Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nothing New Under the Sun

Solomon, the presumed writer of Ecclesiastes, coined the phrase "nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and indeed, he is right.  Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man has tried everything under the sun to do things HIS way and found as Solomon did that "all is vanity and a striving after the wind" (Eccles. 2:17).  Whenever we leave God out of the equation, we come to the same conclusion.  However, it was not always that way.
A crown at "The Residence" in Munich, Germany
     King Solomon was David's son with Bathsheba.  When he came to the throne, the kingdom had been well established by his warrior king father David.  Solomon began well as we read in I Kings 3:4:  "Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places."  His love for God was right, however, Solomon offered sacrifices on pagan altars and continued to do this even after he had built the Temple.  This was a sign of problems ahead as using pagan altars was forbidden in Israel.  Nevertheless, at the beginning of his reign, after offering many sacrifices to the Lord, God appeared to him in a dream by night and asked what He should give to the king.  Solomon asked only for wisdom by which to guide the people: "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? " (I Kings 3:9).
     God was pleased with Solomon's request and not only gave him great wisdom but also riches and honor even though he had not asked for that.  Yet, the Lord did make one prerequisite:  "And if you will walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days" (I Kings 3:14).  It was a wonderful beginning, but Solomon squandered the grace and mercy of the Lord.
     Over his life, Solomon, indeed showed much wisdom in his judgments which became famous throughout the known world of his day.  He gained tremendous wealth, and took for himself seven hundred wives and 300 concubines.  Unfortunately, like many of us, he lost his way to the world.  His wives and concubines brought in foreign gods and worship, and Solomon participated with them even after he built a great temple to the one true God.  Because of his unfaithfulness, the kingdom which the Lord helped him build was to be torn from his descendants.  Only one tribe would remain under his descendants rulership.
     Thus, we come to Ecclesiastes a message written from an older king who is now reflecting on his life and sharing with us the message that life is all vanity without the revealed wisdom of God guiding us daily.  Solomon asked for wisdom and God anointed him with great wisdom.  However, when Solomon struck out on his own and used only empirical evidence around him instead of God's wisdom, he found emptiness and vanity.  Ecclesiastes 1:17 reads:  "And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is but a striving after the wind."  The footnote to this verse in The MacArthur Study Bible says this:  "When Solomon depended on empirical research rather than divine revelation to understand life, he found it to be an empty experience."  Isn't this what we see today?  So many scientists try hard to explain the universe and its creation without a Creator.  They base their findings on empirical data without considering divine revelation.  "We cannot have God in the mix", they would claim.  As Solomon wisely noted, it is "a striving after the wind."
     Then, Solomon tried all the pleasures he could possibly enjoy as a result of his wealth and many women.  He never denied himself anything.  Again, in all of this exercise of lust for the things of this world, the king did not find the satisfaction he sought.  Apart from God, life is indeed vanity of vanities.  It is meaningless without the truth of God and His Word to us.
His Word is Truth!
     When we know the Lord, as Solomon did, and decide to walk away for our own pleasures, we will find nothing but emptiness in life.  Because Solomon did look back on the wreckage of his own life and repent, he was able to write under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit this book of the Bible for our benefit and instruction.  Here was a man who had it all:  wealth, women, fancy chariots, a palace, lots of servants, and great wisdom.  Was he happy?  No, not without God in his life.  That is why he could say there is "nothing new under the sun."
     Life without Jesus Christ as our confessed Savior and Lord is every bit as empty as Solomon's  while he was engaged in sin.  There is nothing new about this.  It started in the Garden.  As Romans 3:23 tells us:  "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."  We inherited the sin nature of Adam and are dead in our trespasses.  However, by God's regenerating power, we are awakened from this death and have the privilege of repenting and coming to Jesus Christ.   I will wager that a poor man who gives his life to Christ is far richer and wiser than Solomon when he strayed from the Lord.
     All the knowledge in this world, all the riches there are to offer cannot make us whole, secure or happy.  Joy comes from knowing, serving and living for Christ.  Even Solomon concludes his book of Ecclesiastes with these wise words:  "The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."   Life has meaning when it is lived for God.  Selah!

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