The Brevity of Man
I take care of a friend’s house down the road from where I live. He’s a great guy who is now 90 years old. One day I asked him “What’s your secret to living so long?” “Simple,” He said. “Keep breathing.” I guess that helps.
The fact is though that life is short. I’ve lost several friends that I grew up with. One day they were there, and the next day they were gone. One of them was a member of this church. On a Saturday, just one year ago, I got a call from her daughter Sarah. “Uncle Charlie, mom died.”
I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t process the words. My mind simply went blank. “But, I just got an email from her yesterday. How can this be true?”
As each person that knew her heard the news, they had the same sense of shock. When my mother came to church Sunday morning, she literally broke out in weeping. Her sobs crushed what was left of my already shattered heart. For each of us, our memories of Kelly flooded over us like a tidal wave.
“What was the last thing I said to her? Could I have done more with her or for her? Was I the friend I should have been?” Every one of us had such thoughts. But when the last moment is over, it is over. Life is brief and for all of us, it is a terminal disease. Each one of us will come to that same end someday. It isn’t “if,” but rather “when.”
Text Verse: Man who is born of woman
Is of few days and full of trouble.
2 He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue. Job 14:1, 2
Whether we like it or not we’re all getting older… moment by moment, day by day, the clock keeps ticking as our life ebbs away. We race towards the future, looking for what’s ahead and we’re in continuous anticipation about the next big thing. But from time to time, we stop and look back and wonder where the years have gone. Usually we do this on anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
Solomon tells us this is the entirely wrong attitude to have. If you follow his life, this is what he did, but it ended up costing him. He was the richest and wisest man ever to live and yet he misplaced his wisdom.
At the end of his life, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a hard book to follow unless you understand his premise. He contrasts life under the sun with life under the heavens. He tells us what is and what isn’t meaningful. In the end, nothing under the sun is meaningful. Instead, it’s what is under God’s heaven that has true meaning and purpose.
This is the point of what Solomon is trying to tell us and he sums everything up in chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes. We can take it as an axiom that no person lying on his death bed has ever uttered, “I wish I had worked more hours at my job.” No, when we encounter death, we look at things in an entirely different way.
For many who are blessed with a slow death, they at least get the chance to sort out their life with God. For those who die suddenly, they don’t get that chance. They were either right with Him or they were not. For those who were not, that is the saddest end of all. If you are here today, it’s because you are still alive. Solomon tells you what you need to consider now.
He will open his discourse noting that it is the youth to whom he is speaking. As the oldest man who ever lived, Methuselah, lived to 969 years, I think everyone here qualifies as a youth, at least in regards to him. So Solomon is speaking to you. Pay attention. There are valuable lessons to be learned from this superior word, and so may God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Solomon’s Words to the Young (Verses 1-8)
The beautiful and magnificent words of Ecclesiastes 12 comprise 1482 characters in 339 words of 14 verses in the NKJV, or 754 characters in 162 words if you read the Hebrew text. Solomon was writing to the youth of his time, and the words he wrote echo down through the ages and throughout all generations. He speaks, like Isaiah who would come later also speaks; about priorities –
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30, 31
But, though Solomon’s words are beautiful, some of them are a bit cryptic, especially verses 1-6. And so let’s take a very brief look at them together and see what he was trying to tell us.
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
In these opening words of the chapter, Solomon implores his reader to not wait on a relationship with God. Youth, and its many distractions, is still the perfect time to begin – and to strive to perfect – this relationship. With the passing of youth we experience the “difficult days.” They are days of trouble and days of trial.
First, pressures of family and work come up. No sooner are we getting through this phase than we reach the age of physical and mental deterioration. Such days are no longer in the distant future. Instead, they are days which draw near. And in the coming of that time, we say “I have no pleasure in them.”
Life loses the wonder of youth, it loses the joy of things being endlessly new and exciting. Instead, all becomes routine, life gets tedious, and the days tiresome. The alarm clock rings and we rise to do our duty once again. The excitement is gone, but for brief moments which are always too short. From time to time, we might even have the passing thought which the psalmist of old asked –
“How many are the days of Your servant?” Psalm 119:84
The pleasure of youth is gone and in place of it come questions about when life itself will end. Solomon asks us to remember our Creator in our youth, before such days arrive. As I’ve already noted how youthful each of you are, then be advised that he is speaking to you. Whatever your span of life will be, it is set and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. Moses understood this and he wrote something special for you to consider. From the oldest psalm in the Bible, we read these words –
“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
2 While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
Here Solomon is referring to the loss of vision – macular degeneration, cataracts, and all the other eye problems we experience in this fallen world. I personally started losing my vision some years ago. It seems that every year or so since then, the number on my reader glasses has gotten a little larger.
