mystical union with Christ. God did that also. Marriage is lifted into the highest realm. The Song of Solomon speaks of the mystical union between God and His people. Marriage gives joy, satisfaction and security to the man and woman and the children of the marriage. God will bring all good works to fruition. There is an inward beauty in the lives of a couple, whatever their outward appearance. God looks on the heart.
A leader’s wife may feel an also-ran. But the leader cannot do what he does without the support of his wife. It is all in the plan of God. Do not spoil the plan. Neither partner can work without the other. When there is a relationship outside of marriage there is also a mystical union – a soul tie. If it is not of God, it must be broken by repentance. Otherwise a subsequent marriage is flawed, since one of the partners to the marriage is tied to another person. 1 Cor ch 6 v 16.
Family life. Genesis ch 46 v 5-7 and v 26. Psalms 127, 128 and 133. It is good for brothers to dwell in unity. That is physical brothers and not just brothers in Christ. God wanted a blessing for extended families, who stayed together. The families of Abraham and Joseph went with Abraham and Joseph. Emigration was unknown. Pharaoh tried to stop God’s plan by killing the first-born. As he did to others so it was done to him, when the angel of death passed through Egypt. His own first-born died. Satan loves to cause division in couples and in families. God wanted to establish in Israel a blueprint for all the nations on the Earth. Ch 2 v 15. The little foxes spoil the vineyards by nibbling at the shoots and destroying the crops. Little sins creep into a marriage and need to be detected and destroyed before they cause damage to the marriage.
Ch 5 v 10. Jesus is the chief amongst 10,000. He was the one who would carry the flag – the standard bearer. As countries parade before the Olympic Games one is chosen as the standard bearer to carry the flag. Jesus is the standard bearer. In Revelation and the Letter to the Ephesians, the charge is that the people have left their first love. They have given their love to another – perhaps even to the Church. The first command is: “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul and strength.” The command to each believer is to love Jesus as you used to love Him.
As the poem develops there is a change on the part of the woman towards her bridegroom.
Ch 2 v 16. “My beloved is mine and I am his.” The feature is “Me”. Later in ch 6 v 3 the approach is changing. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” There is still a lot of “me” but the Lord features more. Then by ch 7 v 10 the refrain is “I am my beloved’s.” The emphasis is the Lord. “I am” has become incidental. The book teaches man about his relationship with the Lord and his commitment to marriage as a picture of his relationship with the Lord. This is a central practical matter with which a man must come to terms. Physical and emotional love is important to a man as a human being but the Lord should be the central figure in the life of each man and woman. Couples who pray together tend to stay together.
There are 7 features.
1. God came as a man. There is no one like Him. Isaiah ch 43 v 11.
2. There are many opinions about Jesus. Only one matters – God’s opinion. “This is my beloved Son.”
3. From the manger to the Cross – this was a huge risk for God to take. What audacity of Satan to tempt Jesus. Jesus had created him and Satan knew that.
4. It was criminal to mock Jesus, who was clearly without sin and who had done so much more good than any other person had ever done.
5. Jesus knew what lay ahead and yet did the will of God.
6. Jesus was holy and pure, yet not set apart from men. He was thoughtful of others. Even on the cross He was concerned for His mother and the thief hanging beside Him. His command is to love as He loved.
7. Jesus might have been tempted to say: “Good riddance” to the World, which had rejected Him.
Heb ch 7 v 25 reminds believers that He ever lives to intercede for them. He has not rejected the people of this World.
The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 spiritual songs or poems, many of which were set to music for the Tabernacle or Temple worship. Every psalm is a direct expression of the soul’s consciousness of God and together they include every thought, which man could say to God. Every Psalm seems to be personal. Although referred to as the Psalms of David, King David only wrote 73 of them. Some are anonymous. Moses wrote one – Psalm 90. The Psalms tended to come out in a crisis. These were the Hebrew hymnbook. Sometimes they were shouted – as on the way to Jerusalem. The Psalms are divided into 5 books as follows.
1 – 41. Genesis. The subject is man – his state of blessedness, fall and recovery due to Jesus.
42 – 72. Exodus. The subject is Israel’s ruin, the redeemer and redemption.
73 – 89. Leviticus. The subject is the sanctuary.
90 – 106. Numbers. The subject is the Earth.
107 – 150. Deuteronomy. The subject is the Word of God. Ps 107. He sent His Word and healed them.
Whereas the rest of Scripture is God speaking to mankind, the Psalms are man speaking to God. When man does not know how to address God in words, which are acceptable to Him, God gives man the words to speak from the Psalms. Certain themes recur from the Psalms.
1. God’s providence towards mankind. It is impossible to put a price on the salvation of even one soul.
2. God’s wonderful creation of the Earth, the plants, the animals and human beings.
3. The strong desire for justice in the Earth.
4. Holiness, obedience and blessing go together. True worship involves holiness and love of others.
5. There is an unrelenting spiritual war waged against the children of God.
6. Every aspect of life reveals the grace of God.
7. So often the ungodly are blessed and prosper, while the godly struggle with difficulties.
8. Man’s only real and lasting security is to be found in God.
9. God looks for honesty and love in man’s dealings with Him and with his fellow human beings.
10. God is in total control of the affairs of the World and calls the nations to account to Him.
11. Jerusalem has a special place in the purposes of God for salvation for the whole World.
12. Salvation was always intended to be for all the peoples of the World and not just the Jews.
13. Justice and righteousness, mercy and truth. These are pillars of God’s character.
Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are to be taken together. They are the Cross, the Crook and the Crown Psalms.
Psalms 1 – 41. Man.
Psalm 1. The company man keeps influences him. Fallen man and redeemed man have no place together.
Psalm 2. Fallen man unites together with others in their fallen state to rebel against the Lord.
Psalm 3. In times of trouble only the Lord can help the redeemed man.
Psalm 4. False gods will draw redeemed man away from the Lord.
Psalm 5. In contrast the redeemed man will look to worship the Lord.
Psalm 6. The Lord is the healer of man in every way – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Psalm 7. When the enemy comes against the redeemed man, he is to look to God to protect him.
Psalm 8. What is man that God is mindful of him? An incredible thought!
Psalm 9. God is Lord of all men and nations, bringing them to judgement now and at the end of the age.
Psalm 10. The wicked seem to prosper and the righteous suffer. A constant refrain of the redeemed man.
Psalm 11. Even when things go against the redeemed man, the Lord is in total control of events.
Psalm 12. There is a promise that the Lord will defend the oppressed and the poor and needy.
Psalm 13. There are times when the redeemed man has to wait for the Lord to act in his defence.
Psalm 14. The man who says that there is no God is a fool.
Psalm 15. Only those who are living a holy life may expect to have access to the Lord.
Psalm 16. Those who trust in the Lord will see great acts of deliverance by God. v 10 was for Jesus.
Psalm 17. Whatever may happen to the redeemed, there is the certainty of being with the Lord forever.
Psalm 18. The Lord is a strong tower. When close to the Lord the redeemed man is safe. What a promise!
Psalm 19. God’s glory is seen in creation. “Cleanse me from hidden faults. Keep me pure.”
Psalm 20. The redeemed boast in the Lord. He is the only certainty in the World.
Psalm 21. Those who trust in the Lord will never stumble.
Psalm 22. Those who trust totally in the Lord can see beyond immediate disaster to serving the Lord.
Psalm 23. God meets all man’s needs, even when death is close. The believer lives a life full of grace.
Psalm 24. When the King comes, only those with righteous lives can meet Him with absolute confidence.
Psalm 25. Friendship with God is reserved for those who know Him and who reverence Him.
Psalm 26. Sincere motives and deep affection are the real test of a relationship with God.
Psalm 27. When trouble comes all that really matters is salvation. No one can take it away.
Psalm 28. If God is not protecting the believer, then there is no hope for him. But He is.
Psalm 29. In times of trouble the believer has the peace of God in his heart and resolve to go on living.
Psalm 30. Just as the life of the believer is drenched in grace, so it should bring forth praise.
Psalm 31. Trust in the Lord and wait on His perfect timing to pour forth blessing. He is in control.
Psalm 32. Blessing bears a close relationship with repentance for specific sins. Sin holds back blessing.
Psalm 33. God is all-powerful and He loves justice and truth. No one man or nation can oppose Him.
Psalm 34. Whatever happens, praise the Lord. Difficulties will come for a believer to enable growth.
Psalm 35. Ungodly men delight when a believer is in trouble. They gloat. At such times call on the Lord.
