Darris McNeely talks with Victor Kubik about the upcoming Feast sermon to be webcast to the entire Church.
[Darris McNeely] This is Inside United. I’m Darris McNeely and in the studio today is Victor Kubik, President of The United Church of God. Vic, we are here today to talk about the sermon that you have already taped for the Feast of Tabernacles that will be played for the feast sites of the United Church of God. You chose for you topic this year, the book of Ecclesiastes. The title of the message from Ecclesiastes, To Eternity. What led you to choose this book to speak on for a sermon for the congregation?
[Victor] Hallo Darris. It’s always a joy talking to you, it’s always a joy talking about biblical concepts with you. I had actually chosen this topic almost a year ago because I thought about, well I gave a message at the feast and what should I plan for next year? I’ve been always fascinated by the book of Ecclesiastes and the fact that it was read in the synagogues on the third day of the Feast of Tabernacles. I’ve always wondered what the connection was. Long time ago, I had a friend who gave a Bible study on the subject. He explained how it was read at the Feast of Tabernacles because at the feast you have more than you normally do throughout the year. You have your tithe that you save for whatever you want, whatever you heart desires. Solomon in his book had everything his heart could desire. The lesson was in Solomon’s case, is that having everything you desire without a spiritual foundation is futility and vanity. The same is true and could be true in our physical life at the Feast of Tabernacles. We could enjoy all the blessings or go to places we hadn’t gone to before, have nice accommodations, great food but if there’s no spiritual foundation to it, it could also lead to what he calls vanity or vapor or nothingness.
[Darris] And emptiness. Ecclesiastes is a fascinating book. I too have shared your interest in it and certainly given sermons on it many times through the years. I try to read it myself every year during or prior to the Feast of Tabernacles to help me to get into a frame of mind, properly to observe the feast. I find it to be a fascinating book. It’s actually one of my favorites as well. I think it has a lot to teach us. The older we get the more we understand about the book and can appreciate what it says when it comes to physical things, when it’s talking about the folly of the pursuit of the physical apart from God. What about the book probably in your mind stands out most of all, as far as an application for the church today to have as a lesson from the book?
[Victor] Well, I feel while we will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, especially in the United States, we live in such a materialistic society where we have so many, many things. We always want to find pleasure from them, we want to experience pleasure and so forth, but without having a foundation of purpose. And going beyond ourselves or using it only for ourselves exclusively does not lead to happiness. You can take a look at the lives of wealthy people who have everything, billionaires and they are not happy. You interview them and you talk to them, you find out they have multiple marriages that they can’t be successful in. They have what’s called Wealth Fatigue Syndrome, where wealth no longer means anything to them and it comes to a point where all they want is to have more than what somebody else does. They want a yacht that’s 100…maybe 20, 30 feet longer that the next person to them. So, it leads to something which is totally useless. In the book itself, it talks about how everybody dies. Ultimately, everybody goes to the grave. So, what’s the point and what’s the use? This does bring on dark thoughts.
[Darris] It does, and those dark thought do come out in the book. They are there for a lesson for us all. We can be subject to our own dark thoughts if we’re not properly focused on God’s word. Let me take you back for a moment. You mentioned the tithe and you’ve been talking about the wealth that is represented here by Solomon and in the book and by people, obviously billionaires today. For people who may not know the teaching from scripture, there is a biblical tithe. We call it in the church, a festival tithe, that people save through the year 10% of their income in order to be able to observe the Holy Days as God intends. The way we keep it by our tradition in the Church of God today is the bulk of that is spent at the Feast of Tabernacles when your sermon is going to be given and the focus of the book of Ecclesiastes. For us, we are not billionaires but we spend money to go and travel and enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles at a rate far above what we spend the remainder of the year. It is a high time for us. It’s a joyous time. The Bible says to spend that tithe for whatever your heart desires. We enjoy things and therein I think is the lesson for each of us as we keep the feast. That as we have a little bit more extra income to spend, that we spend it again after a manner that is a Godly manner and learn to use the wealth that we have to worship God, to obey Him and to help one another in that. I think that’s a tremendous lesson that we can glean as we filter through the lessons of the book of Ecclesiastes.
[Victor] Yes, I find in particular in Solomon’s life that there was a change in mental outlook from the way he started. When he started and when God approached him in 1 Kings I believe 3 or so, He said, “Solomon what do you want?” And he says, “I’m just but a child. How can I lead this great nation?” He was…His humility was very, very apparent. Then God gave him wisdom because he asked for wisdom. But then when you get to later in the first 11 chapters of Kings, which is the biography of Solomon, he talks about all the things he had. I have built this, I have built that. When you get to the book of Ecclesiastes, where many of those things were probably written in the latter part of his reign, he said, “I sought pleasure from everything I possibly could. I had people come to humor me, I tried wine, I tried music.” It was all for himself. You don’t have that magnanimous outward approach to the use of wealth. So, you have a Solomon who becomes that way. He finally comes to a point of despair I feel in the book. I would say, even depression about the fact that it wasn’t working. That he had it all and he was very lonely. He was…A thousand women, how many women do you need? But God let him have it. God allowed Solomon to live this lesson so it could be recorded and so it could be passed on to us about the fact that wealth, amusement, experiences are not an end in themselves.
[Darris] By themselves, they don’t bring happiness. How do you think Solomon ended his story? What…How do you think he ended up his life?
[Victor] I want to believe the best. There are people who have different views of it. But, most commentaries that I have read want to believe that he ended well, because he did state in the last two verses of the entire book of Ecclesiastes that “The end of the matter is to fear God, to keep His commandments and God is going to make everything that’s evil be exposed and everything is going to turn out all right.” So, I assume that Solomon had his senses about him. However, God gave him wisdom. It said that Solomon still had his wisdom with him. But wisdom is not, there are probably close to 20 to 30 synonyms for the word Wisdom. Everything from cunning to crafty to conniving to all kinds of wisdom. So, he was using his smarts in a wrong way. Godly wisdom is found in the New Testament. There is meekness of wisdom, there’s Godly wisdom that comes from above. The kind of wisdom that leads to good fruits in people’s lives.
[Darris] And that’s probably a major lesson for us to learn from the book. To use whatever we have, to gain wisdom, but a Godly wisdom. I’m glad that you chose this book to highlight in your sermon. I think that it gives a lot of food for thought for all of us in the 21st century, in our world today awash with so much wealth. I’m glad you’ve chosen that and put the focus for the church upon the book of Ecclesiastes and its deep spiritual message.
[Victor] Thank you for your comments about that. I find that there’s so many parallels that go to Israel at the time of Solomon to Solomon as a very wealthy person. A person who had it all, really, and could have had even far more. And so, I’m hoping to share this and I pray that I can at the Feast of Tabernacles.
[Darris] Well, the lesson of the book, fear God and keep the commandments. Certainly very important one for all of us. This will be the last Inside United podcast that we do before the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. We hope all of you have an enjoyable feast. Safe travels wherever you go. We will have another podcast available for you on November 3rd afterwards. I appreciate Vic, you coming in and sharing that with us here and sitting down for a few minutes to talk about this very timely message.
[Victor] Again, Darris I always appreciate talking with you. And thank you for talking to me about it.
[Darris] All right, thanks for joining us on Inside United. Come back again soon for more.