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BITTER WISDOM OR UNABASHED CONFESSION ?
A - JOURNEYING TO THE SITE
1. Introducing the Scenario
The case of ECCLESIASTES is a notable one in the Bible. Some of the abstruse, some of the amazing utterances that are found here are in a compilation which needs understanding. Without that, one is apt to be misled. With it, one finds as with many a puzzle, a refreshing solution, which has much to teach. It ends with some of the mightiest barbs of all time! These are not bitter, nor even bitter-sweet. Rather they represent a much mauled heart responding in simplicity to reality, and a charge to the young which echoes through the vaults of time.
VANITY OF VANITIES, says the preacher, ALL IS VANITY!
It is here rather like a grandfather making an exclamation. One awaits the interpretation. It comes the way Solomon says in Proverbs 25:2, just a few chapters back in the Bible:
v "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
v But the glory of kings is to search out a matter."
Here Solomon is giving plenty for 'kings' to search out, and knowing that the people of God are made 'kings and priests' (cf. Revelation 1:6) and given help from the Lord, we seek it (cf. Ephesians 1:17-19, Matthew 7:8).
First, the term rendered 'vanity' can mean 'frustration' or 'emptiness'. The overall meaning is clear: the world as it is, is no source of satisfying edification and fulfilment. But there is a wealth of information stored in the notebook of this moral scientist.
Here one may reply, Moral scientist ? Why that is a virtual contradiction in terms! Morals are subjective, personal, or even if you will, existential. Science is as far from morals as the moon from the sun!
This however will not do. 'Goodness' is no mere invention of society, for its follies to appear to have it make it a desideratum that motivates, even when its content is obscure, and indeed rather varied, or even at times contradictory in different societies; and beyond that, if it were really an invention, here would be nothing to build on. It is only because goodness exists that it may be manoeuvred by the shrewd to personal advantage, so that they might be mistaken for those having such a quality. No reality, no duping. No fact, no ground in pretence. On the contrary, it is precisely this concept, this aim, this ideal which internally motivates because of its justice.
Its variations depend simply on confusion based in mankind's divorce from God, and his unerring ability to mix up the most important things as a consequence. Hence various compounds of goodness and ideals with self-interest, mere social honour and the like are frequently found, either explicitly or hidden incognito in some verbal flower-bed.
The concept that there has been a semi-permanent indoctrination from the forces of mankind's honorific brigades, so that century by century this expert psychological farce is successfully played to audiences rocked with applause is too ludicrous to deserve serious attention. Mankind's virtues are not many, apart from God, but one of them would surely be his chronic incapacity to be duped en masse over a long period, in matters of adulation. Like so many fashion fads, the entire gamut of inglorious substitutes for goodness is paraded, taken and paid for, and especially paid for, and then discarded in some slight or even major variation which comes to appeal. The sophisticated make long eulogies of their acumen in finding the new fashion, or long denunciations of the old, and the whole is such a mess and dust that one can understand Solomon's dictum: All is vanity! Vanity of vanity! (See for detail: SMR pp. 333-395, esp. 374ff., with 582-584, That Magnificent Rock, pp. 123-137.)
'Goodness' is quite objective, is a feature of the character of the Lord who made us, and is meaningless ultimately to the nature which does not know the Lord; or confused; or a nettle-bed for remorse, or a graveyard for conscience; or else is shamelessly misapplied so as to evacuate it of any meaning at all which could not be better stated in other ways which lack the motivation, the substance and the attraction.
That however is precisely the way it is when the main spring is missing from your watch. It is a dummy.
Springs however are not dummies.
Yet there remains this point: Granted that goodness is objective, is that not ALL THE MORE reason why one could never be a 'moral scientist' ? As a feature of the nature of God, it is not a matter of finding out things, as if it were some part of nature awaiting discovery through mental voyages of exploration.
There is a sense in which this is so. However, since God has created, there is a sense in which He leaves hidden in events, this aspect of the texture of His direction; though, to be sure, there is a Book in which He has declared, as the One who KNOWS, what it is, and there is no need of experiment there!
That however is one feature of the mystery in the workings of life. Why can people as fortunate as Solomon even TRY to experiment in such things, when they are quite clearly laid out in revelation. Perhaps it is just a perversion of the instinct for exploration, of curiosity, of analysis and research which would be good in its place, into places where it should not have to be used! The cost is often tremendous, even lives which, so far as they have travelled this way, exclaim in remorse and no small measure of grief: "VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY!" and then commit suicide, have themselves admitted to a place for the emotionally disadvantaged (asylum if your remotely old-fashioned), see a psychiatrist or join a liberal church with a view to finding others with whom at least to share the grief ... perhaps make it hurt a little less, and so on.
There is a short name which unravels this mystery, a three-letter word, named 'SIN'.
However, since Solomon admittedly made some huge errors (cf. I Kings 11:1-40), that is no problem here! The inspired record is a testament and a testimony both, for times to come, accurately following the paths, however torturous, of his choosing, and exhibiting the conclusion.
2. An Image to Whet the Appetite
There is in
perhaps is one reason why he so severely excoriates the situation: ALL IS
VANITY! When the man who investigates the worldliness of the world, without
being of it, experiences its taste, it is always vain. Of itself, it is quite
useless. It is only as a creation of God, duly worshipped, that its enormous
values can be touched, tasted and appreciated. We who are Christians are IN the
world, but not OF it; that is mere illusion. THAT is precisely what Solomon
found. His words are like nails in the experimenter's coffin, foolish enough to
try to penetrate to the world's essence and find from its labyrinthine tunnels,
the light of life.
B. THE FUTILE BUT INSTRUCTIVE ENDEAVOUR to Dig to Heaven Downward, When it is Upward
(cf. Romans 10:6-9, Deuteronomy 30:12-14)
The King formulated, activated and produced, built or strode into various domains of life. What did this part of the pageant of life DO, how was it to be MET, what did it PRODUCE? Where results did not meet the test criteria, he re-formulated or revised, revisited or renewed, testing, checking, considering what might be, looking at what was, dissatisfied, and persisting, never meeting with success, scientifically in a quandary, seeking amiss but testing, finding not but searching.