Psalm 36. Sin lies deep within fallen man. Declare God’s grace in order to put them to shame.
Psalm 37. The ungodly seem to prosper, while the believer often struggles. Be patient and wait on God.
Psalm 38. Sin and suffering or disease go together. At such times, call on the Lord, who is man’s healer.
Psalm 39. Man’s time on the Earth is really so short, especially viewed at its end. How little he achieves.
Psalm 40. Salvation is about life-long service. A man committed to service finds God committed to grace.
Psalm 41. Man’s attitude to those less well blessed is a real test of his appreciation of God’s grace to him.
Psalms 42 – 72. Israel’s ruin, the redeemer and redemption.
Psalm 42. God designed the human soul to depend on Him. Man thirsts for God until he is satisfied.
Psalm 43. There comes a time to tell the soul to stop being gloomy and trust in the Lord.
Psalm 44. God knows the secrets of every human heart and will meet the needs of the believer.
Psalm 45. The redeemed soul desires to reflect the glory of God back to Him in praise.
Psalm 46. Stand in awe before the living God, who is in total control of the affairs of the World.
Psalm 47. God is to be praised by the Jews and the Gentiles alike. He is highly honoured everywhere.
Psalm 48. Jerusalem has a special place in God’s plans. It is His city, chosen as an emblem of eternity.
Psalm 49. There is not enough money in the World to purchase salvation for one soul. It is God’s gift.
Psalm 50. God owns everything. The sacrifice, which He desires is true thanks, praise and faith in Him.
Psalm 51. God is looking for a broken spirit of one who repents, on which person He will pour blessing.
Psalm 52. Doeg is the man who stirred up trouble for David. God hates a lying tongue and will judge him.
Psalm 53. The fool says that there is no God, hoping that it were so. But God will deal with fools.
Psalm 54. Man turns to his friends in time of trouble. God is a friend to the redeemed man.
Psalm 55. Make the enemies quarrel amongst themselves. Wickedness and dishonesty are in the market.
Psalm 56. It is grace, which saves man from slipping in order to walk with God and to serve Him.
Psalm 57. When troubles come focus on the majesty and power of God. He controls the Heavens.
Psalm 58. There is a God who justly judges the Earth. He looks for justice in the leaders of nations.
Psalm 59. The nations will see that God, who rules in Israel, also rules throughout the World.
Psalm 60. The same God who heals also tears apart at times. It is only with His help man will triumph.
Psalm 61. The only real security a man has is in God. That is why God is to be praised each day.
Psalm 62. When God is in control, why should a man ever be tense with fear about anything?
Psalm 63. Nothing – not even life itself – compares with the love and kindness of God to the human soul.
Psalm 64. Men need not fire guns or arrows or even throw stones. Words can be sharp and hurtful.
Psalm 65. God sends water to bless the Earth. Man cannot create water. God’s grace is his only hope.
Psalm 66. God is watching over the affairs of each nation. Israel was to tell the World how great God is.
Psalm 67. Even in David’s day Israel has a mission to the whole World – to bring salvation to the World.
Psalm 68. Believers take the side of God calling on Him to scatter His enemies, when they reject Him.
Psalm 69. Relentless persecution leaves the human soul broken and the spirit heavy. It is hard to bear.
Psalm 70. When things are really bad there is only God, who can change the situation. Look to Him.
Psalm 71. It is faith to keep on looking to God for help – and to go on praising Him for His faithfulness.
Psalm 72. Written 1,000 B. C. to say that all nations would bow before the God of Israel to serve Him.
Psalms 73 – 89. The sanctuary – being in the presence of God.
Psalm 73. The wicked continue to prosper. It is worthwhile to be honest and holy. God will judge all.
Psalm 74. As the redeemed looks back, he finds that God has been actively helping him during his life.
Psalm 75. There are times when a nation is shaken to pieces. God set the pillars of society in place.
Psalm 76. Who can stand before an angry God? He removes kings and does awesome things to them.
Psalm 77. God is holy and does not change. He is powerful and demonstrates His power at times.
Psalm 78. It is easy to follow God with words, yet the heart is far from God. Israel’s history is a warning.
Psalm 79. God hurts when His chosen city of Jerusalem is downtrodden by the Jebusite spirit. Praise Him!
Psalm 80. When all is lost, the only thing the redeemed can do is to beg God for forgiveness and help.
Psalm 81.God is longing to bless His people but He demands their total loyalty. All idols must go.
Psalm 82. Judges who judge by human standards plunge their nation into darkness.
Psalm 83. The nations rebel against God, when they conspire together to wipe out Israel from the map.
Psalm 84. It is better to be a doorman in God’s temple than to live in palaces of wickedness.
Psalm 85. If Israel repents, God will restore the flow of blessings upon the nation.
Psalm 86. If God is so great, personal obedience is the least a believer can do. Where will man go?
Psalm 87. Jerusalem was chosen by God as an emblem of eternity. It contrasts with all other cities.
Psalm 88. In the darkest hour God is still available. As death approaches, it is of the enemy or of God?
Psalm 89. God’s throne is founded on 2 pillars – justice and righteousness. Mercy and truth go before Him.
Psalms 90 – 106. God’s rule over all the Earth.
Psalm 90. Man’s life on Earth is short. Man should use the time at his disposal, because it is brief.
Psalm 91. God orders His angels to protect the redeemed man from harm so that he is sheltered by God.
Psalm 92. The wicked appear to flourish but destruction awaits them. The redeemed continue to blossom.
Psalm 93. There has never been a time when God has not reigned – and there never will be such a time.
Psalm 94. The God of justice will arise and judge the whole Earth. A comforting thought in times of need.
Psalm 95. Come and kneel before the Lord and give Him the praise He is due for all His loving kindness.
Psalm 96. The gods of other nations are mere idols. True worship is by holy lives revealing God to others.
Psalm 97. It is a disgrace to worship a worthless idol. Every idol will eventually bow before God.
Psalm 98. It is a command to make a joyful noise in praise before the Lord. All of creation praises Him.
Psalm 99. God is supreme above all the rulers of the World. He is just in everything He does.
Psalm 100. God’s faithfulness goes on from generation to generation without ceasing. Shout with joy!
Psalm 101. If man cannot be godly in his home, where there is no pressure, then he will fail the Lord.
Psalm 102. As God goes on into eternity, so Jerusalem is bound up with His purpose. God is forever.
Psalm 103. Never forget the angels who bless the Lord by carrying out His commands with joy.
Psalm 104. The whole of creation cries out that there is a Creator. What variety He has created!
Psalm 105. Nothing happens to a believer unless it passes before God for His approval. What security!
Psalm 106. A history of God’s grace despite man’s sin – for the glory of the name of God to the World.
Psalm 107 – 150. The Word of God.
Psalm 107. Consider the many ways in which God blesses the unsaved, yet they do not stop to thank Him.
Psalm 108. He is God of all the Earth. He gives to those as He pleases. No one dare grudge His generosity.
Psalm 109. The man, who is reviled for loving God, has a desire for justice and for God to punish sin.
Psalm 110. God foresaw the eternal priesthood of Jesus – His Messiah long before Jesus came to Earth.
Psalm 111. God is seen as active in many ways – blessing – performing miracles – doing good – being just.
Psalm 112. The godly man follows in the footsteps of God and does the same good deeds as his Father.
Psalm 113. It is God in His grace and mercy, who gives a child to a childless woman. Look to God
Psalm 114. When God has a mind to do something, nothing can stand in His way, neither seas nor hills.
psalm 115. Those who worship idols are as foolish as they are, for they cannot speak and do not think.
Psalm 116. There is no limit to what the redeemed man can give the Lord for his salvation.
Psalm 117. He is God of all nations and all the nations are commanded to praise Him – not just the Jews.
Psalm 118. God created this day to enjoy. His loving kindness goes on forever. He enables man to praise.
Psalm 119. The key to successful living. Follow the commands of God and in that way please God.
Psalm 120. Constant spiritual warfare drains the spirit, which needs constant refreshment of fellowship.
Psalm 121. Look not to the false gods, whose shrines were built on the hill-tops, but to God who provides.
Psalm 122. Pray for salvation (shalom) in Jerusalem, central to the purposes of God ‘s salvation for Earth.
Psalm 123. As a servant watches his master, to do his bidding and to please him, man should look to God.
Psalm 124. What hope would there be for redeemed man in a hostile World, without God’s protection?
Psalm 125. God’s love surrounds the redeemed man as the mountains surround Jerusalem.
Psalm 126. Those who weep tears of sorrow will reap the reward of joy in their hearts.
