The Christian’s Responsibility to the King – Ecclesiastes 8:1-7

  Our text this afternoon lends itself to a short lesson on the Christian’s responsibility toward government. You may think that you know this subject better than the preacher, and you may be right. You may say that you know this subject, and this kind of sermon is superfluous. But I guarantee that you don’t know this subject better than the Lord does. I saw a wise statement the other day which may or may not apply to this message. Our preaching is necessary because of the inherent gap between what men know or believe and what they practice. Now, I wouldn’t give you a wooden nickle for Donald Trump’s opinion on the subject. He may or may not know a lot about government, laws and his own opinions about Christianity and government. But as far as I’m concerned he knows next to nothing about the Bible. And the Bible is our guide for faith and practice. To ask the average politician about spiritual things is like asking wolves about sheep. They only know that those sheep are fun to chase, and they taste good. But this afternoon we hear a man who was both an unusual politician and a child of God. I’m not talking about myself, but about Solomon. And standing behind him is the author of both government and Christianity – the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we have other experts in the Apostle to the Gentiles and the Apostle Peter. So between these four I think that we can get a general idea about our civic responsibilities. But people often think that what the Bible says...

The Death of Buddy Holly – Ezekiel 18:24-32

  Many of you won’t recognize the name in the title to this message. You are too young to know “Buddy Holly” and your music tastes have never run down the same path. That is all right, because for the sake of an introduction to this message, I’m going to enlighten you. Although it is debated, according to some people, Buddy Holly is the father of rock-and-roll music. But it is not in his music that I’m particularly interested this morning – rather it is in his death.   Charles Hardin Holley, eventually known as “Buddy” was born in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas. That was 9 months after my former pastor, Charles Ken Johnson, was born – also in Lubbock, Texas. In 1936 the population of Lubbock was about 25,000 – roughly the size of our own city at the moment. For 12 years Ken Johnson went to school with Buddy Holley – they knew each other quite well. Also, the Johnson family and the Holleys both attended the Tabernacle Baptist Church. Brother Johnson often told me that Buddy Holley made a profession of faith in Christ as a child. Wikipedia declares that he was a member of the Tabernacle Baptist church. And I have been told that Buddy Holley even professed a call into the gospel ministry. While in high school, Buddy and some friends formed a small musical band. Buddy played the lead guitar and sang – the others played back-up guitar, drums and bass. After Elvis Presley visited Lubbock in 1955, Buddy and his friends grew more interested in their music. Two years later they recorded...

Making Straight the Crookedness of Life – Ecclesiastes 7:11-29

  Not everyone should be a brain surgeon; most people don’t have the knowledge and skill. Not everyone should run marathons, because many don’t have the physical strength or health. Not everyone should be parents, because many people are nothing but 40-year-old children themselves. But what about this statement: “Everyone ought to be a theologian”? What is a theologian? A theologian is someone who studies God – God’s attributes and works. But a true theologian must study Jehovah, not any of the human-devised gods found through the world. And of course, only people who are born again can be accurate theologians. No one without the Bible and the blessing of the Holy Spirit will be a successful theologian. And no earth-bound human being will ever be smart enough or holy enough to truly know Jehovah. Nevertheless, as Solomon tells us, we all should “consider the work of God.” “Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.” Solomon specifically suggests that we consider the fact that only Elohim can make straight something which He previously made crooked – verse 13. As I was reading and re-reading this chapter, asking the Lord for an outline to use, it occurred to me that amidst the confusion of thoughts about life, there are illustrations of crookedness. As Bunyan’s Pilgrim found, the road to the Celestial City is not as straight as Jesus’ parable seems to suggest. It weaves through meadows, forests and swamps. It goes up and down hills and mountains; through canyons and along the edge of cliffs. How can we best walk through the valley...

The Good Old Days – Ecclesiastes 7:7-10

  One of the benefits of studying history is that it helps to keep one’s current situation in proper perspective. That is, history SHOULD keep things in perspective. But like everything else, people have a tendency to look at things through prejudiced eyes. For example, how many think that their grandparents had life so much better than we do today? “Oh, for the good old days. The days of the Waltons, ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘Leave it to Beaver.’” Back in the 50s life was easy and smooth. “Oh, to have been a part of the birth of this nation, when life was good – any time but this time.” This little paragraph from Solomon suggests the subject of “the good old days”’ from a couple of angles. The most obvious is verse 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 evening, let’s consider three days – today, the former days (or yesterday) and someday. Today. “Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad.” In modern English the word “mad” can have two related meanings. It can mean “angry” – as in “I am mad at you.” Or more classically it can refer to some degree of insanity – “I am madly in love with you.” In this verse, how does the Holy Spirit intend for us to use the word? The Hebrew in itself doesn’t help to answer our question, so we have look around and think about it. We see that verse 9 reminds us not to be quickly angry...

