Tag Archives: Ecclesiastes

Morning Thoughts (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

Ecclesiastes 7:10, "Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this."

This morning, much ado is made about how things are, how things were, and how things probably will be.  Honestly, no one can accurately predict future details, and equally certain, no one can accurately remember all of the fine points of the past.  Human faculties being as frail and faulty as they are, our minds are not disposed to retain everything we have experienced, nor are we capable of accurate prognostication, as that exceeds our capabilities.  These shortcomings do not exclude many from trying on both counts however.  Yet, while recollection of the past or prediction of the future can both be done to positive ends, the overwhelming majority of those that engage in both do so for faulty reasons.  The faultiness shows forth an absolute lack of seizing the moment to do what we can right now.  Future predictors oftentimes become procrastinators, while past recollections oftentimes become pine-fests.  Either way, people are spending more time doing less with what they have right now.

When Solomon was inspired to pen this most woeful book, he had reached a point in his life when he had "done all that could be done under the sun."  Whatever his natural inclination desired, he had tried it, and all to no avail.  Everything he found was vanity of vanities and complete vexation of spirit.  When surveying the scene of the tatters of his life, Solomon was inspired by the Holy Ghost to instruct as a preacher in words of wisdom.  These wise words were Solomon's instructions to "not do as he had done."  As he summarizes the book in the last chapter, he encourages the young man to apply himself to wisdom so that when the evil days of old age (that Solomon was then in the midst of) would not be as painful as they were to Solomon.  In my short years in the ministry, I can attest that there is a vast difference between older people approaching their mortality.  When people have lived lives like Solomon, they reach the end with regrets and sorrow for the vanity and pride of their former years.  When people have lived lives like Solomon exhorts us to, they approach the end with fervor and zeal to go be with the Lord rather than think about past failures (though undoubtedly they have had many).  This final scene of life shows us how peaceful the end can be for the child of God that has attempted to live Godly and soberly in this present evil world.

As we go through life, there is always a tendency to wonder about the future and think and dwell on the past.  We will focus this writing more on the thinking about the past rather than looking to the future.  However, the conclusion we hope to draw by the end will also serve as a valid exhortation for those that improperly look toward the future.  Solomon tells us that looking at "former days" with overt fondness is not a wise behavioral pattern.  Have you heard people wax and pine about the "good old days?"  Perhaps all of us have even engaged in this ourselves.  For some reason, we can remember those days and think them better than the day that is before us.  Though quite often those days had their fair share of evil and travail, we seem to think only of the part that was "better" – seemingly – than today. 

For the sake of argument, let us say that the olden days were better than these.  Even if that were true, what does that knowledge do for us?  Does it help in today's present struggle or dealing with the problems of today?  In every case, it does not.  Consider Solomon's early days of rule.  He spent 40 years ruling over Israel, and admittedly, the first 20 years of his rule were exponentially better than the last 20.  In the first half, he served God's people with wisdom and might, serving in splendor while building a masterpiece of a temple for the worship of God.  The Lord endowed him with wisdom like the world had never seen and riches to boot.  The latter half of his rule showed him with many enemies stirred up against him by the Lord for his mammoth idolatry, multiplied marriages to strange women, and persecution of the Lord's prophets.  If there was ever a man to possibly have a case to think about and pine for the "good old days," it would be Solomon.  He could sit and ponder about the days of heavenly favor, and delight in the quiet, peaceful splendor that was his.

Yet, this man knew and understood that thinking about those days – however good they may have been – did not change where he was at present.  The longing for them did not help today's issues.  You and I, dear friend, have not had the roller coaster of a life that Solomon did.  If you had been married to 700 wives with 300 concubines with the majesty that Solomon possessed, you would be world wide news.  Since we cannot compare our "olden days" to Solomon's and he still had no right or wisdom to glory in those days, what right or wisdom do we have to do so?  In point of fact, we do not.  More importantly, the olden days were not as problem-free as we remember, which is all the more reason not to spend our moments pining for the way things used to be.