Psalm 127. Salvation by works will not last. Unless the Lord builds the house, it will not stand the test.
Psalm 128. God does reward those who reverence Him, sometimes materially as well as spiritually.
Psalm 129. The Jews remind the World of God and His grace to them. Their presence calls for a response.
Psalm 130. That God forgives the personal insults to Him from mere men – their sins – is awesome.
Psalm 131. A true understanding of grace and the work of the cross banishes all pride in oneself.
Psalm 132. It is possible to be anxious about what one could be doing for God, to lose the peace of God.
Psalm 133. Only the work of the Holy Spirit and obedience in the believers can bring about true harmony.
Psalm 134. Like a servant, keep alert to what God is doing. He is always at work and looking for support.
Psalm 135. Those who make idols become like them. Religion’s error scales down God to be a mere man.
Psalm 136. In every aspect of life man finds the loving kindness of God behind the provision of his needs.
Psalm 137. How can man praise the Lord, if he is not walking within His purpose for his life?
Psalm 138. God exalts above everything else in all creation – His word and His name.
Psalm 139. God has a complete record of every action and thought of every man. He supervises man.
Psalm 140. Many times in history evil men persecute the godly. Then they must look to the Lord for help.
Psalm 141. It is essential to keep well away from the ungodly and their evil plots. They are a snare.
Psalm 142. At the end of the day only the Lord really cares deeply for the redeemed man.
Psalm 143. Salvation brings glory to the Lord. A soul rescued from his enemies will bring Him praise.
Psalm 144. What is man that God should even notice him, let alone care for Him? It is all grace.
Psalm 145. For centuries God has been the same loving God, slow to anger and swift to bless.
Psalm 146. Praising God is a lifetime experience. Redeemed man is called to go on praising God.
Psalm 147. God heals the broken hearted and yet rules over nations – all at the same time.
Psalm 148. Man is reminded that when God spoke the World came to be. Man’s existence is by grace.
Psalm 149. Dancing and all kinds of musical instruments are suitable for praising God, if the heart is right.
Psalm 150. Let everything alive praise the Lord – plants and animals and human beings.
PROVERBS. The Wisdom of God.
The proverbs are not concluded. Eccles ch 12 v 9. The Preacher was wise and went on teaching the people all he knew and he collected proverbs and classified them. Why did he do that? So that he could pass on truths to others. That is a thing worth doing by all believers. There is plenty of advice about. Mothers hand it out all the time. Any good parent wants his child to be happy, self-sufficient and of benefit to others. A good parent takes time to shape the behaviour of his child in this direction, talking to the child regularly about how to behave and why. That is the duty of a good parent. The desk diaries give daily sayings to guide the life of the office worker. Some of them are good but others are not Biblically based. The Proverbs are in the Word of God to give a man quick advice for daily living. If he wants to know what God thinks on a particular subject, he may have to read a few passages of Scripture to see how God deals consistently in a given area of life. But if he just wants a quick piece of guidance, then the Proverbs are there for him.
What should a wise person do in certain situations? The Proverbs are there as a quick Word from God in the situation. The condition is that the believer is familiar with them and the Holy Spirit can then call up the appropriate Proverb in the situation. It is like directory enquiries on the telephone. If a man has forgotten a person’s telephone number, he can dial directory enquiries and the lady will tell him the number. God the Holy Spirit is all-wise and will gladly give a man advice in his situation – provided he is tuned into the answers. Just like a computer, a man can only get out what he puts in. If he feeds the information into the computer, he can call it up on short notice. Type up “help” on the computer and there is the answer he needs. Today the World provides help lines. Mankind recognises the need for a quick piece of advice when there is a particular problem – drugs, travel problems, child abuse or a desire to stop smoking. A help line is there to advise a man. But who is giving the advice? Can the advice be trusted? God’s help line is available. It is harder, because a man has to put in the work of reading and learning the lines. Luis Palau recommended reading a chapter of Proverbs every day, until they were imprinted in the mind. In that way the Proverbs will work by themselves by preventing many of the difficulties, which would otherwise arise. “Watch the company you keep.” If that advice is heeded on a regular basis, there should be no need for a cry for help: “I got into trouble when out with my friends. What shall I do?”
Proverbs ch 1 v 2. “Here are proverbs which will help you to recognise wisdom and good advice – how to act in every circumstance. They can teach you to live intelligently.” That is the basis for the Proverbs. Jesus describes the walk with Him as a narrow path. The words of the Proverbs are clear guidance for that walk. Follow the teaching of the Proverbs and the walk will be easier. The Proverb is a brief expression of a truth. However a Proverb is not a promise by God and cannot be relied on as such. The Proverbs also give very practical advice and can serve as a correction to the tendency to spiritualise everything. The Proverbs are not intended to teach the whole truth. A long detailed statement of truth may make matters clearer but it is not easily remembered. The Proverb is catchy and easy to remember. For example: a statement of truth says: “In advance of committing yourself to a course of action, consider the circumstances and the options available and the consequences of your action.” “Look before you leap” is easier to remember and is a quick reminder of the truth. Another illustration. “There are certain corrective measures for minor problems which, when taken early on in the proceedings, forestall major problems from occurring at a later date.” “A stitch in time saves nine” is a little easier to remember. The proverb does not tell a man everything about the truth. It points him to the truth.
Various situations are covered by the Proverbs – such as family relations, business dealings, social relationships, self-control, personal morality, laziness, justice and control of the tongue. There is a distinct absence of any order or priority. There is almost a feeling that they have been put together at random. Yet there are certain themes, which occur. There are many pictures to show the dangers of laziness and the profit of hard work. Fads and fashions change but the basic structure of the family life with its joys and sorrows remain constant. There are still unfaithful husbands, and wives who nag their husbands out of their mind. There are still children from good homes, who get into trouble for no obvious reason. Many of the proverbs are to guide a man into a happy stable home-life. The things, which undermine that, are as active today as ever. The Proverbs stress the power of words and speech for good or ill. What a man says and how he responds to what is said to him – whether it be advice given to him, rebuke, gossip or tempting suggestions – will have long term consequences. The wise man learns to master his tongue.
There is a clear purpose in presenting ultimate judgement. There are clear warnings against drink and loose women. As in all books of the Bible there are certain key pieces of information, which are helpful to an understanding of the writing. In Proverbs, there is a contrast between wisdom and folly – the wise man and the fool. The word “fool” does not mean a stupid person but rather a person who does not pay attention to the Word of God and lives by his own understanding. He may be a very intelligent person but will end up in death, because he does not regard sin or see the need for a saviour. The fool shuts his mind to God. The Psalmist says in Psalm 14 v 1: “The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God.’ ”
If a man is in some difficulty and in need of help and says: “What should I do?” There are several options open to the man in making choices – in making the Godly choices. God wants the very best for each man. God has provided this book to provide a man with advice to enable him to make choices, which please God. The response of the individual to life’s choices will determine whether he joins the group, which is called “the righteous” or the other group called “the wicked.” The word “wicked” does not mean an evil person. It describes the one who, because of the ungodly choices he makes, is in danger of falling under the wrath of God and spending his eternity with the wicked in Hell. They may prosper for a while but their ultimate end is destruction and death. The wise man protects his integrity, knowing that all he can take with him into life after death is his integrity. God has an interest in protecting and blessing the people of integrity, because they bring grace to the community in which they live. In a very real sense the entire progress of a man’s life is as a result of the choices he makes. “What shall I do to earn a living? Whom shall I marry? Whom shall I have as my friends? How can I express my worship of God?” What a man chose to do yesterday determines what life is like for him today. What a man does today will determine what happens in his life tomorrow. That is why the Scriptures always refer to “today” as the day of salvation. What a man chooses to do today will determine his state of holiness tomorrow. Each man has an enemy who delights to see the man make the wrong choice. Choices chart the course of each life. Proverbs help a man to make Godly choices.
“Who are you?” “You are the total of your experiences in life and your responses to these experiences.” This is what forms a man’s character and all that a man can take into eternity is his character. The Proverbs enable a man to shape his character.
Just how much of Proverbs was written by Solomon is not clear. He certainly played a major part in the gathering of the Proverbs. Solomon was a man of outstanding wisdom, yet his life collapsed in later years due to sin. He disobeyed the clear instructions from God. He may have written some of the Proverbs in later life out of the lessons he had learned through failure. Life was for Solomon, as it is for all men, a learning experience. It is easier to advise others what to do, when a man himself may lack the power to do what is right. He asked the Lord for wisdom to rule the nation of Israel. God honoured his request. He could have asked for something for himself, but he asked for wisdom to help him rule the people. To some extent he had learned from his father David that the King was appointed to be a shepherd for the people. If man tells others what is the right thing to do and fails to do it himself, he is a hypocrite.