So Solomon, like the labyrinth wanderer of old, frets out, seeks out, investigates, ruminates, contemplates and does not rest ;until he finds his answer to the riddle of human living which faces him. If he failed, he would be liable to wandering in the valueless maze of passages, as if never to see the upper light or the common goodness of open day. Through his mind there pulsed this problem of vital wisdom (not the operational kind which he both sought and most notably found from the Lord in the beginning! - I Kings 3).
Buoyed up with assured hope, he nevertheless engaged in a sort of Renaissance lust for travel, to investigate for himself (Ecclesiastes -14), and to do it comprehensively (Eccles. ):
"And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly"; and as his words indicate, he paid - as do many secular psychiatrists, for example. In that field, one learns, the suicide rate is not insignificant...
There IS a sort of wealth which none can afford to pay, be their billions what they may. Life is not made by money, nor redeemed by it (I Peter ). It is not in the end insulated even by regality, or preserved by merely secular knowledge. Where 'knowledge' comes in? it is in KNOWING GOD and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:1-3): that way is life eternal, which nothing can disturb in its courses. Life has a way of its own; and its Lord and Prince has His own ways which are everlasting (Habakkuk 3:6 - "His ways are everlasting"), and not subject to the querulous queries and arrogant assertiveness, or to the jaded faithlessness of the insidiously sinful presumptions of man. Even Goethe's Faust has a point of contact here. But Solomon was in earnest, and so we follow his lab. Book, Ecclesiastes, which certainly will provide us at the END of it, with a handsome conclusion and a meaty repast!
Where then does this labyrinth lead? Solomon was asking. What are the solutions to the questions it arouses? Why has it so many problems, and is there not a direct and reflectively simple, verifiable path in which one may find these answers, correctly understood?
These were the questions. Like an athlete he set himself to the task. Like a scientist, he was experimental, but unlike many scientists, he made of his own life in much, a test-tube for the laboratory results. He would experiment with his own life. A dangerous and readily fatal procedure; for we have only one of these; and each test threatens to be , to prove to be, the last.
It is thus that youth is a dangerous and yet alluring time for many. A mistake can be fatal in their non-blissful ignorance, which so many Governments do no much to foster and forward but their artificial restrictions on objective knowledge for their schools. (Cf. That Magnificent Rock, Ch.8).Yet even without their escalation of the problems of youth, the mere native sinfulness can be enough!
Is there then some eternal influx of joy! So youth wanders, often naive beyond belief, assured of one thing in very many cases: the answer is not where it may in fact be found.
Solomon paid, and found and returned with the answer. It was unnecessarily costly, but at least he came back with wisdom. This book publishes it -"Ecclesiastes" is its name, meaning "The Preacher". At least it is not that of the untried man who thoughtlessly proclaims what he has not understood; but again, this labyrinth was not necessary to reach that understanding, for the word of God is plain to him who understands, and understanding is to be sought from God. Since however he has made this journey, the Lord has seen fit to show us cost-free, the consequences. Solomon does INDEED preach at the end of the journey! It is well then, and a privilege, to listen.
In effect, Solomon found that his special form of experience as a moral scientist, led to evidence, evidence led to emptiness (hence his initial exclamation!), emptiness to the most concentrated approach to the former of Life Himself. That gave him the desired simplicity. In the Eye of the Maker, he found then the Art of Life.Let us follow his stages.
But first let us make an aside about the matter.
In a way, it is rather like the procedure of the evolutionary 'scientists' today. They set themselves a target: is it not to be found here, or there. They trace the results of either of:
a) gradualism, now disdained by active-on-the-field, Professor Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard, with a host of others with the utmost reason; or
the miraculous naturalistic creation-without-the-name, a febrile mock-up mocked
by astronomer, Professor Fred Hoyle of
that ruinously indefensible example of desperation where scientific method is bypassed.
(Cf. A Spiritual
They look here, they challenge there, billions of dollars are committed to space, which remains unimpressed, land and sea unmoved. It is not found. 'Organic evolution', it is a phrase. Unlike the word of God, however, it does not perform what it is set to do; and nothing else does. Principles are distorted, logic aborted, causality contorted; but still they clamour like children for sweets which destroy a good dinner!
Thus, unlike the mighty Solomon in his search for principles in the pageantry of life, they do not say, ALL IS EMPTINESS, FUTILITY, we find it not, that for which we seek. You all too rarely hear, No, It is not to be found, it is like the wind, it blows away and is not found! To be sure, some become mere cynics, intellectual residues, and some are converted to the scientific requirements which reduce to absurdity all but creation, and the logical ones which exact it; but Solomon in this is a good example. Having followed the wrong track, and entertained ruinous hypotheses, he dumped them, noting: There is nothing in them. Then turning to the source of life, there all the time, self-revealed in words all the time, he embraced His name and His word.
Back then to the steps of Solomon, let us move with anticipation.
C. ON-SITE ACTION
1. The Experience of Emptiness
This is the first finding. In a way, it is a summary, but it is a result. Experimentalist Solomon, deep in experience and flush with expression declares it: Futility! That's what it is.. Disgust gushes from him. Oh! he says, There is neither profit nor pleasure in life. It is vain." It is empty. "Whatever has been," he says, "that will be; and whatever has been done, that will be done and there is nothing new under the sun."
This phase of cynicism, a reflection on his penultimate construction of things, this set of mind, held one small seed of fact. As Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones so aptly phrased it: THEE IS NO NEW SIN. The nature of the human soul, our personal potential, our natures and their laws, the results of trespassing, these stay the same. Our construction is the same; we do not evolve even a tiny bit upwards; the design is constant; the downfalls are many but the basic structure endures. God is the same. Sin is the same.
You can corrupt your body and destroy your pure springs of strength. You can do this in the same old ways, with new technologies merely varying the format, not the intent - basically the same since man commenced. They have always been popular, these ways. Or you can weaken your mind allowing the old tensions, unsolved doubts, resulting from venal faithlessness which therefore lacks the ground of evidence, fears, flutters and confusions, which have led many by the hand, or sometimes by the nose, since he first took that hand out of God's own. And your spirit you can spoil too.
