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!

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.19

“A good name is better than a good ointment.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:1 NASB)

We must have a good name. It is easy to make a name for yourself, but the important thing is what kind of name are you making.

The key to having a good name is character.  Character takes a lifetime to build. God expects to have Christ-like character.

Our culture and society are more concern with image and celebrity instead of character and reputation.  Make me a star, make me famous, make me rich….is the motto these days.  We’re even taking a supposedly “slice of real life” and turning everyday people into TV stars.

Remember God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.

Here are 6 qualities to developing character:

1) Spiritually: When you genuinely love and follow Christ, believers and unbelievers will respect you.

2) Integrity: You must do what is right at all times.

3) Generosity: People will remember and honor you for what you give than what you receive.

4) Humility: If you’re not humble you will stumble.

5) Dependable: People admire people who are dependable.

6) Living by Priorities: It is more important to make a life than making a living.

If you keep these 6 qualities in mind and work on them…you will be on the road to developing character and becoming more Christ-like.  Which as followers of Christ…..we all want?  Right!

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.16

I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard the radio host talking about the NBA All-Star Game that was played this past Sunday.

He was saying what makes Kobe Bryant different than all the players in the league is the fact he never takes a game off. The All-Star Game is basically an exhibition game to showcase the NBA’s best players and have a big weekend party. It’s not about competition but having fun and relaxing.

Well, Kobe play hard like it was a regular season game (and the other players did not) and eventually was named MVP of the game.  The radio host said Kobe was like the 1% of the top people in society who are always “on.”  They are so competitive and want to the best all the times that they never shut it off or take a little time to relax.

Well, I’ve been thinking about the radio host’s comments for the past 2 days and I have to write that I disagree with his analysis.

I believe if you can’t ever shut it off then you will eventually burnout and there’s something not developed within your character.  Human beings are not robots or machines, we are made with logic, emotions, and a spirit and all of those things are interwoven into who we are. And when you are always “on’, you will end up neglecting one or more of those aspects of being human.

Now, I do believe we all should work hard and become the best that we can be in our career or calling.  But that is only one aspect (yes it’s important) of our lives and we have to enjoy the journey and have some fun along the way.

I will finish with the words of Solomon from the Book of Ecclesiastes:

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

Ecclesiates 9:7 (English Standard Version)

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.9

“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 7:14 ESV Bible)

This is great wisdom from Solomon and has become my favorite verse in the Bible.

Because in life you will experience happiness and sadness; joy and pain, or ups and downs and how we handle them both will make a difference in our lives.

Nobody escapes both sides of the coin: rich or poor, black or white; male or female; important person or common everyday folk.

Unfortunately, we have a culture that only wants to talk about or sell you on happiness. This philosophy has even effected Christianity where we have pastors saying you can have the best life you want in 7 steps or God will make me rich (if you give to my ministry through a seed) and so on.

I do believe that God does want to us experience happiness in our lives and even have some financial independence.  But, that is only one part of living a full life. And we have deal with the rain as well as the sunshine.

Even if you had a life free of problems it does not necessarily guarantee a piece of mind. Our peace of mind comes from the savior, not things or money or even people. The Lord is more interested in our character than our comfort.  So we have to appreciate our lives totally: the good and the bad.

I actually had a different column I was going to post this week.  But, I felt someone needed to read this post instead. For that person I want you to know that bad times don’t last forever and if you focus on Him, you will get through it.

Wisdom of Kammbia 1.8: Importance of Birthdays

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

(Psalm 139:15-16  ESV Bible)

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

(Ecclesiastes 11:5  ESV Bible)

I have a birthday this week on Tuesday the 31st and I will turn 39 years old. As a matter of fact, August is a big month for birthdays in my family.

My daughter, Norah, had her 1st birthday (now 3) on the 7th. My mother also named Nora had her 77th (now 79) birthday the next day on the 8th. My sister, Gwendolyn, had her birthday on the 14th and my son, David, had his 8th (now 10) birthday the next day on the 15th. I have two nephews with birthdays on the 30th and 31st. And I have a good friend whose birthday is on the 30th.

