A clear pathway

Solomon said, “Where there is not vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). If you relate it to driving, this proverb makes a lot of sense. Obviously, we can’t drive blindfolded. If we did, we would end up in an accident pretty quickly. When we obey the traffic laws, we avoid getting tickets and usually arrive at our destination on time.

The Bible often compares life to a journey and heaven as the destination we want to arrive at. In this context, vision can be thought of as a clear view of the spiritual realm in which God exists. When we ignore or don’t pay attention to spiritual things, we ultimately end up in the wrong place, hell.

God’s laws are meant to be signposts that point us in the right direction. Sin is sometimes referred to as missing the mark. Another way to think of it is making a wrong turn or missing your exit on the freeway. Sin keeps us from reaching our destination. Therefore, we are much better off if we do what God tells us to.

Aside from reaching our final destination, heaven, our life’s journey includes lessons or pit stops along the way that refresh and restore us so that we don’t get worn out from our travels. Having a vision or road map helps us to not miss the exit when the next gas station is 100 miles away and our gas tank is almost empty. This is what I believe Solomon meant when he said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). He wasn’t talking about ending up in hell. He was referring to a loss of time or lack of progress. In essence, your life being put on hold.

Keeping God’s law is not so much about what we do as it is about what God does. When we obey God, He protects us and keeps us from harm. The word translated keepeth in the phrase “keepeth the law” (Proverbs 29:18) is shamar. Shamar means to hedge about or guard. “The word also means ‘to keep’ in the sense of ‘watching over’ or giving attention to (8104). As we pay attention to God’s traffic signals, He keeps us away from detours and makes sure we don’t end up in a ditch.


Proverbs 31 is attributed to king Lemuel’s mother. The name translated Lemuel means “belonging to God” and is believed to be a symbolic name of Solomon (3927). If so, then the prophecy came from Bath-sheba, the woman king David had an affair with. Proverbs 31 deals with the role of women in Solomon’s life. In verses 2 – 3, Solomon’s mother warns him against having a large harem and sexual immorality. “What, my son?  and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” Repetition of the what question three times indicates a tone of rebuke and concern for Solomon’s awareness of his problem. Today we might say something like, What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?

Solomon’s approach to marriage was to treat it like a business transaction. Many of his wives were acquired by forming alliances with neighboring nations. In order to maintain peace, Solomon lived a double life. Three times a year, Solomon offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he built for the LORD (1 Kings 9:25), but he also “went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians” (1 Kings 11:5) and built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab (1 Kings 11:7). Solomon’s compromise resulted in the LORD taking away the majority of the kingdom from David’s descendants (1 Kings 11:11-13).

The  phrase that Solomon’s mother used, “give not thy strength unto women” (Proverbs 31:3) implies that Solomon’s wives were given power or control over the nation of Israel. In some way, they were influencing the course of Israel’s history. From an extreme perspective, Solomon’s foreign wives erased many of king David’s accomplishments. David and his army fought many years to gain control over Israel’s enemies. Solomon’s decision to worship his foreign wives’ gods made it seem as if his strength was coming from multiple sources and God was no longer calling the shots.

Preview of coming attraction

Solomon’s wisdom was recognized by everyone as a gift from God. It says in 2 Chronicles 9:23, “And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.” The Hebrew word translated wisdom, chokmâh (khok – maw´) is derived from the word châkam (khaw – kam´) which means to be wise. “This word represents the discernment of good and evil, prudence in secular matters, skill in arts, and experience in Divine things. It is moral rather than intellectual; it is the adaptation of what we know to what we have (and ought) to do” (2449).

Chokmah or wisdom “is the knowledge and the ability to make right choices at the opportune time. The consistency of making the right choices is an indication of maturity and development” (2451). Solomon may have prayed for wisdom because he was young and inexperienced when he became king. His father’s sins of adultery and murder must have made Solomon fearful of making the same kinds of mistakes. Even though Solomon sinned by marrying foreign wives, his moral track record was impressive considering the wealth and resources he had access to.

The wisdom that Solomon received is compared to the fruit of the Spirit that is manifested in the lives of believers (2451). It is remarkable to think that any and every Christian can be as wise as Solomon was. The apostle Paul said, “walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Although it does not state specifically that Solomon was filled with the Holy Spirit, it is possible that the reference to his wisdom, “that God put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:23) meant that he was indwelt by the Spirit just as believers are today.


