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Words: attributed to T. P. Hamilton (no further data)
Music: attributed to T. P. Hamilton
Note: In 1912, T. P. Hamilton published a children’s hymn about Zacchaeus called Something More Than Gold. At least, I think that’s what happened. We know nothing about Hamilton, other than his name. One hymn book calls the song and its tune Anonymous. Another says that someone with the initials F. E. Y. assisted Hamilton in writing the words, though it gives credit to the latter for the tune. To add to the confusion, another book credits the words to “Sister Helen,” and the tune to R. E. Winsett.
In 1969, American jazz singer Peggy Lee had a hit song called Is That All There Is? It presents the stark picture of an individual looking back on life with disappointment, and black despair.
“If that’s all there is, my friends,
Then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,
If that’s all there is.”
That seems to echo the disillusioned words of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity [“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” says the NIV]….So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry” (Ecc. 1:2; 8:15).
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most misunderstood of all the sixty-six books that make up the Bible. Its important message seems almost to contradict what is said in the rest of God’s Word. But there’s a reason for that. Ecclesiastes gives us a sermon by King Solomon (Ecc. 1:1), and he’s pointing out the folly of a life lived without God, and without eternal values. He is describing the view of the natural man. But in much of it he seems to be speaking of himself and the mistakes he’d made.
Solomon began well. But his luxurious lifestyle, and his many idolatrous wives warped his values and, for a time at least, he turned away from God (I Kgs. 11:4). In Ecclesiastes, he presents the disappointment and disaster of a life that excludes God and a recognition of eternity. There is a key phrase found twenty-seven times in the book: “Under the sun” (e.g. Ecc. 1:3). It describes this mortal life, from the womb to the tomb. And if that’s all there is, then it’s a dead end street.
Whether it’s success in our job, or worldly pleasure we seek, or possessions, or popularity–whatever it is will not give us true meaning and satisfaction, because life “under the sun” is not all there is. The rich man craves one more dollar, the pleasure seeker one more lustful liaison, the drug addict looks for one more fix. But there has to be something more to life than that.
Of course, there is. And it’s possible that Ecclesiastes represents Solomon’s repentance and renewed faith in old age. As well as being a confession of what he learned would not work, Solomon ends by showing what the missing factors are in a life merely lived “under the sun.” The two things ignored or forgotten by secular man are: God, and eternity.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,” the king says (Ecc. 12:13-14). “God will bring every work into judgment [in eternity], including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” That being so, how should we live out our earthly lives? What basic values should we espouse? “Fear [reverence] God,” says Solomon, “and keep His commandments.” In other words, give God first place in your life, and live to honour and serve Him. “This is man’s all”–the bottom line for everyone.
The Bible tells of a man who lived in Jericho, during the time of Jesus (Lk. 19:1-2). Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector. These men served the hated Romans, and were allowed to collect funds far beyond what was required by the government, pocketing the difference. They were utterly despised by the Jews.
But Zacchaeus began to realize that there was more to life than money. As he listened to the words of Christ, he repented of his ways, and pledged to return any funds taken unethically. With great joy, he welcomed the Saviour into his home and into his life (vs. 3-10). Learn from Zacchaeus, and “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecc. 12:1).
1) A certain man of whom we read,
Who lived in days of old,
Though he was rich, he felt his need
Of something more than gold.
Oh, yes, my friend, there’s something more,
Something more than gold:
To know your sins are all forgiv’n
Is something more than gold.
The Bible tells us Zacchaeus was short of stature, but he wanted to see and hear Christ so much that he had climbed a tree for a better view, as He passed by.
4) But Jesus stood beneath that tree,
And said, “On Me behold;
Zacchaeus come down, I’ve brought thee
This something more than gold.
5) So he obeyed, and soon he found
The half had not been told;
Where love and joy and peace abound,
‘Tis better far than gold.
1) Why is what the Lord offers to us “more than gold”?
2) What effect do you imagine the conversion of Zacchaeus and his transformed life had on his former customers?