Ecclesiastes Episode 1

Beth's Notes

Welcome to our study of Ecclesiastes! We are so excited for you all to be with us today as we open this great book and glean from Solomon’s wisdom.

I love to share with others the things I have learned in life that have profited me most.  Isn’t it much better to learn in a classroom rather than a field trip??? Reminds me of the Titus passage:
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5 (NIV)

I am passionate about God’s Word and passionate about others catching the passion! I know what a difference it has made in my own life and I am confident it will in anyone else’s life who will willingly and diligently seek the Lord through His Word. God’s Word is living, powerful and effective and precious and profitable as well. Seriously, how can we transmit our faith and values to the next generation, be the salt and light God calls us to be in our culture and spheres if we remain ignorant of its Truths? I am reminded of the Shema in Deuteronomy stating our responsibility (delight):
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)

Scripture also tells us:
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

I am also reminded of Ezra’s example in his time of His-story:
10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (NIV)

While we all may not have a grand audience, we do each have our own spheres of influence and God-ordained works created just for us to do. We must as believers recover our commitment to know the Truth, believe the Truth and live the Truth and share the Truth. This is very important ladies!  

Many things are “good” in this life – as Ecclesiastes will attest to - but I want what is best for myself and my family. Sufficiency in Christ gives way to contentment which keeps us from always wanting more – more money in the bank, more food in the refrigerator, more clothes in the closet – you get my drift. Solomon demonstrates for us in Ecclesiastes that lasting pleasure is never found in passing fancies. Also, I had a “Paul” in my life when I was starting out with my first baby and I am so thankful that she took the time with me to point me to what is “protos” – number one – in a life which motivates me to do likewise for others. Just as Jesus told Martha:
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)

The wording here indicates that Mary had chosen what was profitable, advantageous, useful, promoting her welfare whereas Martha had merely chosen a good service. We can know we are further along in our walks with Christ when we are forgoing the good for the best. All of life is a pruning process, Amen? – think Enoch whose name means “a narrowing”.  God desires for His children the best just as we desire the best for ours – perhaps even more so. And this is to know Him and make Him fully known.  Because the more you know Him, the more you love Him. And the more you love Him, the more you trust Him. And the more you trust Him the more you delight to obey and serve Him. The more we obey and serve Him the more complete our joy – the more content our life.    

My friend Donna states: “And the only way to know the God of the Word is to know the Word of God.” 
My husband is a pilot and on the plane there is an instrument called “the command bar” which indicates the correct position the wings are to be in.  Under that is the actual wing position which is referred to as the “attitude indicator”.  This is such a great illustration for the life of a believer as “the command bar” is God’s Word and “the attitude indicator” is us – how we live our lives according to God’s Word – and how we line up our lives up our lives according to His Word is of utmost importance.  If Solomon had paid attention to God’s Word  he would not have found himself severely off course which is why he was so wanting. We are never to neglect Scripture ladies as it is our source for life in abundance. Ann Voskamp writes:
“His Word cannot be falsified, disqualified, modified or nullified. His Word cannot be distorted or inverted or reinvented or demerited or interpreted away. His Word is beauty, it is wooing, and it will all be accomplished absolutely._ The debate of the day may change, the crisis may change, the screaming headlines of the genuinely horrifying may change — but, in the entire heaving cosmos, this remains unchangeable, unstoppable, undaunted: The Word of God. His Word is absolute and resolute and it will remain until time concludes. God’s Word is more permanent than any words written in granite — or in headlines or campaign slogans or PR statements or press releases or laws. Mountain rock is fleetingly temporary compared to the forever permanence of the Rock of His Word. Culture cannot shape it and society cannot silence it and scarred people cannot help but be wooed by it, healed by it, held by it. _And the Lover of the letter, He soothes: ‘The mountains may pass away, but my truth will not pass away, the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever, and though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you.’” Ann Voskamp 
Some of the last words Paul writes to his beloved Timothy are some we should take to heart as well:
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)