You can do this in the same time-honoured adventures - neglecting your place, powers, position, or abusing them. You can puff yourself up, becoming too fine to be fully used; or you can give up in disgust, declining sulkily to be used. And you can apply your misrule to the lives of others, ensnaring them, perhaps.
You can strike and seek and squall and slice your way to survive at all costs, and the costs are horrendous. Faced with fellow men of similar and great powers, you can work your horrid, torrid way though psychological strain with attendant ulcers, to mental impediment, sore and touch y traumas and mental scars, unconscious resurgences, and lively, active guilt fracturing your peace, like a metal crack in an aircraft's tail, from is variety of fatigue. THIS can be YOUR life - if you can call hat sort of thing life - until despair that is all totally reasonable, you cry out to Him who made you, calling you home that isn't home nay more arises, only to be crushed with broken remorse, or anaesthetised morals that can cry no more, so that you sink into a flaccid substitute for a man or woman, possibly considering yourself sophisticated in the inert process.
The cry, however, may be genuine: "Oh wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death!" (Romans 7:24). While denying it in public, in private you may come to the point of saying, Dolt! Failure, idiot, worthless wanderer, where is your deliverance to come from now ? Like the Philippian jailor (Acts 16) whose life was evidently in need of drastic and urgent overhaul, you can cry - What must I do to be saved ? and the only One who can do it, is God, being Maker and aware of what is the requirement for such a case as this...
But let us return to Solomon, realising that Paul's recounting of pre-conversion crisis (or post-conversion acute spring-cleaning - cf. II Corinthians 1, in the light of the original, which however does not depart when made in Christ - John 10:9), leads us to his stress on the stable structure of godliness which is the enduring life of the Christian.
At this early stage of his
recounting, Solomon is too interested in checking his experiment and
summarising the results, to go so far - not just yet. He merely notes pointedly
in his disappointment :
"I saw all things which were done under the sun, and truly all is worthlessness and chasing of wind" - . Again, in similar vein, he cries, "What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking, cannot be numbered."
That secular resultant is gloriously overcome - and the cost was far higher than a Solomon could pay, by Jesus Christ, for whom no engineering of heart or soul or life or morals is too much, the specialist above all specialists, the builder beyond all constructionists, the acme and author of the human soul, life and body itself. Thus Isaiah, the evangelical prophet, whose work is FULL of the Messiah and his sin-bearing, life refashioning wonders (cf. II Cor. 5:17, 3:18), declares in the name of the Lord, in the GLOW OF WISDOM (contrast later the Woe of Uninspired Wisdom in the man-under-the sun first approach):
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken" –
Isaiah 40:5 (caps. added), and this of course leads on to the Good Shepherd on earth in His mission and ministry, taking even the lambs in His arms (40:10) and feeding His flock (cf. Isaiah 53,61).Not NO mountains, but EVERY mountain; not NO crookedness straight, but all, either in destruction or in renewal; not sins innumerable ruling (Eccles.1:15b), but grace unfathomable paying for what is to be redeemed, and NEVER can any ask in faith and be denied; for GOD KNOWS and has foreknown, and His interests are as declared (cf. John 3:17, I Timothy 2:1-3). That is the exuberance (cf. Ezekiel 33:11, II Cor. -21) of our supernatural God, the intrinsically unfathomable depth of His love (Romans 5:6-8), and the Almighty character of His power.
However, this is not the topic of Solomon, as yet. He has seen the virtual infinitude of the problem, but does not yet bring us to the actual infinitude of the solution. What King Solomon has said in such negativity (, 1:9): This is merely the secular resultant that Solomon considers! this is how life seemed at that stage to him, in his universalistic enquiries. He had opened his mouth very wide. He had chewed chunks of life. He tasted it carefully. That, he says wryly, that - it is Life according to my adventuristic, laboratory style outreach, in the terms of reference at first proposed in my thesis (Eccles.1:17). After all, when your scope is like that, and you are dealing not with healing but with the untutored domains of sin, does not the Lord declare ever so carefully:
And desperately wicked:
Who can know it?
I the Lord search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man
according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings" ... , adding this:
"A glorious high throne form the beginning
Is the place of our sanctuary. "
All who forsake You shall be ashamed.
Shall be written in the earth,
Because they have forsaken the Lord,
The fountain of living waters."
Save me and I shall be saved,
For you are my praise!"
But Solomon is not yet bringing us so far in his adventures, but rather is moving in the domain of his enquiry; so let us to the next adventure of our moral scientist.
Look at it, he says, I was
King at Jerusalem, I did not stint. I tried everything. You can tell me nothing
to the point. How often have you hard someone tell you that. Ah! If only you
had read Solomon or better still, read life in the mastery and magnificence of
the predicted Jesu Christ, you would have known enough. Yet it is one of the
marvels of life that sometimes the same lesson has to be learned in ways not
dissimilar, yet individual, and then release, reality and deliverance is found
by yet another, escaping from the barrenness of fantasy and the rigours of
ruin. (Cf. Isaiah 66:19, Ephesians 2.)
2. The Energy of Experiment
Let us then again to Solomon's Lab. Book, to ponder some of the chief facts. It will teach us that we are not merely members of one another, certainly not manufactured for the purpose of mutual massacred, but duly owned products and property of the Producer, the Creator who made us. To ignore this is ot be a dunce in life. To face this fact is to start to learn: it is to apply oneself with solemnity to the puzzle which we MUST face. Solomon elsewhere reminds us pointedly: It is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). That is where to start.
The ostensible "puzzle" of life, looking that way because of the potentially permanent eye-closure inflicted by sin, needs solution. It will break those who do not find the solution, known as the Saviour. Let us then with energy pursue Solomon's procedure.
Like many mortals, Solomon, flush with the flower of youth, was intoxicated with its perfume. The energy and yearnings of youth led him to seek a good time (Eccles.2:3), a fulfilment of his roving desires. Yet he is not refreshed. His life is not here.