There were great benefits in being King, but these were available only so long as the King was serving the people and the Lord. 1 Kings tells that Solomon uttered 3,000 Proverbs. People came from all over to hear from Solomon – even kings and the Queen of Sheba. Are people turning to the Word of God for wisdom today or are they going to agony aunts, doctors and social workers? Where does a man go for advice? It may take time but it will be worthwhile in the long run. Often there are no quick answers to complicated problems. The World would like a man to think that there are. So often the politicians simply push the problem round the chessboard. Politicians must do something for asylum seekers. But that puts a strain on the social services and the education and health services. That costs money and taxes. There is a limit to the availability of funds. If the system is abused, many taxpayers will simply withhold their taxes rather than see them spent in a way with which they disagree. Then there are even fewer resources available to meet the increasing demand. Some dishonest politicians will make promises they know that they cannot keep.
Solomon and his wise men culled the wisdom of the East to compile their Proverbs but would not include anything, which was not in line with God’s standards. Archaeologists have brought to light a great deal of wisdom literature from the Middle East around the time of Solomon, much of it very similar to that found in the Proverbs. Other wisdom literature may not be wrong or evil. It has as its basis the purpose of achieving the best in life but it does not have as its basis the desire to make decisions and choices, which please the Lord. The very first step is to know God. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing and gathering of the Proverbs by Solomon and others. Wisdom has nothing to do with I.Q. It is not a question of being smart but of being inclined towards God.
Look at a few illustrations.
Proverbs ch 16 v 3. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” This does not mean that whatever a man decides to do, provided he tells the Lord about it, he must succeed. It teaches that, if man commits his ways to the Lord and seeks to do His will for his life, he will succeed. Success in life is doing whatever the Lord wants, even if it to die, as it was for Jesus. The World views success on quite different standards. The proverb is a quick reminder of the need to consult the Lord before making a decision.
Proverbs ch 18 v 4. A wise man’s words express deep streams of thought. What a man says is more important than what he hears. A man may not be able to control all that he hears, but he can almost always control what he says. Does a man seek to bless others by his words or does he try to discourage them? The Scriptures command a man to encourage others. 1 Thes ch 5 v 11.
Proverbs ch 25 v 24. Better to live on a corner of the roof than to share with a quarrelsome wife. Most people do not have flat roofs today. It really means that everyone should recognise that a hasty marriage based largely on physical attraction can turn out to be an unhappy marriage.
Each Proverb challenges a man to think through the true meaning for his own life.
Some rules for making proper use of proverbs.
1. They are often figurative- pointing beyond themselves.
2. They are intensely practical and not theological.
3. They are words to be remembered and are not necessarily technically precise.
4. They are designed to promote selfless behaviour.
5. They may need sensible translation from the original culture. e.g. Proverbs ch 25 v 24.
6. They are not exhaustive but simply give some good advice.
7. They will provide practical advice for daily living.
8. They are not guarantees to be taken literally and are not to be used as a promise from God. A man cannot rely on the proverb as a principle of God’s dealings with him. They are general advice and guidelines for good behaviour.
The people of Job’s age – he lived in Edom at the time of Jacob and Esau – were full of theological knowledge and intellectual culture. The message of the book is about the mystery of suffering. The people of Job’s day thought that all suffering was due to personal sin. Because Job suffered, his friends thought that he had sinned badly. They asked: “How can this man be godly, if he suffers?” The book gives additional insight into the problem of suffering and pain. In Job’s case it was sent not as chastisement but as a test of his character and to educate and instruct him. Believers say: “How can this man be godly, if he knows nothing of suffering?” This is a book, which has to be read and understood as a complete book. There are real dangers in reading and quoting from part of it. Although the book is truth, it presents a debate or discussion. A quotation from part of it could distort the truth.
Job’s friends explain suffering in traditional religious terms. God rewards good and punishes evil. For Job it is not as simple as that. He has been an exceptionally good person. He challenges God as to why this has happened to him. It is good to be honest with God and to express, as Job does, just how he feels about the situation. That is part of faith. Job’s friends are rebuked for not understanding the meaning of suffering. Job had sensed that God is greater than traditional religion. It is not possible to reason out God’s motives. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God on his own terms. A man can only come on God’s terms.
Chapter 1. God allows Satan certain powers. If He chose to do so, God could totally disarm Satan today. When things go wrong, do not blame God. Blame self or Satan but never the Lord. Every good gift comes from God. He does not send suffering on His children but allows it to serve His purpose.
v 21. “I came into the World naked and naked I shall depart.” The Lord gives a man everything he has. The Sabeans came from Sheba, in Yemen. There is nothing wrong with wealth. What matters is how a man obtains it and what he does with it.
Chapter 2. It was Satan who had the power to inflict the physical boils. Job’s wife gave in first – like Eve – and taunted him. It is hard when those close to a man are used by the enemy to discourage him. The enemy will use those closest for this purpose, even though they are not aware of being used, to discourage a man. What sort of people are believers, if they complain at the first sign of difficulty, ignoring the years of blessings. Jesus warned His followers that, if they persecuted Him, they would persecute His followers.
Chapter 3. Eventually under pressure Job broke down. It contrasts with Habakkuk ch 3.
v 11. “It would have been better for me never to have lived.” What an awful thing to say.
v 21. Why do people not die when they want to and when life holds out no good prospect for them? Their times are in God’s hand. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
v 25. That which I have feared has come upon me.
Chapter 4. It is easy to tell others how they should act. It is not so easy for a man to give himself good advice. The non-believer can often give the believer correct advice, which the believer ought to know.
Chapter 5. The friend gives good advice. “Go to God and confess your sins.” God is in total control. Do not despise the correction of God. It may hurt for a while, like an operation, but in the end it will bring relief and He will heal again. God is ultimately responsible for each of His children. He protects each one in many unseen ways.
Chapter 6 and 7. Job feels sorry for himself and indulges in a pity party. The only ones present at a pity party are self and Satan. He claims that he is entitled to complain. Job has lost sight of God’s purposes. Eph ch 3 v 10. God is showing His kindness towards the Church to the principalities and powers in Heavenly places. When a man feels disappointed and sorry for himself, he ought to count his blessings. Most people would gladly change places no matter how difficult things are at present. Believers should not be living under the circumstances but above them and in every circumstance express thanks and praise to God.
Chapter 8-11. Ch 8 v 14. A man without God is trusting in a spider’s web. Everything he counts on will collapse. Job continues to indulge in self-pity but does acknowledge the power, holiness and majesty of God. God had created him and knit his bones and sinews together. He owes everything to God. Zophar gives good advice. “Repent and get rid of your sins before approaching God.” Who can ascend the hill of the Lord?” Only the holy one.
Chapter 12. v 11 The mind of man tastes truth when he hears it. The Lord God is in control of everything, which happens on Earth. He raises up nations and individuals and He tears them down. Dan ch 2 v 21.
Chapter 13. Job continues his defence and argues from a human point of view. While he is acknowledging the power of God, he is looking at life and suffering from a man’s point of view.
v 10. When a man dies, where does his spirit go? Shall he live again? Due to the suffering there is an emotional tug of war within Job between depression and faith in God.
Chapter 15-19. The friends are convinced that Job’s suffering results from his sin. They see the ungodly suffering in every situation, whereas God makes the sun to shine on the godly and the ungodly. They try to work out providence and it does not work like that. Job becomes increasingly angry with them and protests his innocence. v 25. The ungodly clench their fists and shake them at God: “Keep out of our lives.” Job concludes in ch 19 v 25.”My redeemer lives. I shall live after death and meet my God face to face.” He expresses the hope of the believer.
Chapter 20. Zophar claims too much in the question of providence and judgement.
Chapter 21. Job contradicts his friends. Providence does not work to a formula. The rich do prosper and their children seem to prosper also. A man cannot rebuke God. God is the judge and shows mercy to the ungodly, otherwise there would be no one saved.
Chapter 22. Wrong again! Yes – the unbeliever does not accept the grace of God with thanks, but instead he refuses to acknowledge God.
Chapter 23. Job knows it all but has lost touch with the Lord. Fatalism is creeping in.
Chapter 24. Why does God not do more to help the poor in their suffering? Justice is slow in coming. Justice will come in the end but for the moment there are instances of injustice. When a man is left to himself, justice breaks down.
