Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/02/17 Sermon - The Living Have Hope

“The Living Have Hope”

Ecclesiastes 9


How many of you have ever seen an Alfred Hitchcock movie? Then you will relate to the description I am about to share of one of his creations. This half hour television drama begins with a couple driving down the road, through the countryside, having a cordial conversation. Until, they hear the screeching of a siren and see the blue lights flashing behind them.  As they slow down, in response, the police car passes them and cuts in front of them causing them to swerve and crash into a low cement wall. In shock, the couple manage to get out of their car, only to discover that their front wheel has been crushed. They turn to meet the policemen who have come up behind them, about to protest, when the man is slugged in the head by a burly officer, who proclaims, “You saw him try to hit me, right buddy.” To which the other officer states, “I sure did!” At this point in the show, you begin to wonder what is going on. Your anxiety for this couple increases as the next scene progresses. The tow truck arrives, takes the car to the garage and the couple are quoted an exorbitant amount for towing and repairs and told they need to proceed to the Justice of the Peace where they are convicted of speeding, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, without one person willing to listen to their pleas. At this point it is obvious that the officers, tow truck driver and Justice of the Peace are in cahoots with one another, but the couple have no recourse but to pay the money and get out of the town as quickly as they can. Anyone watching the show would be doing so in disbelief  and incensed anger.

What injustice! How could this actually happen to this poor couple who had done nothing wrong, and had been treated so unfairly. Good grief! Until the next scene begins with the couple driving out of town and the man saying to the woman, “Did you get all that?” Where upon, she opens her purse and pulls out a compact tape recorder and rewinds it for them to listen to the entire episode. Phew! Relief! The couple are secret agents who had been hired to investigate a speed trap racket and you realize that justice will ultimately be served.


Solomon must have felt a similar frustration as he viewed the injustices around him. He continues to lament his frustration that regardless how good a person is, they receive the same ending as a person that is evil,


Death.


Death for Solomon, with his “under the sun” premise, is the ultimate end. Solomon had the understanding that God existed, however, he did not comprehend that God loves His creation. Solomon measured God’s compassion by what was happening around him. For Solomon, if God ruled over all things, and the same things happen to both good and bad people, then the all powerful God must want it that way.


Solomon’s conclusions seem reasonable when you look at them at face value. He sort of has a point. It seems like a fair complaint. I have heard similar complaints myself. In fact, I have wondered why Solomon’s opinion was given space in God’s Word, when he doesn’t give us a redemptive answer to his query. How did Solomon, get so far away in his thinking, about God, from his father David? It’s not like David didn’t experience unfair things in his life. In fact, David’s life was full of unfair circumstances. As far as I can tell, the difference between the two men, is the distance they each stood with God. David knew God in such a way that God called him a “man after His own heart.” Solomon, chose to keep God at arm’s length, I suspect so he could do what he wanted to do in without God interfering. Solomon doesn’t seem to know God, in the way his father David did.  


I can think of a similar example in my own life. Ira.


Solomon failed to spend time developing a personal relationship with God, Solomon knew God’s soveriegnty and power, but he missed the best part, knowing God’s redemptive love. We are blessed, because we are living after the resurrection and we recognize that what happens in our lives is related to living in a fallen world. As Christians we don’t need to use circumstances to determine the love of God. Instead, we can measure God’s love by His actions on the cross.


Yet, for Solomon, he was stuck on what he could see and experience. And once death took over, so did the seeing and experiences. With this outlook, it makes sense that he would think that God was not interested.

The things one was supposed to do to make a difference, like treat others nicely, give to the poor, be a good person,  really didn’t make a difference, because in the end, Solomon saw that both the good and evil died. Therefore, Solomon put forth that living was better than dying and one may as well find joy in what they could, and have a good time. Solomon really didn’t have a clue as to what existed after death, other than, he knew you couldn’t take anything that was here on earth with you, so you had better make the best of what you had on earth. At least if you were alive, you had hope! And Solomon put emphasis on eating, drinking and being merry. When eating, do so with joy. When drinking, do so with a merry heart. Not because eating and drinking produce those attributes, but with the understanding that when does so with the right heart, God would approve what you do.


