Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.36 (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14)

12th Study: Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

Well, we have reached the final chapter of Ecclesiastes and the last edition of this online Bible study.  I want to thank all of those who have read each entry as they were posted or read some of the entries, and even those of you who are reading this online Bible study for the first time.

I hope you (as I did)  have learned something new or different from the most misunderstood book in the Bible.

The first eight verses of Chapter Twelve start with Solomon writing a poem and going over a life from youth to old age and realizing the death awaits us all and we should always remember the Creator throughout every stage of our life.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Be joyful, but also be godly. Solomon returns in 12:1-8 to the name that he has used to describe God in this book–the Creator or Maker of all things. This Creator, remember, is the one who, according to Chapter 3, has made everything fitting in its time. He sets the pattern of our existence as a whole. He will call the past to account (3:15). Specifically, the creator is the one who has given you life and every good thing. {pp. 209}

Solomon is imploring to always remember God in every stage of our lives and to enjoy the gifts he has given and enjoy pleasure as well.  Again, God wants to enjoy life because it can end suddenly.

About a week or so ago, I found out a friend in my Sunday School class was killed on the highway in a car accident.  The car that hit my friend was driving the wrong way and my friend decided to turn his car towards the oncoming car so the passenger side would not have to take the brunt of the impact.

My friend was only 31.

Life is but a vapor (hebel) and a person can be here today and gone tomorrow.  That’s why I believe Solomon understood by the end of Ecclesiastes that he was writing a book about faith as well as wisdom.  And we should take heed to look at Ecclesiastes as a book of faith also.

The last five verses of Chapter Twelve covers Solomon’s carefulness with words and while words of wisdom are important the main thing is to fear God and keep his commandments.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

With these final words Solomon reaches the pinnacle of believing wisdom. These are truly words of faith. Solomon had learned, as we all must, that he was not in control. {pp 216}

Hmmm…the wisest man to have ever lived realize ultimately he was not in control.  God is.

Here are a couple of questions to think about from this week’s study:

1) Have you changed your opinion about the book of Ecclesiastes?  Do you see it as a book of faith as well as book of wisdom? 

If so, why?  And if not, why?

2) As Christians, how can truly begin to enjoy the gifts God gave us and appreciate the fact that we can have a life with pleasure included?


Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.35 (Ecclesiastes 11:1-10)

11th Study: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

 After ten chapters, I know some of you think that the Book of Ecclesiastes is a stark, even bleek book in the Bible.  Hmmm…I can see that. However, I believe Solomon’s journey through wisdom doesn’t sugarcoat life in all its facets.

Well, the next two chapters (which are the last two in Ecclesiastes), Solomon becomes upbeat and hopeful.  Yeah….not all of Ecclesiastes is dour and grim.  LOL!

The first six verses of Chapter 11, Solomon is writing about taking a risk.  Pastor Meyers writes this:

Those first set of verses is about taking risks. It is about the temptations that arise in this uncertain, uncontrollable world. Will we just do nothing? The note of caution sounded in chapter 10 cannot be allowed to paralyze us. Oh my, there will be flies in the ointment! We should stop making it! Our disorientation and fear stemming from wisdom’s vulnerability must not be allowed to drive us to paralyzing anxiety or the crippling inactivity of despair.  {pp.192}

Basically, Solomon in this chapter reveals that he is the original creator of the Nike slogan, Just do it!

I would like to write about my own personal risk-taking that happened in 1994, just a couple months before my 23rd birthday.  {Boy, time flies!}

I moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Santa Fe, New Mexico in June 1994 with only a few hundred dollars in my pocket.  I had decided my life at that time was going nowhere and I needed a drastic change.

So I sold the little furniture I had in my studio apartment and kept my last paycheck from my job (I was working for a Comic Book Warehouse at the time) and caught the Greyhound bus going west.

The trip took two days by bus and after a few days of arriving in Santa Fe all money was spent. Even though, I was not a Christian at that time,  (Church folks scared me back then and I wanted nothing to do with Christianity) I do believe God’s hand was on my life.

I got to live at a hostel and it happens the roof of the building needed repair.  I asked to help and doing that job paid for my rent until I found a place of my own.

There were several events in my life during that time, where I got what I needed right when I needed it.  Not a moment too soon or too late.  Now, I know that God was paving the way for me to accept and follow Him in my life.

I can write a lot about my years living in New Mexico (almost 10 years), but I will save that for another Wisdom of Marion column in the future. However, I learned that sometimes in life you have to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone even if family and friends don’t understand.  Also, I must write your family and friends can be the biggest roadblock to your risk-taking.  Be careful on who you are talking with if you have decided on taking a risk in your life.