But who can rest in the sybaritic, so he extended pleasure to performance, enjoyment to prodigies of wonder. Indeed, what of the more tangible pleasure RICHES, then? Pursuing his thrusting labours in a splash of accomplishments, what then: "Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them." Conclusion from this piece of experiment: What does that accomplish? Where did that take me? So what? (Eccles.2:11) He worked as his imaginations, but then? "grasping of wind". It was productive of no solution for life, but was a passing of time, tiresome, tedious, temporary. An abundance of means for which no purpose is present. It becomes a confession that there is no solution found, and that life as such, that becomes just an ache of eternity planted in the heart (Eccles.3:10-11).
· "What profit has the worker from that in which he labours ? ... He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end".
He finds in all this - taken apart, as by a philosopher, considered as by a poet - in vain, inadequate, exercise in futility. He notes accidents, which at any time bring cessation to any man on this globe. He observers that other men use all the wealth the first man builds up. He staggers at the evidence of injustice and lies (Eccles.4:1-4), and their prosperity in the world, see callowly, with the eyes of flesh, as if it were all (3:16-17). Justice will come, but in this world, there is more to come. (3:17). There is no comprehensive grasp which one can make, but the infinity of God surpasses such endeavours. One cannot command, marshal, co-ordinate things. What's the use! he exclaims.
Conclusion of the King in the midst of all this: "I congratulate the dead" (Eccles.4:2).
Sadly and almost wistfully, his heart seeks an eternal record of our lives in this world: If a poor, wise and persecuted young man is preferable to an old and fatuous king, he says, yet soon both are forgotten, relegated to temporal ignominy, abased to obscurity, both are forgotten, humiliated to oblivion in the uncaring flush of continuing life They have one end. Where is the evidence of the excellence of the one or the evil of the other then? Where is there a just record? Is wisdom all thought and no hands?
Do things, therefore, he says, do them! Don't pledge, don't promise God things: just do. Eat and labour. Be skilful and diligent. Be thankful if you get peace. It is a gift of God. (Eccles.5:4-5, 4:13ff.). He relaxes a little, into what looks rather like middle-age spread, as if, baulked, he would settle for appearances and the 'obvious':
"It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of al his labour in which eh toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labour - this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart" - Eccles.5:19-20.
Indeed, he goes further in this temporary, temporal lostness: "If you see oppress of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official ,and higher officials are over them."
This opacity and obtuseness is a sort of wine-distillate of dubious content, a quiet acceptance of the complexities of government and its rigours, and a dulling of the sensitivities of emotional need, as well as the sharp gleam of justice. It is speaking for overview without the awareness of the experience below; but it is also saying this - The world has enough evil of its won, so do not marvel at it!
That is however merely a part of the withdrawal symptoms of the man who looks under the sun, and grows weary of its heat. It fits too well with the conclusion, All is vanity! To be stable. It is a part of his finding as he looks at life within itself, without due regard to its source, origin and the requirements of its Maker. He muses, bemused. Soon we shall see deeper than this, when he lifts his eyes.
The Experience of the Woe of Wisdom
In Chapter 6 moving on to Ch.7, we find him, not entirely unexpectedly, haunted by this inadequate and escapist substitute for a solution. How can a man participate in wisdom, be adopted in designs, when his end is sudden and strange ? Doesn't God legislate, and isn't He inscrutable. Why worry? There seems no insurance, he ponders, where life itself is concerned. There seems no guarantee, only patient toil; poignant perseverance and practical problems. Whoever he is, ere long his name is called; it will be known that he is human. He is not able to contend against Him who is stronger than he. Why even bother talking! (Eccles.7:23-24).
In 7:13 we find expressly that jaded inability to see that God WILL MAKE STRAIGHT what is crooked, as we saw earlier in Isaiah, so that his talk continues at the superficial level, mentioning God indeed, but without reference to His redeeming power and precise oversight so that
· "all things work together for those who love God, the called according to His purpose" (Romans ),
and the accompanying knowledge which his father David had experimentally from God and so often expressed in the Psalms (e.g. Psalms 16:7-9, 40:1-3, 37:1-11,34-38, 71:9-16). That GLOW OF WISDOM, we saw earlier, is marvellously expressed in Isaiah 40:5.
Indeed, so far, Solomon sounds rather like an unusually pious existentialist of this generation. But there is one good side to his program. he has leant that life is sour, when you take it into your mouth at will, and try to digest all with your stomach. It is like a dead fish, and you suffer from surfeit. It reminds you of taste treats but it give you a bilious attack (cf. Eccles.7:23).
There is another excellent feature here. In terms of his projected research, Solomon KNOWS he has not yet found the answer. "It was far from me." This is a distinct if not decisive feature of his research, his awareness of non-attainment of the objective.
He is NOT saying: This is REALLY the way it is. He is admitting that he is baulked. THAT is a splendid improvement on the mental mess, miasma and platitude of the dispossessed we now see. After all, Solomon was being very adventurous, but not without some foundation. Knowing when you are beaten is a prodigious accomplishment, when you are essaying the wrong task! Persistence there is merely assurance of further defeat.
But let us consider further his findings.
The sense, shape, form, dignity in life, purpose, method - he cannot justify his thinking. Why honour and value a life which even at best defies ordering, escapes reason and is niggardly with delights. If numb nostalgia is to be our fate, why be wise at all? Let us at least not die casually, and in all this Solomon's thoughts echo those of millions. (Eccles.8:15 - 9:3). Again, it has some form to it. Thus: Although he states this:
· "No one has power of over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death," he also adds:
· "There is no release from that war, and wickedness will not deliver those \who are given to it. All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun."
· Further, there are distinct elements of reality filtering in through the polluted skies. Thus:
· a) "Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God" - -13.
· b) "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefor the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" - . Here we see the underlying sense of justice and judgment, whatever may be the temporary consequences of comparatively unchastened evil, which may exist for a time in the flush of freedom with which the Almighty enables the earthlings, that their hearts might be known, and the ways of peace seen in their presence and through their absence, and all things weighed and evaluated before all (see A Spiritual Potpourri Ch.16, The Flashing Falls of Freedom).
