Free Friday

I would usually do a post on Ecclesiastes today, but I’m just not in the mood. Not a good excuse, I know. I always get into the mood once I start writing, but today I’m deliberately taking a break.

I had to go in for a couple of routine medical tests early this morning–fasting blood work was one of the tests. Then I hit the Walmart for a few groceries, and now I’m back home, all by myself for the entire day. I love it.

Terry’s down at church mowing. It’s a large property, and it takes him all day. So I have several hours rolling out in front of me with nothing planned, nothing pressing, nothing I HAVE to do. That’s really cool 🙂

At the doctor’s office, the secretary was checking my info and asked if I’m still working at the counseling office. I said, “No! I retired this week!” and the other women in the office all turned and offered me congrats and well wishes.

I’m a Baby Boomer, after all. Most places I checked agreed that the Boomer years range from 1946 to 1964. I was born in 1947. Retirement often happens between 60 and 65, but more and more people are working into their 80s. Sometimes, it’s just because they love their work. I did. I’d still be working if I were physically able to do so.

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I’m beginning to get a little glimpse of what a big deal this really is. People work all their lives hoping to be able to retire. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, for a variety of reasons. I retired because of my health. It’s hard to focus on people when you’re hurting, and I knew I was losing concentration. I was also missing days at a time because I just couldn’t physically endure the hours of sitting. In any case, it’s a major life change that is slowly beginning to sink in.

But it doesn’t mean I’m going to do nothing. My calendar is already filling up with one thing and another. I’m taking this next week off completely, but after that I have some responsibilities that will require me to study, plan, and prepare. One big thing is that I’m going to carve out the time, every day, to work on a book I’ve had in my head for way too long.

But the main thing is to spend more time with the Lord. No more rushing, hurrying through my daily Bible reading and prayer time. I’m looking forward to that.

Sometimes we see retirement as the ending of something. I’m seeing it more, these days, as the beginning of the rest of my life 🙂

Wisdom

Eccl. 8:1. Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

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Think of a very wise person you know, a person whose wisdom is biblical, godly wisdom and not necessarily just human intelligence.

Now think of the impression that person’s face leaves on you. Is it an impression of goodness? Kindness? Patience? Joy?

Here, Solomon says that true godly wisdom not only lights up a person’s face, but also softens it.

My dad had a stern face. Partly it was his temperament; partly hereditary, partly his personal history. He grew up during the Depression, and did his part in World War II. I always thought he was a handsome man, but as he grew older, and especially after his major heart surgeries, his face softened. It was an amazing thing to see him respond to my brothers little children when they came to visit him in the hospital. He loved them so much, and for perhaps the first time in his life he allowed that softer emotion to show.

It was during the last ten years of his life that I noticed such changes in him on our rare visits together. Softer, kinder, more gentle; all his years of studying and preaching God’s Word were showing on his face.

That should be true for every believer who walks with God. There should be that in the countenance that reveals God’s wisdom, love and grace.

Godly Wisdom is Rare

Eccl. 7:27-29

Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:

 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

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Behold, this have I found is a statement the Preacher makes when he has come to a conclusion or realization he has made. He believes it to be complete truth, and one that I find infinitely sad:

There is only one man in a thousand who has godly wisdom; only one who seeks after God and lives his life wisely.

There is not one—NOT ONE!–woman in a thousand who lives a godly life and seeks after God.

Was it true that there were no women in Israel who followed after God? No, I don’t think so. I believe that what Solomon was telling us here is that none of his 300 wives, none of his 700 concubines living in his harem, sought after God. Not one.

We have to remember that many of his marriages were made as political alliances; we don’t know much about how he gathered the rest of his women. I believe he was susceptible to a pretty face, and of course, as king, he could take any young woman he chose.

I believe that his statement here reflects more on the manner of his choosing than on the relative godliness of men and women. Perhaps every woman who caught his eye held, in his mind, the hope of being the godly woman he desired. I also believe that any wise woman with a godly family would deliberately avoid being in the kings’s presence. She was safer to stay hidden, to cover her face in public, to avoid being taken against her will into a luxurious prison from which she would never escape.

We know that Solomon valued virtue in women from what he wrote in Proverbs 31 and Eccl. 9:9. His mother, Bathsheba, was a woman he admired and respected.

The Preacher closes this chapter with the observation that God created mankind to seek after Himself, but that man, in his fallen nature, seeks many different paths that lead away from God. His own vanity, pride, and rebellious spirit lead him into a life that is not centered on God.

Solomon knew. It was the way he chose to live, too.

Wisdom with Women

Eccl. 7: 25-26

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

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Isn’t it interesting that a man who had 300 wives and 700 concubines is so cynical about women? Well, let’s back up a little bit.

First, in v. 25, Solomon declares his continuing effort to understand life. Even though he had asked God for wisdom, apparently he didn’t feel God’s generous answer was quite enough. He spends 14 chapters in this book trying to figure out life and the purpose of it. And here, he suddenly veers into what he has discovered about women. He concludes that most of them aren’t to be trusted, and that a man whose heart is to serve God will escape from an ungodly woman. An ungodly man, however, will not escape from the woman who leads him away from God.

We know it was customary in Solomon’s day for kings to marry the daughters of neighboring kingdoms, in order to form political alliances. I’m glad I didn’t live then or belong to a royal family, where your fate depended on the state of affairs with some other nation. In any case, that practice was the source of some of Solomon’s marriages.