For the remaining verses of the chapter, Pastor Meyers writes:

Jesus is not simply the Savior of one’s individual soul. Even if you add your body to the mix and look for bodily transformation at the resurrection, that is not enough. He is not plucking us out of our material environment. Rather, he is the Savior and Reconciler of all creation.

We need to stop compartmentalizing the world. God’s covenant with us is his covenant in Christ with all the creation. In this biblical context, one shouldn’t even raise an eyebrow that Solomon sings the praises of work, wife, feasting, and drinking wine. If that seems too physical, worldly, or unspiritual, maybe it is time for us to get a grip on what the Bible says is truly spiritual.   {pp.205}

Amen, Pastor Meyers for that!

God is a God of integration.  He doesn’t separate or compartmentalize like we do as human beings.

This is why the Book of Ecclesiastes is so important to me from my perspective.  It reveals that being a Christian doesn’t just mean that I have “A Get Out of Hell Card for Free.”

Christianity is much bigger than that and it covers every area of our lives.  Somehow that last sentence is completely misunderstood in Christendom. And because of Ecclesiastes, I’ve begun to look at the Bible and Christianity in a completely different way.

God is much bigger than we truly allow and accept him to be in our lives.  So enjoy your wife or husband, have joy, make a living at something you are truly gifted for and please take a risk in life because He wants you to.

God Bless and see you next week.

Here are a couple of questions to think about from this week’s study:

1) If God blessed you to take one risk in your life, would you do? If so, why?  And if not, why?

2) Why do we compartmentalize God over here with our Church life and keep him away from our everyday lives outside of Church?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.33 (Ecclesiastes 10:1-20)

10th Study: Ecclesiastes 10:1-20

The overarching theme to Chapter 10 for me is that how does one use wisdom and having wisdom still can make you vulnerable to indiscretion and sin at any time.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Wisdom is a god-given gift that will bring you limited success in this life. Wise men and women are vulnerable, too. {pp.182]

One of the many ironies of human existence, another feature that marks its vaporousness, is that wise men and women are always vulnerable to folly. And that folly, even though it may be just a smidgen, may jeopardize all of our wisdom. Just think about how you are able to dismiss an otherwise knowledgeable and competent person because of some quirky characteristic or some small offense he or she may have committed against you.

Wisdom is superior to folly, but it’s power is conditional, which makes it quite vulnerable. It is risky to be wise. {pp.184-185}

Look at Solomon’s life as an example and read 1 Kings Chapter 11. We see that Solomon loved women.  He had 700 wives and princesses and 300 concubines!  Even though God gave Solomon one of the greatest gifts a human being could ever have in wisdom….Solomon’s love for the ladies (and the original Hugh Hefner) got in the way of God’s gift.

And in a way, Solomon acknowledges this in Verse 1 of this chapter:

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. {ESV}

Solomon surprisingly acknowledges that the power of sin can even change a wise person in an instant and that they are especially vulnerable due to how they are perceive by a society.

Think about all the pastors that have fallen over the years and how their perception of them has changed from their followers and the outside world.  It even seemed that people were waiting for them to fall to show they are hypocrites and say they are not true men or women of Christ.

Well, I’m beginning to believe after reading this chapter that we truly don’t understand the power of sin and what Adam and Eve did in the garden changed humanity.  We should always be thankful for what Jesus did us for on the cross and remember these words:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” {John 3:16-17 ESV}

The other key to this chapter is how use to wisdom.  Pastor Meyers writes this:

A wise man cannot control how his words will be received. Wisdom does not always insure personal success because the majority of people do not always appreciate wisdom. It is evident in the story Solomon tells that even though wisdom saves the city, no one seemed to remember the poor man who gave the sage advice. This ingratitude of the people of the city is yet one more example of what’s uncontrollable and fickle in human life–vapor. Wise men are often not appreciated because they are appraised by foolish standards–by their possessions, power, or privilege, for example. {pp.184}

I’m going to be blunt but we live in a self-help society instead of a God’s help society. I would expect secular society to live that way, but it has effected modern Christianity as well.

There are a lot of books like How to live Your Best Life Now or 7 Steps to being truly blessed by God and so on.  I must write it saddens me.  But I believe this is one of the ways the world has affected and changed the church.

And after reading Ecclesiastes, I realize that pursuing wisdom is hard and if you are not lauded and celebrated by society (both Christian and Secular) you will not be taken seriously.