· c) "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and doesnot sin" - , cf. Romans . Here the vision of moral perfection, spiritual goodness unalloyed is present, but its exponent is absent. He is not deluded.
We see the underlying conviction that though as far as the "sun" is concerned, the world in and for and by itself, there is God who is beyond all, in whom the righteous, living or passed away from this realm, may safely and securely trust. Yet FOR THIS EARTH, our psychic environmentalist is concerned! It chills rather than thrills him!
Thus in some ways our researcher is like much in the present; and in others he is unlike. Hence our study continues to find his precise contribution in his remarkable if not unique circumstances for his experiment in the laboratory of life.
We must not ignore, for all this, the unmellow mood of a moment to which Solomon is drawn. Thus in we see this: "So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun that to eat, drink and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labour all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun."
It reminds one rather of an indulged poodle at this point. Let us dramatise:
'The pleading of the longing eye,
It's clear you never can deny;
And as your darling can't escape
This degradation of his shape
Which robs him of his canine right
To fitness for a frisk or fight:
Each snuffle, every snore reveals,
Life-long indulgence between meals.
'So come reproach to one who can't
Resist her precious suppliant
Forgetting that her duty is
To make her will a guide to his.'
That 'eat, drink and be merry' mode is however but a passing flinching in the record of Solomon, for it is immediately followed by which is a reflection on the original target of comprehending the pageantry of life. Ch.9:1 proceeds also at once to declare:
"For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that he righteousness and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them."
Here his awareness of the invisible realities which are beyond the sight of things visible - for what length is truth, or what height is wisdom, or what colour is peace, or what size is beauty! - is restored and he continues his search as recorded in Ch.9, moving to two important new points.
First, there is a "madness" in the hearts of men under the sun. That is, the man considered in his "natural" environment is as if insane. There is such a failure to perceive circumspectly his situation, such a drive and intensity and self-pre-occupation, giving short shrift to justice and integrity so much, that one might consider them mad.
The other is this:
"The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong.
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding.
Nor favour to men of skill,
But time and chance happen to them all.
For man also does not know his time..."
"Wisdom," he says,
"is better than strength ...
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
But one sinner destroys much good."
This is a decisively more realistic approach than survival of the fittest, mere redundancy dressed as philosophy and adopted by science, though it be. Whatever it is that survives, survives, is true. Why it survives is another question.
To degrade 'fitness' into that role is folly. Fit for what? In the environment of philosophic terms in this philosophic-cum-religious adage, it OUGHT to mean that 'fitness' for order by order advance up the scale of life is what survives. In practice, the most insignificant things can survive because of their niche, the most calamitous events can change the environmental adaptation to worse than useless, cunning can overcome craniation, gangs can overcome solitary splendour, number can defeat quality, injustice can quash higher endeavours and so forth.
It is not that it matters however, in terms to which it was once addressed. The arrival of the fittest (for whatever one may have in mind, incidentally - a pen is not fit as a plough) is the real point. On that, no progress has ever been made, since it does not happen, except by creation. Even human selection merely re-composes the ingredients manufactured ... elsewhere. (See A Spiritual Potpourri, Chs.6-7, and That Magnificent Rock, Ch. 6 - Life what is it for ?)
However, there is a development further in Solomon's expedition which we must not overlook. Back in Eccles. , he states this: "Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has bent." Solomon attempts here again to find the solution for his statement and understanding of the principle behind the pageantry of life. He seeks therefore to stare wisdom audaciously straight in the face .. He now revises upward his first perception in the light of more depth, his impression of the incorrigibility of corruption. He had said: What is crooked can't be straightened. Now he says, "Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has bent?"
Certainly not one of us ... and yet, his line is moving upwards. He has tried a method of wisdom that might appeal to a sad devil (for even devils can be sad), a bewildered imp or a blighted and harassed humanitarian. Says Solomon, pontifically now () :
"Don't be over-righteous; and don't behave too wisely. Why
should you die before your time?" It sounds now a little like some of these self-advancement
programs. Indeed, he also says,
"Don't be overly wicked,
Nor be foolish:
"Why should you die before your time?"
You see the vanity that life without vision will lead to. Compromise. Minimising of evils, the shallow view of sin. Self as a lantern and a lecturer... Now if I had made myself from ingredients which were mine and placed myself in a universe which was mine, then this might if not wise, at lest be a logically valid act.
Nor is it wise, to use myself as the determinant, to derive everything form my penchants and preferences. Such an act as that indeed would not merely be spiritually inane, but insane (cf. Hosea 3:5-6,9:7). It is not my world. It is not my property, this life of mine. I have merely a steward's situation upon it. How could I tell the laws made for me, the purposes present to me, the plan of my construction with myself as the measure! It was I who was measured. It is the measurer who has my measure, not I myself - cf. II Corinthians 10:12).
The Creator is one thing; and the creature is another; to act as I had created myself is to act as if I couldn't even understand the most elementary of distinctions. The wise man will thus look for directions in a world which is otherwise necessarily baffling. If he does not, then compromise is the result, and possibly jaded compromise, as with Solomon at this point.
But Solomon did not stop there. He did not imbibe the principles of folly which in fact ;underlie such a proposal. His was merely the saddened lull in the storm of adventure to the heights.
That is one reason why
it is indeed a book of inspired wisdom, of revelation from God in which the
inspired record takes us where we may need to look, vicariously! The cowardice
and capitulation which compromise reveals so conspicuously lacking in the Church which overturned the
CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER
WISDOM GLOWS ... AND SHOWS
Ah! he sighs (8:1).
"True wisdom brightens a man's countenance!" and
"the sternness of his face is changed."
It dissipates the crudity of his face. It delivers something of the angel to the fallen race. It is here as we saw, that wickedness strikes his attention (8:8).
"Wickedness," he says,
"will not deliver those given over to it."
