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?