That’s why this book of Ecclesiastes has fascinated me more than any other book in the Bible.  I understand the importance of the Gospels, breath and depth of Paul’s letters, the role of the Genesis and so on.  Even Proverbs gets more attention as a book of wisdom than Ecclesiastes.

However, I believe this book speaks more to our modern way of life than any other book in the Bible.  (I know many will disagree with me..that’s okay!) And it shows a counter to our self-help society and we really need to have a God’s help society. Through Solomon, God shows that in order to have wisdom we must have faith in Him as well.

See you next week!

Here’s a question to think about from this week’s study:

1) How can we move from a self-help society into a God’s help society? What would take for us as Christians to trust God more than ourselves?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.32 (Ecclesiates 9:1-18)

9th Study: Ecclesiastes 9:1-18

Chapter 9 opens with Solomon writing about the inevitability of death for all of us. Whether you are a righteous and upstanding believer or an atheist; whether you are black or white; whether you are male or female…death is one per person.

Maybe this is one of the reasons that the book of Ecclesiastes is not popular in modern American Christianity. (Have you ever seen verses from Ecclesiastes in the popular daily devotionals?)  Solomon writes about the one thing that most Americans tend to avoid.

I must admit I don’t like to talk about death.  It’s scary to even think about it.  However, when my father passed away in 2004…it started to really sink in that death could happen to me at some point in my life.  Hmmm….

Pastor Meyers writes this about it:

Now we are reminded of the chief manifestation of the hebel-ness, the vaporous character of human existence: death, together with all the frustration one experiences in the face of the great leveler. Life is best lived not by denying the reality of death, but by understanding one’s place in this life and living by faith.

All mortals face the common curse of evil under the sun; this is most pointedly obvious in the inescapability of death. Solomon is centered on how life can be lived in the face of this great evil.  Solomon is clear that death is not to be preferred to life. {9:5} He is advocating a vigorous engagement with life, not a stoic resignation to the inevitability of fate.  {pp. 174-175}

The last part of the preceding paragraph is important. We are to have a vigorous engagement with life.  God wants to enjoy life while we are living.  Yes, life can be difficult and challenging.  But, I believe sometimes so many Christians are preoccupied with heaven and the next life to come that they lose a sense of reality from what’s in front of and around them.

Ecclesiastes 9 shows us the complete opposite to that kind of thinking. Here’s verse 7 to prove it:

Go eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.  {ESV}

One of my favorite things to do is to have dinner with my wife and a group of friends.  I enjoy the interaction of talking with several couples about their lives, what we are eating or drinking ( I enjoy wine with my meals), and even discuss politics or religion.

Even though I’m a loner by nature….I enjoy having those dinners to connect with people and I can learn so much about human nature in those interactions.

I must admit when I first became a Christian, I thought I had to give up that part of my life and I attended a church that you made feel guilty about everything that it didn’t agree with how the pastor though his congregation should live their lives.

Well, I’m grateful that the Bible has a book like Ecclesiastes in the canon to show that God really wants us to enjoy life and that we must trust him to handle the big issues in our lives.

I want to finish this week’s study by these words from Pastor Meyers:

Solomon is telling us that it is God’s will in Christ that we enjoy the basic provisions of life that he has given us. He is the one who provides them for us. He accepts–indeed, commands–our participation in the enjoyment of life, food, marriage, and work. So go ahead and do as God would want! Eat, drink, love, and work. God has accepted these activities. The mark of a biblical wise man or woman is that despite the many painful issues in life—namely, death–the wise are able to enjoy life as a gift of God. They know when pleasure and feasting and love are appropriate.

There is a great deal of unholy prudery in the church. I’m going to say it plainly. Christian spouses are supposed to enjoy life by enjoying sex with each other and all the other blessings of marriage. Solomon is not giving us some form of hedonistic nihilism here. He is not saying eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. He is saying we should receive the good things in life as gifts from God because that is what they are.  {pp.178-179}

See you next week!

I have one question for you think about from this week’s study:

1) Do you think there’s an unholy prudery in the church? If so, why is that?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.31 (Ecclesiastes 8:1-17)

8th Study: Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

I will begin this week study of Ecclesiastes with a breakdown of Chapter 8 from Pastor Meyers.

There are four stages in Solomon’s teaching in 8:1-17:

1) Solomon gives a general admonition to wise, godly submission (8:1-17)

2) Solomon gives a reminder of the limitations and evil of human governors (8:8-10).

