This lesson covers all of the material found in Proverbs and the Book of Ecclesiastes. The lesson manual actually only gives ideas for the lesson from Proverbs. Since I have already written an article on a subject covered in the lesson from Proverbs, I will just give you the link to that article so you can see if there is information there you feel is appropriate for your class. The article is called Seven Abominations the Lord Hates. Of the seven topics listed in the lesson, this topic is covered in #3 – The Words We Speak. Just to spice things up a bit, I have chosen Ecclesiastes chapter five for my text this week.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is pretty redundant in its use of the phrase “all is vanity.” The point of the whole book is basically that without God in your life, mortal life is pretty much just a waste of time and effort. There are no rewards in human endeavors that last more than a fleeting moment. Any and all lasting rewards come only from God. In the penultimate verse (second-to-the-last verse) the writer of Ecclesiastes says this,
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Everything written up to this point in the book is justifying this one comment. I chose chapter five because it has some good, practical advice and observations that, if observed, will bring us happiness. (And you thought I would never get around to tieing this back to the title of the lesson.)
Be Careful With Your Words
Ecclesiastes 5:2 is all about those of us who like to run off at the mouth, often without thinking about the consequences of what we are saying.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Vows are powerful and can be scary things. When we make a promise with an eternal Being we need to be very careful that what we are saying is truly what we mean. For the most part our Father in Heaven gives us exactly what we want. We may not think so, because who hasn’t wanted to be more handsome, more beautiful, wealthier, etc.? But if you look at the scriptures you will see that we are given eternal death or eternal life, whichever we choose. Those are about as far apart as one could imagine, yet He gives us either, based on our choices.
When I was younger, and even more foolish than I am now, I wanted to play the piano well. And not just well, but exceptionally well. I wanted to make a living out of it. I loved playing the piano. I studied it out in my mind and came to the conclusion that if I had enough talent to play a certain piece by Beethoven that I would be able to play anything I would ever need to play. I took my request to the Lord to be able to play this piece. I promised Him that if He would give me enough talent to be able to play this piece that I would never ask for more musical talent than that. I would be satisfied, because I was convinced that I would never need any more talent and ability than that.
Fast forward a few years to my first week of college. Yes, only my first week. In fact, it was my very first piano lesson in college. In fact, it was the very first piece assigned to me on my very first piano lesson in my very first week of college as a piano major. That very piece by Beethoven was assigned to me. I immediately saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall. Every bit of musical talent I had ever asked for had just been handed to me. I hadn’t really even begun my serious training yet, and I had already maxed out. I promised I would never ask for more. I had trapped myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I struggled along for several year’s worth of training beyond that before I finally admitted that I had been short-sighted and had struck a bargain with the Almighty that I could not break. I eventually accepted the fact that piano would have to be an avocation, a hobby, rather than a vocation, my work. It was my deal, and He honored it. I had to live with it. I learned the hard way to be careful what I ask for, especially when it comes to deals with the Lord. I made several deals with the Lord at that initial young age, and He honored every single request. Each and every one of them was petty, silly, and childish, but they were my heart’s desire, and I had faith, and He granted them all. Only one of them was I able to modify later on. I made a special request about 15 years later to modify one of my requests, and He honored it. It was against all the laws of physics as we understand them, but it was granted.
Be Prepared to Keep Your Word
When you approach the Lord with a deal, remember who is making the promise to deliver. It isn’t the Lord, it is you. You are the one promising to do something for Him if He will grant you a boon, a gift or favor. Be sure that you follow through with what you promise!
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Consider this fair warning that if you promise God and don’t deliver, there will be more than Hell to pay, there will be God to reckon with. Better not to say or ask for anything than to go back on your word with the Lord. He will not be mocked.
What do You Love?
Love of earthly things is unfulfilling. Look at verse 10.
10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
The lesson of this verse is that love of anything earthly is transient. It is like the love of beauty. Beauty fades, tastes change, so nothing earthly ever truly satisfies the soul. Those who labor for the riches of the earth are never satisfied with the riches they have, there is either more they feel they need or they become bored with what they have and turn to other lusts. This is why the Preacher, the one who wrote Ecclesiastes refers to the love of earthly wealth as vanity. It is fleeting.
Finally, there is this lesson – actually, there are several more in this chapter, but I have run out of space <blush>. Ecclesiastes 5:15 says,
15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
This goes along the same lines as from dust or the elements of the earth we were created, and back to dust will we return at the end of this life. What will we take home to God in our hands? The answer, of course, is nothing. There is nothing from mortality we can take back with us when we return to God. This is the point of the Book of Ecclesiastes. If we have not improved our relationship with God and each other, then what do we truly have to show for our time here on earth? God has made the earth beautiful for our enjoyment. He has granted some few great wealth and comfort in this life. But what all of us have while in mortality is the chance to find God and learn to trust Him with all our hearts. This has nothing to do with whether we are extremely rich or extremely poor. It has everything to do with our desire to become like Him. What we take back to show Him when we go home, is just how much we love Him.
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