Vanity of Vanities

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Image result for Ecclesiastes 1:1-2

As noted yesterday, Solomon refers to himself as the Preacher, the koheleth, who is calling the people together so he can give discourse on the results of his thinking.

Notice that he says the words he is speaking are his own, with no attribution at this point to God.

The word vanity is used frequently throughout the book. It means useless, empty, having no purpose or value. It would seem that, at this point in his life, he has pondered all that he had; counted the women in his harem; counted the horses and stables and chariots; the armor; the gold and silver and all other manner of precious things, and come to the conclusion that it all added up to nothing. Worthless things, things that gave him no joy or satisfaction in his life.

What a strange thing for this, the wisest and wealthiest king of his time, to conclude. He found no joy in any of it. Some people feel he was depressed. Maybe. We can’t know that. What we can know is that with all his wisdom, he hadn’t seemed to figure out why he was feeling so, well, empty.

And his great wisdom wasn’t doing him a bit of good.

To think about:

What are some evidences of despair among people today?

What are some positive alternatives to the despair that people choose in this life?

Why did Solomon, who had so much, feel such emptiness in life?

Ecclesiastes: Introduction

Who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes?  The name of the author is never stated, but most biblical scholars agree that the circumstances and the life described as the author’s most clearly point to King Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba.  He called himself “son of David” and “King in Jerusalem” (1:1, 12), and he talked about his great wealth and wisdom (2:1-11 and 1:13). 

The author mentioned “the king” and made several references to the difficulties of bureaucracy (4:1-3; 5:8; 8:11; 10:6-7).  Yes, they had those problems way back in Solomon’s day.  There is, after all, nothing new under the sun. 

Image result for King Solomon

Solomon’s kingdom was immense. It required a large standing army, and many government agencies. His court was luxurious. Someone had to pay for all that!

Solomon solved his financial needs by ignoring the original boundaries of the 12 tribes, and instead drew “tax districts.” These districts were governed by overseers, and it didn’t take long before those overseers were skimming off the taxes for their own use. The tax burden grew heavier, and corruption was rampant. (Does anyone else see a parallel here in America today?)

King Solomon was a godly man in his youth. He humbly sought God’s wisdom and help (I Kings 3:5-15). But as time passed, he got married. Three hundred times. And he took on 700 concubines. For the wisest man who ever lived, that certainly seems to be paradoxical behavior.

Many of the women he married were political alliances, and of course those women brought their idolatrous beliefs and practices to Solomon’s court. It would seem that, in order to appease the women and the countries they represented, he began to turn from God and participate in the godless religions of the nations with whom he made alliances.

God finally began to remove His hand of blessing (I Kings 11). He preserved Solomon’s throne only because of His promise to David. After Solomon died, the nation divided, leaving Israel with only the houses of Judah and Benjamin.

Solomon probably wrote Proverbs (Prov. 1:1; I Kings 4:32) and the Song of Solomon (1:1) during the years he faithfully walked with God. Ecclesiastes was written near the end of his life, as he looked back over his many changes from godliness to living only for his own glory.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon referred to himself as “The Preacher.” The Hebrew word is Koheleth, and us the title given to an official speaker who calls an assembly. The Greek word for “assembly” is ekklesia, and this gives us the English title for this book, Ecclesiastes. As Koheleth, Solomon debated several topics in his own mind, and tried to come to an orderly conclusion.

The aim of the book was to figure out the meaning of life. In the first verse, Solomon poses the question of the purpose of all a man’s labor. We will look more closely at that question tomorrow, when we begin to take apart the verses of Chapter One.

Questions for you to consider:

  1. What are some of the paradoxes of Solomon’s life?
  2. What are some evidences of despair among people today?

Sunday Morning Coffee: Proverbs 28:25

Since I was about 19 years old, I’ve read the chapter of Proverbs that coincides with the day’s date. The amazing thing is that even after all these  years, I still find a verse or a passage that strikes me in a whole new way. Today, it was this:

25 He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat.Image result for He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife

What it a proud heart? Here’s another translation:

Darby Bible Translation
He that is puffed up in soul exciteth contention; but he that relieth upon Jehovah shall be made fat.

A proud heart is one that thinks more highly of himself than of anything or anyone else. He assumes authority he does not have, and he stirs up enmity  among others. He is often a charismatic person, promising those who follow him position, money, and fame. It was his proud heart that got Satan kicked out of heaven. And still, in his pride, he is doing everything he can to persuade people to follow him. His goal is to  destroy what God loves, and  God loves humankind.

The sad thing is that Satan uses people who also have proud hearts to stir up enmity, contention, hatred, among other people. Such behavior leads to nothing good.

On the other hand, those who trust in the Lord shall be “made fat”–that is, they shall prosper. Maybe not in this life; maybe not  according to the standards of this world.  But those who trust God will have peace in their hearts, rather than pride.   They will have their reward, sometimes in this life but always in heaven.

We need to ask God for wisdom to recognize those who are proud of heart. They are in our government, our schools, our entertainment industry, and yes–even in our churches.  Sometimes, they have a huge following among believers.  We buy their books, donate to their ministries, only to learn that they are teaching a different gospel and actually dividing believers.

May God protect us from allowing proudness in our own hearts, and wisdom to recognize it in others.