3) There is an exhortation to fear God and exercise faith in the Lord’s final judgment (8:11-14).

4) Finally, Solomon concludes the third section with the now-familiar encouragement to receive God’s gifts without trying to figure everything out (8:15-17). {pp.160}

First, we must learn to be respectful of those who are place in authority over us.  Whether it’s your boss at the job, the pastor at your church, police or the mayor, and even the president, we must obey those in authority even when we disagree or think they are wrong.

As Americans, we have a problem with submitting to those above us. And I believe this is one the big differences between Biblical wisdom and our society’s wisdom. As Christians we must understand those place above us are there according God’s behalf of the human institutions He allowed to be set-up to create a society.

And if we are to obey God (as Christians), we must submit to the leaders he has put over us.

Now, Solomon makes an excellent point in 8:5-6, where he points out the right way to respond to our leaders requires discernment and understanding when is the right time and place to approach those in authority.

Pastor Meyers makes a great analogy when he writes:

Children have such a hard time getting this right precisely because they are immature. They go about dealing with their parents in the wrong way and then are rebuked. Thus, they get the false impression that they have no way to be heard, no voice, no way to talk to their parents about decisions that are made! It is precisely when they mature that they grasp the right way to appeal to authority.   {pp. 162}

However in the next section of Chapter 8,  Solomon deals with the limitations that are over rulers.

Unfortunately, there have been many leaders who think their power is unlimited and even have visions of being a god.  That’s scary because human beings are not made to be worshipped.

For example, one of the biggest problems I have when President Obama was elected that some in the media and liberals started calling him the Messiah.  While, I didn’t vote for him and I deeply respect the historical achievement of being the first Black president.  Calling the Messiah is way over the top and definitely above his pay grade.

We should never give any human being (President or any other leader) that kind of title.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

People in authority are tempted with visions of godhood and divinity. Rulers must remember they are only human. Subjects must remember, too, that their rulers are fallen people who may err in their edicts, laws, and sanctions.

The wise ruler will discern a proper time and judgment for every matter, even though he appreciates the “evil of humanity” and the fact that his power extends only so far. Wickedness cannot be legislated out of existence.

We can’t make people do what we want. Social engineering always goes haywire. Our government over other humans must be tempered with wisdom and humility.

{pp. 163-164}

The next section of Chapter 8, Solomon let us know that we must trust God and exercise faith in his final judgment.

Solomon lets us know that the political situation is uncontrollable by man. This is scary to a lot of people and it has created cynicism, conspiracy theorists, and even paranoia amongst us.  The government is out to get us and we better control our destinies before all our rights are taken away.

Well, Solomon shows us in verses 11-12, that paranoia and cynicism are not the way to act in our lives:

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him.  {ESV}

We have to trust in God’s final judgment even if it seems that bad people or leaders are getting away with their wrong deeds.  I know to a lot of people that seems wrong and even naive.  But if God is who he says he is through scripture, then we must believe judgment will come to everyone and he will dealt with it accordingly.

In conclusion of the chapter, Solomon encourages us to enjoy the food and drink and great gifts God has given us without trying to figure everything out.

Verse 15 is perfect when Solomon writes:

And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

I believe as Christians we take ourselves too seriously.  I must admit that has been my issue as well.  But one of things I love about the book of Ecclesiastes is the Solomon reminds throughout that God wants us to enjoy ourselves in life and have faith in Him to handle the big issues. 

I know as a man, we have this need to solve everything and be recognized for it.  But God, our creator, knows humans better than we know our ourselves and if we truly believe him, then we must step aside and let Him orchestrate everything or otherwise there really is no reason to believe in Him if we want to control it ourselves.

See you next week.

Here are a couple of questions from this week’s study to think about:

1) Why do you think as Americans we have a problem submitting to those in authority over us?  Be a pastor or boss or even president?

2) Why do we always look for a Messiah in a human leader instead of looking to God for our needs?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.30 (Ecclesiastes 7:1-29)

7th Study: Ecclesiastes 7:1-29

Well, it seems like the deeper I’ve gotten into the study of Ecclesiastes, the more life has started to happen to keep me from doing it.

I was sick most of this week and even had to visit the hospital.  Everything is much better now.  Let’s get started.

If Chapter 6 was considered the most poignant in the study so far, then Chapter 7 is my personal favorite in Ecclesiastes.

I will start with my favorite scripture in all the Bible:

Consider the work of God 

who can make straight what he has made crooked?

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider:

God has made the one as well as the other,

so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

(Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 ESV)

I know we have to be careful and not make a verse of scripture(s) stand on all fours. We do that a lot in Christianity. But, when I was at the lowest point in my life, I discovered those verses of scripture and the book of Ecclesiastes. Moreover, the wisdom from Ecclesiastes has given me a greater appreciation for the Bible and Christianity. As a result, Ecclesiastes has become my favorite book.

Here’s what Pastor Meyers has to write about my favorite verses of scripture:

Solomon admonishes us especially to meditate on God’s control over every detail of our lives during times of calamity and suffering and distress. He tells us to “consider” what God does. It’s easy to attribute one’s good times to God; unbelievers do it all the time. The true test of faith is found in how you understand the times of trouble and disaster. Will you recognize their origin in God’s will even if this means confessing that God’s ways are inexorably enigmatic to you?

Your future is hidden in God’s secret will. It is unavailable to you. God answers to no one but himself. He shares his power with no one. He has not relinquished his control to the forces of nature or the randomness of chance or the whimsical nature of the human will. The Christian who genuinely fears God will repudiate any attempt to manipulate God’s disposition of his future.   {pp 147-149}

Unfortunately, there is a “candy store theology” that has infected modern Christianity. If I live right, God will bless me beyond anything I could imagine.  Or if I follow some secret formula attached to scripture (out of context), God will bless me as well.

Well, that candy store theology is unbiblical and flies right in the face of what Solomon writes about here in chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes.

Let me write, God will and does blesses his people.  But to think of God as some kind of Cosmic Santa or Spiritual Sugardaddy is flat-out wrong.  Yes, he wants his followers to be blessed and righteous…but more than anything He wants us to trust him and obey even if we don’t understand why he is doing it.

Read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 or the Book of Job and see how God let both of these righteous men go through the valley before he ultimately blessed them.

I have to write that maybe this is one of the reasons that Ecclesiastes is not popular in modern Christianity. Solomon has been put through a lot by God (because he asked for wisdom) and we can see the frustration and angst of receiving this gift of wisdom.

Well if you continue to live life, you will experience your own frustration and angst. We must understand that God handles it all.  Not just joy or blessings…but heartbreak or tough times or dark places.  He handles it all.

And reading those verses in Chapter 7 gave me tremendous comfort that God really does control everything and there isn’t anything he can’t handle.

See you next week!

Here are a couple of questions for you to think about from this study:

1) Why do we treat God like he’s a Cosmic Santa or Spiritual Sugardaddy?

2) How do you feel that God is not safe? He is not manageable? Does this change your perspective on how you view God?

Wisdom of Marion Column Vol 1.29 (Ecclesiastes 6:1-12)

6th Study: Ecclesiastes 6:1-12

Chapter 6 could be the most vague and somewhat confusing chapter in our study of Ecclesiastes.  However, I’m beginning to believe it could be the most poignant in the study so far.

I would like to start with Pastor Meyers writing this:

The sin of man is that he ceased to be hungry for God. We have ceased to see our whole lives, everything we consume, as a sacrament of communion with God. The sin of all sins, the truly original sin, is not a transgression of mere rules, but first of all, the deviation of man’s love and desire from their proper object, the Lord God himself. That man prefers something else to God–the world, possessions, children, life, health–this is the real sin. The Lord himself is our highest good. All other goods are only good in relation to Him. Only when we love God are we able to properly use and enjoy the gifts God gives us in the world.  {pp. 135}

We have love everything else but God or we have loved God alone with money, possessions and status in life.  Neither scenario is right and Solomon reiterates that in Chapter 6.

There are two verses that really grasp the overall theme of the chapter.

“If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”  {6:3 ESV}

Ouch!  Solomon is harsh but I think he is also poignant as well with that verse.  A Bible Commentary uses this analogy for interpreting Solomon’s meaning in Verse 3:

“Better the fruit that drops from the tree before it is ripe then that left to hang on till rotten.”

Here’s the second verse:

“All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.” {6:7 ESV}

Another commentary says this about verse 7:

Men are insatiable in their desires, and restless in their endeavours after more, and never say, they have enough.

What I take from those two verses and the rest of the chapter is that we must pursue contentment. The only way we can pursue contentment is to love God alone and everything else will follow in suit.

Paul writes about contentment in his several of his epistles.  There are a couple of scriptures that are key for me.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” {1 Timothy 6:8-9 ESV}

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am”  {Philippians 4:11-13 The Message}

Paul understood the importance of contentment and wrote about it like Solomon has in Ecclesiastes.  Also, we must realize that no amount of money, status for fame or celebrity and how many toys we have can ever replace our longing for God.  His love must come first and when it does…he will add everything we will ever need for comfort to live in this world.

See you next week!   God Bless.

Here are some questions for you think about in regards to this week’s study:

1) Why is so easy to love everything else but God alone? Or to love God with everything else we have? (money, status, possessions)

2) If God allow it: Would you want to live a long life with riches and status and never truly enjoy it?   Or would you want to live a short life without wealth or status but have true contentment and joy?

Wisdom of Marion Column Vol 1.28 (Ecclesiastes 5:1-20)

5th Study: Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

I just wanted to let everyone that the schedule for study I posted a few weeks{Wisdom of Marion Column Vol 1.24} back has been changed.  There is so much rich material to cover in Ecclesiastes that I will go one chapter at a time until the end of the study.

In the first seven verses of Chapter 5, Solomon gives the reader a couple of warnings.

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on Earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

{Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV}

“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake.”

{Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 ESV}

Wow!  Solomon is not playing around with those warnings. Basically he is saying that one should be cautious with their tongue in the house of God (5:1-3) and that if you make a vow (or promise) to God you must fulfill it (5:4-7).

Let me start with looking at Verse 2.

We live in a society that everyone wants to talk.  We are in the Age of Communication.  We need to express ourselves, share our feelings, talks about dreams and desires as well as our hurts and unhappiness.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to all this talk in our society. We have lost some wisdom on when to speak and when not to speak. You can blame Phil Donahue, Oprah, Dr. Phil, or even Rikki Lake or Jerry Springer…but let’s face it, we in the Age of Communication and we talk too much.

Solomon admonishes us that we can not be talking all the time when we are in the House of God.  God knows exactly what we want and we need all of the time.  And talking or expressing ourselves…we can end up saying something that we might regret.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Do you always have something to say? Do you ever listen to people? Or do you just wait for an opportunity to say something always formulating in your mind what you will say without listening?

For some people, going to church is like going to an ecclesiastical home improvement warehouse. They just love to shop for lumber and it’s always in someone else’s eye.

Almost the entire substance of church gossip—foolish speech–can be reduced to hasty, uncharitable judgments against other people in the church. No matter how much you powder up your tale-bearing with the aromatic assurances of pious and holy motivations, to God it smells like the speech of a fool.

Remember your calling. Remember your place. It is not your station in life to pass judgment on everyone else in your church. Some people think their own spirituality is heightened and elevated according to how well and how often they point out the faults of others, but the Bible indicates the opposite is true. Rather, spirituality is measured according to your ability to restore an offender. {pp.111-113}

God takes the words we say very seriously and we as Christians must be careful with our words even though we live in a society that wants to talk all the time.

Now with verses four through six, Solomon warns us about making a vow (or promise) to God.  And if we do make a vow, we better be ready to fulfill it to God.

I must admit I’ve always had a hard time with promises. My father, Marion, used to tell me as a child he would come and get on the weekends so we could spend some time together.  I’d always looked forward to Fridays but I knew he was coming to get me.  Well, I would finally hear from him on that Sunday saying he got tied up at work or some other excuse and he’d promise to come get me the following weekend. And then next weekend would arrive and the same result would happen.  It went on for several years in my childhood and from that experience I have been always leery of promise-making and refused to make promises to other people as well.

Well, God takes our vows to Him seriously and in verse 5, Solomon says it is better to not vow than vow and not fulfill it.  Again, we must be careful with what we say.

The second half of Ecclesiastes (5:8-20) deals with Solomon giving us warning about the vaporous nature of wealth.

I want to focus on verse 10:

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” {ESV}

Translation: If you love money you will never have enough.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Human desire always outruns acquisitions, no matter how large the acquisitions may be. It always amazes me how people that are quite wealthy according even to middle-class standards nevertheless complain about not having enough.

Money is like seawater; the more a man drinks the more thirsty he becomes. Whether or not you will be content does not have as much to do with how much we have as it often does with how you deal with what you have been given.

The problem in our country right now is that our expectations are so heightened that we come to expect more than we can ever hope to acquire. Thus, we constantly live unsatisfied lives.  {pp.120}

Those last few paragraphs hit home for me.  I’ve been in the mortgage business since 2002 and most of those years I was a loan officer.  And I chased the money hoping the next commission check would make me happy and satisfied.

It didn’t.

I have the battle scars of the industry to look back on now.  Fired twice, laid off another time and my first year as a loan officer….I almost went broke.

