Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- IV. Christ in the Poetical Books
4. Ecclesiastes --
- This book is one long comment on the words of Christ, ''Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again'' [John 4:13].
The expresson ''under the sun'' occurs no less than twenty-eight times, and nowhere else in the Bible. It may be taken as the Key-note of the book. ''Under the heaven'' is thrice mentioned, and ''upon the earth'' seven times. The word ''vanity'' occurs thirty-seven times [the Hebrew word means ''a vanishing vapor,'' or, ''emptiness'']. Nearly forty times in this book, does the Spirit of God name the earth and the things belonging to the earth. It is only in the last few verses that we get ''above the sun.''
If life be viewed apart from God, it becomes an insoluble problem; all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Exclude God from the world, and scepticism and materialism must be the inevitable result. The chief design of the book is to test things in order to prove how inadequate they are to satisfy the deepest and truest longings of the human heart. Its problem is-- Can the world, apart from God, meet man's need? The verdict is, ''All is vanity.''
- What Shall It Profit? [Ecc 1:3; cp. Mark 8:36]
- Who is it that propounds this problem? It is one who was in the very best position to judge. One who possessed everything the world could give, not only of material things, but of intellectual gifts also. Solomon-- ''the peaceful one''-- was intended to be the great ideal king. In the First Book of Kings, we see the extent of his possessions. A large, well-defined, fertile territory, peace within and around his kingdom; an enormous revenue to spend, wealth practically limitless; all the interests of new commerce and exploration. Insight and penetration above all men, sympathy with all men and things, the interest of starting classifications of science, and of forming books of maxims and songs. The respect and admiration of all his contemporaries. The power of expressing his thoughts in words (1Kings ch. 4; 8; and 10; Ecc 2:1-11). Wealth, youth, and strength were all on his side at the commencement of his reign, and, unlike other Easterns, he was never idle. He spent a number of years in building the Temple, a worthy work for such a king. His actual possessions and his power of insight and penetration lift him into a position from which he can really view the whole of life, and the limit of what it can afford. Here is philosophical insight fully developed; the great problem stated, but not solved; the diagnosis of the disease, but not the remedy. The book presents the world in its best aspect, yet says emphatically, ''Satisfaction is not there.''
''Only in the last two verses do we find the solution [12:13,14]. Here Solomon gets above the sun, and things begin at once to disentangle and straighten. Love God, obey Him, trust Him, and all will be well with you; for the judgment approaches in which all wrongs will be righted, and all mysteries cleared up, and you will be made glad with a joy unspeakable. This is the key to the book. Live under the sun, rise no higher, and doubt and unbelief will ensue. Live above the sun, spend the days with God, and light and peace you shall have.'' [Outline Studies in the Books of the Old Testament, W.G. Moorehead, D.D.]
- A New Center.
- In chapter 2, we have a striking parallel to Romans 7. Both chapters are bristling with the personal pronoun ''I,'' and the result, in both, is failure and disaster. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon says, ''I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth... I said, I sought, I made, I builded, I planted, I got, I gathered, so I was great. Then I looked, and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit.'' The pronoun ''I'' occurs thirty-six times, and over thirty times in Romans 7. That New Testament chapter is the expression of what the Apostle's experience would be, any moment, apart from Christ. As he looks at himself, all is failure, vanity and vexation. But in Romans 8, as he looks at Christ, he loses sight of himself. The pronoun of the first-person hardly occurs; he is taken up with the contemplation of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. The Divine Name occurs abundantly all through the chapter, and the result is ''No condemnation,'' ''more than conquerors,'' ''no separation.''
When self is the center of our life, and everything is looked at from that standpoint, all is failure. When we find in Christ a new center and everything revolves around Him, then all falls into its right place, and we find rest and satisfaction to our souls. We begin then to ask about everything-- not ''How will this affect me?'', but ''How will this affect my Lord and Master?'' Does it touch His honor? Does it bring glory to Him?
- White Robes.
- There is a verse in Ecclesiastes which takes us into the very atmosphere of John's first Epistle. ''Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.'' (Ecc 9:8). Obviously, this does not allude to outward things. But how can we keep ourselves unspotted in such an evil world? and how can we be continually ''unto God a sweet savour of Christ''? [2Cor 2:15]. ''The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.'' [1Joh 1:7]. As we walk in the light as He is in the light, and abide under the power of His shed blood, we can be kept clean. ''Ye have an unction from the Holy One... and the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you.'' [1Joh 2:20,27]. As we abide under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, He will abide with us for ever.
- The Little City.
- Again, this book contains a little parable. It is not a type, it is not a prophecy, but a simple little story with a beautiful truth hidden in it for those who believe that all parts of the Scripture converge towards One Center (Ecc 9:14,15).
''There was a little city, and few men in it''-- a picture of this earth which the Lord hath given to the children of men; a speck in His great universe, yet He is mindful of man.
''And there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it.'' ''The
Prince of this world cometh,'' Christ said; and he, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of men, lest the light of the glorious Gospel should shine unto them; so successfully has he laid siege to the city of Mansoul [ie., man's soul]. [cp. John 14:30; 2Cor 4:4]
''Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city.'' We know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, and was found in fashion as a man, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross [2Cor 8:9; Php 2:6-8]. The preaching of that Cross is unto them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God [1Cor 1:18,24].
''Yet no man remembered that same poor man.'' ''My people have forgotten Me days without number'' [Jer 2:32], ''forgotten that they were purged from their old sins'' [2Pet 1:9]. ''Of the ten cleansed there were not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger'' [Luke 17:17,18]. Oh, redeemed children of men, ''forget not all His benefits!'' [Psa 103:2]
- ''Both alike Good.''
- Chapter 11 contains words of encouragement to the worker for Christ. ''Cast thy seed-corn on the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.'' When the Nile overflows in Egypt, the rice grain is literally cast upon the fields while they are under water, to spring up in due season. In the parable of the sower, Christ tells us plainly that ''the seed is the word'' [Luke 8:4-15]. The ground, be it shallow, or trodden down, or preoccupied, or good-- that is, soft and empty, and receptive-- is the human heart. From this parable, we see that the heart of man contains nothing of the good seed of the Kingdom to begin with-- it has to be sown. The work of sowing the good seed of the Kingdom is always an act of faith. We cannot tell what sort of ground it will fall upon, but in this passage in Ecclesiastes, God gives the faithful sower the benefit of the doubt as to its success. ''Thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.'' Therefore, we are to be diligent in sowing, whether it be morning or evening, and whichever way the wind blows (11:6,4). ''Preach the word,'' Paul says to the youthful Timothy; ''be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine'' [2Tim 4:2].
- ''Those that seek Me early shall find Me.'' [Prov 8:17; cp. Prov 1:24-33]
- The book closes with a call to the young: ''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'' [Ecc 11:9]. The intention of the writer evidently is not to encourage the young to follow the dictates of their own heart without reference to God's will. He warns them of the result of such a course: ''Therefore, remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. 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.' [11:10 - 12:1-7].
This book is given as a danger-post, that we may be spared the bitterness of learning the vanity of the things of earth by finding their waters to fail; that we may choose the Lord's delightsome service of our own free will.
Those who have studied the subject have found that by far the largest proportion of men and women who are living to serve the Lord have chosen that service in childhood; that the proportion of those who are converted to God late in life is very small. How important, then, that the children should be won for Christ, that this most fertile soil should be claimed for Him, that the children should be led to accept His invitation: ''Suffer [ie., allow] the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me'' [Mark 10:14].
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For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.
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