Incentive to Service – Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

  We’ve been looking at this book for several months now. I hope we’ve not been into it for so long you’ve forgotten how gloomy Solomon was at the beginning. At first everything he touched seemed to crumble to dust. “Laughter is vanity, work is vanity, rest is vanity – even faith is vanity.” Do you know how often he has said, “All is vanity?” Thus far it has been four times, and he is not finished. ” I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” But now listen to the man of God, the preacher, the prophet of the Lord. Now he is telling us to stick our necks out for God. He says that Jehovah is sovereign and every act of service shall be rewarded. “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” These aren’t the words of some young preacher who is just repeating what he has heard. Solomon has learned from first-hand experience about some of the disappointments of life. Yet, the moment he looked “unto the hills from whence cometh his help” his attitude changed. Think about what is suggested behind these confusing words. What is this bread that ought to be scattered? For a long time this verse made no sense to me whatsoever. Do you know what happens to thin sliced, white enriched bread when it is wet? Some of you don’t because its been years since you’ve seen white enriched store-bought bread. But have you ever fed the ducks at the park?...

The Words of the Fool – Ecclesiastes 10:10-20

  The last half of this chapter isn’t organized and put into a nice clean outline; there isn’t a plan or objective. Here, the penman of the Proverbs gives to us a few more examples of his divinely-given wisdom. And in this case several times in these verses he speaks about speaking. Several times he refers to the words of the fool. Solomon has described and condemned the fool often enough in these two books that no one should want to be called “a fool.” And since wisdom is so closely tied to the Lord, it should be obvious that to be “a fool” is to be alien to the things of God. But still, even the wisest of men, Solomon included, sometimes say and do foolish of things. Both you and I have been guilty of foolish speaking and foolish actions. And this means that consideration of these scriptural warnings is always appropriate, even when they are elemental and obvious. Before considering the words of the wise we see the Words of the FOOL. Verse 11 says – “Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.” After my family moved to Omaha, Nebraska from Calgary, Alberta, my dad found that the nearest mountains were in western South Dakota. My parents desperately needed to see trees and something approaching mountains. So for several summers, we spent two weeks camping in the Black Hills beyond Rapid City. There were lots of things for young kids to enjoy from fishing to touring gold mines and visiting Deadwood. And I clearly remember visiting a place called the...

Hedges and Hurt – Ecclesiastes 10:1-9

  For some time now, we have been looking at two books – both of which come from the pen of Solomon. It wasn’t intentional on my part, and we were into Ecclesiastes for a few weeks before I realized it. We must remember the penman is not important, because the true author is God, the Holy Spirit. But it is also true that the Spirit used the personalities of each of His amanuenses – His secretaries. The upbringing of Paul, or Daniel, or Moses are a part of the ingredients in our study of their writings. Problems arise when we focus on the penmen, forgetting what the inspiration of the scriptures entailed. “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.” So the writer of this book was Solomon. His wisdom and general intellect are as proverbial as his Proverbs. From other scriptures we see that he had a scientific mind. Sometimes he used that mind in the search for meaning of life. He had the money, time and other connections to explore philosophy. He also was proven to be an intelligent scientist of the more physical sort. We are told that Solomon created a royal zoo, bringing animals from various corners of the world. This importation of plants and animals was as much for scientific reasons as it was for their beauty and Solomon’s pleasure. With these things in mind, once again, I note that Solomon knew whereof he spoke. He had at times sown to his flesh and from...

Folly Unfolded – Ecclesiastes 10:1-3

  In creative writing classes, teachers tell their students to write about things which they know personally. There comes the time that we must research things and report on them. But for the sake of a good story, personal experience is the best source of information. It makes for a more entertainment, but beyond story-telling, personal experience is more insightful and therefore more practical. And in that light have you noticed how often Solomon refers to “wisdom” and “folly”? Those are themes bouncing all over the book of Proverbs, like ping-pong ball. And if I counted correctly we find “wisdom versus folly” about two dozen times in this book as well. Solomon knows the subject well; he knows BOTH subjects very well. God gave him a special gift of wisdom in all its important forms – secular and spiritual. And yet his native depravity took him into foolishness and sin to a degree to which only a wealthy king could fall. Yes, he knew both wisdom and folly, and he could therefore address both of them well. I read of a famous man, who was the guest speaker at a luncheon. His wife was with him – along with several important dignitaries – all at the head table. One of the men sitting next to the podium, happened to notice that on this socks was the monogram “TGIF.” His first thought was the phrase about the joy of coming to Friday and the end of the work week. But why was it on his socks? The man’s speech was brilliant and witty, with everyone having a very good time,...