In death, no one has no power, and wickedness is doubly defeated, without redress, recourse or realisation on the one hand; and without the means of simulating autonomy on the other! No one delivers from that war! The world has nothing to offer. It was at this point that in disgust, he returned to his pleasures (). Then in mediation he realises anew that the work of God is vast and deep, and so moves on in Ch.9 to his utterance on "madness is in their hearts while they live", and "the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil". Unimpressed with his own psychological convolutions, he turns to his conclusions. He pauses in Ch.10 to reflect on moral summaries of events, noting for example:
"If the axe is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
The he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success" ().
"Cast," he urges, "your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days" - 11:1.
And so he did.
His burning utterance in 11:9-10 is an end to survey, and
a commission in righteousness. SINCE there is no answer FROM THIS WORLD, let us live by the next.
"REJOICE, O YOUNG MAN IN YOUR YOUTH,
AND LET YOUR HEART CHEER YOU IN THE DAYS OF YOUR YOUTH:
“WALK IN THE WAYS OF YOUR HEART,
AND IN THE SIGHT OF YOUR EYES;
BUT KNOW THAT FOR ALL THESE
GOD WILL BRING YOU INTO JUDGMENT.
“THEREFORE REMOVE SORROW FROM YOUR HEART,
AND PUT AWAY EVIL FROM YOUR FLESH,
FOR CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH ARE VANITY" - 11:9-10.
One might have thought this stricture sufficient. It would move almost the dead, bringing forth response from carrion, it would seem. Make the most of your wild follies justified by NOTHING, he is asserting; and let the bloom of this world adorn your flitting body, and gadding mind with all the superficial braggadocio one could wish, let your equipment be your guide, if not indeed your goal: BUT know that the Creator has a judgment in store, far from fulfilled on this earth, where freedom is given rein, as to a galloping horse, which for all its sweat, can fall in a moment, and will fall at the end of the spree... for sure!
Do not be bemused by the latent powers of being young, for there is a phase and a stage and an intermediate and an end which is far from nothing, but a visitation divine will assuredly come on the self-assured forehead and the heart which disdains the divine purging, to continue according to the world under the sun, according to the flesh. VAIN! It i, says he, and useful, frivolous, mad, insane to trust in the world and the flesh and the dynamic variations of life.
Proverbs 12:1 commences his approach to the final landing.
NOW YOUR CREATOR
IN THE DAYS OF YOUR YOUTH..."
Here as bold as our print is, comes his message. It continues in Ch.12 to trace with a combination of appeal and poignancy, pity and challenge, the stages of human decline when the vitality divinely accorded, is divinely withdrawn, leaving one in the end with a picture of tenderness that drives like a nail into a coffin, his vast puncture into misused life.
"Remember," he says, "your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken.
"Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it."
Having then covered some simple saws of common sense in Chs 10-11, h turns with immense spiritual vitality not seen earlier, but always as it were, standing afar off as he wandered, with zeal or disgust, through his experiments. He turns at last from the experience produced by his experiments; from this emptiness, he moves, to the certain evidence of the Creator, sustainer, and judge. It is then that he is impelled to the expression we have seen, "Rejoice O Young Man!..." and the next, "Remember NOW your Creator in the days of your youth..."
Yes, he says, do the lot! Experiment till experience has broken your heart. Cavort like a wild cow; flit like an hysterical butterfly, but don't forget the net. The Maker will examine His produce, will inspect your experience and your performance; He will notice the crack in the heart.
'No!' he is in effect saying. 'Don't sell yourself to the laboratories of experience; it's all been done before - and it produces bitterness and futility and frustration - and peril. Then the just Maker seems a misty menaceand man is in manacles of mis-rule by his own folly. Man is marked for misery then . Yet the mistiness will clear and the day of truth will dawn in the midst of a judgment which is not lessened by ignoring your Maker, as if He were a deaf-mute and you alone had the power to express yourself, to communicate.' (See SMR pp.100 -101.)
Man without mercy from the knowledge of God, he will assuredly reap what he sows. He will be judged. Therefore remember your Creator - and of course
Now, he is saying,
Benefit by this. Let me put it positively to you:
Halt! Observe. It is as if he is saying this: 'Obey. Don't wait till doom stalks you like a wounded deer, with acute blood loss! Don't let feebly chattering teeth be the last comment from the life of that tongue of yours. When life's shutters are drawn, and the golden bowl of created brain glows it last in the skull container; when natural gaiety surrenders, when your spinal cord is finished in its silvery finesse, and the fear of what is high hinders and oppresses you in your failing strength; and the presence of God is like a hideous dream, because it should have become an implicit comment on a hideous self-sufficient life, which was not sufficient really - Don't leave it till then!'
"The dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who made it."
It is as if he continues, 'What did you think! What did you expect? Have you thought at all! Profit then by this.'
In more familiar terms, he is in effect saying something like this - 'Relent. Stop pressing life. Repent. Cease tormenting life. Look, learn. The solution is here - not in the clouds *1; not in the hell of torment. Look, he says, "REVERE GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS" - that is the solution to the puzzle. So we are back where we started.
Yes, he is saying. It is we
who are the puzzle. We pester life and press it and spoil it; experimenting
till experience explodes in spirits never meant to endure such misuse.
Believe. Accept the plain, simple, historic fact that God is, that He is not dumb, but that you are remiss like a heedless stone -
if you ignore the needful and majestic messages
He has so indefatigably verified in our hearts and in the Messiah and in history,
sending without fail to all generations.
It is you, not life, that is the puzzle, perplexity its cost, and doom its consequence without your Maker. Accept His offer. Don't offer Him acceptance on your terms. Obey His command. Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden (Matthew -30) ...
Accept the Wisdom that IS God's son (see Proverbs 8 *2, Item 27 pp. 201ff. above), who invites you so tenderly, so deeply. Accept the rainbow promise of mercy in Jesus who jutted form heaven and journeyed to earth to find the end of your foolishness on the Cross (Galatians 3:10-13, II Corinthians 5:19-21). Put your experience and broken experiments upon Him. Add your broken heart (Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 51:2-4,10,17) - for surely you can never repeat or renew it. Trust Him. Cover Him with your sin and accept His covering of your life by Himself; for He broke loose from death and gutted the grace (Hosea , Acts ,27-31). With God be the rest, and rest in Him. He has said and He guarantees, having shown His face in the Son. Let us obey Him who is sovereign, the only and the necessary Saviour, whose GIFT is eternal life (Romans , John ).