Why is it Better? – Ecclesiastes 7:2-6

  What is the difference between “fast,” “faster” and “fastest”? Isn’t it obvious? “Fast” means that something goes quickly. “Faster” means that something goes more quickly than the thing which only goes fast. The suffix “er” usually means there is a comparison between two things. One is faster than the other. “Fastest” technically means that of three or more things, this one is the quickest of them all. The suffix “est” speaks of a comparison between at least three things. Similarly, something might be good or beneficial – like an oatmeal cookie. On the other hand, that cookie served with vanilla ice cream is actually better than merely a good cookie. Ah, but a chocolate Blizzard with chunks of fudge is actually better than the other two – it would be best. “Better” is an improvement on “good” or “beneficial,” but “best” is the best of them all. I am not well-taught enough to tell you that the Hebrew bears this same comparison as English. But Solomon often uses the word “better” – but he never employs “best.” Not once does he tell us that anything “is the best” of its class. In verse 2 he says that “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.” If using the comparative suffixes means anything, between the house of mourning and the house of feasting, mourning is the better. He is not comparing three places, or four or five – only two. Between a house where death has visited and a home filled with feasting, the house of mourning is better....

A Good Name – Ecclesiastes 7:1

  Solomon has spent six chapters describing life in some of its darkest shades. “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men.” Actually there are lots of evils under the sun – and hiding from the sun – which the news throws into our faces night after night. But with this chapter Solomon sees just a hint of sun beginning to dawn in eastern sky. There is a slight bit of optimism. He is not out of the woods, and there are still lots of roots and branches trying to trip and knock him down. He is still delirious with the fever of depression. But it is beginning to break under the Great Physician’s marvelous medicines.   One of the good things under the sun is a good name. What’s in a name, or what is it about a good name? Of course this is not whether we go by “Dave” or “David.” It’s not whether “Erik” or “Kraig” are spelled with a “c” or a “k.” It’s not about “Steve” or “Steven” spelled with a “v” or a “ph.” Solomon is talking about a good reputation – something which lays behind the name. It’s not about the name printed on the Driver’s Licence. It is more about what the policeman is going to find when he enters it into his in-car computer. I won’t argue the fact that reputations can be deceiving – they can be connived and contrived. But in this case I am referring to a genuine reputation which has been built upon character. How do you...

What Good is It? – Ecclesiastes 6

  Solomon keeps coming back to a familiar theme. Verse 19 – “Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?” Sometimes he changes the key words, while still asking the same question. In verse 20 he asks, “What GOOD is there in this life?” or “What is man’s GOOD?” If this wasn’t an important question, we might be inclined to skip it after hearing it for the sixth time. But it is important because our neighbors sometimes wonder about it – especially during those moments when their lives are not going according to their projections. And it comes up from time to time even in Christian hearts – if not in its extreme – then in limited ways. “Why do I vacuum this living room, when in two days I’m going to have to do it again?” “Why am I trying to hard to reduce my debt load, when I know that my car is slowly dying.” Monday, with Bro. Berg’s power washer I cleaned the exterior of my house, including windows which I can’t reach from the ground. By Wednesday there was a new, huge deposit on the highest largest window, from a passing bird. There are practical aspects to this kind of question. But then there is the philosophical side – Solomon’s side. What exactly is the purpose of life? “Who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?” This is not an unnatural,...

