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THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES

"The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem."  

Ecclesiastes 1:1

 

 

 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
II Timothy 2:15

 

LESSON 1:

I've been thinking some lately about the Book of Ecclesiastes.

I recently read where one writer said it presented the most "pessimistic" view of life he had ever seen!

I personally believe that any book with GOD in it cannot be completely pessimistic!  And in Ecclesiastes the proper noun "God" occurs 36 times in twelve short chapters!

Another scholar wrote that the book was "fatalistic!"  He detected that old "what will be, will be" attitude in its pages!

Yet again, God's Will for mankind and the earth on which he lives is not simply some mechanical scheme of things forced on all creation!  No!  On the contrary, Ecclesiastes shows a man making multitudes of choices and being encouraged to enjoy life, life as a gift from God!  God's goal is not to be some celestial Dictator ... but a loving Heavenly Father!

Others seem to feel that Ecclesiastes is pseudonymous. Pseudonymity describes a book that frankly "lies" about its author!  It gives a false name to its originator!  And if not that, they say, Ecclesiastes is at least anonymous ... having no named author!

But what do they do with Ecclesiastes 1:12?  "I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem."

That sounds like an author's attempt at identification to me!  A successful attempt I might add!

"King over Israel" narrows the search for the writer ... quite a bit!

He of course is Solomon, son of David.

I have a question today.

Why all the "detracting" terms about the Books of the Bible?

Why have we fallen into such dark days of "criticism" of the Word of God?

I'll just share with you what I think of Ecclesiastes, the Book.

It is "inspired" of the Holy Spirit!  God breathed!

It is "helpful" to any man or woman seeking to live a godly life too!  Other words that I could have used here are "advantageous" or  "profitable!" 

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."  2nd Timothy 3:16

The adjective "profitable" ("ophelimus" in Greek) also means valuable or useful!

Furthermore the Book is so designed by God, its True Author, to foster "maturity" in the lives of Believers!   Of course this is also an accurate portrayal of the entire Body of Scripture. 

Paul's classic 2nd Timothy "Bible Inspiration" Passage just quoted above continues by saying ... "That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."  (2nd Timothy 3:17)   That little adjective "perfect" (in Greek = "artios") means "fitted or specially equipped or complete!"  The Bible leaves the diligent Christian student  "fully furnished" to serve God ... and that Bible includes the Book of Ecclesiastes!

It is in the "Canon" of Scripture!  It is one of the sixty six Books of the Bible!  It is not to be discarded!

I frankly have no "criticism" of Scripture.

It is inerrant, without mistakes!

But the Scriptures DO have some "criticism" of me ... and I had best listen and learn and repent and trust our loving Heavenly Father to help me grow in His marvelous Grace!

By the way, let me show you how that "questionable" little Book of Ecclesiastes ends.  "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13

Now a Book that labors for twelve chapters to reach THAT grand climax can't be bad!  It ends at the foot of the Throne of Almighty God!

There we had best fall prostrate and worship!

Glory to His Name!

And ... thank God for the Bible ... His perfect Revelation to lost mankind, bringing him to Calvary!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2 ... POSTED ON MONDAY MORNING, JULY 11, 2005, AT 10:30 AM

The Book of Ecclesiastes is important.

In fact, it's inerrant (without mistakes)!

It is, as all Scripture, inspired of God!

Yet it is unusual!

It may be the most unusual Book in all the Bible.

Someone recently said that the Book contains no historical references at all!

Not one word about any war Israel may have fought or any succession of Kings in Judean history!

It is in reality a Book of philosophy.

I'm using philosophy in its good sense.  It literally means "love of wisdom."

But ... wait a minute!

Sometimes too many historical notes in a book will render it useless after a while!

Read a science book published ten years ago for example!

Or last year's newspaper!

By being "dateless" Ecclesiastes well may have rendered itself eternal!

And eternal Truth it does contain!

For example ...

