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Something New Under the Sun

“I thought to myself, ‘Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.’ Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:16-18, NIV).

I cannot quibble about King Solomon’s great wisdom, though I think, in the biblical context, it has been overrated. For someone hailed as the wisest man who ever lived, I would think he would have managed his life and affairs better.

Of course, Solomon lived in the pre-Pentecost time, long before the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit was gifted upon the disciples of Christ. Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things” (John 14:26). That promise of wisdom dwarfs whatever Solomon possessed.
The “R-rated” biblical book, “The Song of Solomon” (also known as “The Song of Songs”), was not permitted to be read to children at various times throughout history. You will not find excerpts or shortened versions of it in “Bible Stories for Children” today. I am amused how some preachers often skip over the book or take great pains to interpret it as an allegory of love between the Church and Christ, between God and Israel, or between Christ and His follower. Some present it as a manual for how husbands and wives should view and nurture their relationship.

Let us keep in mind, however, that book was written by a man with 700 wives and 300 concubines. If Solomon did nothing else in his life but cultivate a loving, marital relationship with his wives, each wife would have a half a day per year with him. I do not see much wisdom in that. How can the book be a manual for a marital relationship since Solomon was not writing from personal experience? As for being an allegory of the relationship between the Church and Christ, God and Israel, or Christ and His followers, I think that is quite a stretch. (The New Testament writers make no reference at all to this book.)

Ecclesiastes, another book attributed to Solomon, is depressing to me. Under the “old” or former covenant, what he wrote was true, of course. But Solomon was no prophet. In all his wisdom he does not point to the grand promises of “new things” as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah and the others do. Of all the scenes in the film, “The Passion of the Christ,” the one most imprinted on my mind is where the bloody and humanly defiled Jesus is struggling with His heavy cross and approached by His mother, Mary. He pauses and says to her, “Look, mother, I am making all things new.” What an image! Producer Mel Gibson used literary license in importing what Jesus had told His followers in other contexts into the passion scene to create a snapshot of how Christ would be making all things new. And that is the message of the Gospel, the Good News.

Despite the repeated assertion of Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun,” Christ did create something quite new and ineffable. While the prophets saw it, Solomon did not, or, rather, was not given the revelation in spite of his great wisdom. The prophets were executed while Solomon died peacefully. Interesting how those who proclaim the Good News are persecuted while those who expound politically and culturally correct wisdom are honored.

I find it wonderful to address an international audience in contrast to a local congregation in which everyone is pretty much in the same economic, ethnic, cultural class and of similar world-view points. This compels me to be vigilant in maintaining a non-nationalistic, non-worldly view point, which is the mandate of being Christian. “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19b, NIV). Christianity transcends culture, ethnicity and politics. Or it should.

When Jesus appeared to Peter, James and John in a transfigured state, He did not choose the wisest men to discus His mission in their presence. Solomon was not there. Two of the greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah, were. Like Solomon, these men made blunders during their ministries on earth, but were so honored to be chosen to discuss the mystery of Christ’s redemptive work.

The advisors, cabinet members, court justices and ambassadors of our nations are chosen, in a tiny part, for their wisdom, in the greatest part for their political ties. Compare the kind of men Jesus chose to be ambassadors of His Kingdom – the working class who did not have a scholarly education (with the exception of the apostle Paul chosen later). Incredibly, He entrusts us with the same task: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20a).

Human genius and wisdom have limits. Ignorance knows none. Dealing with ignorance is like dealing with terrorism. Do not suppose there will be an end to either. Redemptive wisdom is infinite, dynamic, and the genesis of everlasting life beginning with this one on the earth.

Secular literature abounds in studies of how human history “repeats itself” which echoes the tone of Ecclesiastes. The divine history of redemption is ongoing and non-repetitive. It is renewed every morning, in every meal, in every breath. We can participate in it or deny it in ignorance or egotistical defiance. There is no wisdom in ignorance or egotistical defiance or rationalization, human or divine.

There is one grand new thing under the sun: The New Covenant born out of the Passion of Christ. Although beyond human wisdom or ability to understand, it is certainly accessible to all people of all nations to experience and embrace. Solomon, in his wisdom, would now agree, I am sure.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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