This is the fourth post in a series.
- Part 1 explained why I talk about the application of Christian theology to politics.
- Part 2 provided a personal witness, what brought me to Christ Jesus.
- Part 3 explains why some believe might makes right.
In this post we will consider what leads some people to believe right makes might.
If You Believe Right Makes Might, You Must Believe In God
There are sixty-six books in the Bible, and I suppose that everyone who studies the Bible discovers one book that he or she finds especially fascinating. For me that book is Ecclesiastes.
Even before I began to understand what he wanted us to know, I discovered Solomon words have a certain beauty. Thus, when I read Ecclesiastes, I enjoyed it. Then I read good commentaries. Much to my chagrin and surprise, I discovered I had misinterpreted much of the Book. I doubt most people appreciate being fooled that way, particularly by the Bible. I cannot say I did, but this reference I found in a Wikipedia article, Ecclesiastes, suggests such confusion is not uncommon.
In short, we do not know for certain why or how this book found its way into such esteemed company. All we can say is that the problematic nature of the work was widely recognized even in the earliest records of its interpretation and that there is no evidence that it was accepted as canonical because the readers of the work were so open-minded as not to be troubled by the contradictions between Ooheleth’s words and the remainder of the Hebrew Bible. (from here)
What does that word “Ooheleth” come from. Ooheleth is apparently the Hebrew word for Ecclesiastes which is Greek for “Preacher” or “Teacher.”
What’s the big idea? Ecclesiastes, like much of life, represents a journey from one point to another. Solomon articulated his starting point early in the book: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2), indicating the utter futility and meaninglessness of life as he saw it. Nothing made sense to him because he had already tried any number of remedies—pleasure, work, and intellect—to alleviate his sense of feeling lost in the world. However, even in the writer’s desperate search for meaning and significance in life, God remained present. For instance, we read that God provides food, drink, and work (2:24); both the sinner and the righteous person live in God’s sight (2:26); God’s deeds are eternal (3:14); and God empowers people to enjoy His provision (5:19). Ultimately, the great truth of Ecclesiastes lies in the acknowledgment of God’s ever-present hand on our lives. Even when injustice and uncertainty threaten to overwhelm us, we can trust Him and follow after Him (12:13–14). (from here)
So what is Ecclesiastes about? I think Ecclesiastes explains Solomon‘s inadvertent quest to learn the difference between good and evil. Solomon sought happiness “under the sun” (“Under the sun” is a phrase that occurs repeatedly in the book. “Under the sun” refers to our earthly existence.), but that was the wrong place to look.
Imagine being King Solomon, an absolute monarch. Imagine having immense power, fantastic wealth, and the most brilliant intellect God ever produced in a man. Imagine being in control of all you survey, at least in as much control as any man might be. Then imagine being old and realizing how much of your life you have wasted in vain pursuits. That’s why Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He wanted those who would learn from his mistakes not to repeat his mistakes.
- He sought knowledge, but he found no satisfaction in knowledge for its own sake.
- He sought pleasure in wine, women, song, and wealth, and he grew bored. But bored was not the worst of it. The foreign women Solomon chose for pleasure ensnared him in actual idol worship (1 Kings 11).
- He sought to live by his own wisdom, but then he realized the same fate overcomes both the wise and the foolish.
- He sought possessions, the reward of hard labor, but then he realized he would leave all his works to someone who had not toiled for it. Who knows whether that person would be wise or a fool?
As wise as he was — and perhaps because his pride in his wisdom — Solomon succumbed to the temptation to rely upon his own wisdom instead of the wisdom that comes from God. Yet when he lived his life focused on this world, Solomon inevitably saw whatever he tried as futile and meaningless. Thus, as we journey through Ecclesiastes, the story of Solomon‘s life, we perceive a great deal of cynicism, but that perspective belongs to those who live for life “under the sun,” and that is what Solomon tried to do.
Even though Solomon was the government, and he had all the wealth and power he needed, he discovered life “under the sun” pointless. He could discover nothing new under the sun, just endless repetition and tedium. Furthermore, he observed great wickedness and injustice. And so Solomon debated with himself.
Oddly, Solomon complex debate still confuses us today. Depending upon our point of view, we take the side we see as wise. We accept the fatalism of living “under the sun,” or we see the wisdom in Solomon final choice. Thus, Ecclesiastes mirrors back to us our own beliefs about “life under the sun.”
In the middle of his debate with himself, Solomon finally discovered the humility to admit the source of his troubles.
Ecclesiastes 7:27-29 New Century Version (NCV)
27 The Teacher says, “This is what I learned:
I added all these things together
to find some meaning for everything.
28 While I was searching,
I did not find one man among the thousands I found.
Nor did I find a woman among all these.
29 One thing I have learned:
God made people good,
but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad.”
Gradually, Solomon pointed his thoughts more and more towards God. Here is how he ended his book.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 English Standard Version (ESV)
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Even though Solomon was king — even with all his power and wealth — he could not not even make himself happy. He could not make his life meaningful. To make life worthwhile — to give might to life — we must do what is right. God says — our Creator says — we must love Him and be obedient to His will.