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, says the God can never be fully understood!  He is omniscient!  His Ways are higher than our ways!  "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

And God is eternal!  "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him."  Ecclesiastes 3:14

And God is the Judge of all!  "I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."  Ecclesiastes 3:17

Plus ... God hears all we say!  "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few."  Ecclesiastes 5:2

God's work and God's will cannot be changed!  "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?"  Ecclesiastes 7:13

And NOT to fear God is a big mistake!  "But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."  Ecclesiastes 8:13

And, contrary to popular belief, even an afterlife (an eternity ahead) is in the Hands of God!  Writing about man's death, Solomon says: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7

And, of course, Solomon's final conclusion to his great Book:  "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  That's about as powerful an ending as any of Scripture's sixty six books!

So ... while it's true that Ecclesiastes contains no specific historical events ... it is also true that it is loaded with eternal truths!

And why would a man want to anchor a book in the "Times" ... when "Eternity" is so much more important?

That's what one of our problems is today.  We spend too much time reading "The Times!"

(When we should be reading the eternal Word of God!)

                                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3 ... POSTED THURSDAY MORNING, JULY 14, 2005, AT 8:00 AM:

Many writers today deny that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.

However, I believe that the first verse of the Book strongly indicates that Solomon is the human writer.

Of course the Holy Spirit is the Real Author!  He has inspired all Scripture!

Let's read Ecclesiastes 1:1.  "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem."

Now, who can that be ... but Solomon?

He is the son of David!

And while David did have many sons (from too many wives) ... only one became King!

And that one was Solomon!

If we accept Scripture literally ... and we must ... Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes.

The noun for "preacher" here is "qoheleth" and means one who gathers truth or one who proclaims it!  One who calls an assembly!

I like the fact that Solomon, in his early life, was a godly man who showed every evidence of loving the Lord.

Having tried to answer the question of authorship ... let's move on to the question of date.

When (at what point in his life) did Solomon write Ecclesiastes?

And this is an important question I might add.

Even in the Bible, the human writer's age can be a contributing factor in what he says ... and can further add to the "context" of the given Book.  In other words, the Holy Spirit "uses" such details to shape the Message of the Text.

Even Paul (it seems to me) emphasized certain truths earlier in his ministry ... then more advanced truths later in his life!  He of course was "growing in grace!"  And the Lord ... through inspiration and inerrancy ... allowed that "growth" to beautifully appear!

I doubt that the argument between Paul and Barnabas (over John Mark), the "fight" recorded in Acts 15, would have occurred at all in 2nd Timothy, when Paul was older and more mature.

So ... when did Solomon write Ecclesiastes?

I have one textbook back in my study at home that says he wrote it during "mid-life." The preacher called it Solomon's mid-life "crisis!"  He may have been trying to just be "cute" ... but I believe he was wrong in his time assessment.

BY the way ... stay faithful to God and honor His dear Word ... and you will not necessarily HAVE to experience a mid-life crisis!

I have come to the place that I believe Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes when he had become an old man. 

As you know ... after becoming wealthy and successful and sensual ... Solomon fell into sin!  He backslid on God! 

I believe Ecclesiastes probably records his laments and sorrows and vanities ... having lived in sin for so long!

It is his testimony that "the way of transgressors is hard!"  (Solomon himself said that in Proverbs 13:15!)

Ecclesiastes well may be his record of repentance and of his returning to the Lord ... having lived such a terrible life in his later years!

And WHY do I feel he is older as he writes the Book?

Partly because of his accurate description of old age in chapter twelve.  This account is written by one who has experienced such weakening.

"Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;  also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."  Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

Notice that here Solomon's eyesight is weak!  He can't see the sun, moon or stars any longer.

His limbs and legs are no longer strong and stable.  They "tremble."

His teeth have fallen out ("grinders").

He can't hear as well either  ("sounds" and "music" are low).

His strength is abated (grasshoppers are heavy).

And the "long home" is apparently death's door.

That's old age!

Solomon, an old man, is surely telling us that the only way to enjoy life and to live it to God's glory is to stay away from sin ... and to love the Lord with all one's heart!

And to do so all one's days ... not just half of them!