Dead Lions and Living Dogs – Ecclesiastes 9:1-12

  Have you ever gone to the grocery store and gotten behind a family of six pushing two full grocery carts? There you are with your small basket hoping you’ve added things correctly so you’ve got enough cash. Finally the big family in front of you reaches the check out and the total is $350.00. Everyone in that family looks healthy, despite their boxes of candy and cigarettes – and the beer cartons. Then with Dad smiling, the wife reaches into her purse and pays for all their stuff with food stamps. You and your family are trying to eke out an existence, living on what income you can bring home. And here is a perfectly healthy family living high on the hog at tax-payers expense. It just doesn’t seem right. And here are two men running for public office – or maybe they are women. One doesn’t have the budget of the other, but he has high ideals and well-known morals. He has ideas that sound great, and it appears he will benefit his constituency. While the other candidate, the incumbent, appears to be corrupt but with plenty of money and power. Which one is more likely to be elected to a fourteenth term in office? And here are four people, all 50 years old and coming from different backgrounds and life-styles. Only one them lives be 100, and it just happens be one who chews Copenhagen and drinks Jack Daniels. Something isn’t right. Philosophers have been struggling with notions like this for centuries. And these situations have thrown great and wise men down for the count. Don’t...

Dead Dogs and Living Lions – Ecclesiastes 9

  Have you ever gone to the grocery store and gotten behind a family of six pushing two full grocery carts? There you are with your small basket hoping you’ve added things correctly so you’ve got enough cash. Finally the big family in front of you reaches the check out and the total is $350.00. Everyone in that family looks healthy, despite their boxes of candy and cigarettes – and the beer cartons. Then with Dad smiling, the wife reaches into her purse and pays for all their stuff with food stamps. You and your family are trying to eke out an existence, living on what income you can bring home. And here is a perfectly healthy family living high on the hog at tax-payers expense. It just doesn’t seem right.   And here are two men running for public office – or maybe they are women. One doesn’t have the budget of the other, but he has high ideals and well-known morals. He has ideas that sound great, and it appears he will benefit his constituency. While the other candidate, the incumbent, appears to be corrupt but with plenty of money and power. Which one is more likely to be elected to a fourteenth term in office? And here are four people, all 50 years old and coming from different backgrounds and life-styles. Only one them lives be 100, and it just happens be one who chews Copenhagen and drinks Jack Daniels. Something isn’t right. Philosophers have been struggling with notions like this for centuries. And these situations have thrown great and wise men down for the count....

The Battle in Corinth – II Corinthians 10:1-7

  When was last time you asked yourself: “What is my purpose in coming to church this morning? What do I hope to experience or gain? What will my presence add to the service? Will I be a blessing to someone? Will I be blessed?” A related question might be: “What is the objective that our church has for meeting together this morning?” There may be as many answers as there are religious high places calling themselves “houses of God.” There aren’t nearly as many excuses that people offer have tor NOT going to church. But there are still dozens for actually attending. In churches like ours perhaps one of the foremost true explanations might be habit. “I’ve spent my Sunday mornings listening to the Bible for so many years, I can’t picture myself anywhere else.” In another church, some people attend hoping to make business contacts or looking for a mate. Some churches appear to be filled with people attempting to show off in one fashion or another. Some people attend with a desire to find things to criticize and to find targets to shoot. Pride is one reason to go to church and so is a need to unload burdens and find comfort. The list could go on and on, and some of them aren’t really that bad. And specific reasons vary each week – one thing stands out one week, but not the next. Oldfield is preaching “live and in person” this Sunday; let’s see if he’s really as heavy as he looks on TV. Let’s considered II Corinthians 10 as a reason to attend this...

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...