I know it has been God’s grace that has keep me going after 9 years in the mortgage business.  Oddly enough, I became a Christian in 2003 and it seems like I’ve had more money troubles since that time.  I’ve always kept a few dollars back and live frugally before I came Christian. And I must admit that year went I almost went broke it shook my faith.  I wanted my old lifestyle back.

Thanks to God’s grace, our security should rest in Him not money or possessions.  I hope we Americans truly begin to understand that money can come and go easily but our relationships with God and people must be the foundation to live in true contentment and peace.

See you next week with Ecclesiastes 6!

Here are a couple of questions for you think about from this study:

1) Since we live in the age of talk, how we can learn to be careful with words especially amongst other Christians?

2) Is it possible to find contentment in modern American culture or will we be forever on the treadmill trying to keep up with Joneses and Johnsons?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.27 (Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16)

4th Study: Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16

Well, I must admit I didn’t think I would be able to put this study together in time. It seems like life always gets in the way of something you look forward to doing.

Okay, now that I vented…let’s get on with it.

Ecclesiastes 3 ends with a sobering look at two of the most toughest things we deal with in life: injustice and death.

Pastor Meyers describes it this way:

Here in 3:16-22 he begins with the first two discrepancies that are obvious to anyone who looks around them at what is happening in the world: injustice and death.

In mentioning injustice and death, Solomon is not listing two unrelated phenomena. Thus it is natural for Solomon to move from the problem of injustice to the problem of mortality.

Solomon fixes his gaze on the hypocrisy of injustice-the fact that it is found precisely where society is supposed to protect the innocent and enforce justice and fairness. God has instituted these human tribunals, these places of judgment so that men could find some justice, some judicial relief from wickedness. When wickedness itself is found there, then it is serious indeed.

How does Solomon respond to this? He responds with a confession: “God shall judge the righteous and wicked.” (3:17) This is an article of faith. You do not learn from experience. You do not see it in the world around you.  Rather, you hear God say it. You hear God tell you that he will being everything into judgment. And you believe it and confess it because you are certain that God is trustworthy. Judgment belongs to God’s time. (pp.90-92)

I must admit I wished God would have intervened sooner to injustice that man has committed against man.  As an American and a child of the post civil-rights generation, I have wondered why God didn’t have slavery abolished sooner or desegregation happen quicker.  Also, I look at post World War II and why did 6 million Jews have to die? And I could go on with many other examples…but I must admit I have wondered why would God let these things happen?  And yes….these are types of questions that can shake one’s faith and keep many others from believing in Him.

The obvious question is…What is God waiting for?

Solomon gives us the answer in verse eighteen.  Pastor Meyers writes:

“I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. (3:18)

Our first need is not to teach God his business or to instruct him about the times and seasons when he should act. Rather, our need is to learn the truth about ourselves–that in a very significant way we are not different than the animals. This is a lesson we are slow to accept, but it is not rationally deniable. What happens to us humans is exactly what happens to the animals: we both die and decompose. The breath departs from man and beast alike. Our lives are all mere vapor.

Solomon is not saying that man is no more than a highly evolved animal. Rather, mankind has been reduced to the level of dying like animals because of God’s judgment. Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 3:17-19, thought they might rise to the level of divinity. Instead, they were laid low like the animals.

Death is a message to us–a message that we are finite and limited, that we are not God but rather answerable to him. God is testing man to see if he will get the point. That is the clearest proof that you have no control. (pp. 92-93)

Why does God have to test us like that? I must admit I was afraid to talk about death.  It scared me! And I know that it will happen to everyone….but to talk about it was something I didn’t want to do.  To be honest, I still don’t like to talk about it much even after losing my oldest sister, Maxine and my father, Marion.

However as a believer in Christ, we have a savior who has defeated death. And what He has done for humanity can never be repaid.  Pastor Meyers writes this:

But some things have changed since Solomon’s day. We can move beyond Solomon since we have the enormous benefit of living after the cross. This still involves walking by faith rather than by sight, but the faith we have is an acceptance of eyewitness testimony that the curse of death has been overturned to resurrection life in the case of Jesus.

That’s why the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to Christianity.  Man alone can’t defeat death but our belief in the one who did gives us that ability.

Solomon begins Chapter 4 looking at the problem of injustice(oppression) from a different angle.  Verse 1 describes it:

“Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them. On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.”

He is talking about the importance of friendship and it is the theme of Chapter 4.