Eventually, if our sight gets bad enough, the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, and all of the other things we love to see – all of these will simply fade into gray or even black.
But there is another type of blindness that is even worse. It isn’t physical at all. Rather, it is spiritual. It is a blindness we are born with. Jesus spoke of it to the leaders of Israel –
And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains. John 9:39-41
We have a blindness to our own sinful state. It is so heavy over the eyes of our hearts that we simply refuse to see that it is there. Paul prayed that this blindness would be replaced with clarity of vision. In his letter to the Ephesians, he said this –
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” Ephesians 1:17-21
Children, we are being asked to remember our Creator now, in the days of our youth, before the blindness of eternal darkness once and forever overtakes us.
2 (con’t) And the clouds do not return after the rain;
The Hebrew reads, “And the clouds return after the rain. The “clouds returning after the rain” is a metaphor for continued physical problems constantly returning. As soon as it rains, the clouds begin to form again. It is continuous cycle of getting better only to have the same problem come right back. In the same way, our brains fog over and our thoughts become unclear as we age. Even if we remember something, we forget it again right away.
Before this sad state comes upon us, Solomon implores us to think on the things of God; to make the best possible use of our time. The psalmist of old gives us wonderful words of how we should spend these few moments of our existence –
“When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.” Psalm 63:6
David did just this and he was able to hide God’s word in his heart when he was young. It was a good thing he did, because in his later years, this would have become impossible. He had an affliction of the body which was so debilitating that he could never have directed his thoughts to the things of God unless they were already instilled in him –
“When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him.” 1 Kings 1:1
Solomon saw this in his father David and he wrote words for us to consider –
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10
3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
Here Solomon calls the arms and legs “the keepers of the house.” The arms are what care for us, and the legs are what transport us. They are what keep the house of our souls fed, healthy, mobile, and able to continue functioning. But, as humans, we often tend to get the shakes in these areas with age. Body tremors, neuropathic problems, Parkinson’s, and other ravages of time and age all cause the keepers of the house to tremble.
Solomon asks us to consider our lives now, in our youth, before this happens. It is a sad thought that someone would start seeking God from His word at a time when he can’t even hold a book steady. Rather, the book of Hebrews admonishes us with these words, directed to us now while we still are able –
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12
3 (con’t) And the strong men bow down;
When he says that “strong men bow down” it’s obvious that as we age the ground gets closer to our faces… or is it our faces getting closer to the ground? Our backs hunch over, our knees bow, and these unnatural positions only increase our pains.
And so, I’d ask today that you consider while you have the chance, to strengthen yourself spiritually through Christ so that when your physical body wears out, you have the inner strength of His glorious Spirit to take you through these times of trouble. Two contrasting verses from the psalms will help instruct us in this matter –
“For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.” Psalm 31:10
“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.” Psalm 146:8
What a different end for those who know God and those who do not. For those in Christ, there is an eternity of strength which awaits them. For the others, there is only an eternity of pain which lies ahead after that life of pain. Remember your Creator now my children.
3 (con’t) When the grinders cease because they are few,
Along with the other problems, Solomon goes on to tell us that our chewing will become more difficult with age due to the loss of our pearly whites! We’re fortunate today to have advanced dental capabilities, but the cost is often so high that we still let some of the missing teeth remain missing. Eventually for some, there is only the prospect of soft foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It was a rare thing in ancient Israel for people to have all their teeth even at a young age. How much worse when they were older! Solomon was impressed that his bride to be had all of her teeth –
“Your teeth are like a flock of shorn sheep
Which have come up from the washing,
Every one of which bears twins,
And none is barren among them.” Song of Solomon 4:2
His advice to this beautiful young bride would have been to enjoy her beauty, and to enjoy every meal, but also to pursue God while she was still young enough to possess both.