Does this sound like our days or what??? Ignorance of God’s Word is rampant. Truth is being compromised in favor of tolerance. Pulpits preach heresy and hearers remain dull not seeking to discover if it is aligned with God’s Word. Unlike the Bereans who sought to see if Paul’s words were true, we often take the lazy way out by not searching the Scriptures for ourselves even though God has told us that these Words are to be our life – and our resource for a life well lived. Deuteronomy 32:45-47 states:
45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you--they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 32:45-47 (NIV)

The Promised Land then equals our abundant life now and they had to battle all the way in – just as we have to battle the flesh (daily).  Remember, all sin carries with it a death to something. This abundant life is the life Jesus told us He came to give us:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

The wording here on life is – full, meaning more than enough, over and above, superfluous, super abundantly, more exceedingly, excellent, extraordinary life. Who doesn’t desire that for ourselves and for our families? Certainly Solomon did! 

Remember ladies, this is our time in His-story. We don’t get a do-over.  We each have been given our spheres of influence divinely prepared by the Creator Himself. It matters greatly how we live our lives. Since there are only two things eternal on earth today, the souls of men and the Word of God, shouldn’t we be about that?  

Ecclesiastes is a perfect book for our times, Amen? Indeed it is a wonderful book for all times. People in every era - can feel stuck in a monotonous prison where we feel nothing we do really matters or changes anything, and the only way to live a meaningful life in this so-called meaningless existence is to find satisfaction and contentment in the gifts God has given us. Yet, this becomes loving the gifts over loving and seeking further to know better the Giver and allowing His power to live in and through us for both our greatest good and His glory - never one surpassing the other. We can never outgive God either. As Christians allow this new life which He has begun in us – the Life of the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit – to become His means of expression to our spheres – we will begin to take hold of the life that is truly life – the life we were all destined to have before the fall in Eden. Indeed, when we are prepared to be “in business” with the Lord Jesus Christ - like He was with the Father when He walked his dusty earth - we will find ourselves standing firm in His will mature and fully assured and greatly satisfied.  This is the only way to lasting contentment and peace. It is God’s desire to see His power manifested in and through His children pointing others to Him – that is why we are here – to allow God to do His works in and through us – just like Jesus.  Bringing Him much glory and ourselves much good. As Ian Thomas states:
“Jesus refused to allow there to be any possible explanation for the quality of His life but the Father, as God, dwelling in Him, as Man.”

“And the One Who gives the power gets the glory. We are most satisfied when God is most glorified through us” as John Piper states.
While the gifts from His hand are to be enjoyed and appreciated, Jesus Himself is to be our sufficiency, strength and peace – not the gifts He bestows. It is never God/Jesus plus something else – it is He Who is our sufficiency. Solomon experimented with life and discovered that there was no lasting satisfaction in possessions, pleasures, power, prestige or knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake. He had everything, yet his life was empty, void. There is no need for us to repeat these same experiences – we can learn it from a classroom rather than a field trip, Amen? Sadly, Solomon did not learn until later in life. Lord, please keep us from the same folly!  

Though God both gives and takes away - His great Name is to be praised.  Trust me, nothing in this world and no one in this world will ever fully satisfy mankind. Only God does that. This, sweet ladies, is the story of Ecclesiastes. All pleasures mock us as they are constantly going away from us – children grow and go; we retire from our careers; our athletic abilities wax and wane – you get the drift. We are not to set our hearts on the temporal rather the eternal – “set your hearts on things above” – as Scripture states. Lasting pleasures will never be found in passing fancies no matter alluring, attention grabbing, crowd gathering or loud they may be.     

Often, we can get stuck in a rut simply going through motions trying to figure out what in the world all this world means. It certainly can feel like monotonous drudgery. The only way most people know how to cope with the redundancy and boredom of their lives is to distract themselves for short periods, choosing to live week after week for the escape – however that may play out. Some look to substances, others to pleasurable experiences; others pour themselves into their jobs, hoping success will make their lives more meaningful; others may turn to romantic relationships or accumulating possessions or entertaining themselves to death. Some even look to religion, hoping these rituals will give their life a semblance of meaning or purpose. And we end up missing the point of why we are even here. Did you know that it is not about us rather it is all about Him and making Him known? And Ecclesiastes tells us there is nothing new under the sun, Amen? It is like this today, it was like that then and it will be like this tomorrow. God is not merely to be an add on nicety – He is to be our life.

