Ecclesiastes 1:1 Pt. 2
A Name Shunned
1:1 "The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem" (ESV)
Woe is the name upon my grave.
What pain I have wrought!
What shame I have caught!
What judgement I have earned
For the Lord's wisdom I had spurned.
What is in a name? It's a serious question for which many have answers. To some, it's just a title effortlessly exchanged to fit their identity. It's the title of a character in the play of the world. To others, it's a familial legacy. It serves as a reminder of a previous life lived. To others, even further, it provides a statement about the person. Ultimately, a name acts as a few words summating a life lived.
The importance of a name is not subtle. There's a reason evil so often tries to smudge out the names of its victims. Replace names with numbers. Replace names with caricatures. Replace names with insults and profanities. Evil understands the importance of a name, but most importantly, so does God, as He is the one that has named everything. With this in mind, we will study today's text.
The Preacher, Son of David, King in Jerusalem
There has been debate over the authorship of the book of Ecclesiastes. Some state that the actual author was assuming the persona of Solomon as they were writing this as a book of wisdom. I'm not overly dogmatic about this point, nor do I wish to belabor it. I'll leave such debates to the scholars. I'm unconvinced and will hold with tradition that Solomon indeed wrote this.
The natural question one would have, though, is why not put his name in the book? Matthew Henry, in his commentary, believes that Solomon, in shame, refuses his name and takes on the quiet, humbling title of the preacher like that of Naomi, wishing to be called "Marah" (bitter) in grief when she returns to her homeland. Ultimately, he invokes his father, David, for his authority rather than relying on his own merits tarnished by his unwise actions.
The Burden of Shame
Indeed, we can relate to such disappointment. Many of our trials end in abject failure and bring reproach upon our names. A name serves as a title for a history of actions and decisions and the resulting consequences. A name is a summary of life, and the lives preceded by it. Just as a good legacy can open doors, a shameful name can slam them shut. As many have learned since time began, shame can place so much burden on the name that it would be easier to abandon it than to claim it any longer.
For example, Solomon's name started with the inherited legacy of King David. His words were wise. However, his wise thoughts would eventually turn towards the carnal and temporal, his actions would tarnish his legacy, and the consequences led to unbearable shame. As he looks back over the rough trail, analyzes the scars on his arms from the thorns that tore at him, and reflects on the lessons learned, he decides under Godly inspiration to impart the realizations of under the sun wisdom to those who would hear, to those who forsake God's wisdom for their own.
Often parents will debate for hours over the name given to a child. There will be research, charts, and tests by the public and family opinion courts. Names are of such importance that it was one of the first tasks assigned to man within the Garden of Eden. We see examples of God renaming followers like Abram to Abraham and Saul to Paul throughout the Bible. An angel appears to Zacharias, giving him the name of John for his coming child. Mary is also visited and provided the name of Jesus for her unborn child.
Do you ever think that our names surprise God? Let us look at Jeremiah 1:5 for our answer:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Before time began, God knew you. He knew your name, life, legacy, and if He promised you to His Son. Although given by the world, the infinite mind of Majesty held our names. He knew the name that would be shouted in heaven when we repented and gained true life. He spoke our names as we came to life within our mothers' wombs. His fingers molded our DNA as we coalesced into a fully formed babe, ready to enter the sin-stained world.
As we wrap up this subject, I ask you to reflect upon your name. Does it feel heavy on your shoulders? Is it uttered tinged with guilt and shame? Has your name earned an unpayable debt? What is the legacy that is being left behind with your name? Honestly, assess yourself. I doubt any of us feel confident of the legacies we have earned over the years, but do we rest our hope in the gift of our salvation? If you do not claim Christ for yourself, I ask you to seek Him out. Christ makes us a new creation.
You may still need to deal with the temporary consequences of poor decisions, but your legacy becomes Christ's. The eternal consequences of sin have been paid, and much like Saul, who became Paul, we become a new man whose name is written in the Book of Life. We shed the weight of sin and shame and are made into the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Our names, which so often taste bitter, sound so much sweeter coming from the mouth of Christ, who has adopted us as fellow brothers and sisters for eternity.
Shed your burden and shame, throw it at the feet of Christ, and take His name as your own.