Solomon contradictions Image of owl in a suit studying a book

Day 158 (June 7): Solomon: Wisdom for life, Wicked vs. righteous, Both face death, Wisdom and folly, Murphy’s law, Uncertainties

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Ecclesiastes 7-11:6
(937 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ecclesiastes 7:4): Does this mean that wise people think about where they go after death?  And, a fool doesn’t, thus he/she lives the life of folly and will be judged harshly?

A. Not necessarily.  It may just mean that the wise man/woman thinks of the long term — including death — while the fool is only thinking about the here and now.

O. (7:10): I often think of how much “me” time I had before I had children.  Sometimes, I dream of it, but only briefly.  But, I remember being lonely.  And that, I am definitely not anymore!  I’m not sure what Solomon is talking about here in “the good old days,” but I agree.  I wouldn’t tinker with that.  It does seem like that as much as you may want to return to a previous time period, it’s not possible.  My husband was in the Navy and we were stationed on Guam for two years.  There were several families we knew who absolutely loved it there and had requested to stay or return.  But, most of them say that it’s never the same the second time around.

Q. (7:13): This does seem true.  No matter how much something hurts, you can’t change it, so you may as well accept it and look forward to where it’s taking you and what lesson you learned.

A. I would say there’s some good wisdom there.

O. (7:14): If no one ever prospered, we would never see or desire any goal to work toward.

Q. (7:15): We discussed earlier that this kind of talk, like Solomon saying life is “meaningless,” is probably not offending God.  Why did Solomon get so depressed in his last years?  I can’t tell if he truly acknowledges that his actions caused his downfall or if he is down on God.  Or, both?

A. We don’t have any information on when this was written within Solomon’s life, so we can only speculate.  Don’t forget, this is a contemplation about finding meaning in life outside of God, so I would say God is pretty “safe” from being offended.

Q. (7:27-29): I believe we have talked about why man falls short of following God’s laws, but it’s been a ways back and now would be a good time to bring it up again.  Did we say that human’s downfall has to do with free will?  It gives God more glory if people choose him willingly not under force?

A. Yes and yes, at least in the Armenian tradition.  Since true love — our genuine choice to follow and love God — involves a choice, the possibility must be open for people to say “no” to God … and each other.  This “no” to God is one of the ways that the Bible defines sin — it is to go our own way, without consideration of God.  God appears to want genuine followers, not puppets, and the only way that can happen is to allow some degree of free choice in life.

O. (7:14): I don’t think we do this today where the wicked are considered good in society and conversely, that the good are made out to be victims.  That does happen occasionally. On a similar note, I would say that, the media gives too much attention to bad guys: Getting so much press, one would think that they are celebrities, which may attract others to follow suit.  Also, the media plays up Hollywood.  I have never understood why actors are put on a pedestal in our country.  If they spread more news and made more movies about positive stories and people who help others, this world would likely be a more moral place!

Q. (7:17): Solomon certainly seemed like he was trying to learn everything under the sun.  This was part of his downfall?

A. If doing so took away his focus on God — and it appears that it did — then yes.

Q. (9:1): We have to consider the source here.  Solomon is down on God.  Solomon acts like he has no idea who God is.  He is pouting from his punishment?

A. We don’t know.  It is certainly cynical thinking, but as verse 2 of this chapter points out (again), the fate of the faithful and the blasphemous is the same: death.  If we carry that argument out a little farther, we can see something interesting.  If Solomon is convinced that there is no life after death, or perhaps he is making the argument, then there is no benefit to being righteous.  We see this quite often to this day — the evil often get away with it, and justice is not done.  But belief in an afterlife allows for a much more acceptable notion of justice — that there are eternal, not just temporal, consequences to the decisions that we make.  It becomes easy to see how the atheist slips into moral uncertainty — without God and His eternal justice, everything is permissible.

Q. (9:12): Maybe so, but God has told us that He won’t give us anything we can’t handle — though it may seem like doom is near — and it can be part of the plan.  Just look at Job.  He was stripped of everything, but he kept his faith and God restored him.

A. What you are beginning to touch on here is the examination of certain passages of the OT in light of others: that was a big part of developing a theology — beliefs about God and His relationship with humanity in general and Israel specifically.  This theology is always in flux — at least the details are — and new generations come to see God in different ways.  I think that such discussions honor God, because we use the very intellect He blessed us with to make up our own minds about how we will react in hard times: Will we be cynical and give up on God, or will we be faithful like Job?

O. (9:16): This reminds me of elections.  If you have money, then the people will hear you — because you can afford advertising.  If you are poor, you can’t afford to spread your platform, so you are snuffed out.

