Day 158 (June 7): Solomon on: wisdom for life, few choose God’s wisdom, wicked vs. righteous, both face death, wisdom and folly, Murphy’s law, undercertainties of God and his actions

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ecclesiastes 7-11:6

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 7:4): Does this mean that wise people think about where they go after death?  And, a fool doesn’t, thus he/she lives the life of folly and will be judged harshly?

A. Not necessarily.  It may just mean that the wise man/woman thinks of the long term (including death) while the fool is only thinking about the here and now.

O. (7:10): I often think of how much “me” time I had before I had children.  Sometimes, I dream of it, but only briefly.  But, I remember being lonely.  And that, I am definitely not anymore!  I’m not sure what Solomon is talking about here in “the good old days,” but I agree.  I wouldn’t tinker with that.  It does seem like that as much as you may want to return to a previous time period, it’s not possible.  My husband was in the Navy and we were stationed on Guam for a couple years.  There were several families we knew who absolutely loved it there and had requested to stay or return.  But, most of them say that it’s never the same the second time around.

Q. (7:13): This does seem true.  No matter how much something hurts, you can’t change it, so you may as well accept it and look forward to where it’s taking you and what lesson you learned.

A. I would say there’s some good wisdom there.

O. (7:14): If no one ever prospered, we would never see or desire any goal to work toward.

Q. (7:15): We discussed earlier that this kind of talk, like Solomon saying life is “meaningless,” is probably not offending God.  Why did Solomon get so depressed in his last years?  I can’t tell if he truly acknowledges that his actions caused his downfall or if he is down on God.  Or, both?

A. We don’t have any information on when this was written within Solomon’s life, so we can only speculate.  Don’t forget, this is a contemplation about finding meaning in life outside of God, so I would say God is pretty “safe” from being offended.

Q. (7:27-29): I believe we have talked about why man falls short of following God’s laws, but it’s been a ways back and now would be a good time to bring it up again.  Did we say that human’s downfall has to do with free will?  It gives God more glory if people choose him willingly not under force?

A. Yes and yes, at least in the Armenian tradition.  Since true love (our genuine choice to follow and love God) involves a choice, the possibility must be open for people to say “no” to God (and each other).  This “no” to God is one of the ways that the Bible defines sin: it is to go our own way, without consideration of God.  God appears to want genuine followers, not puppets, and the only way that can happen is to allow some degree of free choice in life.

O. (7:14): I don’t think we do this today where the wicked are considered good in society and conversely, that the good are made out to be victims.  That does happen occasionally. On a similar note, I would say that, the media gives way too much attention to bad guys.  With bad guys getting so much press, one would think that they are celebrities, which may attract others who want attention.  Also, the media plays up Hollywood too much.  I have never understood why actors are put on a pedestal in our country.  If they spread more news and made more movies about positive stories and people who help others, this world would likely be a more moral place!

Q. (7:17): Solomon certainly seemed like he was trying to learn everything under the sun.  This was part of his downfall?

A. If doing so took away his focus on God (and it appears that it did), then yes.

Q. (9:1): We have to consider the source here.  Solomon is down on God.  Solomon acts like he has no idea who God is.  He is pouting from his punishment?

A. We don’t know.  It is certainly cynical thinking, but as verse 2 of this chapter points out (again), the fate of the faithful and the blasphemous is the same: death.  If we carry that argument out a little farther, we can see something interesting.  If Solomon is convinced that there is no life after death, or perhaps he is making the argument, then there is no benefit to being righteous.  We see this quite often to this day: the evil often get away with it, and justice is not done.  But belief in an afterlife allows for a much more acceptable notion of justice: that there are eternal — not just temporal — consequences to the decisions that we make.  It becomes easy to see how the atheist slips into moral uncertainty: without God and His eternal justice, everything is permissible.

Q. (9:12): Maybe so, but God has told us that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle — though it may seem like doom is near — and it can be part of the plan.  Just look at Job.  He was stripped of everything, but he kept his faith and God restored him.

A. What you are beginning to touch on here is the examination of certain passages of the OT in light of others: that was a big part of developing a theology (beliefs about God and His relationship with humanity in general and Israel specifically).  This theology is always in flux (at least the details are), and new generations come to see God in different ways.  I think that such discussions honor God, because we use the very intellect He blessed us with to make up our own minds about how we will react to hard times: will we be cynical and give up on God, or will we be faithful like Job?

O. (9:16): This reminds me of elections.  If you have money, then the people will hear you (because you can afford advertising) you will be listened to.  If you are poor, you can’t afford to spread your word, so you are snuffed out.

O. (10:4): So, if you made a mistake, you work harder so you can gain back respect.  I think this is true in every relationship.  I think it needs to also come with an apology.  And, I believe, that everyone has messed up at work, especially when they are young.  I used to work at a newspaper.  My first mistake, probably my first or second week of work, was that I input the wrong weather page.  Yes, someone else is there to catch mistakes like that, but it was ultimately my responsibility.  I also put on the wrong answers to crosswords and other stuff like that.  But, I worked hard and was designing front pages in no time.  I have messed up with this blog several times — I know it’s not perfect, but it’s getting God’s Word out and it will be made into even more great things — but no one reamed me about it.  Don’t think that anyone has not made some major mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes at a very young age.  Mistakes breed success.

Q. (10:10): I love this saying, but coming from Solomon at this point, who would take his advice?  He is so contradicting.  Here he is saying gather more wisdom, other places he says wisdom is meaningless.  What are we supposed to take from Ecclesiastes?

A. That everything is meaningless without God.  Hang on until the next chapter, and see who gets the “final word”.

O. (11:2): Here is some sound advice from Solomon that holds true to today.

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