The story of Solomon is all too common. He was the second child of the parents of King David and Bathsheba - their first child having died as consequence to their sin. 2 Samuel 12:24-25 tells us:
24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; 25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah. 2 Samuel 12:24-25 (NIV)
This child bore a double name. Called Solomon (“peace”) by his parents but he was also named by the Lord - through the Prophet Nathan - Jedidiah – which means “loved by the Lord”.  

When King David was near death, he placed Solomon on the throne charging him in the following way in 1 Kings 2:1-4:
1 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, show yourself a man, 3 and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, 4 and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’” 1 Kings 2:1-4 (NIV)

In Chapter three of 1 Kings we discover Solomon desirous of showing his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David – yet he did not remove the “high places”. During the period of the Judges the Israelites adopted the Canaanite custom of offering sacrifices at high places. These were on hilltops and other elevations. The pagan Canaanites felt that the closer they got to heaven the more likely was the possibility that their prayers and offerings would reach their gods. Offering sacrifices at places other than the tabernacle was prohibited in the Law (Leviticus 17:3-4). Nevertheless, this practice was commonly observed in Israel at this time, even by Solomon. 1 Kings 3:2-3 states:
2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. 3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 1 Kings 3:2-3 (NIV)

The temple refers to Solomon’s temple, not the tabernacle. In general, Solomon was careful to follow in David’s Godly footsteps thus demonstrating his love for Yahweh, yet he left a chink in his wall of self-control by imbibing in what was prohibited. We are to be careful to be obedient to all of God’s revealed will as it leaves a hole for Satan’s fiery arrows – and the adversary is a very good shot as we discover in the life of Solomon. We are not given the prerogative to pick and choose what we will or will not obey. It is the whole of Scripture we are called to follow.  Just as assuredly as there are blessings in obedience, there are always consequences to sin though often not right away. Also, just as goodness does not stay static in a life neither does sinfulness – it will always eventually spiral down if not dealt with.  Just because we may be “getting away” with something now does not mean God is pleased and there won’t be consequences. Just saying.   

We are also told of God appearing to King Solomon at night in a dream.  I Kings 3:5-14 states:
 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:5-9 (NIV)

I find it interesting that Jesus is the very wisdom of God – 1 Corinthians 1:24 states:
24 But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Corinthians 1:24-25 (NIV)

God desired for the King to trust in Him as well as all of the Israelites. He still wants this from His people. Our confidence is to be in Him. Psalms 20:7 states:
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalms 20:7-8 (NIV)

Proverbs adds:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 (NIV)

The goal is to shape our mind and heart to become more like Jesus Christ, who is the very wisdom of God. Our goal is to become wiser and more mature, not just better rule followers who walk the proverbial line.

God responds to Solomon’s request for wisdom in an amazing way.  2 Chronicles 1:11-12 states:
11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” 2 Chronicles 1:11-12 (NIV)
Solomon was not only granted wisdom to rule God’s people and His Kingdom, but he was also granted wealth, riches and honor. However, the wisest man in the ancient world as well as the wealthiest man became greedy, lustful, power-hungry, and idolatrous resulting in an unsatisfied, unfulfilled life. He did not deny himself anything he wanted. This certainly begs the question for us if the wisest and richest man that ever lived could say all things under the sun are meaningless apart from God, shouldn’t that red flag us here? He had the resources to follow his desires all the way out and still proclaims “Meaningless”. Makes me know that created things, while certainly we can enjoy, were never meant to bring us ultimate satisfaction. 