The Enjoyment of Life – Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

  After we get to know people, there are often certain things which come to mind as we think about them. It might be the man’s job – Joe is a carpenter, John is a doctor, and we think of them in their vocations. Or it could be that person’s hobby – she has a green thumb, she is crafty, he loves baseball. You might know some people by their general philosophy toward life – He is happy, she is grumpy. If I had to pick some subject as the theme of for Solomon, it wouldn’t be that he was a king. Even though he was king of Israel, I picture him principally in other ways. Sometimes I remind myself that God gave him wisdom beyond the reach of most men. I don’t picture him as a soldier or warrior the way that some kings have been – like David. He might have been an innovator, but I don’t automatically think of him as an inventor or architect. Solomon doesn’t come across to me as a great servant of God, even though he was and still is one of God’s children. And if I had to describe his philosophy, I’d have to say that he looked hard for the enjoyment of life. Sometimes that involved God, but it often reached into other areas – and sometime they were sinful areas – for which he suffered the consequences. Solomon sought for the enjoyment of life – and he often spoke about it. And even though there is still much of the Book of Ecclesiastes to come, we can look at...

Vain Worship – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

  With what we know about his father, we might assume that if Solomon were alive today, he would have been raised in church. David had his spiritual ups and downs like every other human being, but he was essentially a man of God. He was often on the road, even living among the Philistines and other unbelievers, so there weren’t churches, synagogues or the tabernacle to attend three times a week. Even after he became king, he didn’t have the opportunity to drive a couple miles to be greeted by a few good brethren at the Baptist Church. But if he had the same opportunity you and I have, he would have been here just as often as we try to be. And Solomon would have been raised in the same way as your children have been raised. But second generation Christians have a much harder time serving the Lord than the first generation. Their commitment is different – or at least it comes from a different direction. Usually, they were not at the ground floor in building the congregation and calling the pastor. And their faithfulness and loyalty is different from that of their parents. Solomon, as a child of God, was a man after God’s own heart as David had been. But being of a different temperament and nature, his tastes, outlook and life-style were different from his father’s. And so we have heard Solomon suggest some dissatisfaction with his life. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and,...

Friends – Ecclesiastes 4

  Solomon, the royal preacher, is musing about life – its qualities, problems and purpose. He has tasted, tested and eventually rejected a great many things which lesser men think are important to life. He deals with the same things men and women are pursuing nearly 3,000 years later. Look around you – does the average piece of advertising really illustrate the important things of life? I saw an ad the other day for a new kind of snack, which appears to be just like a dozen others, but in a lighter, fluffier form, and therefore less expensive to make, but which will probably cost even more. Do we need another kind of snack food? And what about bumper stickers? What do we learn about life by studying the back-end of cars? If not on cars, then perhaps today’s t-shirts reflect the true meaning of the American dream. We are told that If you have tasted everything else, but not the new Diet drink, then you have not tasted life. And then we come to the beer commercials, the car commercials and Carribean Cruise commercials. Solomon says, “Wait a minute, I’ve done all of those things and a hundred more.” “I have found that everything I have ever done, outside of Jehovah God, has been vanity and vexation.” In this chapter 4, the divinely-gifted wise man says, “Here is one true necessity for a well-spent life – “ Good companionship is essential; fellowship is important. “Two are better than one.” On a very cold day, how can a single person really be warm? “A three-fold cord cannot be broken.”...

Folly or Faith? – Ecclesiastes 3

  One of the problems in studying Ecclesiastes is we often don’t know which Solomon is speaking to us. Is this Solomon the undeniable intellectual genius – the super-smart child of Adam. Or is this the other son of Adam – the sinful, self-filled reprobate. At times it is the Spirit-inspired, Heaven-bound saint of God – the child of his father David? Sometimes when the strange dog barks, it is hard to tell if he’s glad to see you, or if he’s hungry. At times this book appears to be contradictory. In one breath its words take us to the palace of God. It lifts us up on angels wings and shows us the Merciful and Mighty Messiah. And then in the next breath it seems to carry a stench – up from the gutters of Calcutta. Take verse 17 as an example: “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.” Indeed, these are the words of God’s preacher – “Ecclesiasticus.” But then we have to listen to a whole lot of despair. Verse 19 – “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. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” When we put them together what do we have? Verse by verse we have to ask...

