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?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.25 (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26)

2nd Study: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26

Ecclesiastes 1 begins with a poem:

Vanity[Vapor] of Vanities[Vapors], says the Preacher,

vanity of vanities! All is Vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil

at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down,

and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south

and goes around to the north;

around and around goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns.

All streams run to the sea,

but the sea is not full;

to the place where the streams flow,

there they flow again.

{Ecclesiastes 1:2-7 ESV}

This beginning part of the poem shows us that Solomon realizes the futility of man’s efforts over a world that does not yield to his influence.  Nature keeps going on and on, without any regard for man’s work.  Also, this really gives us a sense of man’s place in the scheme of life.

Even though, man is (and has been) creative throughout time. Our overall effect on nature is still minute at best. If you don’t think so, look at what happened this week with the tornadoes going through several states in the South and the devastation they caused.

In the next three verses of chapter 1, Solomon finishes the poem:

All things are full of weariness;

a man cannot utter it;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing,

nor the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be

and what has been done is what will be done

and there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said,

“See, this is new”?

It has been already

in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things,

nor will there be any remembrance

of later things yet to be

among those who come after.

{Ecclesiastes 1:8-11 ESV}

Pastor Meyers describes the latter part of Solomon’s poem this way:

The unending march of nature, which Solomon has described so vividly, gives way to the significance of the unending succession of generations. Solomon does not merely describe the boredom of humanity, but also points out how utterly limited man is. Human beings can only do what they have been given to do by God. Everything man achieves falls into certain categories which really do not change.

That there is nothing new under the sun does not mean that man does not invent, that he does not genuinely reflect his Creator by building and making wonderful new things. But after all, what is really new? Man does what he’s done since the dawn of time. He works, builds, eats, drinks, walks, sleeps, and dies, What leverage do these activities give mankind?  {pp. 47-48}

I must admit after reading the poem it can make you feel insignificant. Is there anything man can do to really affect the world? Well, by the end of chapter one, Solomon addresses that question.

He talks of being the King of Jerusalem and how he applied his heart to seeking out and searching for wisdom. But, ultimately realizing that acquiring wisdom [and knowledge] is like striving after the wind and causes sorrow.

After reading the first chapter, I can see why many people would feel that Solomon has given into despair and seemed to be lacking in faith.

Now in Chapter 2, Solomon decides to seek pleasure to the fullest. He made great works, built houses, gardens, and parks, drank wine and had concubines. He did everything under the sun as verses ten and eleven describe:

“And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity [vapor] and striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” [ESV]

We are pleasure seekers and to escape the rigors of life (like Solomon did), we will turn to pleasure as a way to seek some kind of meaning or value to living. However, we see that Solomon who has pursued both wisdom and folly equally realizes in verse thirteen:

“Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.” [ESV]

Solomon confesses a statement of faith in that verse because if you read the next verse, he realizes the same fate (death) awaits both the seeker of wisdom and folly. This is one of the first clues I feel that the Book of Ecclesiastes is more a book about faith than a book about wisdom.

In verses 18-23, Solomon returns to his despair about life after seeking both wisdom and folly. And I think Pastor Meyers describes this section of chapter quite well:

Solomon is not being impious when he declares “I hated life” and “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun.” Solomon is being pious to hate life. After all, loving life for the sake of the power of his toil would demonstrate that he lacked faith and was embracing idolatrous delusions rather than trusting God.

People develop idolatrous expectations of life by ignoring or discounting death. Death is an inescapable message from God, and it is not good news. While this seems obvious, it is resisted.

Solomon is appalled at life as a whole, the existence of man under the sun. He pours out deep feelings of revulsion at this situation. It is hebel [vapor], enigmatic and elusive. Death robs man of any leverage or surplus in this life. God has ordained frustration for man’s work. This frustration is epitomized in the discovery that everything you work for will be passed on to another–and you cannot control whether he will be a wise man or a fool. There is nothing to guarantee the wisdom of your successors. {pp. 60-61}

It seems on first glance that Solomon is a defeated, pessimistic man.  However, Chapter 2 ends with him being upbeat:

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. {Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 ESV}

Pastor Meyers finishes this part of the study with these words:

In spite of life’s vaporous nature, God can be trusted and life can be enjoyed despite the fact it can’t be mastered, leveraged, or ever fully comprehended by man. Faith recognizes this and, in the face of it, moves forward to claim and enjoy the life and work and happiness that God apportions as gifts to man.

Realizing this can help you deal with life in a way that honors God. For example, do not be surprised to find yourself in a frustrating situation from which you cannot escape be means of controlling it. Not everything can be fixed! Not everything is a problem to be solved. Some things must be borne, must be suffered and endured. Wisdom does not teach us how to master the world. It does not give us techniques for programming life such that life becomes orderly and predictable.

Rejoice in what God has given you to do and trust in Him. This is the perspective of faith. {pp.63}

What I’ve learned from these first two chapters of Ecclesiastes is that when Solomon asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15) he was put through the fire in order to educate his contemporaries and future generations about what is true wisdom. We should be ever thankful that God gave him wisdom and we can experience it by learning from Solomon instead of going through what he did ourselves.

I will end with a couple questions for you to think about this week.  I would love to receive some comments on the answers these questions.

1) Does Solomon’s testing of life from both ends (pursuing wisdom and folly) give you a better understanding on how we should live life and our place in it?

2) Are you surprised that Ecclesiastes is really more a book about faith than a book of wisdom?

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.24

1st Study: Intrepretation of Wisdom Literature

As we begin this bible study on the Book of Ecclesiastes, we will have to address one of the biggest misconceptions about the book. What does Solomon actually when he says that life is All of Vanity and everything has been done Under the Sun?