Because of this month, I have always thought about the significance of the birthdays. And anyone who knows me will realize how important birthdays are to me and that I try to remember my family and friend’s birthdates as much as possible.

However, I have noticed in our culture most people either downplay, dismiss, or even criticize their birthdate. Especially after they have turned 30.

I have to write, I just don’t get that at all!

Go back and read those two scriptures at the top of this blog post. God knew us before we were born. God knew us while we were in our mother’s womb. God knew us and choose the day we would come into the world and be a part of humanity.

Thinking about that last sentence just blows me away. The fact I had absolutely nothing to do with being born on August 31st is incredible. I didn’t get choose if I could be born on August 30th or September 1st.  Or I couldn’t tell my mother I wanted to stay in her womb for a few more months.  I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. Have you been to Florida in August?  It’s Hot!!

I’m so appreciative that I get to celebrate my birthday each year.  It means that God wants to me continue to be a part of humanity and enjoy the life he has given me.

However, it seems there are a lot of people in our culture who don’t enjoy or care about their birthdays. I have lived in five cities in my adulthood and everyone acts the same way towards their birthday. Either they downplay it or complain about getting older or are bother by other people recognizing it.  I have to write that has always bothered me.

I feel that by not properly acknowledging your birthday you don’t fully appreciate God’s creation of you and the life he has created.

I know some of you read that last sentence and felt I was a little harsh about this birthday thing. But, I will stand by it because we only get one chance at life and if we truly love life then we have to honor the day the God gave to us.

People will come and go out of your life.  Money comes and go out of your life. Jobs will come and go.  Unfortunately, marriages don’t always last. (And some people celebrate their anniversaries more than their birthdays)  But, birthdays are permanent.

My hope for this blog post (more than any other I will write) is people began to honor the day they were born. I believe by appreciating our birthdays we will honor God more than anything else will ever do in our lives.

Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.3

Mel Gibson goes on absolute tirade at his girlfriend saying some of the most hateful things that one human being could say to another human being.

Tiger Woods has committed adultery against his wife with numerous women.

Lindsay Lohan has to go to jail.

The Bachelorette (and Bachelor) are trying to find love and hopefully get married on television.

Kim Kardashian is known for an explicit tape, the size of her behind, and a reality tv show about her family.

Basketball Star Lebron James leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat and announces his “decision” on a one hour tv special.

I’ve been thinking about fame and celebrity quite a bit this past week.  Unfortunately, in our celebrity obsessed culture you can’t escape it unless you become a hermit for the rest of your life.

First of all, I have an admission to write. There was a period in my life, in my 20’s, that I used to imagine about being rich and famous.  I thought If I acheived that kind of status life would be wonderful and I would never have to worry about anything.

Naive. Unrealistic. Unwise.

You bet.

Well, now that I’m nearing 40 and got some life experience behind me, I’m glad I didn’t get what I fantastized about in my 20’s.  I know now that I couldn’t have handle it. And I believe could have been going through some of the same things I wrote at the beginning of this blog post.

In fact, no human being is created to handle fame.  No human being is created to be worshipped, idolized, or adored. If the wisest man, King Solomon, couldn’t handle fame, I believe us common-folk would never stand a chance.

Moreover, Solomon wrote some interesting things about fame, celebrity, and riches in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

He loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?  (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 NASB)

A good name is better than a good ointment. And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1 NASB)

The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. (Ecclesiastes 9:17 NASB)
Because of these verses, Ecclesiastes has become my favorite book in the Bible. This is most authentic book in the Bible, in my opinion. Solomon had everything a man could ever want (fame, wealth, and power) and still lost his way.

His words of wisdom need to be heeded in a culture that overlooks wisdom and values fame and celebrity as the most desired attribute a person should have.