Now, having established that waxing philosophical about the olden days and revelling in their beauty is not wise no matter what our past may have been, let us consider what such behavior might impede that we should be doing.  One of the children of Israel's problems while wandering in the wilderness was constantly thinking about Egypt and contemplating going back there.  As Paul mentions in Hebrews 3 while talking about that circumstance, he mentions that we should not be stiffnecked and stubborn like they were.  One of the things they did not do was to "hear His voice" and thereby prevent entering into "the provocation." (Hebrews 3-4) Paul's case shows that we today can act just like that.  We can refuse to hear His voice in how we should live and act.  Granted, this voice we refuse is not the voice of power that comes in regeneration and the resurrection (which is irrefutable), but it is the voice of invitation that calls for godly service from us. (Contrast John 6:37 and Matthew 11:28)

God invited the Israelites numerous times to walk with Him and find the promised rest.  We have a rest today that is also promised when we walk faithfully with our Lord.  However, to hear and follow His voice, we need to remember when it comes: "To day."  The voice is not looked for tomorrow, much less is it looked for yesterday.  It is looked for in the day after yesterday and the day before tomorrow.  Quite often when I talk with people about situations and problems they face in their life, I have to freely admit from my own experience, "There is nothing wrong with the Lord's communication, but there is a problem many times with my listening."  When I get stuck in the past and pining for it, I fail to hear and heed the voice of today.  By failing in that regard, I fail to find the rest today that I could have with serene and majestic seasons with my God.

Whenever we pine for the olden days, we admit by such a mindset that we are dissatisfied with today.  Brethren, there is much that goes on daily that I do not like and am quite dissatisfied with.  However, I do not want those black marks of the day to interfere with the rest I could enjoy with the Lord.  We cannot live in the past or the future, but as creatures of today, we should be focused in walking with and talking with the Lord today.  When such a practice is followed, we will find continual rest on a daily basis from the Loader of our daily benefits. (Psalm 68:19)

Does living in today mean that the past and future do not matter?  Certainly the Bible says a tremendous amount about both time periods.  The past is something we should learn from, while the future is where we should anticipate and look for the coming promises of God.  However, our thoughts of the past and future cannot be there permanently as we cannot dwell there.  One thing about the past and future that "should" be the case is that we view yesterday as potentially worse than today and tomorrow as potentially better.  For instance, if we focus on today to make it the best we can, walk with the Lord better than before, and yearn to hear His voice today, we can make today better than yesterday.  If we redouble our efforts tomorrow, we can make tomorrow better than today.

Notice how Solomon terms the longing for yesteryear.  He terms them as better than these.  If yesteryear is better than these days, then the simple cause is that we are not improving daily.  If yesterday is truly better than today, then we have failed to utilize today as we should.  If tomorrow is not better than today, we have failed to utilize that day when it comes.  Whenever someone asks me as a minister how they should read the Bible, I generally use the same, simple answer my father gave, "More."  We should read, study, pray, meditate, etc. more today than we did yesterday and more tomorrow than we do today.  The next time someone says that they long for the good old days, I hope that I am having a season of fortitude to be able to respond, "These are the best days of my life."  As I reflect on the past, I am supremely thankful for past blessings and truly hope not to make the same mistakes again.  As I look toward the horizon, I see that God is already there with promises intact.  As I look at this day, I see that He still stands with us and talks daily with us.  May we listen today, work today, and even better tomorrow.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

This subject is by request.

Ecclesiastes 3:8, "A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

This morning, we feel impressed to write a very different type of segment than usual.  Due to a subject request and hearing a wonderful sermon last night on "Balance," we would like to focus this morning on the subject of "War and Peace."  Normally, people are geared one of two ways.  Either someone tends more towards war, or they tend more toward peace.  Due to personality makeup and general disposition, an individual will have a predilection towards one in particular.  However, no matter what the "bent" of someone's personality is, the real question is, "Is war better than peace or vice versa?"  We could find countless Scriptures that describe the virtues of peace (Matthew 5:9 for example), but we could equally find countless Scriptures that extol the honour of warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20 for example).  This coupling of honourable war and blessed peace should teach us that one is only better than the other in the proper season.

In our study passage, Solomon has been showing the seasons of life.  There is a time for everything under heaven.  However, when Solomon gets to war and peace, he describes them differently than he does all the rest.  In every other pairing, Solomon says there is a time "to" do this and a time "to" do that.  When describing war and peace, he describes a time "of" war and a time "of" peace.  Why the change in verbiage?  Simply put, the other pairings (like laughing and weeping) are actions.  These actions may not be engaged in at all.  In the example of laughing and weeping, someone could be doing neither.  The actions are not perpetual states but rather actions that we engage at different times and seasons.  However, war and peace are not simple actions, but rather we perform actions within these states.  One is either in the state (position) of war, or they are in the state of peace. 

