Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon

Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]

From Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1:
The book of Ecclesiastes is a dramatic autobiography of King Solomon's life when he was away from God. As the book of Proverbs reveals Solomon's wisdom, the book of Ecclesiastes reveals his foolishness.
From Song of Solomon, Introduction
The Song of Solomon is the great neglected book of the Bible. The reader who is going through the Word of God for the first time is puzzled when he comes to it. The carnal Christian will misunderstand and misinterpret it. Actually this little book has been greatly abused by people who have not understood it… The Song of Solomon is poetic and practical. Here God is speaking to His people in poetic songs which unfold a story. We need to take our spiritual shoes off our feet as we approach this book. We are on holy ground.
I would definitely recommend this volume of J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible. I'll be honest--completely honest--Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon puzzle me, have puzzled me for years. I'd routinely read them every time I read the Bible all the way through, but, I didn't ever really come to terms with them--appreciate or understand them. They are both tricky books. You have a fair chance of being able to understand--appreciate--the random verse or two taken from Psalms or even Proverbs. But Ecclesiastes?! There are verses--passages--that seem so UN-scriptural. (Same thing with Job in places.) And Song of Solomon out of context, may sound poetical in places, but in other places, more odd than romantic. And to me--it is always a struggle to determine who is speaking and what they are saying.

In this volume, J. Vernon McGee goes through the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. His approach is light, casual, practical. He may not be as passionately zealous as A.W. Tozer, but, speak truth he does!!!

In the opening chapter to his commentary on Ecclesiastes, McGee makes an important distinction. Ecclesiastes is inspired, it is part of the canon of Scripture after all, but that inspiration in this case means "what Solomon said has been accurately recorded in Scripture." In other words, "Inspiration guarantees the accuracy of the words of Scripture, not always the thought that is expressed." The book records the results of Solomon's experiments, his search for satisfaction and meaning. Solomon's conclusions, stresses McGee, are human ones. He later adds that Solomon's spiritual discernment was "nil," and that Solomon is the "paradox of Scripture. The wisest man was the greatest fool."

Quotes from Ecclesiastes commentary:
Experience must be tested by the Word of God. Unfortunately, many folk today are testing the Word of God by their experience. My friend, if your experience is contrary to the Bible, then it is your experience, not the Word of God, which is wrong. 
Did you know that religion has damned more people in this world than anything else has? My friend, if you have a religion, I suggest you get rid of it and exchange it for Christ. To be a Christian means that you trust Christ. Religion has never been very helpful to man.
Going to some churches is not only a waste of time; it is wrong. It is wrong to give your approval to a liberal pulpit. It is wrong when you do not give your support to a fundamental pastor who is giving out the Word of God. 
People today do anything to avoid sorrow. We have it arranged now so that you can laugh all the way to the cemetery. 
I believe it is easier to reach a godless atheist than a hypocritical churchgoer. The godless atheist may respond when he hears the gospel for the first time, but the hypocritical churchgoer has heard the gospel again and again and has become hardened to it. That is the real tragedy.
My friend, all of us are preachers. You are preaching to those around you by the life that you live. I personally believe that the do-gooder, the man who boasts of his moral life apart from God, is the greatest detriment. He actually stands in the way; he blocks the way to God, because his message is, "Live like I do. I live without God. I just do good." There is nothing quite as deadening as that. 
In the introduction to Song of Solomon, he stresses the fact that there are FOUR "different and important" meanings to be found in the book. 1) It sets forth the glory of wedded love. 2) It sets forth the love of Jehovah (God) for Israel. 3) It is a picture of Christ and the church. 4) It depicts the communion of Christ and the individual believer. These meanings will be explored further in his verse-by-verse unpacking. The way he speaks of the Song of Solomon makes it personal, lovely, inspiring. He gushes about the richness of it, of how it illustrates Christ's oh-so-real love for us.

Quotes from Song of Solomon commentary:
"He brought me to the banqueting house." This probably looks forward to that day of the final banquet which is called the "marriage supper of the Lamb." You and I as believers will be there by the grace of God. That is when full satisfaction will be made. But already He has brought me to the table of salvation, and He has brought me to the table of fellowship with Him. He prepares the table before me, the table of the Word of God, and He tells me to eat and be full. He brings me to the table of good things. How good and gracious He is!
Now in the spiritual sense, the bride is the church, and the bridegroom is the Lord Jesus Christ. Does he find any beauty in the church? Friend, He found all of us lost sinners. The Shulamite girl had a natural beauty even though it had been neglected, but we don't even have that. There is nothing about us that could be appealing to Christ. We bring nothing to Him; He provides everything for us. 
Dedication is not something you talk about; dedication to Christ is something you reveal. It will be manifested in your life. If your eye is upon Him, then His beauty will be reflected in you.
"I sought him, but I found him not." This is her honest confession. A great many folk never find Christ because they never seek Him. Oh, how many Christians sit in a church pew every Sunday and never face honestly the fact: "I found him not." However, He has promised that He will be found of those who seek Him with their whole heart. Or, as James put it, "Draw near to God, and he will draw nigh to you…" James 4:8
The solution to your problem is in knowing Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:5) That, my friend, is the reason that I keep saying the answer is in the Word of God. It is ignorance of His Word that causes people to search elsewhere for answers. It makes a person vulnerable to false teachers who trade on and take advantage of those who are ignorant of the Word of God. But it is through the Word of God that we get acquainted with Jesus Christ and learn to sit at that round table in the banqueting hall which we have seen here in the Song of Solomon. There we can feast with Him, and find satisfaction and joy in Him. 
My friend, if you are going to defend the Lord Jesus Christ today, if you are going to witness for Him, you must know Him. Not only do you need to know who He is, but you need to know Him enough to be able to wax eloquently on His behalf. When I say be eloquent, I don't necessarily mean eloquent in language. I mean full of enthusiasm, excitement, love, and zeal for His person. You and I need not only to know Him, but we must love Him. That is the the challenge that we find here. The bride knew Him. She knew Him and she loved Him. She says that He is the chiefest among ten thousand. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: