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True Education

Query for the Month

of September 2001

 

Next up-date: October 1st (God willing).

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What does it mean to "be led by the Spirit"?

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Query:

Ecclesiastes 12:

1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw near, when you shall say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2  while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3 in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low. 

5 Also 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: because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 

7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.

8 Vanity of vanities, says the preacher; all is vanity. 9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.  10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. 

************

I have been asked to make these words of the wise man understandable, so I shall try. 


 

As we look at the whole thought written by Solomon we should see that God, through him, is offering advice on how to live through to a satisfying old age.  Having gone from bad to good (conversion) and back to bad again (sinning Christian), Solomon is the Spirit's choice to show us how it is.

1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw near, when you shall say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

His first advice is to start early.  Don't think of "having fun" first for a few years  and then taking notice of God's way.  (Remember the story of the prodigal son?  He found it hard to admit that he was in the wrong.  Solomon found that it was all "vanity", or a waste of time because it cannot satisfy).  That type of life more often than not leads so far away from God that His advices seem oldfashioned and out of step with the world, and they are easily ignored forever. None of us seem to want to recognise that fact that habit makes it hard to even want to change.  Of course, we can only accept the new life in God's creation power, but our previous good or bad  behaviour can help or hinder the choice.  That's why the Word says:

Proverbs 8:17:

"I love them that love Me, and those that seek Me early [while young] shall [easily] find Me."

The great Shepherd of Israel is still saying to us, "Teach your children that youth is the best time to seek the LORD."

Matthew 19:14

"Suffer little children to come to Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Some advice for parents here:

To allow a child to follow his or her natural impulses is to allow them to deteriorate in character and to become proficient in evil.  It is possible to go either up or down from the inherited character received at birth.  The results of wrong upbringing begin to be revealed in very early childhood, therefore correct training should start from day one. In teenage the selfish character is matured, and as the youth advances to adulthood, he or she continues to grow in sin. A continual, although unwitting, testimony against parental neglect is borne by children who have been permitted to follow a course of their own choosing.

Such a downward course can be prevented only by surrounding the young one with influences that will counteract evil. From infancy to teenage and from youth to adulthood, a child should be under influences for good.  Solomon also wrote:

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

This will not be achieved by "control", for that will only give you a temporary "goodness" which will be rejected as soon as it can be.

Parents, ask yourselves the solemn question, "Have we educated our children to yield to family authority, (not submit unwillingly, but by deliberate choice in the belief that mum and dad know best, while allowing for the inevitable human mistakes), and thus trained them to also yield to God who never errs, to love Him, to hold His law as the supreme guide of conduct and life?" See Romans 6:13.

Have we educated them to be missionaries for Christ? To go about doing good?" This is the "golden" rule of life.

Believing parents, your children will have to fight decisive battles for the LORD in the soon-coming day of conflict, for there is at least one test for every generation, and often many more.  And while they win victories for the Prince of peace, they may be gaining triumphs for themselves. But if they have not been brought up in the fear of the LORD; if they have no knowledge of Christ, no connection with heaven, they will have no moral power, and when the crunch comes they will yield to earthly rulers who have assumed to exalt themselves above the God of heaven. 

Back to our text:

Solomon now begins to describe how age catches up on all of us and suggests that this is another reason why it becomes harder to change.  It can be done because he has done it, but it is much, much easier while we are young.

2 [let's do it] while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

Most Hebrew people are very poetic in their utterances and the wisest man who ever lived had a special gift in this area.  So in verse 2 he uses the darkening effect of the end of the day to illustrate old age.  He goes on:

3 in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

Now he tells the young ones that there will come a time when their hands will shake and their walking become erratic and slow, their shoulders will bend over, their teeth will fall out and eating become difficult, and their eyes will not be able to see as well as they did.

4 [add to this] and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low. 

When the "doors" are shut it will be hard to hear the higher notes, appetite will fail, sleep will be short and daylight will find them anxious to be awake, while their voices will no longer be as nice to listen to.

5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish [blossom], and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail:

A fear of falling often accompanies old age, and with the loss of physical strength comes fear of small things,  with even a small thing like a "grasshopper" hard to manage.  The blossoming of white hair normally brings with it a lessening of the desires of life as Solomon well knew.

because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Here he refers to the grave and the funeral procession which awaits all those who die.

6 or ever [do it before] the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern [the water storage area].

In four different ways Solomon tries to explain what can cause our death.  It could be the cord that binds us to God is undone as we slip away in our sleep; we might suffer an injury or a wound in battle which kills us; a heart problem or stroke can cause death from within; or maybe we will see the "wheel" disintegrate due to a wasting disease and we will no longer be able to draw up the water of life.

7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.

So the body moulders away, but the breath of life which God gave to us at birth and which developed (or degenerated) into the character that we are at death, returns to the memory of our Creator, there to abide until rejoined with a new body in the resurrection.

Nowhere in the Sacred Scriptures is found any statement that the righteous go to their reward or the wicked to their punishment at death. The patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament have left no such assurance. Christ and His apostles have given no hint of it. The Bible clearly teaches that the dead do not go immediately to heaven or hell. They are represented as sleeping until the resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Job 14:10-12.

