Twentieth in the Solomon Series
The life story of Solomon in the Bible is a land of contrasts. From the mountaintop of his earnest prayer in the newly built temple, he descended to the starkest desert where he built high places for the worship of Chemosh and Molech, the abominations of Moab and Ammon. These were gods with strange rituals, even passing children through fire, or much worse.
From being the wisest of all rulers to attempting the murder of the rival God raised up to "tear the kingdom" (1 Ki 11:11) from him, Solomon rode down the steepest of paths, to the brink of hell. Perhaps you will ask, "How can we say that he ended in a level place, and that he remained beloved of God after his sinful exploits?"
We will now look further at Ecclesiastes. In the 18th post we covered Chapters 1 — 8.
At the end of chapter 8, Solomon acknowledged that God's ways are higher than man's, beyond our discovery. Then, at the start of chapter 9, he states he has determined to declare his conclusions: that the righteous are known by the Lord. Matthew Henry's commentary is worth reading to penetrate the first verses of Ecc. 9:
The great difficulty which Solomon met with in studying the book of providence was the little difference that is made between good men and bad in the distribution of comforts and crosses, and the disposal of events… Before he describes the temptation in its strength he lays down a great and unquestionable truth, which he resolves to adhere to, and which, if firmly believed, will be sufficient to break the force of the temptation. This has been the way of God’s people in grappling with this difficulty. Job, before he discourses of this matter, lays down the doctrine of God’s omniscience (Job 24:1), Jeremiah the doctrine of his righteousness (Jer. 12:1), another prophet that of his holiness (Hab. 1:13), the psalmist that of his goodness and peculiar favour to his own people (Ps. 73:1), and that is it which Solomon here fastens upon and resolves to abide by, that, though good and evil seem to be dispensed promiscuously, yet God has a particular care of and concern for his own people: The righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God, under his special protection and guidance; all their affairs are managed by him for their good; all their wise and righteous actions are in his hand, to be recompensed in the other world, though not in this... He lays this down for a rule, that the love and hatred of God are not to be measured and judged of by men’s outward condition.
The living are better than the dead: once you die it is too late to repent (Ec 9:4, 5). Enjoy your life now, for today is the day that the Lord regards your work (vs7).
Ecclesiastes 9:8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
Solomon was clad in white (JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" ( Mat 6:29 ), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear ( Rev 3:18 7:14 ). ointment — ( Psa 23:5 ), opposed to a gloomy exterior. (ibid, Faucett)
It would be nice to see more people in our society and churches dress and appear more refreshed and respectful.
Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (vs 9) Solomon here acknowledges his failure.
To reach a level place, we must confess our sins and failures.
But is "vanity" a good description of our lives on this earth? Perhaps so. We are dust (Ps 103:14) For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. (1 Pe 1:24) The grass withers, the flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. (vs 25)
To honor God, we should do our work with heart and zeal, for we will not have this opportunity after we die (Ec 9:10).
Again, Solomon considered life's arbitrary ways and the fact of injustice, yet concluded, Wisdom [is] better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good. (vs 18)
Wisdom has the power to deliver nations, families and individuals from destruction, but a lone sinner can destroy himself, his family and an entire kingdom. Solomon had reason to be discouraged.
A level place in one's life is not devoid of times of depression and halting steps, but it is a place where we rest in Christ by his help. We will not go back.