Chapter 25. God is holy. Man is but a worm in His sight. There are times to remember that.
Chapter 27 v 10. The unbeliever does not delight in God or pay any attention to Him even in a crisis.
Chapter 28. Wisdom is fear of the Lord. Knowledge is not the same as wisdom. A man may be very knowledgeable but not at all wise.
Chapter 29. Job had lived a righteous life and did what was right in the sight of God. Because of that God had given him the certainty of eternal life.
Chapter 30. Surely the unbelievers would listen to Job when their lives began to fall apart. No! Not only that, but they will not help Job in his distress, even though Job helped them in their distress.
Chapter 31. It is a good idea to make a covenant with God not to sin in a particular way. This is so if the sin is one likely to lead to a man’s downfall. Job has searched his conscience and can look God in the face. He has not trusted in wealth or worshipped anything created by God. He has clearly led a highly moral life and has walked with God.
Chapter 32. Elihu has listened and is desperate to speak what is on his heart.
Chapter 33. Elihu shows that suffering must sometimes be accepted as God’s discipline to bring a man back to Him. God does not owe a man an explanation for what He does. He has greater purposes than He has revealed to the man. God only tells a man how to live and how to receive salvation. There are other hidden things, which He does not choose to reveal. “Occult” means the hidden things into which a man is told not to look. God may allow a man to suffer in order to bring the man back into relationship with God in a new and real way.
v 23-27. It gives that man a new and vibrant testimony.
Chapter 34. God is supreme.
v 14. If God was to withdraw His Spirit, all life would disappear and mankind would return to dust.
Job was a righteous man. He does not suffer because of his sin. He does not know that Satan is behind the attack. It was God who initiated the role of Satan in Job’s life. Job never knew anything of the conversation between God and Satan either before his suffering or afterwards. The reader is informed of the conversation between God and Satan and the agreement between them. There are things happening in the unseen spiritual World, which are not known to a man living on Earth. Yet through it all Job worships God for who He is. Praise changes things. God is in control and intends to bring good from the difficulties. His wife mocked his faithfulness, which added to his pain and tempted him to give up on God. However right a man is, he must not speak in a harsh and loveless way. Even though what he says is true, it will help no one. God often speaks to a man and shows him new truths about Himself at the most unlikely times. A man’s obedience to God is not measured by feelings but by action.
The Bible is not just one book but a library of 66 books – each one complete in itself yet part of a unique whole book. Surely the finest collection of library books in the World. As in a library the books of the Bible are set in groups. The four Gospels. The Letters of Paul. The Prophets. The Books of the Law of Moses. The historical books etc. But there is one, which stands out on its own, since it is so different. Of the 66 Books of the Bible there is not one like this one. It was written 3,000 years ago and yet it could have been written for the twenty first century. It contains some statements, which seem to be inconsistent with the Bible. “It is all useless. Now I hate life because it is all so irrational. In days to come we will all be forgotten.” As a result there was much debate as to whether or not it should be contained within the canon of Scripture. While it was written by God it was also written by Solomon, the wisest man in the World of his day – a man with a purpose. There is a good deal of irony in the book. Solomon started out life well – the son of a famous King – David. He walked with God. But later he disobeyed God in certain key areas of his life and finished his life in sadness.
Solomon sets out to find a meaning to life. It is important to read everything in the light of the book as a whole or else the verses are easily taken out of context. Ch 1 v 4. The Earth continues forever. The Jehovah Witnesses take this literally. But that is not what it means in context. The book is set against a background of the life of Solomon. He may have written this book to pass on his experiences to others and to explain his message that without God life is useless. It gives an x-ray of the human heart in which no faith is present. Wisdom literature was popular at the time it was written in near Eastern countries.
Seldom is the Book of Ecclesiastes handed out. It is not a popular book for preachers. Yet some books have a special day – a day when its message is especially relevant to young people. It has to be read as one book and not in portions. It is a scintillating book without equal in the ancient World. Many modern secular writers would be surprised to find it in the Bible. The reader might wonder how anything so depressing could possibly be part of the Word of God. It is a piece of apologetics. The book is included to pose all the questions to which other parts of the Bible respond. It begins where people are but the rest of the Bible is needed to take people where they should be.
The book also contains a few gems, which colour everyday speech. Ch 10 v 11 says: “When the horse is stolen it is too late to lock the stable.” Ch 10 v 20 mentions: “A little bird told me.” It says: “Do not curse the King for a little bird will tell him what you said.” The minah bird was able to mimic human speech and could pass on to the King what was said in private.
Today many are totally ignorant of the Bible and struggling to find a meaning to life. What is life all about? Watch or listen to the news – war – famine – plagues – natural disasters. What is the World coming to? What future lies ahead for this World? If there is a God, where is he is all of this misery? Some say – “I have no time for a God who allows all of this misery. Why does He not do something about it?” Others complain that they have had such a bad start to life that God is not fair. The religion of the day in Western society is humanism – glory to man in the highest. Man knows best as to what to do. It is the old Satanic lie in Gen ch 3 v 5. Without God man simply cannot get his act together. So Solomon wrote this philosophical work searching for a meaning to life. There are some really perplexing questions crying out for an answer. Some, who are looking for a meaning to life, trust in possessions. They think that if they can surround themselves with things and money they will be satisfied. “Does it matter if I make a lot of money? Should I strive for a career?” In the city there is a rat race to get to the top. Yet the graveyards are full of indispensable people. Others look for a mystical spiritual experience. Is it worthwhile to pursue riches if all it means is an expensive funeral? Why can man not resolve the wars, which keep breaking out? “Do I want to bring a child into this troubled World?” This book addresses the basic questions about life, which just do not go away and surface from generation to generation.
Solomon sets out to lead the readers to God but he goes about it in an unusual way. He sets out to get alongside his readers. What questions are in the mind of the reader right now? This book draws them out and brings an answer. “Let’s have a look at life together and see what we can find out about life.” The phrase “Life under the sun” is life from man’s point of view. He starts off by showing what life is like for most people, who do not know God. Most people can offer no explanation for why they are here and what life is all about. Chapter 1 is saying just that. Nothing seems to be worthwhile. Everything is futile or useless. He is seeking to express the views of others and these are not God’s views, although it is the word of God.
All men want to leave their mark in this World. All believers tend to go through a dark tunnel at some time or another. Spiritual darkness can slip in either due to sin or pride. Once the enemy has a foothold he will take advantage. Every believer needs others to encourage him from time to time. Solomon arranges the debate on various issues facing life and death. The rising of the sun is not boring. It is part of God’s order of life. It is essential to have order to facilitate life.
Politically no country seems to have the economy under control for more than a short time. Some young people work really hard and get qualifications only to find that there is no work for them to do. Why not? Who is to blame? Everyone wants to blame someone when something goes wrong. Many blame God. Others ask – why do the evil men prosper and the honest men suffer? Is this World ruled by chance? Is there such a thing as reincarnation? Many in the New Age Movement, realising that material prosperity does not satisfy, are looking for a spiritual experience. There is a growing interest in alternative medicines. The underlying question is – why should human beings have to suffer, if they can remove the suffering by any means at all? Another question faces mankind – that of an ecological disaster. How can it be avoided?
Chapter 2 v v 4-11. Solomon invites the readers to take a good hard look at life together to see if they can discern any points of agreement. Slowly and carefully he invites the readers to follow his line of argument and leads the readers to his conclusion regarding life. To begin with there is no mention of God. The harder man tries to understand the divine purpose in the ordinary providential course of events, the more obsessed and oppressed he grows with the apparent aimlessness of everything and the more he is tempted to conclude that life is really as pointless as it looks. Ask people what is their goal in life and most people would not have one. Imagine playing football without a goal. It would be rather pointless, just a knockabout. Life without a goal is a little like that. It becomes just a relentless search for something, which seems to be missing.
TREADMILL. Life is like a treadmill. ch 1 v 1-11. Man lives in a Universe going nowhere. More people are alive today than at any time in the past but the Earth is still here. Events change from year to year but really there is little real progress. It is the same thing over and over again. There are still wars and suffering, famines and natural disasters. There is no clear purpose discernible in history. Once there were chariot races. Now there are motor cars but life is the same. Millions have died. Man is on the treadmill of time. There is nothing new – it has all happened before. Now with Sunday becoming just another working day for many in some countries the distinctive pattern of life has gone and one week merges into another. Often elderly people ask what day of the week it is. God has given man time in order to enrich and organise his life. By making Sunday like other days man is losing that blessing. There is no clear purpose discernible. Increase of knowledge does not solve the problems facing mankind. Despite the greatest music ever written it did not solve the problems facing Mozart or Beethoven. Mostly people who are ignorant of God end up working seven days a week. People have worked seven days a week many times in the past during previous empires. Workaholics are quite pleased to work seven days a week. They are trying to find a meaning to life through working.