Wisdom does not keep us from committing sin. Sometimes people say, if I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently, implying that you will make better choices as you grow wiser. The truth of the matter is that we make bad choices because we have a sin nature or tendency to sin, not because we are stupid and don’t know any better.

Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, disobeyed God by marrying multiple foreign wives. It says in 1 Kings 11:3 that Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.” Initially, Solomon was committed to the LORD God of Israel who appeared to him on two separate occasions (1 Kings 11:9), but when Solomon was recognized by the people for his gifts of leadership, wisdom and justice (2205), he began to care more about pleasing his wives that he did about pleasing God (1 Kings 11:4).

The interesting thing about Solomon’s situation was that Solomon’s disobedience wasn’t punished. When David committed adultery with Bath-Sheba, the child that was conceived died shortly after he was born. Solomon’s disobedience continued throughout his life, to the extreme that he accumulated 1000 wives and concubines, a direct violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:17).

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 makes it clear that God knew in advance that Solomon would turn away from him and may even have set up or prearranged the situation by giving Solomon extreme wealth. In ancient times, the number of wives a man had was closely tied to his wealth. From a cultural perspective, it was appropriate for Solomon to have an outrageous number of wives because he was the wealthiest man on earth. The problem was that Solomon had foreign wives that wanted to keep worshipping their own gods and Solomon let them.

In says in 1 Kings 11:9 that “the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice.” The word translated turned, natah “connotes ‘extending something outward and toward’  something or someone…This is a figure of God’s active, sovereign, and mighty involvement in the affairs of men. So this phrase means ‘to stretch out’ something until is reaches a goal” (5186).

God had a purpose for allowing Solomon’s disobedience to continue unpunished. It may have been that God wanted Israel to see that they could be like everyone else, enjoy  peace and prosperity, but they would be miserable without him at the center of their lives (Ecclesiastes 12:8).



The preacher

The queen of Sheba represents a fulfillment of God’s plan to use the Israelites to make himself known throughout all the earth (Exodus 9:16). “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). The word translated prove, nacah means to test (5254). The queen of Sheba wanted to know God and so she went to see for herself if Solomon was speaking the truth, if he really knew God in a personal way.

As a result of her visit, the queen of Sheba became a believer. It says in 1 Kings 10:6-7, “she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it.” The word translated believed, aman is the same word used in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham “believed in the LORD.” The queen of Sheba “communed” with Solomon (1 Kings 10:2). She and Solomon had a lengthy conversation about spiritual matters. Solomon revealed to her spiritual truths that opened her heart to God.

During the queen of Sheba’s visit, I believe Solomon was in the role of preacher and it is possible that the book of Ecclesiastes is a record of what Solomon shared with her during their time together. At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about having a relationship with God. He said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” and after depicting the process of aging stated, “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Solomon’s emphasis of life lived apart from God in the book of Ecclesiastes and his conclusion that a relationship with God is necessary indicates that he was trying to convert whoever he was speaking to and he was successful in doing that with the queen of Sheba.


Practice makes perfect

The concept of time is relative to experience. The more experience we have with something, the less we become aware of time while doing it. Therefore, the more we do something, the less time it seems to take. Eventually, we may reach a level of experience where we lose track of time or become completely unaware of time while doing something. It is at that point when eternity or “time out of mind” (5769) begins to make sense to us.

Solomon said that “to every purpose there is time and judgment” (Ecclesiastes 8:6) and “better is the end of a thing than the beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Sometimes we avoid a certain experience because we think we won’t like it or it might turn out badly. Therefore, we do not reach a point where we can see things from an eternal perspective. For example, a person gets divorced and decides to never remarry because the breakup was too painful.

Solomon said, “then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done” (Ecclesiastes 8:17). The words translated work and done are associated with practice. They refer to something that is done habitually, a lifestyle that has become a way of life. It is difficult to get an eternal perspective on something if you only do it once, especially if you don’t get to see the outcome or end result. From an eternal perspective, a bad result is better than no result if you learn from your mistake.