3 (con’t) And those that look through the windows grow dim;
Again, Solomon reminds us of our coming vision problems. The eyes are called the windows to the soul. Eventually, the eyes dim and the food for our soul can no longer be consumed. His advice is that we not get to that point without first remembering our Creator; pondering Him and His goodness in our lives. Some of the greatest of the Bible suffered with vision problems.
Isaac lay in his bed for over forty years because of his blindness. Eli, the high priest of Israel and one of the very few people ever allowed to see the Most Holy objects of Israel’s tabernacle, eventually lost his vision as well. Moses was more fortunate. It says of him at his death –
“Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.” Deuteronomy 34:7
For those who are the redeemed of the Lord, who are willing to follow Him, many promises are made, including promises of sight to the blind –
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know;
I will lead them in paths they have not known.
I will make darkness light before them,
And crooked places straight.
These things I will do for them,
And not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
Remember your Creator now before the times of eternal darkness arrive and sight is no longer possible.
4 When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
The doors of which Solomon speaks are our ears. When we shut the doors to the street outside, we can’t hear what is happening out there. But that is where the joy of life is! The sound of the grinding speaks of women sitting at the millstones, chatting like birds and grinding out the grain for the evening meal.
It would have been the most common and delightful sound of all. Every Israelite would cherish the memories of such times. To not hear more of them would have been worse than almost anything else.
Likewise, the music we love, the voice of our loved ones, and the sounds of life all fade with age. With our bad eyes, we can’t read the Bible, and with our bad ears, we can’t even hear an audio Bible. Solomon would ask us to consider our Creator now, before such evil days steal away our chance to know Him intimately.
For those who know their Lord, He can and will cause the deaf to hear. Mark wrote about the marvelous work of Christ there on the dusty streets of Israel –
“Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. 33 And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
35 Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” Mark 7:32-37
Christ does all things well because He is the God/Man. He is the One who promised restoration of all things, and through Him all things will be restored. Solomon finishes this verse with this thought –
4 (con’t) When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Man tends to wake up earlier as he ages – with or without alarm clocks. The “daughters of music” are the morning birds which sing their joyous songs. But despite their marvelous sounds, there’s a big problem… We may be up early as they sing out their delightful tunes, but we can’t hear them because our hearing is shot! The daughters of music are brought low; their joyous whistling becomes nothing more than a dull sound to our deadened ears.
And there is also another type of deafness which man faces. It is the inability to hear the word of God as it speaks to his soul. The Lord told the prophet Isaiah to proclaim this to the people –
“Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 “Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10
The people of Isaiah’s time are the same as people today. We refuse to listen, we refuse to heed, and we refuse to turn and be healed. The musical notes of the words of Scripture are brought low to our deadened sense. Oh God, if we would just open our hearts, you would fill our ears with sound and our eyes with light –
“So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” Exodus 4:11
5 Also they are afraid of height,
The young are afraid of nothing. Heights are a challenge to be overcome. But to the elderly, even a small step ladder could mean a broken hip. High places begin to terrify and the ground is a safe haven from the terrifying heights. But even the old who know the Lord, who cherished their Creator in the days of their youth, are able to rise to the highest of heights to grant Him His just due –
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!” Psalm 148:1
5 (cont) And of terrors in the way;
What once was something we laughed off without a care, later becomes that which terrifies us most. When we were young, we would go to the store without a second thought, but with age comes fear – “Will someone attack me if I go out?” “Those young ruffians on the corner sure look bent on evil.” “What if the car breaks down on the highway?”
Things that never caused us a moment of concern eventually fill us with dread. Age has worn us down and we can no longer look out for ourselves as we once did. Like a lazy person, we soon find excuses to not go out at all –
“The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion outside!
I shall be slain in the streets!’” Proverbs 22:13
But for those who fear the Lord in reverence, there is no dread of what man, demon, or devil can do –
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
5 (cont) When the almond tree blossoms,
When it’s in full bloom, the almond tree is covered with white blossoms. Solomon uses it as a metaphor for the head of the aged. Where there was once raven black, there is now a beautiful gray. Where blond curls were, there is now shiny silver. Solomon is being poetic and striking about the head of the aged. My beard was once a nice brown color, now it has assumed another look.