MAZE. Life is like a maze. Just like Solomon, many try wine, women and song – a life of pleasure, but where does that take them? He has even tried hobbies, built houses and parks, invested in the Stock Exchange and made other investments and he met important people. It was all very interesting but not very meaningful or satisfying. Saddam Hussein built many palaces. Churches without the Word end y being involved in building projects. Leaders desire power over people. In Solomon’s day there was untrammelled sexuality. Music will never solve poverty. Solomon had forgotten about Deut ch 17 v 16-20. So much pain could have been avoided, if Solomon had paid attention to the Word of God. Perhaps he found it difficult to live up to the standards of his father – David. Many readers are saying to themselves: “Yes – that’s my situation. I thought that the new house would bring me happiness. I thought my third wife would be the one to fulfil my life. I thought that when I got my career, I would be made for life.” Solomon has become cleverly involved with his readers. They like him. He speaks about their situation. He scratches where they itch. He speaks good sense. Life is like a jigsaw with pieces missing. Only Jesus supplies the missing pictures.
So many are looking for a meaning to life in different areas – drugs, wealth, amusement, achievement, social reform, causes etc. Is there a way out? Sure it is better to be wise than stupid but even though he has tried the lot it is all useless and he is no better off. Wisdom does not really make you happy. Is it really worthwhile to be rich? It is better to be wise than stupid but even the wise are left with more questions than answers in this life. The whole thing is just a rat race. Hard work is due to the desire to climb the ladder of success. There is always someone better off. People will soon forget a man when he has gone. There is a need for a man to mean something now. Solomon draws on his experiences. Work is futile. There is a limit as to what work can produce. v 16-18. He has wisdom but wants more. Wisdom does not really make you happy.ch 2 v 1. But it is all useless and he is no better off. He identifies a constant attempt to find a meaning to life but still finds no satisfactory answer. In the twenty first century many conclude that politicians have run out of ideas as to how to govern the World. Everything has been tried but somehow nothing is really effective. There is a superficiality about laughter and parties.
ZIGZAG. Life is a like a zigzag. ch 3 v 1-15. There is a time for everything under Heaven. Life is a series of contrasts between two poles. There is a two-fold rhythm to life. There is a duality to life. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry, there is a time to be born and a time to die and there is a time to speak and a time to be silent.. Life is a gift from God and perhaps man ought to look at things from the divine angle. So he might as well get on with living and the day-to-day routine and take things as they come.
TEAR. Life is a tear or a sob. ch 3 v 16 – ch 4 v 3. Here he confronts the fact of evil in the World. There is judgement too. The future is unknown. In human terms there is no justice. There is oppression. ch 4. Sometimes the dead are better off than the living in view of all the suffering, evil and oppression in the World. There is no justice in the World. The thief gets away with it so often and so does the tax dodger. The innocent die and often the criminals are not caught. It does not pay to be honest. There seems to be no credit for being good. Who cares anyway? Who is to know? Some people are starving to death while others are over-eating. What does it matter anyway, if man does right or wrong?
LADDER. Life as a ladder. ch 4 v 4 – 16. There is a rat race. Hard work is due to the desire to climb the ladder of success. He counsels against greed. No one is indispensable. People are soon forgotten as soon as they are gone. Who will remember him? What does it matter, if he makes it to the top of the ladder and then retires? After all there is always someone else at the top of the ladder.
Initially God is not mentioned, which seems strange but Solomon is examining life without God in order to show the futility of life without God. As he reflects he observes that people turn to something or someone to find a meaning to life. It is a basic need of man to feel a sense of worth. People are looking for it in different areas of life. What is really worthwhile in life? Solomon has tried everything but nothing fully satisfies the soul of man. There is a constant attempt to find a meaning to life. Knowledge is worth having. Others look for a meaning in a relationship with another person. Life without a goal is not worth living. Solomon is gently leading the readers to certain conclusions. There must be more to life than that.
God never intended man to leave Him out of the picture. Ultimate satisfaction is found in God. Solomon had experienced all that there is to life – money, power, women, fame and also emptiness without God. He knew that man cannot solve his problems without God. Science cannot do it.
Solomon is hoping for nods of agreement from his readers who realise that Solomon is putting into words what they have been thinking. So they want to read on to find out what he has to say. So far he had painted a fairly depressing picture. Then Solomon asks them to reflect with him. There must be more to life than wine, women and song. Surely there is a purpose and man is not here by chance. Any thinking person is not satisfied with that quality of life. So he reflects on certain aspects of life.
Knowledge is worth having. Some have read and studied. Some collect Open University degrees to pass the time. So what! Others even study theology. The knowledge about God is no substitute for the knowledge of God. A know-all can be a real nuisance. One conclusion he comes to is that the one who is knowledgeable and the foolish empty man are both soon forgotten. What is the point of that?
WORSHIP. Are those who worship really sincere? There is so much hypocrisy amongst religious people. Do they believe what they preach? Is it just a question of turning up on a Sunday and putting some money in a plate? Muslims pray five times every day and then chant hatred against other peoples. What is the point of such worship? If there is no sincerity, it is all in vain. Man has to worship someone or something. He feels so insignificant that he needs someone or something bigger than himself to give colour to life. All over the World men worship pop stars, motor cars, the sun – even time. Today’s Baals include footbaal and automobaals. Sects. Possessions. Sportsmen. Idols abound in the land. Life under the Sun is life from man’s point of view. “Take off your rose coloured spectacles and take a really hard look at life.” Nothing is all that new. It was much the same down through the centuries. Most people achieve very little in life. When a man looks back over his life what has he achieved? Man tends to remember the mistakes in life. For most it is hard to discern a purpose to their life. Most people seem to be caught up in the seasons of life – a time for this and a time for that. Surely man ought to worship God and take the matter seriously. Man should be careful when he comes to worship. It should be the product of the fear of God – reverence for God. Man was designed for worship. Even the Buddhists agree. Buddha said not to worship him, yet his followers worship him. Hindus worship the cow. People will worship any thing but not their Creator. To worship appears natural to man. In religion there is so much hypocrisy. Whom should man worship? Surely it is worth finding out if there is a real God whom mn can worship. Much of religion is hypocritical. By chapter 5 Solomon gently introduces worship. It is as if he is planting an idea to which he will return later in the book with a more powerful statement.. Do they really believe it? Without sincerity life is all useless. Real worship can easily descend into ritual.
POSSESSIONS. Then Solomon turns to wealth. Ch 6 v 1-12. You can almost hear the words of Jesus: “What profits a man if he gains the whole World and loses his soul?” Wealth does not satisfy. What is the point of amassing great wealth if God holds a man’s future in His hands and he cannot guarantee life after death? Man comes into the World with nothing and goes out with nothing. He cannot take his wealth with him after death. The Egyptians tried but failed, because man has found all that they tried to take with them still in the tombs. Solomon had found from experience that wealth does not bring happiness. It makes for uneasy sleep, especially for the one who has received his wealth by deceit. Man can work hard all his life and leave it to someone who will squander it. There must be more important things than money. The love of money is a root of all evil. Therefore it is not sensible to set such store on material possessions. Ch 2 v 18-23. What is the point of working hard, if he hands it all over to someone who never did anything to earn it? Yet materialism is a big god today in Western society. Many really believe that if they surround themselves with possessions they will be happy. There is so much injustice in life. The bad people seem to get away with it. Often the innocent die young and the evil men seem to prosper. Where is the justice in that?
A search for wealth is a search after an illusion that it will bring security and honour. It may result in jealousy and envy or anxiously watching the stock exchange figures for fear of seeing wealth wiped out overnight. What is the point of that way of life? This book could be getting uncomfortable for some of its readers. Perhaps they will close it and rush back to their existing life-style. Many hear the Gospel and never return. They weigh it up and realise like the rich young ruler that it is a costly business to follow Jesus. The book cleverly and tenderly draws the reader into facing certain truths.