Turn, Turn, Turn – Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

  In this chapter Solomon makes a change in his writing style. He drops the autobiographical form of the first two chapters and temporarily waxes philosophical. He could have put this to music and added another million dollars to his already fabulous fortune. Although what he says is obvious, the way in which he puts things catches people’s attention. “Turn, turn, turn.” I’m sure that the folk rock band, the Byrds, would not appreciate my outline. But let’s consider God’s sovereignty, our tenacity, and the resultant opportunity. First there is God’s SOVEREIGNTY. Would it be a good idea after church tonight to go home to our gardens and plant orange tree seedlings? The weather has changed; we are not going to have any more single digit temperatures for at least six or eight months. Despite the warmer days, planting orange or grapefruit trees, would not be a good idea. Because with a great many other things in life there are seasons which must be respected. I don’t care what tomorrow’s forecast might say, the weather in the Northwest is not conducive to growing certain fruits and crops. Solomon speaks of “seasons.” A season is basically a rule of time. Perhaps we could use the word “dispensation” in our conversation about seasons. Sometimes the seasonal rules are painfully strict. And at other times the rules are bent without seriously breaking any bones. The next six months of 2018 might be very mild, but don’t donate your winter parka to the thrift store, because winter will return, unless the Lord returns first. A “season” is a RULE of time – and...

Suicidal Sovereign – Ecclesiastes 2

  For several weeks recently, I was looking for insurance protection for the church. At first, I was looking for nothing more than accident or liability insurance against slip and fall accidents. I came close to buying a commercial package which any business might buy. But then I ran into a couple of good agents who handle nothing but insurance for churches. And I bought a reasonably priced policy which includes everything from personal accidents to fires and to ministerial liability. Ministerial liability? This is something for which the local coffee shop doesn’t need insurance, but churches do. For example, families are suing churches and pastors, who counsel people whose lives are falling apart. Let’s say that a man addicted to pornography comes to me, seeking my help, and I give him advice about how to overcome his sin. But then, after three months of counsel, the man kills himself, leaving a note declaring that his pornography addiction made him so depressed that he decided to take his own life. Surviving family members of such suicides have begun suing the pastors who failed to deliver their loved ones from their sins. I know that such law suits are unjust, but this is life in the ungodly, lawsuit-prone, United States. Settlements have reached into the millions of dollars. This is just one example. The actual details might involve a failing marriage or drug abuse or any number of other things. Now, we (or I) need to have insurance to cover such a problem should it ever arise. This is where my introduction begins to touch on Ecclesiastes 2. Even though...

An Experiment in Riotous Mirth – Ecclesiastes 2:1-2, 10-11

  Because I want to maintain some consistency in our study of Ecclesiastes, this afternoon, we shall look at a subject and text which I addressed about a year ago. I sincerely hope that some of you will remember a point or two that you’ll hear today. One of the fears of every sincere pastor is that people only appear to be listening to his messages. Perhaps through a little osmosis, a point or two will creep into some hearts, but if there isn’t a distinct effort to hear the still small voice of God, the Lord will not be effectively heard. One way to deal with our mental and spiritual weakness is repetition. Please bear with me – yes, you have heard much of today’s message before. I was 11-years-old in the 1960. That essentially means that I grew up in that tumultuous period of time – as did some of you. Those were the days of Viet Nam, war riots, and race riots, LSD, hippies and a great deal of turmoil. And more than one of my high school class-mates became drop outs. Not only did some drop out of school but some dropped out society. Some moved south and became beach bums, and others moved to the hills and became ski bums. It was not uncommon in those days to hear someone say that he or she was going off to “find himself.” My sister did just that, eventually flying off to Switzerland, as did at least one of my classmates. Those were days when Hindu gurus were as common as houseflies, and my sister found...

The Sorrow of Wisdom – Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

  I am getting in way over my head in our theme for this evening. But, as you know, that is not particularly unusual; I do that quite often. As God’s wise man often does, Solomon is going to talk to us about wisdom. Am I qualified to comment on the wisdom of Solomon? Certainly not in myself. On the other hand, should I never preach about subjects about which I am not a personal expert? Should I never condemn adultery since I have never committed adultery? The fact is, I can address that subject because I have in my hands the unadulterated Word of God. When what I say about adultery comes from the Bible, I can speak with authority, even though I’m not speaking out of experience. And like the subject of adultery, or drug abuse, or murder, I’m speaking this evening about something about which I’ve only read a few things, now and then. “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Remember that WHEN Solomon says this, he’s speaking as man out of fellowship with God. That does not mean he can’t be lead of the Spirit, and speaking the mind of God. But personally, he is only coming back to the Lord, whom he left for a period of sin. Now, he has one eye on heaven and the other on earth, but the heavenly eye has some sand in it. He’s in the middle of the lake; his outboard motor is down and he has only one oar. He just keeps going around in circles, despite all...