Additionally ... do remember that David, Solomon's Father, had also written about being old and having learned some things!  Example is a powerful teacher!  Here's a "taste" of something David said:  "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."  Psalm 37:25

Of course, you have every right to disagree with me.  You may feel he wrote Ecclesiastes as a young man or soon after becoming King.  I will not be ugly to you for that ... not at all!

But it just appears to me that these are the words of an old sorrowful man who backslid from God ... and is sorry for what he's done!

And don't forget his great closing to the Book ... "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."

Those are the last two verses of Ecclesiastes!

Pretty good I'd say!

Especially for an old man.

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4 ... POSTED MONDAY MORNING, JULY 18, 2005:

The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the least studied portions of the whole Bible.

I've even heard Bible Teachers encourage young preachers to "stay away" from it!

But ... it IS the Word of God!

And, as such, it is "profitable" to us, preparing us for "all good works!"

Remember, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable ... that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." 2nd Timothy 3:16-17

One of the most frequent "criticisms" I've heard from Bible-believing circles is that Solomon was a wretched old backslider and could have written nothing spiritually valuable!

(By the way, who are we to "criticize" the Word of God?  It's much better to let it "criticize" us!)

But ... IF we believe that the Holy Spirit is The Real Author ... Solomon didn't write it anyway!  He was just the human instrument through which it came!

However, still ... we must address this issue of Solomon's spirituality!

Most  all of us would agree that he began his reign living for God.  His initial obedience, his prayer life, his building of the Temple ... all point to a desire to please God!  For example ... "Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house."  2nd Chronicles 7:1

It seems to be in the later half of his administration that he fell into sin.  "And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father."  1st Kings 11:6

Sensuality overcame him too.  "And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart."  1st Kings 11:3

All this is a matter of record.

But surely, according to Scripture, Solomon MUST have repented in his later life, as an elderly man.

Now I realize there is NO record of any such repentance in the historical books of the Old Testament.

But, I believe, the very Book of Ecclesiastes IS the Record of Solomon's repentance!

Here's one reason why.

The Scriptures teach us that "holy men of God" wrote the Bible, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God!  "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."  2nd Peter 1:21

This indicates that IF Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes (which Ecclesiastes 1:12 says) he was a "holy man" of God!

And, by the way, it is NOT written by a young Solomon either ... but by an older man, a man nearing the end of his life and thinking a great deal about his soon coming death!

Therefore, he MUST have repented ere the Holy Spirit again used him to write his "swansong," his last word and testament, Ecclesiastes!  (Remember that he had already written Proverbs and Song of Solomon!)

But here's the "crowning" evidence that Solomon had made things right with the Lord ... his "conclusion" to all the reasoning in Ecclesiastes (all the results of living "under the sun" without being in fellowship with God) ...

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

And, friends, those are the last words Solomon ever wrote!

I'm just not going to believe the HOLY Spirit came upon a backslider and used him to write 12 chapters ... a whole Book ... of the Bible!

King Manasseh repented ... surely King Solomon did too!

And didn't you repent also ... when you were saved?

Jesus said:  "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3

Plus, if you're a Believer in right standing with God at this moment, you've learned the Christian art of repentance as well!

Paul, in 2nd Corinthians 7:8-11, has a whole "how-to" paragraph on repentance in the life of a growing born-again child of God!

I rest my case.

Thank God for the Bible ... including the little Book of Ecclesiastes!  And praise Him too for the "holy" men who were "moved" of God to do the writing!

Simply stated, God forgives sin!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5 ... WRITTEN TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2005:

The last Ecclesiastes Article I wrote (Lesson 4 above) suggested that Solomon was an elderly man, one who had erred from the ways of the Lord, and was repenting from his sins.

Making things right with God!

Here's an overview of WHY I believe this to be so.

Ecclesiastes is at first the record of a life dismally lived with God omitted!

That's why it begins as it does!

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."  Ecclesiastes 1:2

That noun for "vanity" (in Hebrew = "hebel") means empty or vain or just plain "air!" 

Here's what one lexicon says ... word for word: 

"Hebel" is from the stem word "habal" (haw-bal') ... a primitive root; to be vain in act, word, or expectation; specifically to lead astray: KJV-- be (become, make) vain.

