Tony and Jane Derrick

Dear Ministry Partner,

We continue our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, in which “the Preacher” (generally accepted to be King Solomon) pursues the elements necessary for a life with purpose. In our study of the first chapter last month, we saw Solomon realize that all his self-accomplishments, “everything under the sun,” prove to be nothing more than “vanity and grasping for the wind” (1:14). In the second chapter of his journal, Solomon sets aside his workaholic endeavors as a means to a full life and examines whether personal pleasure can provide the elusive goal.

SOLOMON’S “I” PROBLEM (2:1–11)

Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 shows that Solomon’s quest for satisfaction doesn’t lie in meeting the needs of the people, only in his own satisfaction. Let’s listen in to find out if that pursuit will give the king what he craves.

Detail of Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, oil on canvas (1890) by Edward Poynter (1836–1919)

The first two verses begin with laughter and mirth. What is mirth? It is the seeking of a joyful persona. Solomon concludes that laughter is “madness.” If I were to guess, Solomon is referring to the fact that when a comedian completes his routine, he retires to a solitude where there is no laughter or applause. It is life back to the way it was; in other words, “all is vanity.”

His next test of pleasure, in verse three, is as a wine connoisseur. Let’s be clear; Solomon was not a drunk. He was not a back-alley wino trying to drown his sorrows. He was a well-educated king of Israel who wondered if bottled spirits might offer some relief from a mundane life.

Was that the answer? We undoubtedly all know someone who has tried to “drown” their sorrows in drink. A physician friend of mine says that more patients with congestive heart failure are seen after the Super Bowl than at any other time during the year. Why? They eat salty foods and drink too much alcohol. Solomon concluded that drink wasn’t the answer he was seeking.

Solomon lists his attempts at personal satisfaction in verses four through eleven. He built houses, planted vineyards, provided water channels for the vineyards, and on and on it goes. His greatest accomplishment, of course, was building the Temple of God. Let’s not forget that he did what his father, David, was not allowed to do.

Solomon and the plan for the First Temple, from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Co., 1896

Notice these statements in verses 4–10:

2:4
“I made”
2:5
“I made”
2:6
“I made”
2:7
“I acquired greater possessions”
2:8
“I gathered for myself”
2:10
“I denied myself nothing.” Great wealth allowed Solomon to indulge in whatever he chose. He had no boundaries, as we will see in regard to his harem.

But, I call your attention to a note of importance in verse 9, “So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also, my wisdom remained with me (emphasis mine). Remember that important point. When Solomon wrote in v. 10, “whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them,” he revealed one of his greatest failures.

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites — from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned away his heart.” 1 Kings 11:1–3

Who were these women?

Moabites:
descendants of the oldest surviving daughter of Lot.
Ammonites:
descendants of the youngest surviving daughter of Lot.
Edomites:
descendants of Esau, who settled in the southeast border of Israel. The region was referred to as Edom or Idumea, but the Nabateans drove them out. Visitors to Petra become familiar with the name Nabatean.
Sidonians:
a people from the ancient Phoenician city north of Tyre. They worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. Jezebel was a descendant of these people.
Hittites:
among the dwellers in Canaan (at the time of Joshua) who opposed Israel. They were people that God instructed to be driven out … but were not. Remember, Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was a Hittite.

Wisdom didn’t seem to rule the day concerning Solomon’s harem. When Solomon reflected on his accomplishments in verse eleven, he concluded it was meaningless, like chasing after the wind.

Have you ever chased after the wind? Probably not; but you may have chased after a loose kite or a darting hummingbird. They are near impossible to catch. But the wind? You can’t catch it! Solomon’s pursuit of a satisfying, pleasure-filled life was like that.

SOLOMON’S CONFUSION ABOUT WISDOM AND FOOLS (2:12–16)

In Solomon’s next entry (2:12–16), he famously concluded that no difference exists between a wise man and a fool. They both will die and be forgotten. I disagree.

Yes; they both die, but wise living is advantageous. Consider the evangelist Billy Graham. His and his team’s wisdom over the years served them well in protecting their reputations and giving them a voice to authentically preach the Gospel around the world.

Now consider a man who became a drunken bum in the Bowery, and died with no identification, except a few words scratched on a piece of paper. Stephen Foster gave us the wonderful lyrics of “Camptown Races,” “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” just to name a few. He died a fool despite being revered for his legacy. There is a difference, and I humbly disagree with Solomon on this point; wisdom does rule over the fool’s lack of it.

Without the Good News of Yeshua, Solomon’s writing depresses me. Do you believe that life is meaningless? I hope not, because you and I were made in the image of God and after His likeness. We have been bestowed with greatness within us — let’s never forget that — and as Believers (“Believers” is short for “believers in Yeshua/Jesus as Messiah.”), we look forward to eternal life in an inherited Kingdom.

SOLOMON’S LEGACY AND LIFE (2:17–26)

The concluding verses offer two thoughts. The first is found in 2:17–23. Solomon is worried about something he cannot control. He wonders if his legacy will remain intact after he has passed from the earthly scene. Don’t we all want to leave the best part of us to the next generation? We can live a godly, instructive life. Ultimately, we have no control over what will be done when we leave this world. Solomon’s father, King David, gave sage advice in Psalm 34:12–14,

“Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

The second thought shines a ray of hope through the pessimism. In Ecclesiastes 2:24–26, Solomon admits that all that is good in life comes from the hand of God. Look at his words in verse 24: “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.” We may be turning a corner in Solomon’s philosophy of life. Remember in our study of James what he observed about our lives on this Earth? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Standing firm with Israel and ZLM,

Tony

Tony Derrick

P.S. Our next study in Ecclesiastes is about time. We mortals are all bound by time and space, so next month we will listen in to Solomon’s thoughts on the subject. *

Your personal invitation to join Zola Tours in the Holy Land

We meet many people who are waiting for a sign from God before they take a Holy Land tour. If that’s you, consider this invitation your sign! We believe that the Lord desires all of His followers to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) in the actual land of milk and honey (Ex. 3:17). No other place on the planet is God’s Covenant Land. There’s only one: Israel. Take this amazing opportunity to travel there with fellow ZLMers.