In the proverbs, Solomon says that for those who took the time to know their Creator in their youth, the blossoming almond tree bears a special honor –
“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,
If it is found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31
And in Isaiah, the Lord promises His people that this mark of the aged is no hindrance to His power –
“Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.” Isaiah 46:4
5 (cont) The grasshopper is a burden,
God created the grasshopper just as he created mosquitoes. For the aged, both are troubling. In the case of the grasshopper, even though their ears have trouble hearing the sound of the birds, the grasshopper’s song at night is as clear as crystal because of its peculiar pitch, even someone practically deaf can hear it.
And it never seems to end as you lie in bed with your old bones, wishing it were morning! The grasshopper drags himself along, robbing the aged of the little sleep that they try to get. Remember your Creator now… in the time of your youth, before such terrible times come.
5 (cont) And desire fails.
What was once delightful becomes bland. What once stirred the soul eventually becomes wearisome. Work loses its joy; the desires of life fade. The anticipation of the caress of another is replaced with the desire to just get a bit more sleep. Ouch! That’s all I can say! In this regard, Moses was a blessed exception –
“Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.” Deuteronomy 34:7
The Hebrew of this verse tells us that Moses didn’t need Viagra. But for the majority of us, as age advances, our desires fail and the joys of youth are gone. Remember your Creator now, in the days of your youth, young man.
5 (cont) For man goes to his eternal home,
The eternal home; the resting place for all souls. The KJV calls it the “long home.” And we will be there a long, long time. For us, there awaits a box in the ground, a fancy pine overcoat – longer than it is wide.
5 (cont) And the mourners go about the streets.
In the time of Solomon, and even through the time of Jesus, professional mourners were employed to stand outside homes of people who died. If you were wealthy, you’d have lots of them, but whatever… the job could only mean one thing. Death had arrived and claimed another soul. The eternally hungry pit was fed once again and the sound of a person, unique from any other in all of human history, had been forever silenced.
Solomon asks us to consider this end, for it is one we will all share in. For those who are wise, there is to be relief from this pit – if… if we will just remember our Creator before the sickle comes to reap the sheaf of our life. In Christ there is hope –
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25, 26
6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Once again, Solomon implores us to remember Him – the one who loves us, who created us, who came to die for us. Before we know it, something will go wrong with our jar of clay – our human shell – and it will be too late. The silver cord is the spine and its marrow. Its loosening causes a stopping of all the nervous system and brings on the approach of old age and death. Or, if it gets cut unnaturally, death can be much, much quicker. Remember Him now, before your silver cord is loosed.
6 (con’t) Or the golden bowl is broken,
The golden bowl is our head and its contents (or the lack thereof.) If it gets broken, or the brain pops a vessel, we’re on our way to the checkout counter. Our ticket is punched. I’ve known several people who died from head injuries – some from motorcycles, one more recently from a brain hemorrhage. To think of them is to miss them.
Even with modern medicine, once the golden bowl is broken, that’s pretty much it. Solomon would have us use our head now in the pursuit of God, while it can still be used for such a magnificent pursuit. There are brains there, but is there wisdom to use them?
6 (con’t) Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
The pitcher is that great vein which carries blood to the right ventricle of the heart – here called the fountain. The pitcher pours, the fountain receives, life continues on with each pump of the muscle.           . But the pump is known to fault, the vein is known to shatter, and the fountain no longer receives the lifeblood of the man      ………
6 (con’t) Or the wheel broken at the well.
The wheel is that great artery which receives blood from the left ventricle of the heart – here designated as the well. Modern science has the capacity to repair these things to some extent, but eventually they will wear out, unless something else goes first, When the wheel is broken, the cowboy has had his last roundup; the surfer has tucked into his last tube, and the mason has laid his last brick. Remember the Creator now, while the work of your hands remains an active task and not a forgotten memory.
Of verse 6, I’d like to tell you a story. I used to sit on the beach with a sign that said, “Bible Questions Answered; Don’t Be Shy!” One day a doctor from Pennsylvania walked up and asked a few questions. He went to church, but he figured all religions were the same. He was up for Buddhism and other New Agey things too.
Eventually, he asked some question or another, and I took him to this verse. I showed him Solomon’s words about the heart which are written here. He turned whiter than he already was and mumbled out, “How could he know this? How could Solomon have known this 2700 years ago?” That doctor went away a changed man with a new appreciation for the word of God.