I have capitalized its "key" idea!  "To lead astray!"

Is that not exactly what happens when we leave God out of our lives?  We are led astray!  We wander from Truth!

Excepting its designation as a proper noun (the name "Abel") ... its first use in the Bible occurs in Deuteronomy 32:21.  "They have provoked me to anger with their vanities!" 

See?

Vanities here are sins!

And Jeremiah says that "vanities" are just "idols!"  See Jeremiah 10:14-15 with me: "Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish."

Vanities = idols!

It is not an accident that "hebel" (vanity) occurs nearly 40 times in the short Book of Ecclesiastes!

Solomon is showing us the sad results of living life apart from God!

Here's what Solomon was taught as a young King:  "And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever."  1st Chronicles 28:9
 

Solomon, in the last half of his reign, had forsaken God ... and God had "cast off' the King ... because of his many sins!

Ecclesiastes records the results of such a depraved lifestyle!

Solomon's sorrow for having lived in sin so long!

But ... good news ... the Book also records the King's desire to repent and get right with God!

I am telling you today that Solomon's prodigal use of "vanity" in His Book of confession (Ecclesiastes) just proves and illustrates the GUILT which his sins had produced!

Without God ...

... all life is vanity ...  (Ecclesiastes 1:2 and 14)

... including mirth and pleasure!  (Ecclesiastes 2:1)

... including money and wealth!  (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

... including one's very health!  (6:2)

... including all the world's foolishness!  (7:6)

... including the way things in life "work out!"  (7:15 and 8:14)

... including all the years of one's life!  (9:9)

... including all of one's future on this earth!  (11:8)

... including childhood and youth!  (11:10)

... including everything else on the planet (without God)!  See Ecclesiastes 12:8. "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity."  (The Book nearly ends like it began!)

Life apart from God ... life in sin ... life filled with rebellion ... is simply emptiness.  It is a constant straying from Almighty God!

It is miserable!

BUT ... wait a minute.

There ... at the very end of Ecclesiastes ... is a change of heart!

There's a Preacher!

And a mention of God-sent Wisdom!

And some inspired Proverbs!

And "Upright-ness!"

And One True Shepherd!  (Now, that's the Lord!)

And these things all say ...

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."  (These are the last two verses of Ecclesiastes ... 12:13-14.)

Then Solomon, having returned to the Truth ... lays his pen down and soon goes to be with the Lord!

Oh, one more quick point that illustrates a change of heart on Solomon's part. In his backslidden life he had many wives and girlfriends.  "And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart."  1st Kings 11:3

But ... by the time he wrote Ecclesiastes ... and had apparently repented ... he said: "And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her."  Ecclesiastes 7:26

Now that's a 180 degree turn!

And that's repentance!

God will judge sin!

Even in a King's life!

Don't live your life without the Living God and His Son Jesus Christ being right in the center of all you are ... and all you do!

"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."   So said Jesus in Matthew 6:33.  And that little Piece of Advice sure could have saved Solomon lots of years of wasted ("empty, vain") living!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6 ... THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2005:

All kinds of "slurs" have been leveled at the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Some have even said it is not worthy of being in the Bible!

Many more say that it can only be understood as a world-view of life, one apart from Almighty God!

It's "The Bible's single book of human philosophy!"  Or so we are told!

However, I have noticed something.

In this Holy Spirit inspired Book of Scripture, a King (Solomon) writes of his attempts to live life to the fullest ... while also living in sin!

He concludes that without the Lord ... nothing in life is meaningful!  At least, it's not completely so!

Then, gradually, Solomon sees his errors, and returns to the Lord!

It appears to me that Ecclesiastes is Solomon's personal "testimony."  A mini-biography!  A record of his repentance! 

Here is how very far Solomon strayed from the Lord.  "And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded."  1st Kings 11:9-10

But ... as an older man ... he appears to have "returned" to the God of his youth!

As proof I cite the fact that Solomon uses God's Name 36 times in this short Book!

That just does not sound like a man whose heart was TURNED from the Lord God of Israel!

For example ... in Ecclesiastes the King tells us that God ...