Life continued to produce irony for Solomon. In verses, 11 & 12 Solomon states that he had noticed that although one would assume that the swift always win the race, the strong always win the battle, and the intelligent are the ones who end up rich, the reality is that it is a matter of the timing and chance as to what happens. Regardless of how much one tries, merit is not alway rewarded and the world is often unfair. Being swift, strong and intelligent gives potential but not success. I suspect the ultimate frustration for Solomon was that regardless of how well one behaved or how intelligent one became, one did not have control over the time they were to die. Death would come as a thief, unexpectedly. Perhaps the wisdom is:


realizing that inevitably we are always one heartbeat away from eternity.


Solomon ends this chapter with a historical story that supports his theory that wisdom remains superior. A poor wise man is demonstrated to be better than a unwise king.


And what a ponderous thought,


that wise words spoken quietly are more powerful than foolish words that are shouted.


Those who are fighting wars today would be wise to hear this advice -


that the employment of wisdom in war is a far better military strategy than the use of weapons, especially when it comes to the war on terrorism.


For all of Solomon’s under the sun reflections, he has these items correct:

  • God is sovereign

  • Humans cannot figure out the ways of God

  • Humans are also depraved and fragile in this life

  • Humans are destined to die


Though this may seem pessimistic, Solomon goes beyond the pessimism and somehow keeps his eyes on God enough to say that while we are alive, we are to live life to its fullest, utilizing to the best of our ability the gifts that God has given us. Taking into account that we are out of control when it comes to our death, we are in control when it comes to how we choose to live the life we are given. In verses 7-9, Solomon addresses six areas of enjoyment:

  • Food

  • Drink

  • Marriage

  • Comfort

  • Clothing

  • Work

Interestingly enough, a famous psychologist and philosopher, Abraham Maslow came up with a similar list, which is known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.” And anyone who has studied education in the United States has been versed in this theory. In the 1950’s, Maslow developed a theory as to how humans were motivated to success. First, Maslow believed that all humans desired to succeed and in order to do so, they needed to reach a point of what he phrased, “self-actualization.” This meant that for humans to strive to become better they needed to self-actualize and in order to reach self-actualization there was a series of needs that needed to be met. These needs were placed on four levels.


The first level of needs was psychological, which correspond with Solomon’s need of food and drink.


The second level of Maslow’s pyramid was safety, which included such things as security for one’s body, health and family. Solomon’s second group of items was for comfort and clothing.


Maslow’s third level dealt with humans need for love, and belonging, such as with family, friends, and sexual intimacy. Solomon discusses the need to enjoy one’s wife and the benefits of marriage.


Maslow’s final step to  self-actualization was esteem, where one experienced achievements and confidence. Solomon labeled this step, work, which he advocated doing with all of one’s might, in verse 9.


The two men’s lists are so similar you would think that Maslow had read through Ecclesiastes and updated it. However, that is not so. Maslow was a humanist. He did not accept the Bible as truth. He also had difficulty, as he grew older, trying to understand why more people did not reach self-actualization after reaching the first four levels. Unfortunately, as a humanist, Maslow did not grasp the depravity of humans. Something Solomon addressed in verse 3:


3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.


Solomon understood that humans had the propensity for evil. He realized humans were able to enjoy the first four steps of Maslow’s theory, because God was sovereign. The first four steps were to be enjoyed as gifts from God, not achievements of humans.  And because Solomon recognized that we have no control as to how long we are given to enjoy these gifts, we should do so with thanksgiving and joy.


We don’t know how long each of us has here on earth. Jesus instructed us to live each day to its fullest, John 10:10


7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


Just as in Hitchcock’s picture of injustice the cheater, liars and guilty do not have the final say. Solomon taught others how to cope with the idiosyncrasies of life by finding joy in the things in life they could control.

Jesus goes one step further, he reminds us that he is the gate, and he has come that we may have life and have it to the full. That means with Christ, all of Maslow’s five stages are fulfilled. Gifts, from God. And the greatest gift was that of His Son. The gift of sacrifice, for all our sins.


Lord’s Supper.