There must be something wrong searching for wealth. Those who do are under an illusion that it will bring security and honour. In fact it can as easily breed jealousy and fear. The rich sleep with burglar alarms and guard dogs and spend great energy ensuring that they do not lose their wealth. It can make them suspicious of friends and neighbours. Some wealthy parents would rather that their children lived in a relationship unmarried rather than risk the danger of a gold-digger. Is he marrying my daughter, because he loves her or is he really after her wealth? Businessmen are ruled by the value of their investments. No matter how great a man’s wealth, he too will die. Wealth cannot guarantee health. Ch 6 v 2. Indeed striving for wealth may damage health. Materialism brings discontent. Jesus spoke about moths and rust attacking material possessions. Riches can be sent on ahead. Man can invest in the future generation. Jesus spoke more about wealth than any other matter.
DEATH. Ch 9 v 1-12. In Victorian times the people talked about death but sex was never mentioned in public life. Today everyone talks about sex and death is hardly ever spoken about. Yet death awaits all men. Some die young, while others live to a great age. Solomon points out that all share the same experience whether good or bad. He poses the question as to what lies beyond the grave. Man learns more about life at a funeral than at a wedding. If there is no life after death, what is the point of living? Has nobody come back from the dead to prove that there is life after death? Only the one man – Jesus – has done that. Death comes to all, rich and poor, wise and foolish. Is death really the end? Is it followed by oblivion as many proclaim? Death is just that thin veil between the existence in this World and the existence in the next. It will be the most exciting day of a man’s life, if he is a believer. Solomon is posing the question – “have you considered what happens when you die?” C. S. Lewis says that there are some things worth doing, if man is to live for 70 years, but there are other things worth doing, if he is to live forever. Is death the end of life? Never! It is not a popular subject. Only a fool would ignore the fact that it comes to all men. Is that it all over? These are all issues, which confront all men in this life. Everything earned by work has to be left behind at death. Others who have not worked for the wealth benefit from the hard work. ch 9 v 1-12. There is a statement of faith in verse 1. The righteous and the wise are in the hands of God. He affirms the goodness of life in the face of death. It will come to us all, yet life is good. All good things are given by God. The wise man like the fool dies. All human wisdom has to come to terms with death. v 18-23. Some die young. Some die old. But all die and face the judgement. The quality of life in eternity depends on what man has done while he is on the Earth. Death comes to all men and then the judgement. Whatever age a person is he must be ready to meet his Maker. If man gets right with Jesus he can face the judgement with confidence. Believers too will face the judgement and will be accountable for all that they have done in the body. 2 Cor ch 5 v 10.
At any age and at any time man can trust Christ. This is good news for a sceptical humanist society where many complain that life is meaningless. In effect, what the writer is saying is that, if man is honest and realistic, he will see the truth that without God life is pointless. Man needs a saviour to get right with God. Man is only as rich as his relationships. Form a relationship with Jesus. In Him man will find meaning to life. The day will come for every man when his body will return to the dust of the Earth and the spirit will go back to God who gave it in the first place. Most people do not give death much thought – even after attending a funeral.
SIN. The moral dimension is being removed wherever possible as people rationalise their sinful ways. Yet there does appear to be a moral code from which man cannot escape no matter how hard he tries. Where does this fit into life? It is not a word much used today. What does it really mean to sin? In one sense it mans “missing the mark.” In another going astray or breaking a moral law. In yet another it is rebellion. Each sin is a personal affront to God. The result of sin is death. If Adam had not sinned he would not have tasted death. But he did sin and he did die. In taking the fruit Adam repudiated God’s authority, doubted His goodness, disputed His wisdom, rejected His justice, contradicted His veracity and spurned His grace. When man leaves out sin all his calculations go wrong – whether by economists, politicians, educationalists or the new breed of people called futurists. Humanists say that given time and resources man will solve all the problems. Biblical Christianity says that, until sin is dealt with, man cannot begin to solve his problems, personal or national, in a way, which will last. Unless sin is tackled it breeds and society disintegrates. Older people can see the effects of sin in the land over the last few decades. Is there no way man can be set free from the consequences of sin? Surely there will be a day when man will have to give account for everything he has done in his body. Ch 12 v 7. Sin occupies his thoughts as it must, if he is to find a meaning to life. Man has to accept that there is no one who is perfect after all these centuries of trying. All are guilty before God. Man is so quick to see the faults of others but so slow to acknowledge his own faults. Surely if there is a God, He would want man to enjoy life? Yet so many go through life wishing that things were different and that they would change. “If only” I had been born in better circumstances! Until man deals with sin in his life, he cannot begin to solve the problems facing him personally or nationally.
AUTHORITY. There is a law of gravity, a law of thermodynamics etc. These suppose that there is a law-giver. Where does authority come from? “Why should I?” Why are parents, teachers and Governments in a position to order a man about? Where do they get their authority from? When man removes God as the source of authority all the other instruments of authority in the form of government, police, education and parents are under threat. Lawlessness is the eventual outcome. All are accountable at the end of the day. Man may choose to act as he wishes but he finds a law, which constrains him and points to a judgement to come. God is the source of all authority. Remove Him and society collapses and all the other instruments of authority are under threat and eventually society collapses. No government is worse than bad government. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for everyone some time in the future. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for everyone some time in the future. God will uphold righteousness in His final judgement. All men are under authority and must obey. Wicked men do not always suffer death for their sins. There is a strong faith in God’s judgement. Man should have a simple approach to life, using faithfully what God has given him.
God has always come to man with a word of judgement and a word of mercy. Adam ate the fruit and disobeyed God. God came with a word of judgement. “Out!” However His mercy allowed Adam to live and He continued to provide for Adam, although sadly the relationship could never be the same. Cain killed Abel. Judgement meant that Cain was to be a fugitive and a wanderer on the Earth. Yet in His mercy God put a mark on Cain. God’s judgement of the idolatry of the Israelites was captivity in Babylon. In His mercy he allowed them to return to the Land. For each person the judgement for sin is death. Yet in His mercy God provided a saviour in Jesus. All fall short of the glory of God and deserve nothing but condemnation. Surely God meant man to enjoy life. If there is no sense of enjoyment there must be something wrong. So often man can end up being negative and solemn. God will judge all men at the end of their lives.
1. Make the best of life. Ch 9 v 10. Enjoy work. Accept it as sent by God. Do it with total energy. Work is designed by God to give a sense of achievement. Adam and Eve were set to work in the Garden – not to lie on a beach. If man does not enjoy his work there must be something wrong. Jesus said that He had come that man might have life in all its fullness. Man spends most of his time in work. That is the area of his life where he can glorify God most. Work gives a sense of achievement. Laziness brings poverty. Hard work means that man has what he needs. Be positive. Some people talk about passing the time. Solomon would urge man to use the time. Time is a gift from God to be used to glorify Him.
2. Set a goal or several goals. What would man like to achieve five years from now? Go for it. Some believers teach that man should live one day at a time. There is some truth in that but there is also truth in the idea of setting goals to achieve and planning for the future.
3. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for everyone some time in the future. God will uphold righteousness in His final judgement
4. Surely God meant man to enjoy life. If there is no sense of enjoyment there must be something wrong. So often man can end up being negative and solemn.
5. Man’s conscience tells him that God wants him to be concerned for justice and truth and love and mercy. These are the things, which interest God.
6. Jesus said that He had come that man might have life and have it in abundance. God is on the side of the righteous. There is right and wrong. The Bible confirms that what man suspects is right, is actually right. Surely man falls short of God’s standard. If God wants fellowship with man will He not provide a way for this to be possible? The last thing He wants is a negative religion.
7. Man lives in a Godless World – a World full of false gods and idols. It is sheer folly to ignore God. The real God is the one who walked this Earth and He was called Jesus. He is the one who offers a pardon for sin and eternal life.
8. God is the source of life and the one to whom man has to give account. Solomon examined life without God and found that it had no real meaning.
9. Pleasing God is what matters and makes life successful and worthwhile.
Chapter 3 v 11 is the key verse. God has left a hole within spiritual man. Everyone searches for something to fill the vacuum, which God has left in the human soul. Fill it with God in the person of His Son Jesus and life has a meaning. Fill it with anything else and life loses its meaning and it will not satisfy the human soul. God designed man with that space and invites man to fill it with a relationship with Jesus. There is a time for everything under Heaven. There is a time for fun and a time to be serious and reflect on God. Man must be ready to give an account to God for all that he has done in his life. Everything he does matters to God. Without God, life is meaningless. God gives life its full meaning. What Solomon is saying in this book is – be honest, without God life is pointless. God never intended man to leave Him out of the picture. Ultimate satisfaction is found in God. Solomon had experienced all that there is to life. Money, power, women, fame and also emptiness without God. Man cannot solve his problems without God. Science cannot do it. Solomon destroys false happiness before presenting real happiness.