Since these two things are states rather than simple actions, it behooves us to properly consider how to approach them since we are always in one state or the other.  To properly scope this, we intend to do something that we normally do not do – draw out certain historical examples by name.  When considering war and peace, one can easily see from history that certain wars were honourable while others were not.  Likewise, we can conclude that certain "truces" to make peace were really compromises while other peace treaties were noble and good.  Therefore, let us consider some honourable and dishonorable wars and peace in our church history.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, certain ideologies began to rear up within the church that disturbed the peace of Zion.  From the teachings of certain preachers, ideas like mission boards, Sunday schools, and other auxiliaries to the church began to be promoted as the right way to go.  Coupled with these auxiliaries was the errant teaching that the preaching of the gospel was instrumental in saving God's children to heaven.  Doubtless over the 30 years or so that the ideas were growing and festering, many people in the church abhorred the idea of going to war over these things.  However, by 1832 when the split became official through the work of things like the Blackrock Address, no thinking mind could doubt that war over these principles was necessary to preserve the purity – and peace – of the Lord's church.

Another war that came a half century or so later came over the absolute predestination question.  Some of the same men that had stood steadfastly during the war against the new school ideas became involved in theology that went against the core of Scripture.  They promoted ideas such as God predestinated everything that comes to pass, man is completely passive in his actions, and even some espoused the doctrine that God's children were eternal in their existence.  By the early 1900s, sound brethren could no longer bear these ideas and openly warred against them – again to preserve the peace and purity of Zion.

The last war we will consider from recent history came another few decades after the absoluter controversy.  This conflict became known by many as the Peace/Trumpet/Cayce/Richards division.  Certain factional lines were drawn in different areas of the country, and many groups of people were known by the preachers that they had among them (such as Cayce or Richards).  While we will forego many of the details of that conflict and strife, the root cause of the war was jealousy among preachers and worshipping of preachers among the hearers.  People became more interested in the man than the One who the man was supposed to promote.  Preachers became interested in their own legacies and reputations than the One who they were supposed to be extolling.

In the three brief synopses above, we can draw the conclusion that the first two wars were honourable, but the last was quite dishonorable.  Flipping the coin, we can say that seeking peace to avoid the war in the first two was dishonorable, but that seeking peace in the face of the third war was honourable.  As Solomon so wisely noted by the usage of the word "of" in our study verse, we can only have one or the other.  Not only do they not go together concurrently, one is always in season.  So, why would we bring to bear those three examples today?  What is the relevance of that history for us today?

If someone has the predilection to be a warmonger, they will insistently point to the first two cases to say that war is always the proper course.  If someone has the predilection to be a pacifist, they will point to the last case to say that peace is always the proper course.  Whether someone's bent is war or peace, the simple point is that we should base the issues of the day on whether they are essential or not, regardless of how we feel personally.  If something disturbs the essential points of Scripture (things that cannot be crossed without doing damage to the tenor of the Bible), then it behooves us to war against those ideas lest Zion be overrun in our area with error.  If something is simply a matter of non-essential material (or in the case of the last division mentioned a matter of personality or prejudice), then we should devote our energies to promoting peace to the welfare of Zion and the benefit of her inhabitants.

Too many times, we can point to the wrong historical example to seek to prove our point.  If we are peace-minded, we might too often point to bad wars and say that we should not go to war.  If we are war-minded, we might point to good wars and say that we should go to war.  Balance is needed.  Our personal bent should not govern our thinking.  We should seek to objectively look at the issue before us.  Does it pose a legitimate threat to what the church stands for?  If it does, honourably war against it.  If it does not, honourably seek to teach and live peace. 

One final point is this: just as personality bent should not govern how we look at a situation so should circumstances of the day likewise not govern how we look at an issue.  Since times change but God's principles do not, our course does not change (or it should not) based on how modern thinking sways at the moment.  Looking at the natural world, thinking is swaying towards pro-homosexuality, pro-divorce, pro-abortion, etc.  None of that modern thinking and its general sway today changes that God despises those things that are now openly promoted and touted.  Likewise, modern thinking in the religious world is Arminian, pro-auxiliaries to the church, etc.  None of that modern sway changes the fact that God despises rotten theology and a change to the pattern of the church that He established.

Friends, we cannot be in war and peace at the same time.  Nor is there a time when we do not have one or the other.  There is a time of war, and there is a time of peace.  May we seek to understand which is the proper state to be in, labour and acquit ourselves honourably in that endeavor and always put the cause of Christ and His people above our personal preference.  Whether we would prefer to "have a fight" or "just live and let live," let us renew our sight on the mark that He set.  He knows when to war and when not to.  He knows when not to open His mouth against His accusers yet also when to make a whip and drive people out of His Father's house.  May we ask and beseech Him for the wisdom and balance to know when to act likewise.

In Hope,

Bro Philip