Harry Johnston - Ecclesiates - Silverdale II, New South Wales - January, 1994

This evening I want to talk a little about Solomon and what he wrote in "The Preacher," as we call it in Sweden, but here you say "Ecclesiastes." Solomon had an opportunity in life that no one else will ever have. Besides being king of Israel, he was granted of God wisdom that no man before that time or after that time has ever had. In that wisdom he wrote the Proverbs and this book of
Ecclesiastes.

I have enjoyed some of the things he wrote about and what this wisdom did for him. When some people read this they say he must have been very disillusioned with life, but when we understand what life is really all about, it doesn't look so awful. Everything he tried was vexation of spirit and vanity. He felt that there was nothing in it and that this is the truth of it. This book gives me a little understanding of the spirit that is in people that we have to fight against when we bring the Gospel to them.

The first two chapters tell us what he experienced when he became king and had the privilege of the wisdom of God to help him. 2:22, "For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?" Verse 24, "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour... for who can hasten to it more than I?"

The thing that seemed to bother him was that he could have all this wisdom and get all these things together and enjoy them but then he would have to leave them to somebody. 2:18-19, "... because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I
have shewed myself wise under the sun."

There was a man who passed away and he knew a little about Truth. Before he died, he asked the undertaker to make a hole on each side of the casket and to put his hands out each side because he wanted to show his friends and relatives that he took nothing with him. We can take nothing with us except what we have put into heaven before we go there.

Maybe we could talk a little about Solomon's kingdom. I Kings 4:22 is a description of what he needed for his household for one day. "And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and three score measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, besides harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer and fowl." A measure was 86 gallons. That was what he required for his household every day. Think of what he was responsible for and yet, when he thought about it, it all seemed to be a disappointment.

He had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots and twelve thousand horsemen; that was a very busy household. You could have said that Solomon would have forgotten God entirely but he was the man who wrote the Proverbs, which tell us so much about living. He had the mind, the will, the strength, and the heart to learn all about this. 2:9, "So I was great, and increased more
than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me." 2:15, "Then I said in my heart, 'As it happeneth to a fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise?'" He had all those things that people today would love to get their hands on but he said, "This also is vanity."

There are some very nice things that will help us to make choices with our lives. He tells us in 2:24, "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour." God doesn't want lazy people. Plenty of people in the world want the Government to feed them. We are in this world to be an active people, to put our very best into life and to take care of ourselves. Solomon wanted these people to get busy and do something. Paul had this problem with some people he wrote to. Some didn't want to work and went around being tattle-tales, not being useful people in this world.

2:25, "For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto more than I?" He wasn't the only one to eat at his household; there must have been thousands to eat there. "For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy." That is just the opposite to the way of the world. They take from good people and give to people that are lazy. When it comes to spiritual things God isn't going to give anything that is of any worth to people that won't take good care of it.

I remember well when I was a little boy (You children will think I was a bit of a girl), somehow I was given two dolls. When I was twenty-four years of age and was in the Work, my mother asked me, "What do you want to do with those dolls?" I had forgotten them, but they were in a trunk and they had both lost their china heads. When I saw them I remembered them and there wasn't a scratch on their faces, so I said, "There are two girls up at the neighbours. Maybe they would like them." So my mother fixed their heads on again and dressed them in new clothes and gave them away. But within a week, they were both broken. Those girls didn't understand how to handle those china dolls and all that was left was the torn dresses.

3:14, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: Nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him." That is a good lesson from God. Whether we are serving God or not, with Him nothing is going to change. It is perfect and we would not want to try and change anything because if you take from His word, you take your name out of the Book of Life, and if you add anything to it there are the plagues in this book that will be added to you. The world wants to take an easier way and, in the USA, there is a new religion just about every week. People don't want to submit to others. They stand on their own thoughts, and that is why you have so many different religions.

3:15, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." If you don't have it you cannot count it, but God still requires it just the same. Really, that is just what we have been hearing at this Convention about the five foolish virgins. They didn't have the oil and they didn't have good judgement but still it was required. They just came in too late. That tells a lot about how we should live.

