Solomon

Looking for Answers

What do you think? Are people by nature good or bad? Wait! Before you answer, consider that this is a centuries-old debate.

People with credentials may speak with authority when they give their opinion, but it's still just their opinion. Opinions don't resolve debates, they tend to polarize the debate.

An important part of the discussion, if you want to move beyond mere debate, is to define terms. What's the basis for goodness? How do you define human nature?

Scripture

Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. But wisdom can make one person stronger than ten leaders in a city. Don’t listen to everything people say. You might hear your own servant saying bad things about you. And you know that many times you too have said bad things about other people. [vss 19-22]

I used my wisdom and thought about all these things. I wanted to be wise, but I couldn’t do it. I cannot understand why things are as they are. It is too hard for anyone to understand. I studied and I tried very hard to find true wisdom. I tried to find a reason for everything. I did learn that it is foolish to be evil, and it is crazy to act like a fool. [vss 23-25]

I also found that some women are dangerous like traps. Their hearts are like nets, and their arms are like chains. It is worse than death to be caught by these women. God’s followers should run away from them. Let the sinners be caught by them. The Teacher says, “I added all this together to see what answer I could find. I am still looking for answers, but I did find this: I found one good man in a thousand. But I did not find even one good woman. “There is one other thing I have learned. God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad.” [vss 26-29]

(Ecclesiastes 7:19-29 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness

[bctt tweet="I learned that wickedness is stupid and foolishness is madness"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about people in general and the value of wisdom?

What advice is given about what people say, and what is the basis for this advice?

What did King Solomon find out in his search for wisdom and reason for life?

What was Solomon still looking for, and what did he learn about God and people?

Reflection...

An opinion is a belief based on a subjective point of view. Why is it subjective? Because it's a personal point of view.

In the very beginning of humanity, when God created the universe, it was all good. Not good in the way that expression is used today. Everything created was genuinely good, pristine, and in right order.

God is the only true standard of goodness. However, the world around us is no longer in pristine condition, regardless of your opinion on climate change. And, the population of the world does not live in harmony with one another or their environment.

Our view of people and life in general is jaded. It's jaded because we have a hard time seeing beyond ourselves and our own point of view. Solomon was onto something when he said— God made people good, but they have found many ways to be bad (verse 29).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

What is your view of human nature, God, and goodness? What do you base this on?

If you've been living for a while, how has your view of life and human nature changed?

What areas in life are you still seeking answers? What are you sure about? Why?

Where do you seek wisdom? How has the wisdom you've gained in life helped you?

A Right Time for Everything

In ancient days, people thought the world was flat. It was imagined that ships on the ocean would fall off the edge of the world, if they went too far from land. Many explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries proved this wrong.

But now, once again, we say the world is flat because of technology. Now we have a global outlook that impacts world markets and culture. We live in 24/7 real-time and expect things to be instant—the internet, communication, even food.

But the world isn't flat. The four seasons and twenty-four time zones remind us the earth continues to rotate on its axis, as it revolves around the sun. The earth has definition and variety—mountains, deserts, plains, and valleys. Vast stretches of land are separated by rivers and oceans.

Life is full of variety and continuing cycles and seasons.

Scripture

There is a right time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time.There is a time to be born and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up plants. [vss 1-2]

There is a time to kill and a time to heal. There is a time to destroy and a time to build. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to throw weapons down and a time to pick them up. There is a time to hug someone and a time to stop holding so tightly. [vss 3-5]

There is a time to look for something and a time to consider it lost. There is a time to keep things and a time to throw things away. There is a time to tear cloth and a time to sew it. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace. [vss 6-8]

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 3]

Key phrase— There is a right time for everything

[bctt tweet="There is a right time for everything"]

Digging Deeper...

What are the first and obvious reminders of the cycles of life on earth?

What are the seasons of life that have a more emotional impact on our lives?

How are strife and resolve seen as seasons within life?

How do each of these seasons and cycles help us to have a better perspective on life?

Reflection...

The folk-rock band, the Byrds, made these verses in Ecclesiastes popular in 1965 with a song written by Pete Seeger. It was written as a protest song against the war in Vietnam. Sadly, this misses the point of these wise words.

