Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ecclesiastes 8:1-5 comments: Solomon's counsel on obedience

1 ¶  Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. 2  I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. 3  Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. 4  Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou? 5  Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.

Solomon speaks here of how God can bless the wise man. Remember his father, David’s, psalms.

Psalm 1:1 ¶  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

It is important to understand that Solomon is the king in a kingdom that was founded by God, from a people he separated from the Gentile nations around them. There is no comparison between ancient Israel and 19th century Great Britain, or, 20th and 21st century America. The Hebrews lived under God’s authority with the Law given by Moses as their civil and religious duty.

Christians live in secular countries or countries devoted to other religions but our relationship with our chief executive is different. First, remember that the Hebrews, the people of Israel, having a king was not in God’s desire in the first place.

1Samuel 8:6  But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7  And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

But, God knew they would do this long before they did, so He set certain rules down for their chief executive.

Deuteronomy 17:14 ¶  When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; 15  Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

This is an important point to understand. God does not create cultures or civilizations. He modifies them as man moves them into being. God’s modification of a culture does not mean it has His approval. It means He is drawing that culture a little closer in line with what He wills.

The Hebrews were to follow their king as the anointed of God. Here, Solomon warns that a wise man will live in obedience to the king and follow his commandments. The person, in this case a wise Israelite, will do well to obey the authority of the king, someone he cannot oppose.

America is not ancient Israel. We live in a secular, pluralistic country founded in some part on Christian principles but our Federal Government was founded as much on the political theories of ancient Greece and Rome and the French philosopher, Montesquieu, and the English philosopher, Locke, as it was on any idea from the Bible. What was stated was that the secular freedom given to us could not be held by anything but a religious people. A people who do not have the inner restraints of religious belief in an authority higher than themselves and their government will be reduced to a choice, as one person said in the early days of this country, between the Bible and the bayonet.

While God may have anointed a king of Israel His attitude toward the rest of the nations of the world, including ours, is and has always been;

Daniel 4:17  This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

Luke 4:5  And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6  And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7  If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

The kingdoms of the world, including your own, are typically ruled by base men and women under the devil’s control. Satan, under God’s permissive will, who tries desperately to prevent the gospel of Christ from even being heard, is the god of this world.*

2Corinthians 4:4  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

We are to obey our earthly authority in that they do the job that God has authorized them to do as in punishing evildoers (Romans 13:4). We are to pay our lawful taxes (Matthew 17:27) and understand what belongs to government and what belongs to God (Luke 20:20-25). We are not to obey the government if its laws and demands go against the clear commands of God for Christians (Acts 5:29), particularly where the gospel of Christ and the salvation of men and women are concerned.

In America we live in a nation that has a show of Christianity, at least in name. But, Rome of Paul’s time had a philosophy that looked a lot like Christianity, called Stoicism. Seneca, the great Roman Stoic philosopher, is often confused with being a Christian because of things he said. But, he was no worshipper of Christ. Things look similar but are not the same. We live in a nation where church organizations believe that they can “progress” and change the commands of God to suit the times, whether it be whatever moral degradation is commonly accepted, or whatever so-called scientific postulate is put out by “experts.” We also live in a nation where conservative Christians have reduced God’s inspiration of the Bible to an event in space-time, the penning of the original autographs. The God they worship, who they insist answers their prayers, and turns human events upon his every whim, is incapable of preserving his words through copyists and translators. We even have Christians who believe that human government is God’s agent on earth and the power it wields in killing, imprisonment, and confiscation of property is always just and correct and God’s will unless it is performed by politicians of the political party they don’t like. We have war-loving Christians and government-theft loving Christians and most of them care little for God’s words other than as an excuse or a prop to justify their own bigotry or paranoia or lust for power. And why is that? It is a function of our democratic principles.

Judges 17:6  In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

American Christians have chosen the bayonet, rather than the Bible, and that is what we shall have. God is very accommodating.

What is wrong with this nation? Why is God’s hand of judgment allowing our economy to be destroyed, our moral virtue (such as it was) reduced to the lowest level, and the future of our children a dismal prophecy? The problem with America is not the atheists, the homosexuals, the Muslims, the agnostics, and whatever else other you wish to name. The problem with America is Christians. America is, as one evangelist put it, a casualty of Christianity.

A wise American Christian would do well to listen to the God of the universe, the One who created him, speak to his heart through that God’s Bible. If that is his authority, his final authority in all matters of faith, practice, and doctrine then his or her going will be much more in line with God’s will and spiritual blessings.

*See the Book of Job as God’s Sovereignty and Permissive and Directive Will 101.

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