7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
These words find their origin in the very first pages of the Bible. It is an echo of what God did to Adam –
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
From the dust we arose at the work of the Lord. By His breath, the dust was animated. The blood began to flow, air filled the lungs; the senses came alive. By His wisdom, it came to be. But by our folly, what was meant to last forever in pristine running condition, became a confining prison, filled with pains, sadness, and decay. The man forgot his Creator and man has suffered ever since –
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
But through Christ, a new body is promised, one that will never wear out, never tire, never decay. God has spoken; the second shall replace the first –
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 1 Corinthians 15:46-49
We are given a choice. Will we stay in Adam and face eternal decay, or will we choose God’s work in Christ and receive eternal life? How will you choose? Choose wisely, my children.
7 (con’t) And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Yes, we are eternal beings. Scripture makes it clear that our spirit will return to God. When we meet Him, it will be for eternal salvation or it will be for eternal condemnation. A price must be paid for the life we have lived. It can be paid in the cross of Christ as our perfect Substitute, or it can be paid in our imperfect selves. I pray you make the right choice. The Bible shows a different end for those who are in Christ and those who are not –
“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
8 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
“All is vanity.”
havel havalim amar ha’qohelet ha’kol havel – “Vapor of vapors says the Kohelet; everything is vapor.” Breath on a cold day. Abel, or Havel, was given his name from a mother who realized the difference between life under the sun and life under the heavens. She longed, desperately, to return to that life under the heavens which she had lost, but it never came about. She’s still waiting, 6000 years later.
Without a doubt, outside of Jesus Christ, it is all meaningless. All our money, all our treasures, hard work, savings, relationships, desires, aims, goals, boastings…all of it – vapor. It will pass away and disappear into the nothingness from which it came. James understood this –
“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” James 1:9-11
II. The Conclusion of the Whole Matter (Verses 9-14)
9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.
The Lord came to Solomon in a dream at night and asked him what he desired. His answer was a wise one indeed –
“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. 9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” 1 Kings 3:7-9
The Lord’s response to this request came immediately, and it overflowed with abundance –
“Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. 13 And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. 14 So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 1 Kings 3:11-14
In the next chapter, the fulfillment of the promise is recorded –
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. 30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. 33 Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. 34 And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.” 1 Kings 4:29-34
Despite all that he was given though, he piddled his life away with worthless pursuit of life under the sun. In his old age, he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in hopes that we would pay heed to what he had ignored. This life is vain indeed, my son. Look to the eternal; set your eyes on the Lord; and run the race with vigor – all the way to the finish line. Don’t look left; don’t look to the right. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth.
Solomon’s personal life was wasted in the empty pursuit of vapor, but his words were exceedingly wise. In his case, we could rightly state the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” His words were acceptable, even for inclusion in the word of God.
What is made clear here is that knowledge is important, but equally so we need to impart it to others. The knowledge of Christ is their only hope…don’t keep it to yourself. As with everything in the Bible, Solomon says these are “just the right words.”
They are upright and true –
They are the words of your Creator reaching out to you.
As it says in Hebrews concerning all of Scripture –
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
If this is true, and it is, then the power of the word of God, if properly presented, will cut through all barriers. And the power of the gospel can restore even the greatest sinner. But Paul asks an obvious question in the book of Romans –
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Romans 10:14, 15
Wisdom is receiving and applying the word of God to one’s life. Exceeding wisdom is turning around and sharing it with others.
11 The words of the wise are like goads,
Goads are prods used to move animals along. In this, Solomon is saying that the words of the wise are what prompt us toward God and an everlasting relationship with Him. And the words of the wise are thus the words of Scripture. They are what prod us towards a good and happy end. The apostle Paul found that kicking against the goads is painful indeed on the day he met the risen Christ –
“And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” Acts 26:14
Are you here today kicking against the goads. You’re only hurting yourself. Christ is calling for you to live at peace with Him, not to fight His marvelous hand until your dying breath. Let the words of Christ be that which drive you to the refuge where the Lord God dwells, and where underneath are the everlasting arms.
11 (con’t) and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails,
A well-driven nail holds fast. It will remain secure in the highest of winds and against the strongest of intruders. The home is safe, the tent stands firm, and the bleachers won’t buckle when the nails are well driven. The words of scholars, wise and learned men who have penned the word of God for us, are like this. They are tested and true. This is why the psalmist could unequivocally state –
“Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89 (NIV)
Later in the same psalm, he gives us another insight into the nature of the word –
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
A lamp is used to direct light, but light is a constant. It never changes. It travels at 186,282 miles per second… always. The word of God is what directs the light, and the light of the word never changes. The path for our feet will never falter when we place our trust in the contents of the word. Let these well-driven nails be your place of refuge now, while the time is called Today.