 

A New Study

I’ve been asking the Lord for some time now where I should go for the next Bible study. I was thinking the book of John, but really wasn’t getting any peace about that. Now, I’m not going to tell you that I’m one of those who claims to hear directly from God.  He speaks to me through His Word, and through answered prayer.  He gives me the “peace that passes understanding.”

This morning I went downstairs to look over the many Bible study books we’ve accumulated over the years, and my eye fell on Warren Wiersbe’s study  titled Be Satisfied. It’s a study on the book of Ecclesiastes.  And I knew that this was the one. No voices, no books floating off the shelf.  Just an absolute knowing, and a complete satisfaction that this is what I’m supposed to do next.

So–on Monday, April 29, I will begin this new study.  Wiersbe’s Be books always come with a short set of study questions for each chapter.  Of course, as you know by now if you’ve been with me for any length of time, I never cover one chapter in one post.   A verse or two or three each day.  Just to get you thinking, though, I will ask the first question in his questions for Chapter One:

How would you describe life?  Please, if you’re going to post your answer as a comment, try to keep it reasonably brief.  Here is my personal response:

Life here on earth is summed up in Col. 1:16.  God created all things; He created us.  He created us for fellowship with Him, and for eternity with Him in heaven IF we accept Him as Savior and Lord.

I’m already excited about this.  I hope to hear from you as we study this book.

New Heaven and New Earth

Isaiah 66:22-24.

22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.

23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord.

24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Image result for new heavens and new earth

We do have some descriptions in God’s Word as to what the new heaven and the new earth will look like, but I really don’t think we have any  concept of what they will be like. I think it will be wonderful, beyond any concept of man.  A place ruled by perfect good, where Satan has no influence, is hard for us to imagine.

God says this new heaven and new earth will be eternal, and so will His people, the Israelites and their seed remain.

Verse 23 would seem to suggest worship on sabbaths, or rest days on the new earth.

All nations will continue in the new earth, the people will have natural bodies and carry on the original program God planned for man–multiplying and replenishing the earth forever.

There seems to be, here, two classes of  mankind:  Natural men–subjects of the Kingdom; and resurrected men–rulers of the Kingdom.

The natural men will be people who continue to live from the tribulation time into the Millennium and then  into the new earth period–and their descendants. They will be the saints of Rev. 20: 7-10; and they will multiply forever.

Resurrected mankind will be those who have been redeemed from all generations, from Adam to the Millennium, and who will have part in the first resurrection. They will be the kings and priests or rulers of natural men on the earth.

All flesh (natural men) on the earth will be permitted to look into eternal hell, at certain openings, and see the punishment of rebels forever as a perpetual warning against sin and transgression. The carcasses here are the bodies of men in eternal hell which will never be destroyed–bodies that will have been resurrected  to immortality or deathlessness so that they may be punished for deeds done in the body before death. These eternal bodies in hell are considered dead carcasses because of being without the life of God given to the resurrected saints.

And so we have come to the end of this amazing book.  It’s been nearly three years since I started, never realizing how long it would be.  I have been personally blessed and encouraged by this study, and I hope you have to.  Even if you haven’t been with me from the very first, I hope you are impressed with the scope and incredible grandeur we’ve seen in Isaiah; and that it will encourage you to dig into the study of the scripture yourself.  I make no claim to perfection in my work.  I have done the best I can with the resources I have, but you need to study out some things for yourselves, and I hope you will.

Return to His Holy Mountain

Note:  I have been out of commission since Thursday of last week. My back has been acting up again, and I’ve spent about 80% of my time in bed.  Things are considerably better today.  I apologize for leaving you hanging at this point in our journey through Isaiah.  I plan to finish the chapter, and the book, tomorrow–but sometimes God leads differently than what I plan. In any event we will finish Isaiah before the week is out, and I’m thinking about digging into the Gospel of John next. Again, waiting for God’s clear leading. 

 

Isaiah 66:20-21. 20 And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters,and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. 21 And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites , saith the LORD.

Related image

Again, God speak of the Gentiles helping to gather Israel from all lands back to the Promised Land where they will become an eternal nation  under their Messiah.  They will be taken to Israel in a huge number of different ways, all familiar to the people of the time this book was written.  The actuality may be more modern vehicles, but we don’t need to make an interpretation there because the simple meaning is clear:  All Jews from every land will go back to Jerusalem, and the Gentiles nations will assist them in that return.  The mention of the clean vessel shows that all the Israelites who are brought into Millennial glory will have been purged from  their old sins and brought to walk in the ways of the Lord,  and accordingly He will take of them for “priests and for Levites.”

He Is Risen!

Image result for He is risen, indeed!

May your hearts be filled with the truth of the risen Savior!

The resurrection is what sets true Christianity apart from all the religions devised by man. Christianity is the ONLY faith that offers a risen Savior! A Man Who accepted leaving heaven to appear in the form of a normal man; Who lived His life in the service of the Father and all the people with whom he cam in contact; Who willingly went to the cross and suffered for our sin; Who rose on the third day, just as He said He would; Who lives now in heaven with the Father, preparing a place for us for all eternity IF we accept Him as our personal Savior.

And let’s not forget to pray for the survivors of Islamic attacks in parts of the world where Easter Sunday is nearly over. and where nearly 150 have died for their faith.

John 14:1-3 

14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.

In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.