Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 comments: Nothing filled the void for Solomon

1 ¶  I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. 2  I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? 3  I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. 4  I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5  I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: 6  I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: 7  I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: 8  I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. 9  So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. 10  And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. 11  Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

It is a common sentiment to describe things “from the heart” and does not take any real struggle to understand when someone tells you that their heart told them to make a certain choice or take a certain action. It is personal and central to our being, our most private thoughts. In no way should this be used by some skeptic to say, “aha, we know we think with our brain and not our hearts!”

“Go to,” or, “go to now,” might come to our minds in this century in common everyday speech as, “Listen up,” or, “Now, get this,” among other possibilities, which I am sure you can imagine if you try. Those phrases are used often in the Bible.

Solomon tried to satisfy himself with laughter and pleasure, hedonism before the Greeks ever even thought of that philosophy. Maybe he was like the person who sits on the internet going from one funny video or comedian to another just looking for laughs to fill the void. It didn’t satisfy him either and didn’t solve any of his questions. He tried alcohol as a way of cheering himself up and we can imagine he drank a lot. It didn’t help. He wasn’t a worthless drunk as he tried to keep that keen edge of understanding, he says, as he dove headfirst into foolishness. He wasn’t trying to anesthetize himself like so many of us were doing but he was trying to expand his wisdom and looking at it from all angles. Is just having a good time my purpose in life, he asks?  But, no, his answer wasn’t in wine. I imagine Solomon was a pretty sad drunk.

So, as king, he went on a spending and building spree. Some of you try to occupy your time with beautiful landscaping and making your home as much a showpiece as possible. You spend great gobs of money from home equity loans and credit cards to make your home look special as you try to satisfy an emptiness in your heart. Solomon did so as well. Gardens, fruit orchards, ponds, and the like made his palaces remarkable to look at, I am sure, but it didn’t answer his questions about the purposefulness of life.

Being busy can be a way of trying to cope with that hole in your spiritual heart. I have even talked to fundamentalists who never miss a beat; attend every church service, pray at every meal and before bed, knock on the doors of unwilling homeowners, and will break every promise they’ve made to employers, friends, and family to attend a revival meeting, and even go to church services when they go on vacation, but ask themselves painful questions in the early morning as they lay on their beds. Many have no real compassion for the lost, nor love for their brothers and sisters in Christ, and no love for God, but are just going through the motions and doing what they have been told is their duty, their service to Christ.  As these Super-Bowl Christians go from one emotional high to another with emptiness and questioning in between they ask, “Is this it? Is this all there is to it?”

Solomon, being wealthy, had male and female servants in abundance with generations born in his house. Remember, he ruled for 40 years and was a wealthy heir to the throne before that.

1Kings 11:42  And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years.

He had immense herds and flocks and tremendous wealth, reminding us of Job.

1Kings 10:23  So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.

He had choirs of singers and perhaps orchestras of musicians to occupy his time and to entertain him. Imagine the person who watches incessant television; sit-coms and sporting events, or one movie after another to try to fill the void in their heart of hearts or even the constant din of popular music, top-40, jazz, hard rock, whatever, playing in their ears all of the time. I was like that, raised with the television on as my most faithful babysitter, addicted to incessant rocknroll as a teen, and, as an adult, renting as many as five movies at a time for a weekend’s viewing as I struggled to find meaning and purpose even as a Southern Baptist Christian fundamentalist.

Even with all of that he was still able to focus his wisdom and understanding in asking the big question, “what’s it all about?” But he denied himself nothing. Whatever his eye desired he took pleasure in.

1Kings 11:1 ¶  But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 2  Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 3  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.

But, he looked around himself at what he had and what he had done and was still unsatisfied like the American homeowner who surrounds himself or herself with a beautiful home and yard, the smoothest ride, the newest gadgets with the most bells and whistles, fascinating TV shows, movies, and music, politics, religion, philosophy, family, and even pornography and yet says in his heart, “is this it? Is this all there is?”

All is vanity and vexation of spirit, isn’t it?

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