... gives to man his life work, and the trouble that goes with it!  Ecclesiastes 1:13

... gives man enjoyment in his work!  Ecclesiastes 2:24

... gives wisdom and knowledge!   Ecclesiastes 2:26

... gives man "travail" too!  Ecclesiastes 3:10

And ... God's ways are past finding out too!   Ecclesiastes 3:11

God gives man the ability to even eat and drink!   Ecclesiastes 3:13

In Ecclesiastes 3:14 God is immutable, never changing!  So says Solomon!

God knows all the past!  Ecclesiastes 3:15

God will judge the righteous and the wicked!  Ecclesiastes 3:17

God is the "Revealer" of all truth!   Ecclesiastes 3:18

In 5:2 Solomon tells us how to behave in the House of GOD!

God is in Heaven!  Ecclesiastes 5:3

God requires us to fulfill the vows we've made to Him!  Ecclesiastes 5:4

God is emotional ... even possessing anger as a holy virtue!  Ecclesiastes 5:6

God is to be feared or revered!    Ecclesiastes 5:7

God gives to every man his allotted work, his career or profession!  5:18

God is the real Giver of riches and wealth!  Ecclesiastes 5:19

God gives joy ... unspeakable!  Ecclesiastes 5:20 ... plus a little "taste" of Paul!

God can "withhold" certain things from man, like the ability to eat or drink!  6:2

What God does ... cannot be changed!  Ecclesiastes 7:13

God sends adversity ... to lead man to his Creator!  Ecclesiastes 7:14

God rewards those who fear Him!  7:18

A life can be lived that pleases God!  Ecclesiastes 7:26

Solomon even teaches the Fall of man in Ecclesiastes 7:29!

A wise man will live under the "oath" (law, command) of God!   8:2

Things will be "well" with those who fear God!  Ecclesiastes 8:12

And things will NOT go well for the man who fears not God!   Ecclesiastes 8:13

God gives man the "days of his life!" Ecclesiastes 8:15

God is inscrutable, His ways past finding out!    8:17

All things are in the Hand of God!   Ecclesiastes 9:1

God, somehow, can "accept" or "delight in" the works of man!   (Ecclesiastes 9:7)  Yes!   In and through The shed Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!

God has some "secrets" too!  Ecclesiastes 11:5

God will judge mankind for all his actions!  Ecclesiastes 11:9

It is to God that all human souls ("spirits") return ... at death!  After death ...one meets God!   Ecclesiastes 12:7

And Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes 12:13 ... "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  (This is the 35th time he has mentioned God in Ecclesiastes!)

But ... he's not quite through yet!

God is the Final Source ... the end Glory ... the Finisher of everything for mankind!  By Him and all things ... and for Him are all things!  So teaches Ecclesiastes 12:14.

There they are!  All 36 times!

No sir!

God is NOT left out of Ecclesiastes ... or Solomon's life!

He repented!

He turned from his backslidings!

He once again made the Lord God the Center of all he was and all he did!

But, preacher Bagwell, that's not recorded in any of the Bible's precious Books! Yes it is!   In Ecclesiastes!

Aren't you glad we have a God Who forgives?

Is anyone reading here today who also needs to turn from his or her sins ... and put God right where He belongs?  On the throne of your heart and life.

If so ... the Bible promises:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1st John 1:9

Praise the dear compassionate Lord!

                                                                               --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7 ... FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2005:

The Book of Ecclesiastes is very often classified as dark and dreary, incorporating the Bible's most pessimistic text.

That not-so-accurate description may partly be the result of the frequent references to death in the Book.

Since Solomon had sinned so grievously against God in his middle and late years, it is only natural that he (now an old man) would have been thinking a lot about death!

And since he had perhaps begun to reconsider his evil ways ... maybe even repenting of them all, death would have no longer been all that frightening!

Solomon clearly tells us early in his Book that man, all men, will die!  There is a time to die!  (Ecclesiastes 3:2)  That sounds like Paul in the New Testament!  "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

Thinking about one's death tends to make one prepare for it ... by repenting!  At least this is the case with a truly wise individual!

