It’s I again.
Sorry to bother you but it turns out that I still have something on my mind that I need to discuss with you. I understand that after my last letter, I’m probably low on your list of favourite people, so I promise to tread carefully. Please indulge me.
I still admire you. I know those words may sound empty and repetitious, but I really do admire you. Your ability to observe and draw out of life meaning and truth has always amazed me. You were able to decipher what was truly important and at the heart of God when you asked for the wisdom to lead the Israelites. And you were rewarded for your honesty. You taught me that God isn’t looking for a superman or superwoman. He just wants a truthful relationship based on honesty and mutual respect. Give him that and he’ll take care of the rest. And boy did he take care of you! Wisdom, wealth and fame were at your disposal to use in carrying out the task of ruling God’s people. It’s what you chose to do with the blessings that I came back to try to understand.
As you rightly pointed out, whatever we have, whether it be days on the earth, wealth, possessions or power, it has been given to us by God. 1Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 Some people acknowledge this and some do not.
However, I have come to realise from my reading of the bible that you missed something. You see, when God blessed Abraham, he said to Abraham that he would be a great nation, have a great name and be a blessing. 2Genesis 12:2 Sure enough, to this day billions around the world have come into the knowledge and blessings of God through Jesus, a descendant of Abraham. Abraham was lucky enough to have been told the purpose of his blessing from the onset – to ultimately be a blessing.
Whatever we have, whether it be days on the earth, wealth, possessions or power, it has been given to us by God.
Joseph on the other hand was sent into slavery and subsequently became the second in command in Egypt. He testified to the purpose of his journey and the blessing and glory he came to enjoy; but only after he had come into his place of comfort and glory – that it was “to preserve life; to preserve a remnant on the earth; to keep alive survivors.” 3Genesis 45:4-7 His purpose was to provide a solution for the region ahead of a 7-year famine and to ensure that lives were not lost to a natural disaster.
With the maiden, Esther, she enjoyed a meteoric rise to the palace. Hers was a story that earned its place alongside bedtime stories, fantasies and fairy tales. Yet, when the time came for a tough decision to be made that would highlight her purpose, she didn’t recognise it. It was her uncle, Mordecai, that pointed out to her that perhaps this fairy tale life that she had been living was for a purpose – that maybe she was a Queen, not just to luxuriate in the lap of opulence, but so that she might influence policy and save the Israelites from decimation. 4Esther 4:13-14 Only then did she get with the program and fulfil the purpose of her blessing.
If these examples were anything to go by, it would mean that it is not enough to know that what we have are given to us by God. There has to be a realisation that there is a purpose to the blessings we have and ultimately a purpose to the life we live. This is where my numerous questions to you lie. For when you looked at life and acknowledged the source of all blessings, you advised that man should “eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour… which God giveth him: for it his portion.” 5Ecclesiastes 5:18 Simply put, sit back, relax and enjoy the God-given blessedness of your awesome life.
This was not just something you advocated for in words alone, for you lived your life by this same principle. It was clear by what was recorded of you in the Bible that you came to really like your wealth and also had an eye for women; and you sat back and enjoyed them to the best of your God-given ability. Women? You had a thousand. Opulence? Well, while it took you 7 years to build the temple of God, it took you 13 years to build your own house. In fact, your house, which would have seen much less human traffic than the temple, was bigger than the temple by a third! When the Queen of Sheba saw what you had done with the place, she was left breathless! 61 Kings 10:5 Between enjoying all that money, 700 wives and 300 concubines, it’s a wonder you managed to run a country!
There is a purpose to the blessings we have and ultimately a purpose to the life we live.
So I ask, did you know that all blessings, even yours, had a purpose for which they had been given? Did it ever cross your mind that God gave you all that wealth and glory to help you in ruling the Israelites? Or all that fame and influence to establish your kingdom above other competing kingdoms, or perhaps to make your reign peaceful and the people comfortable?
It seems, dear Preacher, that you did not know that blessings had a purpose. Frankly, I would understand if you said that unlike Abraham you were given no direct instruction or revelation as to what you needed to do with all the blessings you had. Or that you were not fortunate to have realised it once you became rich like Joseph, neither did you have anyone around you to talk sense into you, as Mordecai did with Esther. After all, you were a good guy, and pretty clued on I might add. For it was you who famously identified that giving to the poor was akin to lending to the Lord. 7Proverbs 17:19 However, that’s not all. For it’s because of you that we understand that those who give to the poor will lack nothing, 8Proverbs 28:27 that the generous who share their bread with the poor will be blessed, 9Proverbs 22:9 and that oppressing the poor shows contempt for God, while kindness to the needy translates to honouring him. 10Proverbs 14:31
It is rather unfortunate that you taught one thing and did another. For it is recorded of you that you made the yoke of the Israelites grievous, probably in a bid to build your vast edifices and amass more women than you could conveniently ‘know’. 111 Kings 12:4 Worse, this lifestyle of yours clearly had a similar effect on your son, Rehoboam, because when the time came for him to take to the throne, he promised to make the Israelites work harder than you did. 121 Kings 12:14 Maybe he had designs on a larger palace and an even larger harem. We will never know because his actions split the kingdom that your father David fought and for which he almost died. If anything, your actions did more harm than the good your advice might have prompted. Maybe if you heeded the psalms of your father, David, you might have come to understand how not to set your heart on riches, no matter how greatly they increase. 13Psalm 62:10 Or maybe, just maybe if you heeded your own words of wisdom, things might have turned out differently for you and your offspring.
Our blessings are therefore tools and avenues through which God’s expectations are to be met and are not meant to serve our wants and lusts.
Perhaps you thought that your wise musings were merely an ideal to aspire to and not an obligation to fulfil. As a result, you did what you could and sat back to enjoy the rest. To that, I remind you of my previous letter. The crux of which was that it is inherent in our understanding of the ways of God that he expects us to be his hands in the lives of those who hurt, lack and are in pain in the world. Our blessings are therefore tools and avenues through which God’s expectations are to be met and are not meant to serve our wants and lusts. That is the point of blessings; whether explicitly stated or subtly implied.
My dear Preacher, the greatest lesson you have taught me, I learned through the life you lived and not the words you wrote. That there is a great difference between knowing truth and applying truth. That it is possible to have all the wisdom in the world and still live a life void of it. That even the wisest words without corresponding actions mean nothing.
So again, I must conclude that you did not know. For if you did, perhaps you would have done things a little differently.