Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Solomon, In All His Splendor . . .

Ecclesiastes sticks out as a rather obscure book of the Bible. It holds much wisdom, but it is also a dangerous book. It can damage a person's outlook, leaving them with a measure of depression--or feeling of meaninglessness ("all is vanity!")
Take this for instance, chapter 4 verse 1; "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun."
Yes, there's a portion of the Bible where Solomon, the wisest man aside from the wisdom of God Himself (Christ), says it's better to be dead than living, and even better still to have never been born. In fact, there are five times in that chapter alone where things are "meaningless," a "chasing after wind," or both.
The prior chapter, he says all is wickedness; every facet of society has been infiltrated by wickedness, even our sense of "justice." I can't deny that. But having the Bible tell me this can be disheartening.
Even pleasure and laughter, joy; these things are, in this wise man's words, meaningless. Vanity.
He sees his own wisdom as being better than foolishness just as light is better than darkness, yet concedes that the same fate overtakes the foolish and the wise.

"For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief."
The wisest man saying the more wisdom, the more sorrow, more knowledge more grief. This is true. I'm not wise, yet i know that the more i can understand, the more i cannot do. The greater that i can perceive and know, the more i know i can't change. Ignorance is bliss is basically the essence of that.

If we consult the book of Matthew, Jesus references Solomon in chapter 6; "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?"
Jesus is acknowledging Solomon's depression and futility. All these things, the plants and animals, are cared for by God, so much more must His children be! Yes, we have the same fate as the grass and the animals, but God cares even for the grass, therefore all is not vanity because God favors us over the grass of the field.

Continuing on to 1 Corinthians 12, we read about gifts of the Spirit. In verse 8, we get this: "To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit."
The gifts of wisdom, and of knowledge. Solomon had these things, as Ecclesiastes 1 closes with pointing out. And he said it was only upsetting.
In the following chapter (of Corinthians, not Ecclesiastes), Paul says "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
Paul perceives wisdom and knowledge to be great, but he also notices that without love, they do nothing for a person. A person who is wise but has no love is nothing.

Solomon had 300 concubines, and 700 wives. The man was chasing after wind, so to speak.
But many of them were of different faiths, and are attributed to a fall from grace (or God) and Judaism, and "turned his heart after other gods."
Now, the Bible says more than once that God, Adonai, Yahweh, is Love. As in a manifestation of love. This very same God is the one Solomon had turned away from and followed other gods. The man lost love. Without love, he became nothing. His depression overtook him because he had wisdom and knowledge, but was still just a resounding gong.
I don't know about you, but if you had great knowledge and wisdom, yet you felt empty, you'd probably set out your life (worrying, as said in Matthew 6) in some vain attempt to understand it. And you would end up just where Solomon did.
Love is everything. Without it, we are nothing.

Solomon, the poor fellow, lacked the true God, the God of love, and so became meaningless through the very gifts God had given him, because he didn't use them out of love.
Ecclesiastes is a warning, i think. If God grants you something -anything- you better use it out of love, and for love. Life can be really vain if you don't.

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