Solomon also well knew that the death of a man was quite different from the death of an animal!  (Man is NOT simply another animal!  Not according to the Bible!  Here's what man apart fromGod believes about death:  "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity."

Here's what Solomon came to believe: "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"  (Ecclesiastes 3:21)  Solomon knew, because it had been revealed to him by God via Bible inspiration.

Solomon also knew that death did not end it all ... not for mankind!  Read Ecclesiastes 3:11 with me:  "He (God) hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end."  Did you notice where God pur the WORLD into every man's being?  That noun ("olam" in Hebrew") means "everlasting" 63 times in our King James Bibles!  God has put eternity in our hearts!

So death is not the end ... but just an entrance into eternity!

Even this verse, Ecclesiastes 7:1, can be viewed two ways.  "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth." Wow!  One can be so bitter and pessimistic that he would say such a thing, hating life itself!  Or ... one could be convinced of Heaven, and anxious to go! What "hope" that would be!

And our wise writer tells us the obvious ... man cannot choose or control the day of his death.  "There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it."  Ecclesiastes 8:8

Since the time of one's death can't be precisely predicted ... better be ready all the time!  (That might induce repentance in a Believer' life!)

And once man reaches the grave ... all earthly life is certainly over!  One's influence might remain for a while, but one's spirit goes to be either with the Lord ... or to the place of eternal punishment, Hell.  "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."  (Ecclesiastes 9:10) When Jesus deals with this truth it sounds like this:  "The night cometh, when no man can work.  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh."  John 9:4

Then, lastly, Solomon accurately (divinely so ... the Holy Spirit is telling him what to write) describes old age!

Then ... death!

That's when man goes "Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."   Ecclesiastes 12:5,7

Heaven ... man's "long home!"  In Hebrew that "eternal" home!  Eternal "house! Sounds like the Father's House to me ... when framed in New Testament language!

I'm convinced!

Solomon did repent before he died!

No other way could he have so wisely handled this Biblical (and for the Old Testament advanced) approach to death!

Wise indeed is the person who prepares for it!

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8 ... SATURDAY, JULY 23, 2005:

While we are too often taught that the Book of Ecclesiastes is "suspect" in content and spirituality, I personally believe it is one of the choice "gems" of Scripture.

If ever a Book of the Bible focuses on judgment ... the judgment of God, this one does!

One scholar says that no Book in the Bible exceeds Ecclesiastes in references to future retribution and judgment!

Let's see.

In Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 the Holy Spirit has Solomon sincerely say:  "And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work."

Listen, these are the words of a man who is surely conscious of coming judgment! This is written by a man who had sinned profusely (1,000 wives and concubines along with their false gods) yet at last realized the futility, the emptiness, the "vanity" of life without God!

More about judgment ...

"If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they."  Ecclesiastes 5:8

In other words, man may do wrong ... and think he's getting by ... but high above, He That Is Higher is watching (Almighty God)!  He is observing every move!  Judgment is coming!

Thoughts like this will drive a man to repentance!

Then later, in Ecclesiastes 8:5-6, Solomon injects a nugget of gold!  "A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.  Because to every purpose there is time and judgment ...."  If a man is wise ... he will consider the coming time of judgment!

So says Solomon in his later years!

Next, in a stinging rebuke of his own former lifestyle, the King says:  "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." Ecclesiastes 11:9

That is ... live as sensually as you wise, but be aware that some day God will judge you for your deeds, all of them!  What preaching!

Then, lastly, the "classic" wisdom verse on judgment:  "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."  Ecclesiastes 12:14 

Amazing!

Here Solomon not only warns us about coming judgment ... but teaches dogmatically that it will occur after death!  When else could it be ... "every work" and if "every secret thing" is called into question?  Your "every work" is not completed until you have died ... or maybe even some years after you've died!

Yes, Solomon had judgment on his mind!

Judgment for sin!

And judgment on one's mind (and heart) for long will tend to produce heartfelt sorrow and genuine repentance.

And I believe it did just that with Solomon.

Surely part of the "Fear of the Lord" involves a conscious awareness that He is the Judge!  The "White Throne" Judge for sinners and the "Judgment Seat Of Christ" Judge for the saints.