Pastor Meyers writes:

Solomon finds that suffering injustice is much worse when one must do it all alone. His concern is not so much to expose oppression so as to stop it; but to expose the brutal reality of a world where injustice is found and in which there is no one to help. (pp.98)

What that tells me…we are made for friendship and even in the worst of times having a true friend to go through it with will create a bond that can be even tighter than a bond with a brother or sister.

The key verses for me in Chapter 4 are 11 & 12:

“Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a three fold cord is not quickly broken.”

Friendship is essential as believers in Christ and practicing Christianity.  No Lone Ranger Christianity will work.  I must admit I have felt in the past it’s easier to do it alone because I thought I could get closer to God.

Well, that’s not true.  Churches are here for a reason….even though the Church has not been perfect (that’s an understatement). We need to have a place where everybody can come to worship, to learn the Word of God, and fellowship amongst one another.

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Here, then, is true religion–genuine holiness and righteousness before God. It not only involves providing for obvious material needs, but genuine friendship and companionship. Extending such requires effort, but it is what God requires. It is also what God blesses. Statistics show that if new members of a church do not find genuine companionship within a year, they will leave.

Of course, it works both ways. Personally, both as a layman and then a pastor. I have noticed in church after church that too many of those people that leave have made no effort themselves to find friendship. We may think good preaching or exalting worship is what draws us to a church. Our culture may train us not to consider the issue of alienation and fellowship. When we do not become genuine members of a real fellowship, we will grow restless and dissatisfied. (pp.104)

I believe that sums up this week’s study.  I have a couple of questions for you think about and as always I welcome your comments.

1) How do you feel with God not dealing with injustice when we wanted him too or think he should have? Also, has the injustices of the world ever shaken your faith or belief that He even exists?

2) According to Pastor Meyers, statistics show that if new members of a church do not find genuine companionship or friendship within a year, they will leave.  How do we create or cultivate genuine friendship amongst Christians?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.26 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)

3rd Study: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Ecclesiastes 3 begins with the most popular section of the book that has been used by pastors for sermons, quoted for books, and even used for gift cards.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

{Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV}

I must admit as many times as I have read that passage, I thought it was about there being an appropriate time for every human activity in our lives. Well, Pastor Meyers from his book, A Table in the Mist, gives a different meaning from Solomon’s perspective:

From the start we get a hint that the issue is not primarily human activity or our determination to find the opportune time to act a certain way. It is too often sentimentalized and romanticized–taken out of its proper context in Solomon’s overall argument. So the poem is often read to mean that there are appropriate moments for people to act and at the proper moment even ordinarily objectionable behavior can be “beautiful in its own way.”

Unfortunately, this is not what the poem is about. It is not about human determination of events or even human discernment of times and seasons. The poetic passage is about God’s activity, not man’s. It is about God’s comprehensive determination of all of man’s times.

Are you constantly frustrated that you are not accomplishing enough? Are you unable to be satisfied because you lack control over your life? Do you constantly try to read more to gain insight that will gain an advantage? Ecclesiastes is asking you to reconsider your stance toward life. Controlling the times and seasons, or even understanding why God sends them when he does, is too great and marvelous a thing for anyone but God. {pp. 74-6}

Well, that is much different from what I have learned about this popular passage.  And this is another indication that Ecclesiastes is more of a book of faith than just a book of wisdom.

The next section of Chapter 3 really crystallizes man’s anxiety and frustration in Verses 10-11:

 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. {ESV}

It seems like is God is teasing man.  Sorry, if that’s crude for some of you.  God has given us the yearning for something bigger and larger than ourselves. But, he doesn’t tell us everything.  And as human beings we want to figure everything out and move on to the next thing to conquer.  God knows that about us and decided a little taste is good enough for man.

What is man to do?

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Men and women need to learn to accept the good gifts that God gives to them. We need to learn to find satisfaction in the work that God has given us–to eat and drink with thankful hearts. Brooding, sulking, or cursing any aspect of God’s particular work is out of place. The believer should enjoy what he has given.

In other words, we must live fully in the present.

Living fully in the present means we have to rely on God for things we can’t control.  That’s hard.  Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Especially as adults, we are the ones who wants to be in control of our own lives, not anybody else or even God.

The message of Chapter 3 is to lay the burden of self-improvement and self-actualization down and have faith in God’s plan for our lives.

Here are a couple of questions for you to think about from this study.  I welcome your comments.

1) Are you surprised that the popular passage from Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 is more about God’s orchestrating of timing in our lives instead of ourselves?

2) In this chapter, we have learned that God wants us to enjoy the gifts he has given us and live fully in the present.  What keeps us from fully living in the present?