|Volume 22 Number 5 May 2020||
In view of Solomon’s warning in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 to “fear God and keep His commandments,” it seems prudent for us to consider what responsibilities he has given man throughout the book. First, Solomon instructed man to enjoy life. While many today have an “it’s all about me” and a “go for the gusto” philosophy, Solomon offered a legitimate reason to find joy in one’s life. There is much to enjoy—food, companionship, work—but all based upon a positive relationship with God. This theme occurs seven times in the book (2:24-26; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-9; 11:8-9). This joy cannot be hedonism (i.e., pleasure and joy are the chief goals of life) because God gives it.
Second, Solomon instructed man to be wise. There are some definite negatives to wisdom (1:18; 2:12; 4:13-16; 9:13-16; 10:1). However, there are numerous advantages. Wisdom itself is good (2:26) since it improves the quality of life (7:11-12) and gives strength (7:19). It even can help a person in a difficult situation (8:1). It is important to wise men that they help others to become wise (12:9-12).
Third, Solomon instructed men to worship God acceptably. Men throughout the centuries have foolishly approached God in ways that were unacceptable (Leviticus 10:1, 2; Isaiah 1:10-17; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 15:8-9; John 4:23-24). Proper worship involves a recognition of God’s presence (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2). It also includes careful consideration of one’s words and promises (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).
Fourth, Solomon instructed men to remember God. He specifically noted that God should be remembered as Judge (11:9; 12:13-14) and Creator (12:1). These terms establish God’s power and authority, and they demand more than a simple mental acknowledgment but demand action and genuine devotion (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Fifth, Solomon instructed men to have a good work ethic. In a world filled with laziness and gluttony, this message still applies today (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 10:17-18; 11:4-6). It is God’s plan that man work—and work hard. Those who are looking for a “free ride” will not be able to fully appreciate God’s plan for life and will ultimately destroy themselves (Ecclesiastes 4:5). However, it is possible for one to be a “workaholic” and fail to have the kind of balance God desires (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
Sixth, Solomon instructed men to fear God. This concept is central in all of the wisdom literature (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), and it is a recurring theme in Ecclesiastes (3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13; 12:13). This admonition calls upon men to have a healthy view of God’s awesome power and authority, in contrast with man’s weakness and helplessness. It includes more than respect, but a terror of facing an angry God in the Day of Judgment (Hebrews 10:31).
Seventh, Solomon instructed men to recognize their limitations. Far too often men become arrogant and self-sufficient. Such entails the thinking of fools. Rather, Solomon demonstrated that there are many things men do not know (Ecclesiastes 11:2, 5-6) or understand (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Equally, there are many events that are beyond man’s ability to control (Ecclesiastes 8:8).
More Than a Babe in the Manger
While exiled on Patmos, John saw “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back,” and an angel proclaimed, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:1-2). John was told, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll,” and John looked, “and behold, in the midst of the throne…stood a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:5-6). This description of Jesus is nothing like the baby Jesus so commonly seen in December of each year. The main danger with the “babe in a manger” is that people confine Jesus to nothing more than a harmless baby, when instead they should make Him their King! Note these three descriptions of Jesus.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Lions are symbols of kingly power and majesty. This kind of power and majesty was prophesied about the tribe of Judah, from which Jesus came (Hebrews 7:14). When Israel blessed his children, he said, “Judah is a lion’s whelp…He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Genesis 49:8-10). While every minute detail is not given, this prophecy affirms that all should be obedient to this descendant of Judah! Jesus is more than a harmless babe. He has power and majesty that all must, and will one day, recognize (Philippians 2:9-11)!
The Root of David
From long ago, Isaiah prophesied, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots,” who, among other things, would “strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:1-5). John saw this “Root of David” having “prevailed,” which is translated from a Greek word nikao, which can also be rendered with a form of “conquer” (Revelation 6:2) or “overcome” (Revelation 3:21; 21:7). Jesus is more than a harmless babe. He has conquered death and has authority over it (Revelation 1:17-18)!
The Lamb Who Had Been Slain
John’s seeing the Lamb “in the midst” is a reminder that Jesus is the center of creation and of redemption (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:15-18). John’s seeing the Lamb “as though it had been slain” focuses attention on the sacrificial aspect of the Christ. The Lamb overcame to open the scroll, not by physical might but by sacrifice (John 16:33). He is “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; Acts 8:33-35; Isaiah 53:3-9; 1 Peter 1:19). Jesus is more than a harmless babe. He is God, who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8), all so we could be redeemed!
Let’s not keep Jesus as a harmless babe tucked away in a manger. When the true Jesus is known, the world will “make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). Let us serve the Lamb and get the message out that people are called by the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), are chosen by being “in Christ” through obedience to the Gospel (Ephesians 1:3-7) and are faithful by living the Gospel (Ephesians 4:1-3; Revelation 2:10).