Many folks share stories of wanting to go while unsure how they could afford such a study tour … and they ended up going! We pray for a similar miracle to happen for you. Your first step? Get in touch with Sandra in our Zola Tours office. Phone her at 214-696-9760, email her at travel@levitt.com, or visit levitt.com/tours. She can walk you through every step of getting you ready for this unforgettable pilgrimage.

Note: We now spend one extra day in Jerusalem!
Fall Tour 2020 options
Prices include tips, taxes, & fuel surcharge (subject to change).
Deluxe (Israel only) Oct 19–29 $5,288
Grand Petra (Israel & Petra)Oct 19–Nov 01 $6,488
Grand Athens (Greece & Israel)Oct 13–29 $8,288
Ultra Grand (Greece & Israel & Petra)Oct 13–Nov 01 $9,488

A Note from David and Kirsten

Have you heard the term “shofar, so good”? It’s a fun Israeli play on words. (A shofar is a ram’s-horn trumpet used by ancient Jews in religious ceremonies and as a battle signal, now sounded at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.) Well, we have some good news about Our Jewish Roots — shofar so good! Viewers are responding very well to the new program name. We’re getting thumbs up from everyone we talk to.

David and I just attended a gathering of many influential people in the Christian television industry, where we heard positive comments about the new program title. We’ve found that when industry specialists, such as Christian programming directors, agree that an idea is worthwhile, we’re usually headed in the right direction. We also recently guested on four different TV stations in the Atlanta area, promoting Our Jewish Roots to viewers in the greater Atlanta, Augusta, and Greenville (SC) markets. ZLMers certainly loved Zola, but they also enthusiastically endorse our new program name’s broader appeal.

We hope you’ve been enjoying Dr. Jeffrey Seif’s teachings on Joshua in our newest TV series and will invite your friends and family to watch with you. Word of mouth is the most credible way to promote viewership. We want everyone to experience the in-depth quality of our Bible teaching each week — the dramatic reenactments, the scenery from beautiful Israel, and of course, Zola’s classic music. Our Jewish Roots brings you a cornucopia of everything Israeli, Jewish, and Christian; and it takes you to the Land itself every week!

Jeff Seif

Our Jewish Roots programs this month

When you open your Bible to the New Testament, the life of Jesus is told in the four Gospels. The next book, the Acts of the Apostles, is followed by letters to different congregations. The New Testament ends with the Book of Revelation, which describes events that will occur when the Messiah returns. This order of the books makes sense and is easy to follow. It would be natural to assume that The New Testament’s books were written as they appear in the Bible, but they weren’t. To see Paul’s letters in their chronological order (his letter to the Galatians was probably written first) and understand the events that prompted them to be penned, watch our revitalized series on Paul — In the Footsteps of the Rabbi from Tarsus.

This enhanced eight-part series begins this month and sheds light on Apostle Paul — his movements and his message. Dr. Jeffrey Seif follows Paul’s footsteps across the ancient Roman Empire and analyzes his divinely inspired letters to early Church congregations, preserved in the New Testament. We packed an abundance of information into eight 30-minute programs that were filmed all around the Mediterranean, including Rome, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, the Aegean Sea, and elsewhere. Besides tracking the travels of Paul from Jerusalem to Damascus and back, to Tarsus and Antioch, then on his missionary journeys, Jeff analyzes Paul’s letters to the churches to see if what Paul wrote applies to Believers today. (Hint: it does!) Tune in via television, internet broadcast, or levitt.tv.

Persecutor to Advocate
Dr. Seif gives us background on Shaul (Paul), beginning with his persecution of the early Church, his meeting Yeshua on the road to Damascus, and then events leading up to his first ministry.
Message for All Peoples
Barnabas calls Paul to join him in Antioch, and the two set out westward on the first missionary journey. Paul’s powerful preaching leads Jews and many gentiles to faith in the Messiah.
Turbulent Journeys
Paul returns to Asia Minor and goes to Athens, where he preaches his famous sermon on Mars Hill. On his third missionary journey, Paul goes to riotous Ephesus and then back to Jerusalem where trouble finds him.
Road to Rome
Paul’s legal troubles land him in stormy waters where he is shipwrecked at Malta. His appeal leads to a prison cell in Rome, but even it cannot contain Paul’s desire to share the Gospel during the final years of his life.

The backdrops for In the Footsteps are breathtaking and the teaching inspirational. After watching this series, you may be ready to sign up for our fall Zola Tour to Greece and Israel. Kirsten and I will host the tour throughout the Mediterranean region, including Ancient Ephesus. Come, see for yourself this gorgeous part of the world, and walk in the footsteps of the rabbi from Tarsus.

If you’ve been a long-time viewer and supporter of this ministry, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Some ZLMers aren’t able to view Our Jewish Roots on television or through the internet; nonetheless, they have been longtime readers of the Levitt Letter and this Personal Bible Study Letter — and to all of you, we offer a hearty “thank you.” May your faithful financial sustenance keep us keeping on until the Lord’s return.

Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! — Psalm 122:6

David & Kirsten

P.S. Our ZLM family keeps this ministry up and running. I’m sure you’re aware that this ministry is 100% financed by our viewers and news magazine readers. *

Zola Levitt Ministries is ECFA approved

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