3:22, "Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?" You might say that you would become proud if you rejoiced in your own works. But if you don't rejoice in your own works and have some joy from it you are not going to rejoice when someone else has something to be glad about; you would then get envious. It is good to remember that you can enjoy what you are doing when you have laboured honestly for it.

4:9, "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour." I am so thankful that God planned His way of sending His servants two and two. Think what it would be like to be alone all the time, facing all those people in this world. I am so glad that I have a companion to rejoice together, to talk things over together, to sorrow together. We pull together and face each other.

I came across a family once, the man and his wife and two sons, and the man and his wife had not spoken to each other for twelve years. They lived in the same house and talked to their sons who relayed the messages. When the man died, I was in that area, and at his funeral, the wife sat there and laughed all the time. It is terrible when people will not face each other. If there is any problem that is serious, remember that you had better face right up to it because if you just "talk to the sons," it is never going to get better.

4:13, "Better is a poor and wise child than and old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished." When I read about the kings in the books of Kings, Samuel and Chronicles, I see that some of those men in their youth were excellent to the extreme. There was so much peace and happiness in their kingdoms, but when they got older some of them did some foolish things and destroyed their testimonies. God had to take some severe steps to help them to see what their condition was.

In 2 Chronicles 26:16, Uzziah got so big in himself and wanted to take the priest's place. Eighty-one men told him he couldn't do that, but he was stubborn and leprosy came up in his forehead. He went to a house where people were just like him, leprous. He couldn't be with his own family because of his manner of living and thinking. There were many kings in the books of Kings that would help us to be very careful.

Chapter five talks about our fellowship with God. Verse 1, "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." When they presented themselves to God, they weren't to do the talking, but to let God do the talking. God has done a lot of speaking to us here, if we have ears to hear.

5:4, "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it." If you make a promise to God, keep it. I remember telling the other children at school that when I got big enough my dad would buy me a bicycle. I was so sure of my father's promise because when he promised something, I got it. So when I got old enough and big enough my dad got me a bicycle, but I had worn out all the
catalogues in that time, which showed bicycles in them. Couldn't we get a little lesson from that? Why not wear out the Bible a little bit because we are waiting too, for the Lord, and that is far more important than anything else we are waiting for?

7:1, "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning...." I was surprised to see in the country where I labour, that when it comes to funerals, you have to be invited or you don't go. People don't have many friends to speak of and it looks so pathetic. But when our friends pass away, the funeral
director doesn't know what to do about it, because there will be so many there.

7:8, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." We find it so hard to be patient when waiting for something. Not so long ago we had to get something for the Convention place and went to a different place to ask for this part, but they had to send down to Germany for it and it would take maybe four months. We felt
impatient but we would just have to wait because things don't work unless you have the right parts. As for the proud in spirit - six feet of clay will make us all the same size.

We should go to the last chapter, the chapter about remembering our creator in the days of our youth. This chapter is also about old age, "when the keepers of the house shall tremble." Some of us in our eighties do some trembling and our balance goes from us. "The strong men shall bow themselves." We knew a man who used to carry 100 lbs (40 kg) of flour on his back for fifteen miles (25 k) as well as a bag of groceries in each hand because it was the only way to get to town. In his old age, he was all bowed over and said it was all the flour sacks he had carried.

Verses 3-5, ".. when the grinders shall cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened... and 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..." Things are altogether different when you get old.

Verse 13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man." Always remember that God knows everything about us whether good or bad and we are going to give account for what we have done with our lives. This should help us to be a little more wise and to pray to God for wisdom to make right choices and not to go to the end of our days disappointed; but to have enjoyed what God did give us. If we work at the natural things, we can also work at the spiritual things. But if you have no ambition for natural things, it is very unlikely that you will have a desire for spiritual things also.

I am thankful that we can understand a little about Solomon, even though he was a king, and I hope these things might help us to make good choices.