11 (con’t) given by one Shepherd.
Who is this one Shepherd? It is Jesus – the eternal Logos; the Word of God. He’s both the Author and the Subject of the Bible. The words He gives us are all we need to properly guide our lives and to lead us into all righteousness. In adhering to His words, we are forever filled –
“The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
The Shepherd that David looked on high to is the same Shepherd we eagerly anticipate –
“I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11
He is our Good Shepherd; He is our Great Shepherd; and He is our Chief Shepherd. He is the guide of the flock, and His reward is with Him. His word stands firm, and His promises are true. Remember Him now, little children. Seek Him while He may be found.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these.
We can seek after wisdom from a thousand cultures and ten thousand wise men, but unless we pursue God as He has revealed Himself to us, the wisdom will fail and our knowledge will die with us. The words of the scholars, which have been given by the One true Shepherd have been provided as the roadmap for our lives. He created us, and therefore He alone can direct us as is fit and proper. Solomon understood this, and his words to you, my children, are as relevant today as they were when he said this. Allow the word of God to admonish you. Demonstrate true wisdom now, while there is time.
12 (con’t) Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
Isn’t this the truth! Imagine, Solomon wrote this almost 3000 years ago. He said even then that there is no end to the making of books at a time in history when hardly any books had been written! Just imagine how overwhelming the sight of a modern library would be for him today.
If we were to count only the books written about the Bible, we would be counting a very long time. I know several people, quite a few in fact, who have read book after book after book about the Bible, but they have spent very little time in comparison simply reading the Bible. What a waste of time.
Before I met the Lord, I read the entire collection of Edgar Allen Poe every year. Since I met Him, I have never read Poe again. And in all honesty, I’d rather go back and read Poe than most of the books that have been written about the Bible. They come and they go. They often enrich the author, but they do very little to enrich the soul. At least Poe could do that. If you want time well spent, the word is waiting. Pick the thing up and read it! If you do, you will be able to fulfill the words of the next verse…
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Oh boy! I can’t wait to hear! Solomon, the wisest man ever to live has some advice for us… for you, my children. Now! While still in your youth. Lean in and listen folks, the word is near you.
13 (con’t) Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
Truly, it is the whole duty of man – to fear God, to obey His Holy Word, to “…fix our eyes on Jesus…” And, how do we keep his commandments? First, you have to learn them. Which ones apply still? Which ones are set aside? The commandments of God throughout the ages are many, but not all apply at all times. The ones that do now are neither burdensome, nor are they difficult.
To find this out though, you need to go to the source and read it. Immerse yourself in the Bible. It’s an amazingly deep well. So drink from it daily and then obey it in the context which applies for those who trust in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Solomon says that this is man’s all. There is no thing greater that we as human beings can do than to have a reverential fear of God and to keep the word which He has given to us. Shall we stand approved before Him on that great day? If we adhere to the precepts of the Bible, the answer is “Yes.”
* 14 (fin) For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
A day of reckoning is coming. We will all face it and there is not a thing that we can do about its arrival. We can deny it, we can suppress it, we can… lie to ourselves about it, but that day will come – for each and every soul who has ever existed. On that day, the secrets of our hearts will be exposed and the hidden things will be brought to light.
The old saying, “Nothing is sure but death and taxes” understates the ability of people to finagle their way out of paying taxes. But one thing we can’t cheat is death. We’re all heading to our “long home” and we don’t know the day we will move into it.
The time is coming when we will all stand before God to give an account for ourselves. We will stand and receive judgment based on our words. As Jesus said, “…by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). The words Jesus wants to hear, and the words that justify us are laid out by Paul in Romans 10 –
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10
Let me explain to you how you can arrive at that point where you ae willing to utter those words…
Closing Verse: “All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:24, 25
Next week: Exodus 30:1-10 The symbolism of Christ in these verses is immense (The Altar of Incense) (83rd Exodus Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and a purpose for you. Though life under the sun may be exceedingly sorrowful and tedious, He promises those who trust in Him a glorious future of life under the heavens. So follow Him and trust Him, and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.