Are you ready?

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9 ... SUNDAY, JULY 24, 2005:

I've heard it for years!

Critics assailing the Book of Daniel ... due to its vocabulary words!

Teachers mocking the Book of Esther ... which, they say, does not even mention God's Name!

Liberals attacking the Book of Revelation ... calling it the "ranting" of a deluded old man!

And Preachers saying that Genesis, the Book of Creation, is written by multiple authors and contains myths and legends!

Well, I'm tired of it!

Among these so-called "weaker" Books of Scripture is always placed Ecclesiastes!

One man said, "There is little Christianity in Ecclesiastes at all!"

I see things differently!  Vastly differently!

It appears to this preacher that Ecclesiastes is full of faith!

That is ... if one believes that a key phrase of the Wisdom Books and the Old Testament, "The Fear of the Lord," is an indication of trust and belief!

Solomon sure "preaches" a lot about such "Fear of the Lord" ... mentioning it numerous times in his Book.

"I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him." Ecclesiastes 3:14

We've just been told that all God does ... is to produce the Fear of the Lord in men's hearts!

That sounds like a man who believes in God ... a great big God!

"For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God."   Ecclesiastes 5:7

Here Solomon says that while much of life is vain and empty ... if one fears, trusts, reveres and worships the Lord ... life will have meaning!

Friends, that's faith!

"It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all."  Ecclesiastes 7:18

Of all the peoples of earth, even from the self-righteous to the super wicked, it is only the man who fears God that shall "come forth" into victory!

That is NOT the voice of doubt!

"Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him."  Ecclesiastes 8:12

Even in puzzling times, when it seems sinners are rewarded, Solomon KNOWS that faith in God, the Fear of the Lord, is the best path to follow!  God honors that!

And according to Ecclesiastes 8:13 there are consequences for NOT fearing God too!  "But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."  Sounds like this old King's mind is set ... sadly, after too many years of sinning ... but set nonetheless!

And the way Solomon ends the Book, it's very last verse, is conclusive.  "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."  Ecclesiastes 12:13

It took conviction for this old man who had wasted much of his life in wantonness and sensuality to write those words!  And they are a pretty good indication that he had repented too!

He, in effect, says:  I've failed!   Too much of my life has been vain!  Learn from my mistakes!  Fear and worship God!  Keep His commandments! 

To which advice all us New Testament Christians would have to say a hearty "AMEN!"

                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10 ... POSTED TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2005:

Here's a sad verse:  "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites."  1 Kings 11:5

Solomon had backslidden!

And yet earlier in His great reign it was said that he impressed the Queen of Sheba by "his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD."   So much did it amaze her that ... "There was no more spirit in her."  1 Kings 10:5

Here's the timeline:

1 Kings 10 and earlier ... Solomon was right with God and worshiping Him properly, reverently.

1 Kings 11 and later ... Solomon, having taken 1,000 wives and concubines, had deserted the Lord God and served other gods!

But I am suggesting to you today that as an old man ... Solomon saw the error of his way ... and repented.

Here's one reason why I believe so.  The following words are from the mouth of Solomon.   They are apparently written in his later years.

"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.  When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.  Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?"  Ecclesiastes 5:1-6

He just told us the proper way to go to Church!

How to listen to God!

How to stay quiet!

How to obey the Word ... making a "vow" is here being a "doer" of God's Commands!

How to avoid God's anger!

And how to keep the Almighty from destroying the works of your hands!

If that's not a spiritual "x-ray" of Biblical Repentance ... I'm badly mistaken!

Solomon ... godly when young ... rebellious when middle aged ... but repentant in his later years ... has written for us (under Holy Spirit inspiration) one of the greatest Books of the Bible, Ecclesiastes!

Read it often!

It is God's inerrant Word too!

                                                                     --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

MY PRAYER IS THAT THESE STUDIES WILL HELP US ALL GAIN A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THIS PRECIOUS BOOK OF SCRIPTURE, ECCLESIASTES!  IT IS THE WORD OF GOD, INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF!

 

 

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