King Solomon of Israel was the wisest man who ever lived. He received his wisdom as a gift from God early in his reign over Israel (1 Kgs. 3:3-14). His wisdom was so renowned that the Queen of Sheba heard of it and came to see for herself. After conferring with Solomon she exclaimed, “Behold, the half was not told me” (1 Kgs. 10:7).
Near the end of his life Solomon wrote a book that expressed the frustration and despair that had gripped him in his old age. That book is called Ecclesiastes, and it is one of the most enigmatic books in the Bible. The most striking theme of this book is the exclamation, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). Even so, there is much of timeless value in the musings of “the preacher” (Ecc. 1:1).
One of the most well-known of Solomon’s reflections is his declaration that there is an appointed time for everything (Ecc. 3:1-8). He said, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes about 900 years before the birth of Christ. His reflections on the timeliness of certain activities were rooted in the agrarian culture in which he lived. Nevertheless, the principle behind these reflections will be pertinent until the end of time. This is because there are, in fact, appropriate times for certain actions. For this reason we would do well to abide by the reflections of the wise man.
The fact that we can benefit from Solomon’s wisdom is evident all around us. The lack of decorum at solemn occasions is a case in point. The number of times that worship assemblies are interrupted by ringing cell phones is one example of this. Solomon wouldn’t take away our cell phones. He would simply remind us that there is a time for such calls, and worship isn’t that time.
The scourge of gossip is also evidence that we should heed Solomon’s wisdom. Too many people, including professed believers, seem incapable of hearing something without repeating it. We do not stop to consider the effects of passing along these juicy tidbits. Then we wonder why feelings are hurt and relationships are broken. Solomon would remind us that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent.
More and more people are engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage. We see the damage of this promiscuity in the number of unwed mothers, the children raised in single-parent homes, and the continuing scourge of sexually transmitted diseases. Solomon would not deny us this God-given pleasure, but he would remind us that the time for such activity is within the bounds of a monogamous marriage relationship.
Wisdom is a byproduct not only of age, but also of maturity. Many old people still lack wisdom because they have not trained their minds to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14). The wise have spent long hours studying God’s word and then putting it into practice in their lives in order to become so. It’s time we all did the same.