“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.”
Psalm 142.3a NLT
David was on the run, boxed in inside a cave, hunted by enemies.
How does God show us which way to turn?
The wise man listed a series of “better thans” as he continued his observations about life and death. A good name is “better than” precious ointment or riches. One should be careful to guard his good name as it can be destroyed by a single careless moment. Mourning and sorrow are “better than” feasting and laughter. A person with a frivolous nature can overlook the serious and important side of improving his life and the world around him. Anger is an emotion that everyone expresses at times, but it should be kept under control and not allowed to explode at the least provocation. Solomon related a series of statements of wisdom relating to the folly of living for the present instead of building toward the end of life.
We live in a society of laws. Solomon stated that a wise person keeps the king’s commandments. In today’s Christian age, we are commanded to obey the laws of the land—unless they conflict with God’s laws. Man has a tendency to reason that when the righteous have hardships and the wicked prosper, that there is neither reward for righteousness nor punishment for wickedness. However, that is vain thinking. There will be justice in the end.
Solomon pointed out that the righteous and the wicked all have a common end. They all die. After death, there is nothing left for man in this world. As long as one lives, there is still hope that he may be able to accomplish something with his life. We must recognize the opportunities to serve God and our fellowman and do so with zest and enjoyment.
When God created the earth, He instilled within nature certain laws, seasons and patterns. Man cannot change what God has decreed. One must recognize and adapt to the seasons that surround him and render due reverence to his Creator. There are seasons to be born and to produce for the good of oneself and his fellowman. In time, the seasons for all of that will cease. When they do end, man and animals are the same, as both return to the dust of the earth. However, there is one vast difference. Man’s soul goes upward back to God. One should enjoy the endeavors of life instead of constantly complaining about the negatives that occur.
The wise man had seen within his life of power and wealth that there was also much unhappiness. His worldly possessions could not give him comfort. In his melancholy mood, he could visualize a certain blessing in death where he could find that comfort. Solomon recognized the power of companionship. Man needs someone with whom to share his rewards and disappointments. If one falls, the other can pick him up. Body warmth from a spouse in a cold bed is mutually beneficial. It is not God’s plan for man to be the center of his own existence.
“Walk prudently.” Watch your step is good advice for all in all circumstances. One shouldn’t make rash statements or vows unless he is fully prepared fulfill his words. God would rather have no vow than a broken vow. The person who works to amass a large fortune is never satisfied. Whatever he has is not enough and the fear of losing it keeps him from peaceful sleep. Everyone is born into this world naked—without possessions. Whatever fortune one builds in this life will not follow him to the grave. However, it is wise to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor while he lives without being controlled by them. True enjoyment comes when those fruits are used in the service of God and one’s fellowman.
Solomon continued his admonishments toward the proper use of wealth. He stated that a common evil among men is to amass a great fortune, but never get to enjoy it, because of unhappiness or loss. It would have been better if he had died before his birth. One should have peace of mind with what he has instead of worrying over what he wants. Life is too short and eternity too long to live an unhappy and miserable life.
The writer of Ecclesiastes identified himself as the Preacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. He also referred to himself as “king over Israel in Jerusalem.” There are some who question whether Solomon was truly the writer of this book, but with that introduction and the wisdom that he possessed, one can, indeed easily accept Solomon as its author. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” is the theme of Ecclesiastes. The word vanity may be defined as emptiness.
Generations of life and seasons come and go, but the earth remains unchanged. Cycles of nature continue to repeat in their seasons. Rivers flow into the seas, but they are not overflowed. They evaporate and return to their beginnings and repeat the cycle. Nothing changes and nothing new is added. A man’s existence is of no significance in the broad scheme of the universe. However, man does have the unique character of being a living soul to prepare for life after leaving this earth. Solomon with all of his knowledge, wisdom, riches and honor concluded, “For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
The wise man suggested areas in his life that should have brought joy to him. Surely pleasure, laughter and “a good time” would satisfy a man’s heart and bring joy to him. He was a man of great work and worth with servants to see to all of his needs. Every luxury attainable by man was his to enjoy. Whatever he desired was his. However, with all of his wisdom, he realized that he and a fool would be the same in death. The fruits of Solomon’s labor would go to someone else who had not labored for them after his death. History relates how this was true in the evil reign of his son, Rehoboam who succeeded him to the throne. If all of these worldly blessings could not bring happiness to Solomon, we should take heed and place our treasures in heaven instead of on earth.
When it comes to displaying godly behavior, the ways of doing so are numerous. In the latest issue of Gospel Minutes the following point was made after noting Joseph’s willingness to stand-up for his brother Benjamin during his incognito interaction with the rest of his brothers:
This is one of our principle duties as Christians. We are not here to just go through the motions of worship and religious activities. We are here to protect the weak. We must act when we see children abused. We must act when we see domestic abuse. We must act when we see people at risk or in danger of maltreatment and do all we can to protect them. In the process, we may (like Joseph) discover what it is in the hearts of others. In the meantime, we will be rescuing a helpless victim. (Taking Responsibility by David Thurman – Gospel Minutes – Volume 66, No. 16)
The social justice movement abuses the essence of the gospel, but the essence of the gospel comes with the responsibility of societal justice. In other words, we have a responsibility to love our neighbor, and that includes not only doing right ourselves but also helping others when they are wronged. This responsibility can be seen in the lessons of the Good Samaritan, the woman taken in adultery and even in the interaction between Jesus and Simon the Pharisee (not to mention Jesus’ crucifixion and everything that surrounded his injustice).
As Christians, we cannot “fix” the world but we can help others by being a light that reveals the difference between right and wrong.
“But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” (Ephesians 5:13 NKJV)