O. (10:4): So, if you make a mistake, you work harder so you can regain respect.  I think this is true in every relationship.  I think it needs to also come with an apology.  And, I believe, that everyone has messed up at work, especially when they are young.  I used to work at a newspaper.  My first mistake, probably my first or second week of work, was that I input the wrong weather page.  Yes, someone else is there to catch mistakes like that, but it was ultimately my responsibility.  I also input the wrong answers to crosswords.  But, I worked hard and was designing front pages in no time.  I have messed up with this blog several times — I know it’s not perfect, but it’s getting God’s Word out and it will be made into even more great things — but no one reamed me about it.  Don’t think that anyone has not made some major mistakes.  We learn from our mistakes at a very young age.  Mistakes breed success.

Q. (10:10): I love this saying, but coming from Solomon at this point, who would take his advice?  He is so contradicting.  Here he is saying gather more wisdom, other places he says wisdom is meaningless.  What are we supposed to take from Ecclesiastes?

A. That everything is meaningless without God.  Hang on until the next chapter, and see who gets the “final word.”

O. (11:2): Here is some sound advice from Solomon that holds true to today.

For further study: What good is Wisdom? https://preachitteachit.org/devotionals/why-is-it-important-to-be-wise/

Spread the Word! Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading
— Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14
— 1 Kings 12:1-20
— 2 Chronicles 10
— 1 Kings 12:21-24
— 2 Chronicles 11:1-4
— 1 Kings 12:25-33
— 2 Chronicles 11:5-17

wisdom and folly. treasure chest full of coins, pearls and a crown

Day 149 (May 29): Listen to Wisdom, Folly is deceiving, Good for Godly, Ruin for wicked

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 8-10
(~950 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 8:15-16): These verses don’t mean that God has chosen every ruler, or has He?  In the U.S., we have had notable leaders and some not as worthy.  Then, there is Hitler, Stalin, and a bunch of other evil rulers.  Did God put all leaders in a position for various reasons?

A. No, that is not what these verses are saying.  These verses are talking about how noble kings and rulers lead well because of God’s wisdom — again personified as a personal being.

Q. (8:22-31): Who is talking here?

A. There is a Jewish tradition of seeing what we might call the “Spirit of Wisdom” which is not God, but vital to humanity.  These people valued wisdom so much that they began to see it as having “God-like” character.  It is this vital Spirit of Wisdom (always a woman) who is speaking about “her” role as God’s aide in Creation.  Don’t read it literally (i.e. this is not the “fourth” person of the Trinity), but see it as Solomon speaking personifying words into the wisdom that was so vital to his role as Israel’s leader.

Q. (9:7-8): Are these verses just underscoring the lesson that we should not judge — or is it we should not reprove?  This does seem true today, that a wicked person you correct is not receptive to my suggestions, but someone who is wise appreciates it.

A. Neither.  The verses are saying that you should be wise in how you correct others.  It is basically saying that it is foolish to waste your time attempting to correct people who won’t listen to you anyway, but the truly wise will benefit from your desire to correct.  It is not a list of rules that must be followed, but general guidance about the best ways to live: one of them being that people who just spend all of their time mocking others are very unlikely to be worth your time when it comes to potentially valuable correction.

Q. (10:2): We see this in a lot of rich, spoiled kids.  I always feel sorry for the kids who don’t have much.  I guess you can fill just as sorry for the rich kids who are filled with possessions and good times instead of love in their heart.

A. I think the key word in the verse is “tainted.”  That is, to me, wealth gained via evil or sin.  Rarely will you see wealth itself “attacked” in these verses: it can be the just fruit of a life of hard work — something Proverbs repeatedly endorses!  But it DOES say that wealth earned via sin is dangerous, and will have no lasting value.

Q. (10:17): To me, this verse parallels the teachings that together, we are the body of Christ.  One cannot work alone and be successful for the long-term.  I always thought of this as all of our talents are needed to do the work of Jesus, but now I see another reason here: that we are to work together and seek other’s advice, experience and opinions to do our best work.

A. Indeed.  This is a repeat of what we talked about above: the wise will be open to discipline and correction in order to get better, but the evil will not.

Q. (10:18): I sometimes open my mouth talking about someone.  And, every time I end up feeling like a fool — and definitely ashamed.  I did this recently and felt God’s filter there, but chose to toss it aside.  It takes a long time to change.  But, becoming pure in heart certainly speeds up the process.

A. It is certainly a succinct commentary against gossip, isn’t it?

Q. (10:29): I never thought about God’s wisdom having two uses packed into the same virtue.  It saves the righteous, yet condemns the wicked.

A. Some of Solomon’s wisdom is rubbing off on you.  That makes you a wise person to me!  (LA: Why, thank you!  : )

For further reading: Should we respect those in authority if we don’t approve of them? https://bcachurch.com/principle-16-honor-those-in-authority/

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Proverbs 11-13