"I AM COME," said Jesus Christ, "THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE, AND THAT THEY MAY HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY."
The beauty of the
word of God plays upon this life in Christ, like a rainbow on a green hill,
shrouded in cloud, with flashes below anointed with dew, and deep oaks fringing
THE VIRTUE OF VERIFICATION
Part of that life which the Saviour so readily offers to the heart with repentance and faith in Him, is this. It is the magnificent display of cohesive, integral, concurrent, comprehensive, searching, cumulatively illuminating wisdom which the Bible displays, covering the cases like jewels in their settings, on a necklace, within a collection of masterpieces, glittering discretely, appealing softly, yet sharp in the edges, deep in their reflections, striking in their effect. THIS, it is one of the testimonies to its source who like the product, is infinite in understanding. It is one of the verifications of the wonder of the Speaker, that His word is wonderful.
ABUNDANTLY OF THE WISDOM OF THIS WORD, WHICH SO VERIFIES ITSELF SO NATURALLY
WITH A ROYALTY WHICH DOES NOT NEED TO STRETCH, TO ATTAIN ITS OBJECTIVE
"Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down from above)
or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach);
'that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.'
For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation;
For the Scripture says, 'Whosoever believes on Him will not be put to shame'."
Cf. Deuteronomy 30:11ff..
There is the same declaratory challenge, with a similar force of penetration, like that of armour-piercing bullets, from the apostle Paul. One is almost inclined to say, What a small world it is! THAT however would be the exact opposite of the fact.
What a GREAT GOD HE IS
who so moves in such different formats
with the same message, by so many means and literary formats,
so many people to issue the appeal,
before it is too late.
They issue it as ambassadors for Christ, the Messiah:
then in the days of Solomon, predicted and to come;
nowas in the days of Paul, come already.
is indeed soon to return (see A Spiritual Potpourri, Ch.18, Touchdown).
In fact, the words of Solomon have some very delicate texture indeed. Not merely is there in Proverbs 8 and 30 this vista on the Son of God, who as we see in I Cor. 1:30 is available to the redeemed as their Wisdom, but in the Song of Solomon, He is seen as the one who places over His Camp the Banner of Love, the Messiah (Song of Solomon 2:4, cf. The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch.11, The Singing from God), the One whom God in His love sent to provide one as a husband for His bride, the Church, a recourse for His redeemed, each of whom loves Him who is better than life (cf. Psalm 63:3-8).
Just as in the Song, the power of that love which is from God, and which is epitomised in the figure of the bridegroom, the Messiah (cf. Matthew 25, Ephesians 5 and Ch.11 as above, of The Kingdom of Heaven...), is shown for one moment as greater than death (Song of Solomon 8:6), so in Proverbs along with the fascinating Ch.8, there is from its immediate theme a momentary reference to the love which sticks closer than that of a brother ( Proverbs 18:24) and in Ecclesiastes (7:28) to the one in a thousand who is faithful, among a race which though made upright, has wavered and fallen (Eccles. 7:29) in its many schemes.
Indeed in Proverbs there is another vista, another glimpse of further wonder. There is a startling reference to "enduring riches and righteousness" in parallel, present and available, within the disposition and provision, indeed in the very hand of .. Wisdom (,35). These riches are shown in the form of "the ransom of a man's life" (Proverbs 13:7-8), though "the poor" hear no rebuke.
Impoverished indeed are those without Christ, who will not repent and continue in their own imagined 'riches'. Thus Revelation declares: "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked ..." (cf. Isaiah 55:1-4). Yet those repentant and who receive this ransom of enduring riches, the Messiah of Isaiah 55:1-4, when Christ, the wisdom of God, redeems: these have great joy in their lives, and small wonder it is that "the light of the righteous rejoices" (Proverbs 13:9, cf. John ). How unsearchable are those riches of the Messiah, the Wisdom of God, the Bridegroom of the Song of Solomon! (cf. Ephesians 3:8-12).
Though these references are sometimes touches, the whole books or chapters which specialise, treat as themes what here perhaps as side-references, are merely noticeable. Thus if these particular references are comparatively oblique in one place, they are there; while they appear in direct intensity as the central theme of another book, the relevant one is revealed, each in its place.
In Job, we may add, while surveying the scenic splendours of this particular set of writings from the Lord, there is another feature which tends to bind it to the above. Here there also is suffering. Though by comparison, that of Solomon in Ecclesiastes may seem somewhat self-inflicted, yet to the young these calls and urgencies and needs and aspirations and desires - and not to them only, but the occasion may to them come quite frequently with sudden thrust - are far from superfluous. In Job, however, to revert, there is a suffering and an experiment, though in his case it is not one of his own choosing! So God works in His deep and marvellous ways!
Since however there is somewhat prolonged suffering , for Job, there are visible movements within him, which are in some ways parallel to those found in Solomon in Ecclesiastes. There is the same trend, not grossly indulged, but appearing as temptation, to yield at this moment or that to something less than the perfection of understanding and glory of morality which nevertheless comes through in the end. There is, both for Job and for Solomon, the same feeling that the test is alike ultimate and challenging to the uttermost point, that as it were, the aircraft, the test aircraft in its flight is shuddering here and there in its structures, at the enormous load and flight, the soarings and dippings in which it from time to time engages.
Thus Job, wholly misjudged by his comfortless comforters, is yet indeed tested for didactic purposes by God Almighty,
who is SHOWING all for all time,
and to the devil in particular,
the reality of unadorned spiritual love,
that it is NOT, emphatically not related
to self-esteem, self-fulfilment, self-love, self-interest:
that the saints do not serve God for gain
or for that measure of financial or family sufficiency
which so very often is their lot through self-control and prudence,
in the mercies of God;
they do not serve Him for either, for both or for any such thing!
(cf. Psalm 73:23-26).
If these things are not an uncommon result, they are not the motivating reward.
The saints, His people, serve Him for His name's sake out of love, of which He is entirely worthy because of His words and works, His grandeur and His grace.