Alexander Maclaren said, “He who has the Holy Spirit in his heart and the Scriptures in his hands has all he needs.”
We need to take what God has given us in His Word and let it develop in our lives. He is all about conforming us into the image of His Son and one way He does that is through His Word. Success or failure in the Christian life is determined by how much of the Word of God we get into our lives on a regular basis and how obedient we are to let it flow from our hearts to our hands and lips. We need to be hungry for the Word of God. The Psalmist stated a growing believer will be a lover of God’s Word. Psalms 119:97 states:
97 Oh, how I love your law!  I meditate on it all day long. Psalms 119:97 (NIV)

Satan and self will keep us distracted and looking for diversions. Being still before our Creator and listening for His still small voice, our minds will often jump from one task to the other, chronically interrupting our thoughts on God and His Word and His purposes for our lives. Our world swirls with hustle and bustle and we are forever chasing things we don’t even want. All this clamor keeps back the awful light of self-knowledge, the unwelcome truth that we are a terminal patient, busy building vanities upon the seashore to keep us from considering that our time here is limited. Pascal ventures, “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
This is not to be the believer’s case. God found us at midday – so to speak - drawing water alone from the well. Caught up in all our silliness, there, He told us of our sin and situation. But there too, he offered himself to us as living water. In the quiet moment, a bush burned before our souls; we removed our sandals as we are on holy ground to be broken and healed by his voice. And this begins a pattern: Daily quiet times become opportunities to meet with sweet Jesus. Journals are filled. Words underlined. Prayers spoken. Tears shed. Songs sung. Jesus our sufficiency and strength. Our prayer becomes as the Psalmist states in Psalms 90:14:
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalms 90:14 (NIV)

And in Psalms 119:18:
18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Psalms 119:18 (NIV)

And in Psalms 51:10:
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalms 51:10 (NIV)

These prayers, my sweet friends, our Lord loves to answer. Remember, too, He tells us He came to give us life in abundance. John 10:10 states:
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)

When I desire the world, when I grow too busy to be alone with God, when the world in my pocket (phone) entices me more than the world of the Scriptures, my soul stretches and thins, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”

You can eat all the kale, you can buy all the things, you can lift all the weights, you can take all the trips, you can trash all that doesn’t spark joy, you can wash your face and hustle like mad, but if you don’t rest your soul in Jesus, you’ll never find your peace and purpose.  Major W. Ian Thomas writes:
“We will never, ever learn to ‘inspire’ until first we have learned to ‘expire’; otherwise we will only ‘perspire’! To be crucified with Christ is to be executed judicially with Him, to ‘expire’. To those who ‘expire’ in this way, God has given the very Life that He restored to the Lord Jesus when He raised Him from the dead, so that we can say not only, ‘I have been crucified with Christ’, but also, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah – Wisdom Personified) lives in me’(Galatians 2:20). That is to ‘inspire’. With every step we take into the future, we can say, ‘With Christ I died, and now through Him I live, as He shares His Life with me on earth on my way to heaven, and then forever.’ That is what it means to be a Christian.  With every step you take, you first expire:  ‘Lord Jesus, I can’t; you never said I could.’ Then you inspire: ‘Lord Jesus, You can, and always said You would!’ This is what keeps you from the futility of doing nothing more than perspire.” Major W. Ian Thomas
Solomon experimented with life and discovered that there was no lasting satisfaction in possessions, pleasures, power, or prestige. He had everything, yet his life was empty. There is no need for you and me to repeat these experiments. We would do well to accept Solomon’s conclusions and avoid all the heart ache and pain that must be endured when we experiment in the laboratory of life. These experiments are always costly. There is always death to something when we delve into sin.

When we belong to the family of God through faith in the Son of God, life is anything but monotonous. It is a wild and daily adventure that not only builds character but enables us to serve others to the glory of God.  Instead of making decisions on the basis of the vain wisdom of this world, we will have God’s wisdom available to us. And He provides for us all that we need. In Jesus Christ we have all that we need for life and death, time and eternity.  

When we start living for the world instead of for the will of God, we begin to look at life from the wrong perspective: “under the sun” and not “above the sun.” Instead of seeking “those things which are above”, we start majoring on the things that are below. This wrong vision soon causes us to adopt wrong values, and we stop living for the eternal. The result is disappointment and disillusionment and defeat. The remedy is repentance and confession of sin. Moses’ prayer recorded in Psalms 90:12 is an appropriate response from us:
12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12 (NIV)       

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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