The Scriptorium

With All Diligence

Guard your heart, or you will surely drift from the Lord. Ecclesiastes 2.9-11

Ecclesiastes 2 (3)

Pray Psalm 38.6-8.
I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
For my loins are full of inflammation,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.

Read Ecclesiastes 2.9-11.

Prepare.
1. What was happening to Solomon? From what had he begun to derive his happiness?

2. How did this happen to Solomon? What was his conclusion about all this?

Meditate.
In Proverbs 4.23 Solomon advised his son to watch over his heart “with all diligence.” The heart is the seat of affections – our desires, passions, aspirations, and hopes. Blinded by lust, Solomon let his covetous heart become the dictator of his soul’s wellbeing. Whatever he wanted, whatever he thought he might find pleasure in, he took for himself.

Perhaps he had a lingering sense that this was not the way he should have been living. The reference again (v. 9, cf. v. 3) to his wisdom remaining with him suggests as much. His pangs of conviction notwithstanding, Solomon had reached a point where mere pleasure and abundance were the driving forces of his life; yet, when he achieved the acme of such success, there was nothing there to give his soul the satisfaction he desired all along. His conclusion, “There was no profit under the sun”, is the primary lesson, although not the primary theme, of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes, as we have said, does not unfold according to a tight, logical order or sequence. Instead, Solomon intrudes his lesson and theme in various places, varying the manner of his repeating them to make sure his reader doesn’t miss them along the way.

Here is the second great statement of the primary lesson Solomon wants his son to take away. Just as you can’t find satisfaction in mere observation and experience (chapter 1), you won’t find it in pleasure and prosperity.

In our increasingly secular age, this is a lesson believers need to proclaim with confidence. We should note also Solomon’s statement about his wisdom persisting with him through all this foolishness. Even though unbelievers deny the existence of God and act like they have no need or regard for Him (cf. Pss. 10, 14), still, Paul tells us they all know Him, deep in their souls, and have the works of His Law written on their hearts (Rom. 1.18ff; 2.14, 15).

Our unbelieving friends know the same pangs of guilt and doubt that Solomon did, and they may be open to hearing a word from the Lord concerning their real need.

Reflect.
1. Solomon’s drift from the Lord began with small deviations and compromises of faith. How do you see this in 1 Kings 11.1-8?

2. If you had been there at the time – as Asaph, the author of Psalms 50, 73-83 was – what might you have said to Solomon? How can we know when we are beginning to drift into vanity?

3. How can we keep our desires from running roughshod over our souls and leading us off the path from following God? What does it mean to guard our heart with all diligence?

They nourish their hearts in self-indulgence who, according to the word of Ecclesiastes, do not prevent their heart from enjoying every wish and from delighting itself in the things which they have prepared. The Venerable Bede (672-735), Commentary on James 5.5

Help me, Lord, to be alert to little deviations and compromises in my life, and to…

Pray Psalm 38.1-8.
As you think about the day ahead, pray for the people you will meet, the work you will do, and the opportunities you will have to serve others. Try to anticipate temptations you will face, and prepare your heart to deal with them as you are in prayer with the Lord.

Sing Psalm 38.1-8.
Psalm 38.1-8 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
O Lord, rebuke me not, nor chasten me in wrath!
Your arrows pierce my sinful heart and fill my path.
Your heavy hand weighs down; my flesh and bones grow weak.
My sins oppress, confuse, confound – I cannot speak!

My sinful wounds grow foul, and fester painfully;
I bend and groan within my soul most mournfully!
Sin fills my every part; conviction stings my breast.
Lord, ease my numbed and burning heart and grant me rest!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.