In the very day when the silver cord is loosed or the golden bowl broken, man's thoughts perish.  Psalm 146:4.  They that go down to the grave are in silence.  Isaiah 38:18.  They know no more of anything that is done under the sun (i.e. in this world). Ecclesiastes 9:6.

Blessed rest for the weary righteous! Time, be it long or short, is but a moment to them. They sleep; they are awakened by the trump of God to a glorious immortality. "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. . . . So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." I Corinthians 15:52-54.

As they are called forth from their deep slumber they begin to think just where they ceased. The last sensation was the pang of death; the last thought, that they were falling beneath the power of the grave. When they arise from the tomb, their first glad thought will be echoed in the triumphal shout: "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" Verse 55. 

For the rejecters of God's grace there is a longer "sleep", but eventually even they will answer the call.  Daniel 12:2.

8 Vanity of vanities, says the preacher; all is vanity.

Keeping in mind how we came into existence and where we are going is the only sensible thing to do in this world.  God has a purpose for each one of us and anything else we might want to do will in the end be shown to be a selfish waste of time and energy.  

9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.  10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are as goads [pointed instruments], and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies [the wise speakers], which are given from one Shepherd.

12 And further, by these, my son [or daughter], be admonished [warned]: of making many books there is no end; and much study [of worldly books] is a weariness of the flesh.

Solomon wanted to share what he had gleaned from his life experiences and so began to write for those who would come after him. We know these writings as the Bible books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and The Song.  He hoped that his advice would act like pricks to the conscience and that some would be able more easily to find the truths that he had learned the hard way. Then, like nails, they would hold the person together in righteousness. 

By the Spirit of Inspiration the king recorded for after generations the history of his wasted years with their lessons of warning. And thus, although the seed of his sowing was reaped by his people in harvests of evil, his life-work was not wholly lost. With meekness and lowliness Solomon in his later years "taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs."

But some have been greedy for too many books. They have read and studied more than they can retain or need to know, and here we are shown that such study is a wearing down of the flesh and can lead to illness.

The Spirit is also saying through Solomon that time which is consumed in that type of reading and study is often worse than being thrown away. A large portion of the time spent over other books and in studying worldly wisdom would be better spent before God imploring Him for heavenly wisdom and for strength and power to let the truth which we do fully understand shine out before the people in its clearness and harmonious beauty.

There is too little time available for secret prayer and sacred meditation to waste it on unnecessary material. The cry of God's servants should be for the holy guidance and to be clothed with salvation, that what we preach may reach hearts because it comes from our hearts.  Our personal time is so short and workers of these last days are so few that we should throw all our energies into the work, and be in such a close connection with God and holy angels, that a tremendous power may be in our teaching - a compelling power, to draw every soul who is honest and who loves the Truth to come near and embrace Him.  Luke 14:23.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. 

Then Solomon sums it all up by saying that really there is only one thing to do - respect God's advice and then keep it in His power.  One day we will have to answer for the things we have said and done and the Son of God has the ability to prepare us for that day.  But we should start young!

The apostle James admonished his brethren:

James 2:12

"So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty" and so we should.  

The duty to worship the Son of God is based upon the fact that He is the Creator and that to Him we owe our existence. Wherever His claim to reverence and worship above the gods of the heathen is presented in the Bible, there is cited the evidence of His creative power.

Psalm 96:5

"All the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens."

Isaiah 40:25, 26; 45:18

"To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things."  

"Thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it: . . . I am the LORD; and there is none else."

Psalms 100:3; 95:6

Says the psalmist: "Know you that the LORD He is God: it is He that has made us, and not we ourselves."

"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our Maker."

Revelation 4:11

And the holy beings who worship God in heaven, state, as the reason why their homage is due to Him: "You are worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for You have created all things."

 

Conclusion:

I can do no better that repeat some more words of the wise man:

Ecclesiastes 11:7-10

"Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many.

“All that comes [without this remembrance] is vanity [self-glorification].

“Rejoice, O young man [and woman], in your youth [enjoy it]; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes: but know you, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

“Therefore remove sorrow [regret] from your heart, and put away evil [wrong actions] from your flesh : for childhood and youth are [often times of] vanity [great selfishness]."

Rather than strive for worldly excellence in education, we should know that the science of redemption (not conversion) is the science of all sciences; that it is the study of the angels and of all the intelligences of the unfallen worlds.  With it will come all the other knowledge that we might desire.

It is the subject that engages the attention of our LORD and Saviour; it is even the basic thought that enters into the purpose brooded in the mind of the Infinite God - "kept in silence through times eternal" (Romans 16:25, R.V.). 

This science will be the course of enquiry of God's redeemed throughout endless ages. This is the highest study in which it is possible for man or woman to engage. As no other subject can, it will quicken our mind and uplift us here and now, and it will occupy our thoughts as well as God's, for eternity. 

John 17:3

And this is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. 


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
 
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