How can the lesson of the idle Preacher teach us about our duty in the end-times?
King Solomon (referred to as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes) conducted an undesirable experiment in Israel’s Golden Age. The relative peace of the time encouraged the wealthy monarch to “see what was good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life” (Eccl. 2:3). While the goal seemed noble, the means by which he chose to accomplish it were anything but. While claiming to be a child of light, Solomon chose to gratify his body with pleasure, folly, mirth, laughter, and wine while holding onto his God-given wisdom.
The very concept of such an experiment flies in the face of everything the law of God requires of man and the wisdom that God gave to him. But something happened to Solomon in the time of Israel’s peace, something that enticed him to pursue a course that would draw him away from God at the prime of his life.
Solomon, in his time of peace and prosperity, had become idle. The seeming lack of activity in his life led him to walk down paths of thinking that no man of God should entertain. Solomon would later testify of the effect of idleness upon man. “…and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through” (Eccl. 10:18).
Applying this understanding to Solomon’s walk with God, we can see that he allowed his defense against sin and iniquity to “drop through”. He did not inquire of the Lord as to how he was to escape this dangerous spiritual condition. Nor did he ask Him for the means by which could and should focus his time. He simply allowed things to “drop through”.
Such a spiritual condition permeated the minds of the men of Sodom in the days of Lot. When the Lord came down to see the wickedness of Sodom, he noted that there was an “abundance of idleness” within its walls (Ezek. 16:49, 50). Through entertaining such a sin over a period of time, they became so far removed from God, one would question if they were ever made in His image. They sank from evil to evil and eventually, their wickedness warranted divine judgment.
Now, idleness had claimed a greater prey, Solomon king of Israel. The king, by his spiritual indolence, opened his mind to the thoughts and actions that turn men away from God. But Solomon still held onto his God-given wisdom. Near the beginning of his reign, Solomon asked the Lord for this divine gift to judge the nation of Israel (1 Ki. 3:9) and he used it to their benefit. Not only were his people well-governed, but his wisdom was renowned throughout the then-known world. But now, Solomon used it in this infamous experiment.
Solomon used his discernment to communicate to his people (and to us, via the Scriptures) the results of his “study.” Such a life was faithfully recorded for us as a means by which God’s people would know the danger of entertaining a spirit of idleness, a lesson especially important for us to learn in light of the last days.
In the spirit of his idle mind, Solomon “made his works great”. He had houses built. Vineyards, orchards, gardens, and groves were planted in abundance. He acquired an abundant quantity of livestock, gold, and silver among other treasures. He gathered male and female servants and singers to him. Not only did the fallen Preacher excel in fame and deed, he relentlessly pursued every pleasure he laid his eye on.
In his youth, King Solomon gloried in all of these things. His multitude of works and treasures, as well as the endless pursuit of forbidden pleasures, brought him great pride. But as the Preacher grew older and looked upon his labors, he realized that all these things were “vanity and grasping for the wind” (Eccl. 2:11). All of the pleasures he enjoyed, all of his wealth and works, were in vain. Solomon finally realized that he wasted his life pursuing that which was “no profit under the sun.” (Ibid.)
When he understood that all that he had done and acquired will one day be forgotten, he hated his life. He even hated his labors because he knew that they would be passed on to one who did not labor for them. This brought him great despair. After living a life of pursuing that which was no profit, Solomon’s experiment was over. All was vanity.
What is the application of Solomon’s life of vanity? What counsel did the Preacher offer to all who read his testimony then and all who do so now?
The study of Bible prophecy tells us that were are living in the last days, the time before Jesus returns. But the time before this great event is not being redeemed. Rather than inquiring of the Lord as to what we should be doing before then, we have given ourselves over to the very works that Solomon pursued in his lifetime: folly, mirth, laughter, intoxicating wine, and the endless pursuit of pleasure.
Consequently, many of God’s people have turned away from Him as did the wise king Solomon. Their God-given talents are not being used as they should. Like Solomon once did, we are supposed to use our talents to bring people to God. His wisdom was renowned by the world and God was praised for it. But now, many of those who profess his name use their given talents to glorify themselves and take honor that belongs to God alone.
Before his fall, Solomon did this. His testimony in Ecclesiastes was meant to teach the church today how they should live before God. There is no man, living or dead, who was as wise as him (save our Lord Jesus). But despite the testimony he gave concerning his repentance of pursuing such a life, we have not hearkened to his counsel.