Solomon concludes with four pieces of advice.
1. Be positive. Do not wait for things to happen. Act now. Do not let life drift by for the sake of an effort to please God. Ch 11 v 1-7. Cast your bread on the waters. Life demands activity and initiative. Do not wait for a really convenient time. Now is the day. Man requires to take a step of trusting Jesus. Christianity involves the surrender of the whole being – mind, soul and will. So let go and trust God.
2. Remember in youth the coming of death. Ch 11 v 8 – ch 12 v 8. There is a serious warning not to leave it till it is too late. The time will come when the body becomes dust and the Spirit goes back to God. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” The pleasures of this World are always at work trying to fill man’s time so that he does not have time for his Creator. Many events take place on a Sunday to stop man worshipping Jesus? Many problems n life would not be there if a young man had paid attention to this advice.
3. Do it now. Today is the day of salvation. There is always a note of urgency in the Scriptures. Man cannot presume on tomorrow. Satan is always interested in his putting off a decision. If man is old, the message is the same – today is the day of salvation. In terms of eternity all are young. Yet statistically most people come to Christ when they are young. Time is short.
4. Fear God and remember the judgement. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Having found the meaning of life he goes on to give some wise sayings. In any age, at any time, man may trust God.
The book has been a quest for the true meaning to life. He has observed everything and tested everything and comes to a number of conclusions. Certain solid facts emerge.
1. Wisdom is better than folly. Yet wisdom has its limitations.
2. Life and work are good but death does come to us all. Put your hand to the plough. God is to be enjoyed.
3. God is on the side of the righteous and this will be seen at the time of judgement.
Providence or chance? Ch 9 v 1-10. Is there an overall purpose in life or is it all a question of chance? That is a question for all time. It is only by faith that a man can be certain of the will of the Lord. For the spiritually blind there seems to be no real pattern in life. J. I. Packer – “The more a person probes the question of providence, the more confused and perplexed he becomes.” There are times when man simply cannot understand what God is doing. God has not revealed the whole picture to man. There is no point in trying to prove all things to an unbeliever. Man simply cannot do that.
By chapter 11 Solomon is hoping that his readers will be in general agreement with certain truths. Some truths in life are certain, like moral laws. Man should be good to his fellow man. He ought to love his neighbour. Everyone recognises that. Perfection is elusive. No one wants to die. Everyone wants to enjoy life. Man wants the best for his children. More nods! What conclusions does Solomon come to after his reflections?
Solomon deals with contrasts, especially in chapter 3, when he points out the time for everything. Man tries to live it up but usually it gets him down and he finds no satisfaction in anything he has done. Solomon had received the gift of wisdom but had let it slip away. Man has to use the gifts from God for the benefit of others. If man loses the dimension of God in life everything tends to fall away and life becomes meaningless. Solomon’s own son lost everything his father had worked for and given to him. However it is possible to lay up treasure in Heaven by sending money away in advance for worthwhile projects as directed by God. What man does on Earth determines what appears in the Book of Finance. In Luke ch 15 Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son. Did He have this passage in Eccles ch 2 in mind? Actually all that the son needed was in the Father’s house but he chose to go outside and see what he could find for himself. Solomon was the wisest man in the World but even he could not find satisfaction in life without God.
The important thing for a man is to be in the right place at the right time with the right words – in order to fulfil God’s plan for his life. So there is a correct time for everything. There is a time to kill off bad habits and to defeat obstacles to spiritual growth. There is a time to break chains, which bind people. There is also a time to hate sinful activity. Abraham Lincoln hated the slave trade. There is a time to defend the marker stones of a man’s land and a time to forget about self in the interests of others. There is a time to speak out the truth regardless of the consequences and a time to remain silent.
Chapter 6. Many men live their life under a heavy burden with deep questions unanswered. No amount of money or wealth brings satisfaction. Many poor people are far happier than rich people. Only Jesus can give real fulfilment in life. There is a plan for each life and the challenge is to find it and to complete it. Jesus addressed the question of contentment in Mat ch 6. He saw the same problems in His day as Solomon had earlier. Ecclesiastes asks all the pertinent questions. The answers are found in Jesus.
Chapter 7. A good name is better than perfume. Perfume makes a person attractive for a time but a good reputation lasts a lot longer. It is better to be holy than happy. Funerals are of more value than parties. They cause man to reflect on life and death and possible on God. Each man has to stand before God whether he likes it or not and whether he believes it or not. A bribe steals a man’s integrity. Integrity or character is all a man can take into eternity. Jesus invites man to count the cost before proceeding with any venture. Patience enables a man to finish the task however difficult. Make calculated decisions. Life is a mixed bag of uncertainties and surprises. Who can see the future in any great detail? Wisdom enables man to accept the difficulties. Other people often let a man down. Some things cannot be done quickly. Jesus was never in a hurry. He took His time and did everything well. It takes time to find the truth.
Chapter 8. A wise man has a realistic approach to life and an understanding of sin as the source of the problems. Without God in the picture man cannot reach a full understanding of anything. The wise man can evaluate the consequences of his actions. With God in the picture the perspective changes. Man should not be in a hurry to walk out of any situation when he disagrees. There may be aspects, which as yet are not clear. Jesus has the final word and not death. If there is no immediate punishment man thinks that he can get away with his sin. Things are not always fair. Some are caught in a speed trap just over the limit. Others get away with higher speeds for a long time. God will be just in time. Solomon saw the hand of God in events and made his decisions in light of that knowledge.
Chapter 9. Solomon is in reflective mood. Even a believer cannot avoid hurts and disappointments. There is madness in the World. Vast sums are spent on weapons and drugs to kill and maim people and vast sums are spent on health care for the same people. The World would be incredibly rich without sin. Dogs were unclean animals in Israel and lions were still in the Jordan valley. There is still hope of grace for the living but the dead are past grace, if not saved during their life. Where there is life there is hope. Even without a relationship with God it is better to enjoy life -–to eat well, dress well and feel good about yourself. No one knows when his life will end. v 13. Like Mordecai in Esther the good deeds of a man may not be remembered or recognised. God knows, even if a man is taken for granted. No man can change the World but he can make a difference in the life of others. It is important what a man allows into his mind.
Chapter 10. A fly can ruin the ointment used for healing. One moral lapse can ruin the reputation of a man. The media will delight in that. Man needs the power of the Holy Spirit to keep the lid on his temptations. One apple spoils the barrel. A good apple does not make the bad ones good. Sin spreads.
v 4. There may be a reason behind a hasty action. Do not be quick to react. Often a man is put in a position of authority beyond his capabilities ahead of another who is better qualified. It is worthwhile taking time to sharpen the axe before chopping the wood. Prayer before action is worthwhile.
v 12-13. Part of the fruit of the Spirit is to ability to control the tongue and to defeat the Amorite Spirit.
Laziness is a curse. Man ought to seek out basic information and be informed. v 20. Man never knows who is listening. Doeg might be close. If news needs to be spread, seek out a gossip.
Chapter 11. When seed was cast on the River Nile it sank into the rich soil below the surface. When the waters receded the seed grew into good crops. The principle is not to hoard but to give. Sow a smile and reap a reward. A smile enhances the value of a man’s face. The fishing expedition in Luke ch 5 is an acted parable. The message is to launch into the deep. Nets are for catching fish and not for mending. There will be difficulties as a man sets out to catch human fish. Expect them. Do not wait for ideal conditions. There is a danger for man of not moving out of his comfort zones. The future is unpredictable. Man cannot fully understand the ways of God. Man cannot work out the providence of God. Just do it. The vigour of youth is temporary. The laws governing the driving of a car are not meant to be restrictive but are in place to ensure that there is a better prospect of reaching the destination in safety. In the same way the Ten Commandments are designed to prevent man from experiencing all the problems, which arise from living without reference to God.
Chapter 12. The word “remember “ means to renew a relationship and not just to think about a person. Death is certainly coming. It is a danger to leave matters until later. By the later date it may not be possible to restore the relationship with the Lord. Heb ch 6 v 4. Gradually the body shuts down its efficiency. How a man ends his life is determined by what he has done in his life. The Word of God is to be applied in all the perplexities of life. Backsliding is not going back-wards so much as not going forwards. God’s Word can goad a man and drive him on. Man should pay attention to the Word of God and be wary of listening to the opinions of men. Beware of spiritual novelties and New Age practices. Solomon plans that the last word of the book will leave a powerful message.