I’m really thankful that God has made it so that the Bible has had such an impact on my life. Like someone said one time, “When all else fails, you’ll still have Jesus.” And equally it can be said, “When all else fails and you seem to have nothing and no one, you’ll still have God’s Word.”
Often individual Bible verses are almost like my friends, ones that I’ve been through experiences with, ones that have gotten me through those experiences when I might not have survived. And occasionally even just one word in a verse has huge significance for me. One place like that is in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes.
It’s mostly assumed that this book was written by Solomon, although it doesn’t explicitly say so. It’s similar to the Proverbs of Solomon in many ways. But also it has a few places in it which made it so that it’s possibly the book in the Bible that was closest to being left out when the canon of Scripture was competed so long ago.
As you may know about Solomon, he’s said to be the wisest man that ever lived. But then also it says that Solomon “loved many strange women” (I Kings 11:1) and that “his wives turned away his heart” (I Kings 11:4) . Strange as it may seem, there was no specific law against having more than one wife in the laws of Moses. It says that you shalt not “multiply wives to thyself.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) Several of God’s greats in the Old Testament had more than one wife and nothing was said about this. But the Bible says Solomon had “700 wives and 1000 concubines” (I Kings 11:3). And it seems many of these were foreign women who worshiped other gods and got Solomon to build temples to those gods in Israel.
To make a long story short, God spoke to Solomon that, after his death, Israel would be divided and that only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin would stay loyal to the house of David. (See I Kings 11) So Solomon knew in his later years that, as we say here in the States, “the jig was up”. The glory days were gone. Things were not anywhere near as they had been under his father David or perhaps in the early years of his own rule.
In Ecclesiastes 12 there’s almost a haunting melancholy to the chapter. “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’.” (Ecc.12:1) It sounds so much like the plea of a broken and failed father to his children to make the most of the life they have before the evil days come, which it sounds like Solomon knew he was already living in. Over half of chapter 12 has that sound to it, a little mournful, a little sad, a little defeated.
But then we come to verse nine. It says this. “And because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he sought out and set in order many proverbs.”(Ecc.12:9) And it goes on to describe this preacher, Solomon was almost certainly talking about himself, still “seeking out acceptable words”. (Ecc.12:10)
This has always spoken to me so much. To me I see Solomon in his later years. Maybe, probably he knew and felt that in some ways the glory had departed from his life and from Israel and that tough times were coming. But that one word almost haunts me in a good sense: “still”. He still taught the people wisdom, even after he’d committed major sins and had been exposed. He still stayed faithful to his calling and gifts. He still fed the Lord’s sheep. In his case, his gift was to recognize wisdom and to collect bits of wisdom into proverbs.
But how does that work for us? How does that work for me? Paul said that we were to be “instant in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2). He also talked about “patient continuance in well doing.” (Romans 2:7) This in some ways reminds me of the story of Ruth and Naomi that I wrote about a while back. It sometimes feels like we are finished, used up, passed over, just a shell of what we used to be. The fruitful years seem to be gone and we are depleted, good for nothing except to go off somewhere to die. But that’s not true. Solomon “still taught the people knowledge”. Still …, even though it was not like the glory years, he stayed faithful to his calling and ministry.
Would to God that each of us would be like that. Solomon kept on being faithful to his skill and gifts and calling, perhaps because he knew even back then what Paul would later write, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:32) And this was true, even after his sins had gotten the best of him in many ways. How many of us feel our sins have gotten the best of us? Or perhaps the sins of others have gotten the best of us? If you feel like that, remember Ruth and Solomon. “Still.”