Wasted effort

My dad was an entrepreneur and over the course of his life was involved in at least a dozen business ventures. As a result, he experienced a lot of what Solomon referred to as “sore travail” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Solomon said, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is know by a multitude of words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3). I think my dad believed in the American Dream, the idea that a person can go from rags to riches if he is willing to work hard and pay his dues. At the time of his death, my dad owned properties that he estimated to be worth about $300,000. It was a fortune to him, but insignificant compared to the current value of the first home he and my mom bought 50 years ago. They lost the house in a bankruptcy due to a failed business.

I think there are many people who work more than is really necessary and those who don’t work enough. In my own case, I worked very hard for 14 years and then I retired. I realized toward the end of my career that I didn’t have a life outside of work, and if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to end up like my dad, alone and miserable.

Solomon said, “If a man beget an hundred children and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3). What Solomon was implying was that none of the man’s hundred children cared enough about him to give him a decent burial, therefore, his life was a waste.

In his time

Solomon said, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). If you think of the world as God’s possession, then the purpose of every thing in the world is to bring God pleasure; it exists for his delight (2656). Another way of looking at purpose is desire and from that perspective comes the will of God, that which the Lord voluntarily chooses to or decides to do in the life of every person.

Solomon said of God, “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There are two types of time operating in the universe in which we exist. One is the time that we are aware of, which can be measured by a duration (6256), and the second is the time that we are not aware of, what is referred to as eternity (5703). These two types of time are related to each other and are used by God to make every thing beautiful.

One of the ways that God translates time that is of a specific duration into eternity, or time without end, is through relationships that are restored after many years of having no contact. I was recently reunited with a friend I hadn’t had contact with for more than 40 years. I couldn’t remember her face or the sound of her voice, but when we reconnected, I knew it was my friend.

Solomon said, “God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). The word translated requireth, baqash basically means “‘to seek’ to find something that is lost or missing, or, at least, whose location is unknown” (1245). I believe it gave God pleasure to reunite me with my friend and it happened at a time when both of us were seeking God’s will. I was not a Christian when my friend and I first met and our friendship dissolved after I was raped. Our first meeting after we reconnected happened to take place at the church I attend.

In his explanation of the benefit of relationships, Solomon said, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). The same word is translated lift up and help in this passage. The Hebrew word qûwm (koom) means not only to arise and stand up, but also to come about and is “used to denote the inevitable occurrence of something predicted or prearranged” (6965).

Often times, I believe our purpose is dependent on other people. In order for God’s will to be accomplished, a relationship must be restored. That’s why time, in the sense of measureable duration, is required for God to make every thing beautiful, because he has to wait for us to reconnect with the person that can lift us up.

A more excellent way

The saying “ignorance is bliss” is probably more true than most people realize. Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived said, “for in much wisdom is much grief and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). I remember distinctly how I felt the night I found out my husband was having an affair. It was like a knife had pierced my heart. I sobbed uncontrollably and laid awake all night trying to process what I had heard. The pain was so severe, I actually thought the truth might kill me.

There were many times after that night that I wished my husband hadn’t told me what was going on. I wondered why he couldn’t have kept it to himself. I wanted to go back to the way things were when I thought he was a good man that could never do such a thing. My husband was a Christian, at least that was what he had led me to believe.

At the end of his life, Solomon looked back and decided “that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13). The word translated excelleth, yithrown means preeminence or surpassing all others (3504). Yithrown is derived from the word yathar which means to exceed or excel (3498). Sometimes the word yathar indicates survivors and reflects the idea of a remnant, such as when Israel is dispersed throughout the world and a remnant survives and returns to the Promised Land. (Ezekiel 6:8).

It was very difficult for me to see the reality of what was going on around me and to know the truth about my marriage. As time went on, I was able to trust God and learn from my experience. Ultimately, I became a different person and began to understand what I had done wrong and why my marriage had failed.

What you see is what you get

Culture is an unseen force that causes us to become like the people we spend a lot of time with. Every family and organization has its own unique culture. The head of the family or leader of an organization plays an important role because members naturally follow his queue about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. That is why Christians need to be careful about who they associate with and what organizations they belong to.

Solomon stated in Proverbs 27, “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” and “as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27:17,19). In other words, we are a reflection of those around us. If you want to know what you are really like, take a close look at your friends.