A Great King’s Counsel
God can change anyone. One only has to look at the changes taking place in our own lives to understand this. God gave each of us a degree of strength, wisdom, and endurance to carry out whatever He has in mind for us. What we must always try to avoid is the sting of Satan whenever we are tempted. Of course, from time to time I suspect all of us do succumb but as we progress through our journeys as Christians, we seem to find the strength to overcome more often than naught. It’s like the Apostle Paul; who, by the way, is the greatest example of God changing someone, expressing his confidence about change in Philippians 4:13, when he said:: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” This clearly demonstrates that any power we have to overcome the sting of Satan comes from the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. We can’t achieve it by ourselves.
Put very simply, “Without Christ in our life, succumbing to Satan’s sting is a certainty.” This is why we can look around the Israel nations today and see such depressing attitudes, particularly amongst the majority of our young people, as they move in and out of activities trying to find the answer to harmony, not realizing it is right in front of their eyes. Instead, they go from relationship to relationship, job to job, pleasure to pleasure, and so on, trying to grasp the elusive ring of peace and contentment from any source but Christ. They may rejoice in what they latch onto but sadly, the peace is short-lived and they are obliged to begin the search in other directions.
Others may have had a proper grounding in the Faith during their early years but through doubt or some other reason, totally succumbed to Satan’s sting somewhere along the way and changed course in their faith. I think of onetime Christian evangelist Charles Templeton, who led crusades in eastern Canada and America and who hosted a weekly religious program on CBS before declaring his agnosticism in 1957. Who knows, perhaps he was not a Christian in the first place, just an actor. I suppose if we jog our memories, we can all recall such a person, perhaps a relative, a friend or a fellow Congregationalist. But it is sad to think of them, walking the path of discouragement rather than following Christ.
How awful it must have been for King Solomon. Here is a man who had a wonderful relationship with God; blessed beyond belief, even selected to construct the Temple. Indeed, 1 Kings 3 depicts a Solomon who was so in touch with God that when he asked for wisdom, the LORD replied, “I will do what you asked, I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both riches and honour – so that in your lifetime, you will have no equal among kings.” Verse 13. Then God added, “And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commandments as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Verse 14.
Good as His Word, God endowed Solomon with great wisdom, wealth, and power. In fact, 1 Kings 10:23 declares, “king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” Isn’t it sad to know that power is too often corruptive? Solomon’s taking of 700 wives and 300 concubines was his undoing, for as 1 Kings 11:1&2 reveals, most were from nations God warned against, in particular, verse 4 depicted his wives turning him toward other gods when he was old and verse 6 is the declaration of Solomon doing evil in the sight of the LORD. God declared that the Kingdom would be taken away but for the sake of David, He would wait until Solomon died.
Solomon probably didn’t forsake God altogether but he shared him with the many other gods he had accepted because he disobeyed God by taking strange wives and letting them lead him and his people into idolatry. It must have been a terrible burden on him when he was reaching the last days of his reign and realized what he had perpetrated against God and His people Israel. You know, if we look back over the past 60 years, we can see the result of what we have done to our own nations by permitting advocates of other gods to whisk away Jesus Christ as the central focus. God told Solomon, as He told all Israelites, to obey his commandments, one of which is “Thou shall have no other gods before me”. Think of what has happened to us when “other gods” have brought our nations under the sting of Satan.
As is so evident today in the Israel nations, where we have passed the point of no return and need Divine intervention, Solomon did too near the end of his life. Yet, very likely just before the downhill fall, yet at a point where his life was largely behind him, his great wisdom led him to record experiences between his birth and death, perhaps to convey advice or warnings to his people, both then and now. Some see Ecclesiates 1 as such frank advice about life in general, given at a time when he wasn’t overtaken by numerous other gods. Others read it and see a tone of discouragement as Solomon reached the latter days of his life when other gods were rapidly taking hold and he realized the folly he had perpetrated to himself and his people. Almost like, “What have I done”?
If you simply read the chapter, you might adopt the latter thought and there is good reason. Verse 2 from the NIV version reads as follows, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher, Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Reading these words might lead someone to think that Solomon must have been totally discouraged and simply becoming defeatist. Still, he wrote this chapter about 27 years before his death and less than a handful of years after the Temple was completed, so his words were likely by way of sound advice, not the echo of hopelessness. Indeed, there is a theme to verses 1-3 which is important for all of us to remember and the Wycliffe Commentary seems to sum it up best in this explanation, “All of human existence, when lived apart from God, is frustrating and unsatisfactory. All the pleasures and material things of life, when sought for their own sake, bring nothing but unhappiness and a sense of futility.”
Living apart from God! Most of our readers are blessed with a relationship with the Almighty through the Blood of Christ and understand that the life we are passing through leads to the glorious Kingdom. Yet, what of all those others who are not under the Blood? In verses 4-8, Solomon touches on what it is like for those who live apart from God in the course of human activity, which he suggests is monotonous and aimless, just like the processes of nature where the same wearisome repetition is seen in the “sun”, the “wind” and the “streams.” Without God, he suggests that all things are wearisome. In short, his theme, that is, “living apart from God” is demonstrated by human life in general. Verse 11 suggests that even the memory of man’s efforts is soon forgotten, perhaps emphasizing Verse 3, “What profit hath a man of all his labour.” I see this as nothing more than the necessity of keeping our eye on what should be our blessed objective, “sharing in the promised Kingdom when Christ returns to reign.”
Reading the last six or seven verses of the Chapter might lead one to detect a degree of discouragement in Solomon’s words. Still, do they really, or is he simply expressing what life is like without God in charge. He is saying that despite the great wisdom he sought, it did not bring any lasting satisfaction because without God at the helm, the world is full of problems that cannot be solved by Man. All we have to do is look around the planet today to see the wars, hunger, greed, differences, and so on, to appreciate this thought. This is why as Christians; we so eagerly look to the return of Christ and dwell on Christ’s Words, “Surely I come quickly.”
Let me close this article by recording the final verse, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Is Solomon saying that the great wisdom he sought brought him sorrow? No doubt it did, as he turned toward other gods in his final years. But at the time of his writing, he was simply adding to the theme of this chapter, and I think the NIV Study Bible explanation of the verse reflects Solomon’s true thought at the time, “Humanistic wisdom – wisdom without God – leads to grief and sorrow.
What more can be written to demonstrate how blessed we are to be in relationship with Jesus Christ? I guess what we must continue to do is to try to reach out to brethren who are lost in the Laodicean era and encourage them to accept Christ’s counsel, “Buy of me gold tried in the fire” [Adhere to His Commandments], “cloth in White Raiment” [Come under the Blood of Christ] and “Anoint thy eyes” [Study God’s Word]. (Rev 3:18) (Prepared with help from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary)!