King Solomon observed the ongoing rhythms of life on earth. Life is not random. It has a cyclical order. We may struggle to see the purpose of these seasons of life, because we're in the midst of them. Even over the course of a lifetime, we can find it difficult to understand why some things take place, or if they have any value or purpose.

When we look at things from God's perspective—an eternal view of things—we begin to understand. How can we do this? This is why the written Scriptures are valuable, as are godly and wise relationships.

A child has no concept of history or the future, but both of these should come into better focus as we grow older. There is a purpose, a reason, for every season and cycle in life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are there seasons in your life that are hard to accept or understand?

What is the season of your life right now? Do you see its value and purpose?

Are there situations in your life that need resolving? How will you pursue this?

Are you willing to trust God with what you don't understand, and seek godly wisdom?

Is There Anything New Under the Sun?

As a nation, we Americans (USA) thrive on what's new. It seems to be the engine of our economy, and the goal of our pursuit of happiness. Businesses and social networks are dedicated to our pursuing this elusive pursuit of happiness.

The news media wait like vultures for the latest tragedy, disaster, or terrorist attack, then flood us with repeated images and sound bytes. Commercials tout the latest and greatest clothing style, car, or big-meal-deal that we must go out and buy. I mean, how can we live without such things?

And yet, more people than ever are medicated for depression and anxiety, while suicide rates soar. Our collective pursuit of happiness is an elusive, never-ending effort, which leaves most people empty-handed. And yet, it's nothing new. Ancient wisdom tells us this.

Scripture

The words of the spokesman, the son of David and the king in Jerusalem. “Absolutely pointless!” says the spokesman. “Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless.” What do people gain from all their hard work under the sun? Generations come, and generations go, but the earth lasts forever. [vss 1-3]

The sun rises, and the sun sets, and then it rushes back to the place where it will rise [again]. The wind blows toward the south and shifts toward the north. Round and round it blows. It blows in a full circle. All streams flow into the sea, but the sea is never full. The water goes back to the place where the streams began in order to [start] flowing again. [vss 4-7]

All of these sayings are worn-out phrases. They are more than anyone can express, comprehend, or understand. Whatever has happened before will happen [again]. Whatever has been done before will be done [again]. There is nothing new under the sun. 10 Can you say that anything is new? It has already been here long before us. [vss 8-10]

I thought to myself, “I have grown wiser than anyone who [has ruled] Jerusalem before me. I’ve had a lot of experience with wisdom and knowledge.” I’ve used my mind to understand wisdom and knowledge as well as madness and stupidity. [Now] I know that this is [like] trying to catch the wind. With a lot of wisdom [comes] a lot of heartache. The greater [your] knowledge, the greater [your] pain. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 1:1-10; 16-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 1]

Key phrase— There is nothing new under the sun

[bctt tweet="There is nothing new under the sun"]

Digging Deeper...

What do you see as the main thought of all these verses?

What is the main reason for "the spokesman" saying these things?

Have you had similar thoughts as these? If so, why?

What does this spokesman (King Solomon) say about gaining all of his wisdom?

Reflection...

Could it be we are looking for the wrong kind of happiness, in the wrong places, and in the wrong way? This is the point, more or less, of the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was considered the wisest man on earth (1 Kings 4:29-34). Important people from around the world came to hear his wisdom, such as the Queen of Sheba who tested his wisdom (2 Chronicles 9:1-8).

He amassed great wealth, hundreds of wives and concubines, was well-learned, and yet he viewed all of it as pointless. What would bring him to that view of life? Well, there's more to the story than that, and more to the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes.

This book is written in an ancient philosophical form called speculative wisdom. It can also be seen as a foil—a contrast—between worldly and godly wisdom. In coming studies, we'll revisit these thoughts, so keep updated on these studies posted on Fridays.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you ever feel life is pointless? If so, what brings you to that place?

What makes you happy? What is most important in your life?

What are ways you find to break the routine of life?

How do you keep a positive view of life, when it seem monotonous and pointless?