Some speak of Job as a mystery book. It is hard to see how! We even see, as noted above, those momentary tremors (e.g. Job 7:6-21, ), which fall so far below the overall triumph over test, trial and suffering which Job supplies. Misrepresentation, slander, misconstruction, mischief through unfeeling superficiality on the part of his friends, all are there. These he must bear.
There is even failure to begin to understand the great work which Job is doing in his turmoils and trials, rather like a test aircraft (one is almost tempted to say 'of advanced design', but that is not really the point here) which is being purposely subjected to enormous strains to EXHIBIT WHAT IS ITS NATURE. Job of course does exhibit something: WHAT IS THAT NATURE OF THE REDEEMED, PLANTED BY CHRIST - NOT THEIR FLESH - A NATURE NURTURED AND SUSTAINED BY CHRIST, AND CONTAINED WITHIN HIS KEEPING POWER (cf. I Peter 1:1-22, Romans 7:18, 8:2-11, I Peter 1:23ff. II Cor. 5:17ff.).
(Job 1:9ff., 2:4-5 - a test in two phases, possessions and family and health),
Once he longed for a daysman , an arbiter between him and the Almighty; but now he finds what is far better, much greater and engulfs in glory, such a desire.
The former tremors are seen in Job 9:28-31, and the latter glories in Job 19. Let us consider it for one moment: for here Job cries in the midst of his directed suffering program (cf. *1, The Flashing Falls of Freedom, in A Spiritual Potpourri, Ch.16). Inspired as if by a flash of lightning in a storm, his eyes see the things afar off as if near, and his vision moves to the resurrection in a moment; for these things are not far from the Almighty, for whom time is no limit and power no barrier (cf. Isaiah 33:16-19).
Let us then hear Job's voice in the rigours of his storm, clearly ringing (Job -27).
"Why do you persecute me as God does,
And are not satisfied with my flesh?
Oh that my words were written?
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
"And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed this I know
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!"
HE JOB will see GOD, because of his REDEEMER who is the ground and the cause of death being baulked, life eternal flowing from the mist of thrusting disaster. His eyes will be operational, his individuality will no more cease than will his power to behold, encapsulated in that embodiment which will endure after death has tried its utmost.
How and why? It is because of the Redeemer who pays is the Redeemer who saves from death, allowing the closest of intimacies in hallowed friendship with God Almighty Himself. His redemption is not merely from suffering but from death (cf. Hosea , Isaiah 53).
There, then, in that blessed chapter of suffering Job, is the opening of heaven to Job as to Peter, recorded in Matthew 16, when he designated the Lord Jesus Christ, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus responding in loving word play (soon to be fulfilled - Matthew 16:17-18 with 16:23), indicated that it was not flesh and blood which revealed this to Peter but His Father in heaven (cf. SMR pp. 471, 537-540, 1056-1065).
Indeed, there is further parallel there, for Jesus at once showed to Peter the coming suffering of the Son of Man, Son of God as predicted in the Old Testament, even to the point of loathsome abuse by elders and death with resurrection the third day as also predicted (SMR pp. 468-475); while to Job suffering was already endemic, and would reach its climax. Job could not redeem, being himself a sinner (Job 40:1-4); but the parallel in suffering and revelation of redemption is there.
In this way, there is once again seen
that glorious unity and integrity of all the Bible,
something which like the smooth flowing character of water in the hands,
is found when it is searched.
It is, again, rather like the texture of a recurrent melody
in the hands of some genius master musician,
which comes flitting like a swallow, cooing like a dove,
arising in grandeur like a volcano,
subsiding in gentleness like spray from the breakers
upon the waters as the wave dies,
like zephyrs in the trees in Spring.
It is there, it is splendid, but if you are at all pre-occupied, you may miss it to your profound loss.
What do we then find ? Job amidst his anguish, in a sublime excursion, is moved to look (Ch. 19), to redemption of the most far-reaching kind, to a resurrection in which he will see God for himself, and not another (19:27); this comes like brilliant, even dazzling sunshine amidst the threatening doom. Similarly, Job and these things relate keenly to the substantial and direct intimations found with and by Peter the apostle, as above, in the New Testament, where Christ is to suffer, and this not as a test simply, but as a remission basis for sin (Matthew 20:28, 16:21, 26:28-29). There is this stirring parallel.
Again, Solomon in The Song, while treating love in an allegorical but profound representation of the Messiah, as shown in detail in The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch.11), touches on its power as being greater than death (since God is love, and has acted in redemption, this applies).
It is in that Messianic context that He is to be set as a "seal upon your heart" (Song of Solomon 8:6 cf. Ephesians 1:13-14), because "love is strong as death" and its ardent zeal needs no tampering; indeed, "many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be despised"- from Song 8:6-7. This links with Matthew 13:44-46, where the Kingdom of Heaven is seen as incomparably precious, making meaningless in nonentity any comparison, and John 3:16 where the love of the Father is so great that even His only begotten Son is not too much for its expression and fulfilment.
Solomon again, adverts momentarily to such a theme in Proverbs - in terms of the splendid and gracious faithfulness of a friend - so rare in flesh - past all questions of mere reciprocity of concern (something that of course only the Lord shows perfectly, Proverbs 8:34-36, 20:9, 1:33; cf Isaiah 41:28-42:1; 51:18, 52:13-15); as in Ecclesiastes also (7:29), to the spectacular rarity of the faithful friend among the carnal failures of the flesh of man. Yet he is dwelling richly in Proverbs 8, on the Messiah, the Son of God, the co-Creator, lover and ruler of mankind; while in Ecclesiastes, he turns in focus to the Creator who alone is man's recourse, and whose words have provided all that is needed for wisdom.
So does it intertwine, is it interwoven in patterns of beauty and subtlety.
For one piece what is the theme,
is in another the touching pointer,
as when the flames of fire settled gently
on the head of the apostles or disciples at Pentecost
before the great speech of Peter.
Different facets of the sapphire throne (Ezekiel 1,10) as it were,
are focussed on, with some reflection at each face of the glory
in the others and in the whole.