Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"I Think I Finally Get It!"

In my last blog post I was thinking out loud about why Solomon seems to write much of his Ecclesiastes with a sort of resentment towards God. He may have written the entire book over a long period of time because his words seem to echo the sentiments we all experience as we journey from young to middle to mature adulthood. Once we get to the point of actually being cognizant of the end of life, that stark prospect breeds a whole new perspective.

Much of Ecclesiastes is repetitive of the "meaningless" way life can seem when viewed through the lens of its end. So, I have wondered why the one we call the wise man was so morbid, even angry, that his life was ending and he could do nothing except lament the reality.

Yesterday, it dawned on me - Solomon was a romantic at heart, very obviously a ladies man, and his life had been devoted to seeking meaning in pleasure, among other things. He even says quite boldly in the book that he tried it all without restraint. But, as he saw his life coming to an end, his seeming resentment of death may have been, at least partly, because he could also now see the end of that life of pleasure and power. So, what's to look forward to?

Long after Solomon had written Ecclesiastes, the prophet Isaiah made a more profound statement at Isaiah 64:4 - "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways."

Many more centuries passed and the Apostle Paul put an eternal spin on Isaiah's words at I Corinthians 2:9 - "As it is written, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit." Paul refers to it as God's "secret wisdom" that he kept hidden from the ancients but it is now revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Now, I confess that I certainly can't know for sure why Solomon wrote all those depressing words about life and death. But being one given to speculation in the face of a dilemma, and imagining myself in Solomon's robes, leaving behind all those beautiful women and the exotic pleasures they undoubtedly showered upon him would tend to make an old man somewhat bitter. At a deeper level however, maybe Solomon finally saw that in the FINAL analysis, all that pleasure was truly "meaningless".

For me, I am thankful to my Father and his Holy Spirit that although I have enjoyed my share of pleasure in this world, none it can even begin to compare with what is just ahead. I am grateful to be able to sense it, feel it in my spirit, and finally know that nothing I have EVER experienced in this life will stack up beside what my Father has in store for me. I wish Solomon had known that too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Life Leads To Death. That's It!"

Slowly, over the last few years, I have begun to actually see the end of my life. And although I really don't spend much time thinking about it or sinking into some dark depression because of it, I think its a spiritually and emotionally healthy process to give it some serious room to exist in my life. As a person of genuine faith, death to me isn't a morbid prospect that breeds a mix of anxiety and resentment.

Not so with Solomon. He seems to have spent so much of his waking hours during his final years trying to view death through his "meaningless" life, that it made him somewhat resentful toward God. At least, that's how I interpret much of what he said.

"Well, I took all this in and thought it through inside and out. Here's what I understand; the good, the wise and all they do are in God's hands - but day by day, whether its love or hate they're dealing with, they don't know. Anything's possible...is it any wonder that people go crazy right and left. Life leads to death. That's it." Eccl 9:1-3 MSG

I think Solomon could see and feel the end of his life and it all left him severely depressed. He seems to write with a sort of resentment towards God that his life is ending. Quite honestly, all of this really puzzles me. Maybe he thought, like many of us, that his deepest inner thoughts would never see the light of day and come under such critical scrutiny by someone like me. Maybe Ecclesiastes is his sort of personal diary where he felt comfortable speaking all that was in his heart. I still tend to think he was essentially writing to teach unbelievers, both Jew and Gentile, about his God. But, I may only be giving him the benefit of the doubt. At any rate, his words do make me sad for him in his old age.

I'm sure none of us really wants to die - because we can't see the beyond. UNLESS, we are people of true faith, trusting in the love and promise of God our Father, who has forever given us all that we need to know through His Son. I think Peter said something like that at 2 Peter 1.