We know that the book of Ecclesiastes is a book of wisdom literature and like its cousins (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, & Song of Songs), the meaning of the words in this section can’t be taken just at face value. The meaning lies beneath the surface and has an enigmatic quality to it.

Pastor Meyers writes this in his book about how Wisdom Literature is misinterpreted:

“This means that the dominant literary mode of expressing the reflections of wisdom teachers requires more than a superficial reading. Riddles take time and effort to solve. Unfortunately, some who comment on Ecclesiastes don’t move beyond a superficial reading and conclude that Solomon has become despondent and given up on life, or that he has written what amounts to an expose of the unbeliever’s perspective on the world. This is a failure of the imagination. Such an interpretation may also say more more about the interpreter than the text. A wise man will resonate to Solomon’s frustration with the ephemeral character of life under the sun. The superficially pious man calls for positive attitudes and cheery one dimensional slogans about life and the world, but the wise man knows.”  pp.35-36

Those were strong words about the misinterpretation of Wisdom Literature like Ecclesiastes and the last sentence of that paragraph really stood out as the most reflected in our modern life.

Whether pious or not, our culture thinks wisdom is someone or something that is always cheerful and has a catch phrase or slogan for every situation in life.  Well, Ecclesiastes is definitely counter-cultural to the culture’s view of wisdom.

Ecclesiastes begins with a couple of phrases that Solomon writes quite a bit throughout the book.  In 1:2, he mentions, “Vanity of Vanities, All is Vanity.” and in 1:3, he mentions, “Under the Sun.” Understanding the true meaning of what Solomon is trying to say with both of those phrases are key into unlocking the real wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

When Solomon says, All is Vanity, he is not using our modern definition of vanity which means conceited, vain, or vacuous. But the word in Hebrew for Vanity is hebel. It actually means a vapor, a puff of air that disappears, or a mere breath. And when he also says, Vanity of Vanities, is the superlative expression that reminds us life is the supreme vapor. It will always elude your grasp when you try to catch it. It will always escape from your efforts when you try to attain it.

Also, in some Bible Translations the word “meaningless” has been used instead of “vanity.” Life is not meaningless and that’s the last thing Solomon wants to convey.

Moreover, when Solomon says, “Under the Sun” he is declaring our perspective as man from which everything is only vapor.  Our viewpoint of life comes from the ground-level and is actually under the sun and trying to gain leverage from that viewpoint the wise man understands he will never have any control over that. But, if man believes in God and trusts Him to help us navigate through vaporous nature of life.

I believe that is a sobering thought for modern man.  Because we are control freaks by nature.  I like the way Pastor Meyers writes it:

“We think that life can be programmed like a computer—that all we need is the right technique. If we just find the proper method we will have control. This is true in government, science, and social work. It is the quest we pursue in our families and other relationships. The search for the power—the hunt for control over our destinies–never ends.  At root, this is pagan. It is a pagan drive to find the secret (or right technique) that will allow man to manipulate reality to his advantage. Unfortunately, the unlocking of this secret is inappropriately described as “wisdom.”  pp.40

Well, I thought before we get into the actual chapters of Ecclesiastes, I wanted to address the unique nature of reading Wisdom Literature.

I will end with a couple questions for you to think about this week.  I would love to receive some comments on the answers these questions.

1) Do you think life is a vapor? Or is life something to be controlled and navigated?

2) Have you ever read a book (fiction or non-fiction) where you thought the meaning of it was one thing and you found out later it actually meant something else?  Did your view of the book changed because of that?

God Bless!

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.23

Ecclesiastes is my favorite book in the Bible.

I recently wrote that sentence on another blog site and one of the bloggers wrote me saying she had never heard that Ecclesiastes would be anyone’s favorite book in the Bible.

From that comment, I realized that Ecclesiastes has been the most misunderstood, overlooked, and underappreciated book in the Bible.

So I have decided to do an Ecclesiastes Bible Study for the next 6 weeks  (Saturdays) on this blog. All you need is your Bible and a notepad to take some notes for your own study.

I will be using the book, A Table in the Mist by Jeffrey Meyers, as my guide for the Ecclesiastes Bible Study.  Mr. Meyers’ book is considered to be one of the best resources on the book of Ecclesiastes.

You will not have to buy the book for this study.  However, if you like this study and decided to go deeper with Ecclesiastes…it is a excellent book to start with.

Here’s the set-up for the Study:

1) 4/23: Interpretation of Wisdom Literature

2) 4/30: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2:26

3) 5/7: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

4) 5/14: Ecclesiastes 3:16-5:20

5) 5/21: Ecclesiastes 6:1-8:17

6) 5/28: Ecclesiastes 9-12

I will post each week’s column with a summary of the chapters and have a few questions for the readers to think about (and have some self-study)until the next week’s entry. I hope to receive as many comments as possible and truly have an interactive online Bible Study.

I will finish this column with some things I hope we all learn from this study.

–Ecclesiastes is the book about faith in the Old Testament.

–Wisdom Literature [Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Job, Psalms, and Song of Songs] needs to be read carefully and in context to God’s overall plan for humanity.

–Real Biblical Wisdom is founded on the honest assessment that life is enigmatic and a lot of times out of our control and we can’t leverage or manipulate God to suit our purposes.

–That God wants us to enjoy life by fearing Him and keeping his Commandments, using the gifts he gave us with joy and gratefulness, to eat, drink, and work for his purposes and love our husbands and wives as well.

I’m really looking forward to these next few weeks and I hope we all draw closer to God and strengthen our Faith from this study.

God Bless!