How many of us repeat Solomon’s life lesson today, the history that they failed to learn from! As many approach the close of their lives, they begin to realize that these things are vanity. Many who have wealth and others who have pursued these things – folly, mirth, laughter, wine, and forbidden pleasure – are finally starting to realize that all that they have pursued possesses no eternal value. They have profited them nothing. But Solomon, now repentant for living such a vain life, gave his people counsel concerning the time before the Lord’s return.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
Those who pursue earthly things are counseled by Solomon to obey God and keep His commandments. Those who seek (or those who profess to seek) the kingdom of heaven cannot do this so long as he pursues his own sinful pleasure and profit. As such, Solomon counsels the idle to turn away from these things and turn back to God. In his God-given wisdom, he saw that the key to doing this was by obeying Him and keeping His commandments.
Consider Jesus’ summation of the Ten Commandments.
“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40)
A Christian cannot possibly do these things in his persistent pursuit of earthly pleasure. He cannot love God when he pursues the things the Scriptures, the Word of God, forbid. He cannot love his neighbors, for pursuing pleasure and profit blind him from seeing the affliction his actions bring upon them. As the rich man before them was taught, they who would enter into eternal life must keep His commandments (Matt. 19:17-19).
The importance of keeping the Ten Commandments, taught by Solomon and Jesus alike, cannot be overlooked or understated in the last days. The first four commandments are manifested in the greatest commandment, to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The last six are expressed in the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. In keeping them, God’s people do their duty to Him.
But many among us believe the deception that the death of Christ annulled the need to keep the commandments and, by implication, to obey God. Such a vital part of the Christian’s duty to God is dismissed as “legalism”.
While it is true that the commandments contained in the ordinances (Gr. a law (civil, ceremonial, or ecclesiastical): see Eph. 2:15 and the Strong’s Concordance entry G1378) have been fulfilled, the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments will stand forever. What saith our Lord Jesus concerning these commandments?
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-19).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (Jn. 14:21).
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (Jn. 15:10).
Did Jesus’ teachings concerning the commandments become invalid after He died on the cross? Not at all, for even the women who prepared the spices for Jesus’ body obeyed the commandments after He died (Lk. 23:56). The apostle John, whom Jesus loved, supports this understanding.
“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 Jn. 2:3-5).
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 Jn. 5:2, 3).
Does not his letter repeat the conclusion of Solomon, to fear God and keep His commandments? This counsel was not rendered void at the death of Jesus. Rather, it was aptly demonstrated in Jesus’ life and continued in the lives of those who loved Him.
But the hardened heart towards the commandments still wars within him concerning this teaching, for many believe that they need not honor the commandments that have existed since eternity. Know you not that God’s people in the last days will be known and persecuted by the world for keeping God’s commandments?
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12).
In light of this understanding concerning the commandments of God, how can Christians possibly dismiss them? How can they dismiss the duty of man to pursue that which cannot profit, as Solomon before them? Know they not that they who will enter heaven will have done their appointed duty by keeping His commandments?
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14)
They, in peacetime and in persecution, will have done their duty on earth. By manifesting their love for God, in good times and bad, they will be counted worthy to enter the courts of heaven. But those who choose to repeat the error of Solomon in the last days will not. May God’s people carefully weigh this important matter and study for themselves what man’s duty is to their God today.
Jesus died for all man. His death gave man the divine strength they need to do their duty, to fear (revere) God and keep His commandments. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, promised to all who obey the Lord, is more than able to guide us into doing this.
But many of us have been ensnared by the world to pursue its works, profit, and pleasures as Solomon once did. But like Solomon, many are beginning to understand that these things cannot profit them. Whether they are in the latter years of their life or have grown weary of these things, man is finally understanding that their pursuit of folly, mirth, laughter, intoxicating wine, and sinful pleasure is vanity, a grasping for the wind. But what is left for them to pursue that can profit them? Only the kingdom of heaven is worth pursuing in this life, the promised city which Jesus gave His life for them to enter.
They who manifest their love for Him by keeping His commandments will not be disappointed in the last days. They will be brought through the final crisis and into the courts of heaven. This promise is given to all who would do their duty to God. But many Christians have been deceived into believing that they do not have to keep His commandments. But the testimony of Jesus and His followers after Him testify that they who love God will keep His commandments. Every Christian should carefully consider the matter in these last days, for the time approaches when the antichristian kingdom will persecute all who do their duty to God, those who fear God and keep His commandments.