Here is something else I take great comfort in - in my near 70 years I have been at the bedside of several people who breathed their last and never, I said never, have I seen a person of true faith die in fear or anger. Solomon believed "Life leads to death. That's it". Well, I don't believe "That's it"! I'll take the words of Paul at 1 Corinthians 15 over those of Solomon - EVERY DAY! Jesus makes it ALL happen and that's a really big HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Wisdom Is Much More Than Experience"

As I have slowly been working my way through Solomon's Ecclesiastes these last few months, I haven't yet figured out exactly what he spent so much time trying to understand. Case in point:

"When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth - then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it." Eccl 8:16-17 NIV

Throughout this enigmatic book, Solomon writes a lot about death being the common fate shared by all men and animals and concludes that life is essentially meaningless. I have to absolutely reject that!

His assumption that he has seen "all that God has done" seems a bit shortsighted. I'm sure NO ONE has ever seen "all that God has done" or is doing. The realization that I have NO idea what God is doing in someone else's life was like a hurricane had blown through my spirit. In a very short time that knowledge had "blown" away many of the same kind of shortsighted assumptions that I had held for a long time.

Solomon is right that we humans can never discover the meaning or purpose or even properly contemplate the result of much that goes on around us, but that doesn't make all of life a meaningless pursuit of nothing. And, just because death and the grave are the common experience of all of us, there is much more going on that we cannot discern in an empirical sense. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all people of true faith.

Some may disagree and that's okay, but my life has had and continues to have very deep and broad meaning for me, my family and many others in my life. And, I'm not alone. I personally know lots of good people whose lives have great meaning in their families, their communities and in the kingdom of God. So, I'm kinda' sad for Solomon that his "golden years" failed to give him a sense of joy and meaning. He just never knew what I and others of faith have come to know, like Paul -

"If we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord, so whether we live or die we belong to the Lord." Romans 14:8 HALLELUJAH!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"A Sad, Meaningless Life"

Seems to me Solomon may have written these words as an old guy contemplating a long life of challenges and bad choices but seeing his end as a victory. Younger people are not there yet because they still have plenty of time to really get serious about seeing the end of life. So, they "entertain" themselves with empty pursuits that mask the reality that life is fragile and fleeting. Like Solomon, I know because I've been there too.

"Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. So, wickedness will not release those who practice it." Eccl 8:7-8 NIV

To me, this is a statement about the end of a meaningless life that has refused to really hear God, the true King. Death is inevitable for all and we all know it but we will die as we have lived. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, THERE will your heart be also." An ungodly lifestyle can only end one way.

Wealth, power, fame, position are all finally meaningless if they have been wasted on purely self serving motives that fail to recognize and honor the true source of life itself. Every life that has turned a deaf ear to God the only King, regardless of the honors received from men, will finally be judged as pointless.

This, to me, is Solomon's personal testimony and observation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Light In The Eyes"

"There's nothing better than being wise, knowing how to interpret the meaning of life. Wisdom puts light in the eyes and gives gentleness to words and manners." Eccl 8:1 MSG

I think wisdom combines knowledge with intelligence that produces integrity. But, its also a journey to get there. The wisest people I have known exhibit that "light in the eyes", the courage and confidence to move forward no matter what. Some people get stuck in the past and live with an overpowering resentment that ignores wisdom and tends to wallow in anger and self pity. That lifestyle is destined to self destruct.

Wisdom refuses to be a captive of the past because its founded on faith in God and faith ALWAYS looks forward. There may be times when I have more questions than answers to some of my questions about "life", but with faith I can take a step at a time to walk out of anger and self pity.

Wisdom is the gift of God (James 1:5) that trains the tongue (heart) to cultivate congenial rather than adversarial relationships. There are no winners in a war, even the victors pay a very high price so regardless of the short term outcome, the long term result can and often is devastating. That doesn't mean all conflict is a bad thing, it can be a turning point toward a brighter day. Nearly all change is the result of some form of conflict, but wisdom always allows God to lead rather than self serving motives.

Wisdom learns to ask more and better questions then listen before resorting to conflict, BUT gentleness is never weakness. Jesus said, "Wisdom is proven by her actions", so allowing wisdom to train my tongue to be more gentle and mannerly isn't a bad thing. I sure wish I had understood that when I was a young father and husband.