|Volume 23 Number 2 February 2021
Cecil May, Jr.
First principles, as enumerated in Hebrews 6:1-2, need to be retaught because some who need to grow beyond them have forgotten them (Hebrews 5:12). For some, first principles mean faith, repentance, baptism, the church and acceptable worship. Those, too, need to be kept before us. However, let’s be sure we do not forget some important things the Bible also labels as first. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-38).
The Wisdom and
Mistakes of King Solomon
King Solomon had everything for which anyone could ever wish. He had it all. He had riches beyond compare and wisdom as no one else has had before or since. His fame brought him admiration from all over the ancient world. When he was a young man, he prayed for wisdom, and God was so pleased with his prayer that he gave the young Solomon wisdom like no other. Because he had not asked for riches, God added them to him as well, but Solomon used his riches unwisely.
Under the reign of King Solomon, a collection of people who were once desert tribesmen and former slaves became a respected and a much-admired empire. Solomon even married a princess from Egypt, the very land that had once enslaved the Israelites. Kings and queens desired friendship with Solomon and the kingdom of Israel. They brought ambassadors to secure treaties and gave gifts for alliances. However, those alliances led to marriages, and those marriages led to problems in the kingdom. The glamorous princesses brought entourages with fancy clothes and jewelry; they enchanted the women and men of Israel with their exotic ways. The thrill of the new and the novel enthralled and led them astray from God, eventually leading them down the road to idolatry and, ultimately, to national disaster.
By the time he penned the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon was approximately sixty years old and had lived a life of wild abandon. He had become “a jaded sensualist; the foreign women whom he had married had turned his heart after other gods” (Turner 3).
In his early years as king, Solomon built the glorious Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. This temple was more magnificent than any of the temples that followed and was covered in gold on the inside and beautified with expensive woods; no expense was spared. During this golden age, Solomon built fortresses all around Israel. He also had a trading fleet that sailed as far away as Spain. Solomon had a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram. “Once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks” (“Phoenicians in Spain”). Also to his ruin, Solomon had a love of pagan women, and so for them he “built a temple to Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (Turner 3).
Yet, in his old age as he reflected upon his life and the terrible mistakes he had made, he wrote a book unlike any other in the Holy Bible, a book that has influenced human thought and helped shape civilizations in the nearly three thousand years since it was first written. We can learn much from Solomon and his mistakes, and we can learn how to avoid those mistakes, if we will just listen and learn from history. Times do change and cultures change, but God has provided for mankind the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. After a life of excess, Solomon yearned to find meaning in existence and to find joy in a life amidst the sorrow and injustice that he had seen in the world. His solution was that we should fear God, to respect God and to obey God’s commandments. We should remember that while we are finite, death is inevitable. Therefore, it is better to live a contented life, happy with what we have, rather than to strive for things we can never keep. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
“Here is the whole end of the matter,” Solomon said, in his conclusion and solution to the meaning of existence. Life without God and the pursuit of happiness outside of the laws of God is futile. It is full of empty and unsatisfying thrills, which will come and go. Fashion fades and novelty distracts for a while, but ultimately, it is all vanity, it is all for nothing. His advice to us is to live our lives to the fullest, love with all our hearts and worship God, remembering that the Lord who made us from the dust is in control. Our lives on Earth are fleeting. We must remember that God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is bad. We should be mindful that God is involved with our lives and has given us His Word as a guide in this life. We can read in Ecclesiastes what to do in our lives and what not to do. Ecclesiastes can appear to be a depressing book when Solomon wrote about the futility of everything, and yet, in the end, there is hope.
Do your duty to God and find satisfaction in His ways. Life is a bittersweet symphony, but for the faithful Christian it is one that we can never face alone. We have a wonderful promise and the comforting knowledge that God will never leave us. “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).
Turner, Rex A. “An Introduction to Ecclesiastes.” Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1994.
“Phoenicians in Spain.” The Biblical Archaeologist. No 1, 1992.