However, he has to accept the responsibility for the size of his harem, and his alliances with women who worshipped other gods, and who led him into their idolatrous practices. That was purely his own choice, and he certainly paid the price for his lack of wisdom.

There is an important lesson here for Christian young people. We don’t have harems in America, and our young women are not used to seal alliances with anyone. But it is still possible for Christian young men to become involved with girls who do not love God, and to be led away from a righteous path by those girls.

My parents warned us strongly about not dating unsaved guys, and I never did. Terry was not yet a Christian when we met, and we didn’t date until after I was sure he was a true believer. Our lives have been blessed, and I believe that, in part, it is because we have made choices based on the wisdom of God’s Word.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Humility

Proverbs 25:6-7

Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

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Did you ever hear the phrase Proud as a Peacock?

They really are gorgeous birds, even before they spread all those feathers.

Did you ever hear a peacock’s voice?

Not so attractive unless you’re another peacock 🙂 You’d think something so beautiful would have a pretty call, wouldn’t you? I’ve always thought of it as one of God’s little jokes.

I get to speak here and there, and I’m usually invited to sit with the pastor’s wife or the organizer of the event. I don’t expect it, though, because it would be very embarrassing to pull out a chair, only to be told there is no room for you there.

It actually did happen one time, at my own church, many years ago. I’d been invited to speak at the Mother-Daughter banquet. As I made my way toward a seat where I saw the pastor’s wife and other women who had organized the event, I was stopped before I got there and told quietly that there was no room for me at that table.

I was immensely thankful that I hadn’t made it all the way to the front and been embarrassed in front of several hundred women. I quickly found a seat and had a most enjoyable meal with several ladies I hadn’t yet met, along with some I’d known for years. It turned out well, but I learned a valuable lesson: Never assume you’re to sit at the head table. It’s better to be taken there than to be told you don’t belong there.

I hadn’t been trying to put myself forward; I was only following what was customary. But we do, sometimes, try to take the most prominent place, or put ourselves in a place of position when we really haven’t earned it or been invited to do so. How humbling it is to be told, “No room!”

It’s what Mary and Joseph were told, isn’t it? And yet, in their humility they accepted a stable, with hay for bedding and animals for warmth. They were grateful. Jesus was born that night, in humility. The only Son of God left the splendor of heaven to be born ignobly and to die ignobly. How glorious, though, was His resurrection and later His ascension back to His Father’s side in heaven! We have a place there, too, if we have accepted Him as our Savior. When we reach heaven, pleading only the blood of Jesus, we will not be turned away because there is no room.

Jesus Himself will have prepared a place for us.

Saturday

This is a ramble. Saturdays are good for rambling.

We’ve had a horribly hot and humid week, but today we have our AC off and our windows open. I can hear birds, frogs, lawnmowers. I can even hear the breeze that’s moving the tree branches. Well, no, I can’t hear the breeze itself, but I can hear the leaves fluttering and brushing together. The air smells clean and sweet, and it’s a totally pleasant out there. A beautiful summer Saturday.

My mind goes back to summers in Portland, Oregon where we lived for five years from about 1955-60. It often rained a little in the morning, but then it would clear up and be warm, not hot. Very little humidity. We’d walk to the municipal swimming pool and spend the afternoon there, then walk back home. On the way, we could enjoy big fat blackberries that grew wild along the roadside. Back then, nobody worried about safety for kids walking over a mile just to go swimming. This was in the little town of Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland. It was a delightful place, and I was sorry when we moved into the city.

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There was so much to enjoy out there. The beach. The roses. The Rose Parade. Jantzen Beach, an amusement park. Just being able to be outdoors and not worry about mosquitos! And Mount Hood, too.

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That was a golden summer for me. I’ll never forget how much I loved it there.

I love it here, too. We live near Philadelphia, but you’d never know it. Lots of green, lots of trees and other vegetation. Rolling hills. It’s a beautiful drive to church every Sunday, and on Thursday morning when I go down to teach a Bible study class.

And then there’s Lancaster County, which is a beautiful place just to go for a drive:

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I am often reminded of I Timothy 6:17:

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”

God didn’t need to make the earth beautiful. He could have just made it practical. Aren’t you glad for the beauty of the earth?

Wisdom is Elusive

Eccl. 7:23-24

All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

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(NAU is the New American Standard, Updated 1995)

“All this” is a reference to what Solomon has just said; his advice to the people on finding a meaning and purpose in life. God had given him the gift of great wisdom, but when he tried “under the sun,” from his own perspective, to be wise, it didn’t help him. He found wisdom to be distant, and hard to find. He even acknowledges that, with all his wisdom, the mind of God is still a mystery, “undiscoverable,” to him. Indeed, it is undiscoverable to all of us.

We can find what God has revealed to us in scripture, but the most interesting thing happens, at least for me: As I study, and learn more all the time, I find that it only leads to more questions, more of a need to search His Word to find His plan, purpose, and leading.

The truth is, none of us can plumb the depths of the mind of God. We simply cannot hold the fullness of His wisdom, which He has said is far above us (Isaiah 55:8-9).

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we shouldn’t continue to study. The joy of understanding that which He reveals to us is beyond description. Every time He opens my understanding to something I have been puzzled over, it’s like finding an unexpected gift under the Christmas tree.

That’s one of the reasons I keep blogging. I want to be a blessing; I want to continue to be blessed by what I’m learning. It is truly a joy to study, learn, and teach the Word of God.