Exhortation – Ecclesiastes 1 – Good advice from a wise man.
2007年4月22日讲道词 读经：传道书第一章：一个智慧人的劝告 埃文杰森弟兄
Good morning brethren and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our readings over the next week are going to take us through some of the words of the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. Of course we all know that our Lord Jesus Christ was head and shoulders above King Solomon as far as spiritual wisdom was concerned and he applied his wisdom in a far more beneficial way for the whole of mankind.
Solomon’s wisdom does however benefit us today in another way than that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas we have in our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of what we should do, with Solomon we have the perfect example of what we should not do with our talents.
For those of you who do not know the story of King Solomon, we will go back briefly to recount the story of his life. King Solomon was the son of King David, the man after God’s own heart. When King Solomon came to the throne, he felt in some ways inadequate for the job and so the records tell us:-
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? (1Ki 3:5-9)
It was true that Solomon did have a tremendous task to do in leading this people. And he had huge shoes to fill – that of his father David. And so the request of Solomon’s in these verses was a good one for the role he was to engage himself in for the rest of his life. The record goes on to tell us what God did actually give Solomon.
And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. (1Ki 3:10-14)
所罗门因为求这事，就蒙主喜悦。神对他说，你既然求这事不为自己求寿，求富，也不求灭绝你仇敌的性命， 单求智慧可以听讼，我就应允你所求的，赐你聪明智慧，甚至在你以前没有象你的，在你以后也没有象你的。你所没有求的，我也赐给你，就是富足，尊荣，使你在世的日子，列王中没有一个能比你的。你若效法你父亲大卫，遵行我的道，谨守我的律例，诫命，我必使你长寿(列王记上 3:10-14) 。
So not only did God give Solomon understanding to discern judgment but he gave him wisdom such that there was never anyone as wise who lived before him neither was there any who would live after him who would be as wise as Solomon. Not only that, God gave him both riches and honor as well and the promise of long life if he walked in the commandments of David his father. And the record in Kings and Chronicles goes on to tell us the glory and majesty of Solomon’s reign which actually is a type of the kingdom age to come, which will be an age of untold glory and peace as occurred in Solomon’s reign.
Solomon’s contribution to our scriptures is quite significant, as one would expect from such a wise man. Although they are not as expansive as other writers such as Moses and Paul, the wisdom contained is both succinct and to the point. His multitude of wise sayings in Proverbs are such that each verse is an exhortation. He also wrote the Song of Solomon which is a book of the love between a man and a woman, and beautifully portrays the marriage between Christ and the saints. And the book we are looking at this morning contains sage advice for all of us on how to properly balance our life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a remarkable book in that it shows us what Solomon thought of all his pursuits in which he engaged in his full life. Here was a man who was one of the richest kings who ever walked this globe. And not only was he a rich king with everything at his disposal that he could ever want, he was the wisest man that ever lived. So he was not only incredibly wise, but he had the means and wealth to engage in whatever he desired. We know from the record this is exactly what he did. And so the book of Ecclesiastes gives us Solomon’s account of the outcome of these pursuits which we have straight up in the first few verses.
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? (Ecc 1:1-3)
All is vanity. There is no benefit to a man for all his labours.
Now for us who live in the 21st century, this is good advice because many of us may have trouble balancing our lives in terms of time we spend on our own pursuits and time we spend on the things of God.
We may wish to build up for ourselves riches by pursuing a career and spending a lot of time on this so that we can become wealthy. Whatever we do, we will never be as rich as King Solomon nor will our possessions ever be as vast as Solomon’s. He gives us a list of all his pursuits and the things he gathered up for himself, yet what is Solomon’s conclusion of pursuing riches and objects of beauty.
I made me great works; I built me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: 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: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I got me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. 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 labor: and this was my portion of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecc 2:4-11)
It was all vanity and vexation of spirit. He could see no point in gathering all these riches particularly when he was applying all his energy to these pursuits. What was the point? As he goes on to explain, he had observed men gathering riches to themselves but never enjoying any of them, only for them to be wasted by the next generation.
His message not only goes out to those who pursue riches but he has a message for those of us who are intelligent. We may wish to dedicate our lives to study so that we are well educated. Yet we will never be as wise as Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Yet we find his pursuits of wisdom came to the same conclusion - he despaired of all the wisdom he accumulated as he relates to us in Ecclesiastes.
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. (Ecc 2:12-19)
Solomon’s point in this section is as clear as it is direct. A man may accumulate wisdom and knowledge but it all disappears when he dies. A wise man dies just like a fool and his understanding goes with him. Sure he may record part of his wisdom as Solomon did and we still have a record of this. But the vast majority of it is lost forever. And his conclusion was that all was vanity and vexation of spirit to the point that he hated life and he hated all his works. Later on in the book he tells us something else about wisdom.
This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. (Ecc 9:13-16)
We may well wonder why a wise man would be poor. Yet it is true, that although wisdom is better than strength, wisdom is often despised particularly when it comes from the lips of a poor man. More often than not, we do not want to hear the wisdom of others – we prefer to find out for ourselves or continue to do something our own senseless way.
And it is indeed just about beyond belief that the wisest man who ever lived, and one that knew the wonders of God’s truth, may not even be in the kingdom. It is beyond belief that this man Solomon, in all his wisdom, had his heart turned by his wives (of which he had 700 and 300 concubines – unwise in itself) to worship idols – dumb idols. It would seem to us to be absolute foolishness to us today that a man like Solomon would worship a god of silver, gold or stone. Yet we should not be surprised as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1Co 1:17-21)
As Paul tells us the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to those in the world who will perish. It is not the wise man, or the scribe, or those able to dispute and philosophise that God has called. God has made this wisdom foolishness, and there is no greater example than that of Solomon. In spite of all his wisdom he appears to have failed to grasp hold of the most important treasure that God has offered all of us – a place in his kingdom, where nothing will be vanity or vexation of spirit. Paul continues with his theme of wisdom telling us:-
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1Co 1:26-31)
God has chosen the foolish, the weak, the base and the despised for his kingdom to confound the wise and the mighty. Why? So that no-one, should glory in his presence. It is God who makes us wise, righteous and sanctified, and who will redeem us as he did for our Lord Jesus Christ. So that if we glory in anyone or anything, let us glory in God who despite our foolishness can make us wise.
And so brethren and sisters, we remember our Lord Jesus Christ this morning and his sacrifice, a sacrifice that was foolishness to the Greeks and stumbling block to the Jews. But unto us who are saved, who believe, it is the power of God. But in so doing, let us learn the lesson that Solomon teaches us in his life and in his book of Ecclesiastes. Because although it is a tragedy that this wise man did such foolish things and may not be in God’s kingdom, it would be a greater tragedy if we failed to learn from his example and actively pursued the riches and wisdom of this world. Let us listen to his conclusion of the matter at the end of Ecclesiastes and make this wisdom our instruction.
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc 12:12-13)