Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 1, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 1

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“The Rise and Fall of the House of Solomon”



Welcome to 13 weeks of special study in a neglected Bible book! Never in my memory of 78 years since I was baptized have we had a 13-month series of lessons on Ecclesiastes. Solomon takes center stage here as the star repentant who staggers back into the church like so many do today when they have left the church and given the best of their lives to the world. They are often exalted on the camp meeting platforms to tell the youth that sin, drugs, and apostasy “don’t pay.”


Solomon is the prime example of such. He has gone the limit in lust and licentiousness; now he is old and feeble, his mind and body deteriorating, probably having to walk with a cane or maybe be pushed in a wheelchair, now telling everybody what a fool he has made of himself.


Jesus speaks of Solomon, but not of his honorable character; no, all He can remember of him is his fancy and elaborate dress (Matt. 6:29 ). This particular writer has difficulty summoning a great deal of respect for the man; God Himself had spoken directly to him in his youth, had promised him wisdom and riches galore, and had blessed him marvelously; yet he chose to descend to the level of a crude idolater, and squandered the blessings entrusted to him. Of all babies born into the world, Solomon enjoyed being conceived in the greatest repentance any parental couple have ever experienced—David’s and Bathsheba’s of Psalm 51 (this may have made possible his receiving that divine gift of wisdom).


But there is Good News in the book: God accepts repentant sinners and even has gone so far as to give them a book in His Bible! No matter who you are, if you have wasted your life, you are not to despair of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Christ “receives sinners” (Luke 15:2), some of the most encouraging words in the entire Bible. Some who have come back in repentance later in life have made wonderful contributions to the soul-saving work of Jesus—the apostle Paul for example. He is a “penitent” also. Your prime goal is not simply to squeak into the Holy City somehow and save your own soul; what you want is to honor Christ in some way, and He is waiting to bless you. The promise of God to Abraham is to you also, that you will not only receive blessings everywhere you go but you “will be a blessing” wherever you go (Gen. 12:2, 3).


Solomon’s Ecclesiastes takes us all down a notch in self-esteem.

One of his favorite words is “vanity,” puncturing like a balloon our pride in ourselves. In the end, the repentant Wise Man says words to help the youth if they will pause a moment to listen (and who are the “youth”? Maybe we can say, anyone less than 120): “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 ...” and then he reminds us of judgment (11:9, KJV).


What is he saying? Swaggering, arrogant young man who is the sports star in your class in school, who drives that red Mercedes, who has the girls crowding around you, who plans on having a big new house and three-car garage in your 20s, stop and consider where you would be if the Lord should withdraw His blessings from you: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug” (Isa. 51:1).


Gorgeously beautiful, shapely young lady, charming as well, who has everybody turning heads in your direction at school: remember that the biblical “young man” means “young woman” as well. You are great just now, but all that you have is what God gave you, to use somehow to His glory, not yours. Go visit a nursing home some day and see the former belles who were great long ago, what many look like today. Solomon has divine authority for speaking to us; he says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (12:1, KJV). Simple counsel: just “remember.” It’s the simple weekly reminder of God’s holy Sabbath, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” If you remember it, He will keep you from falling into any of the pits that poor Solomon stumbled into.


Our challenge these 13 new weeks is to search and find the “everlasting gospel” in Solomon’s 12 chapters. That may require some broader thinking than our Lesson Book provides; be of good courage, don’t despair; before you study each lesson, ask the Lord for guidance. And before you go to the Sabbath School class, ask for His blessing to receive and to give. He will not fail you. You will fall in love with Ecclesiastes.

Robert J. Wieland


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