A Poor Wise Man?

Ecclesiastes 9:13–18 (NKJV)

13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.
16 Then I said:

“Wisdom is better than strength.
Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised,
And his words are not heard.
17 Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard
Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war;
But one sinner destroys much good.”

Solomon recounts a story of a small city besieged by a great king that was saved by a poor wise man.  The sad result, though, is that the man was soon forgotten.  This led the Preacher to conclude that wisdom is better than strength, but that people soon forget the wise and his words.  Instead of this, the wise should be heard and the rulers of fools should be ignored.

This story and Solomon’s interpretation speak to our situation today.  Although the United States is a short-lived country, only being officially a nation for less than 250 years.  Some European nations have been in existence for thousands of years.  The US is a young nation.  Yet, even in our short history, our country has forgotten its roots and its saving graces from a few hundred years ago.  The establishment of our country on Christian principles and religious freedom is being attacked.  The reverence for Christianity and the Christian Savior, Jesus, has eroded.  The almost violent push for the acceptance of sinful activities and lifestyles has made the voice of the poor wise man less popular, and the rulers of fools is on the news every night.  We need to listen to the voice of the wise and live the life of Christ.  That is the way to be saved from our enemies!

The Blessed, The Dead, The Happy, & The Winners

Ecclesiastes 9:1–12 (NKJV)

9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all:  One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good, the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.

3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

5 For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.

7 Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
8 Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
11 I returned and saw under the sun that—The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12 For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.

In verses 1 – 6, Solomon discusses how good and bad things come to the righteous and holy and to the evil and foolish.  There is little distinction among who does well and who suffers.  Living righteous does not absolutely guarantee that you will never have problems or attacks against your life.  However, the living do have a distinct advantage over the dead: they still have time to live!  Solomon goes so far as to declare that a living  dog is worth more than a dead lion.  In life, a lion can kill a dog and rule the jungle, but in death, he corrupts and decays and fades into the earth.  So live the life you have with passion and power.

In verses 7 – 12, the Preacher then encourages his readers to eat and drink the fruit of their works with joy, and to enjoy your spouse.  These rewards are the portion of the wise and hard-working individual.  So work hard and put your hand to your labor now, while you can.  Death is coming when no one can work.  Winners are not necessarily the strong, swift, or wise.  Instead, redeem the time and do not get caught in a snare of sloth or carelessness.  Your chances of success are much greater if you work hard and live wise!

Life is Short

Ecclesiastes 8:10–17 (NKJV)

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.
15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.
16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

The Preacher concludes in this passage that, although he may get by with it for a while, the evil man eventually will have his life cut short due to his evil works.  He may think he is slick and able to continue in his evil—with his mind convinced—but he will eventually die.  Solomon summizes that the best a man can do is enjoy the fruit of his labor while he lives.  Seek all you will, and try to understand the work of God, but you will not.  His ways confound the wise and stupify the dull.

Ecclesiastes 8:2–9 (NKJV)

2 I say, “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3 Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.”  4 Where the word of a king is, there is power;
And who may say to him, “What are you doing?”  5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, 6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment,
Though the misery of man increases greatly.

7 For he does not know what will happen;  So who can tell him when it will occur?  8 No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit,  And no one has power in the day of death.  There is no release from that war,  And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.

9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

Another place of futility of which Solomon writes is the area of government.  Especially in Biblical days, the king’s authority was absolute, a monarchy.  God had warned against asking for a king, yet they did it anyway, and God said that their kings would rule over them with an iron hand.  Therefore, Solomon continues that tradition by saying that no one should disobey the commandment of the king, because they promised as a nation that they would.  Don’t walk away from him and talk behind his back.  Keep his words for your own profit and help.  Even if misery increases, God expected them to obey the king.

The second topic in this passage relates to the fact that man has no control over death or the timing of it.  The war between death and life will be fought, and death will eventually win.  Do not hate it, but understand it and be at peace.  Finally, Solomon encourages others that being king or a leader is not always easy, and definitely not always fun, and can even be hurtful to the leader.  This is not necessarily a reason not to lead, but rather a reason to lead with understanding and not fear.

Solomon’s words can apply to our being good citizens, praying for our national, state, and local leaders, not cursing them or breaking the law.  At times, it is difficult to support someone who appears evil or wicked, but it is for the good of the country that one support their leadership and keep law and order.  No doubt, Israel became a bloodthirsty nation and assassinated kings, tearing down kingdoms and setting others up.  Nations today seem to be following that sad and unnecessary example.  If righteous leaders will follow God’s plan, nations will be blessed and followers will be joyous and have no need to rebel.  The problem is that evil men and women rise to power and the followers are oppressed and put down.  God, give us revival and rulers that will rule by your wisdom.  Help us to accept our fates and live with joy, not hating the day of death, but enjoying the days of life.  Amen.

The Way to Fulfillment

Ecclesiastes 7:17–8:1 (NKJV)

17 Do not be overly wicked, Nor be foolish:
Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you grasp this, And also not remove your hand from the other; For he who fears God will escape them all.

19 Wisdom strengthens the wise More than ten rulers of the city.

20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin. 21 Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others.

23 All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise”; But it was far from me. 24 As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, Who can find it out? 25 I applied my heart to know, To search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things,
To know the wickedness of folly, Even of foolishness and madness. 26 And I find more bitter than death The woman whose heart is snares and nets, Whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, But the sinner shall be trapped by her.

27 “Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher, “Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, 28 Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found, But a woman among all these I have not found. 29 Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.”

8:1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing?  A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed.

Don’t be violent or wicked, Solomon says.  Hold your hands together rather than getting in a fight.  You will escape trouble that way.  Wisdom is stronger than ten rulers for a king.  Don’t let what other people say affect you.  You have probably said things about someone else that you did not mean or else wish you had not said.

The Preacher sought out wisdom and folly and found folly wicked and bitter, but found that wisdom helps one escape folly’s death.  Solomon speaks of the fact that very few people are upright.  They seek out many schemes, and connive for their own profit.  When a man finds wisdom, his countenance changes and the stern nature of it is converted to the shine of contentment and joy.

Solomon encourages his readers to avoid violence and seek wisdom, for in it alone is one happy and alive.  People seek happiness and fulfillment in so many areas and experiences.  There is only one way to find them: wisdom!

Let No One Despise Your Youth

Notes from a sermon preached by Dr. Greg Sloop, Lead Pastor of the Kannapolis Church of God, during their Sunday Morning Worship Service on September 24, 2017 at 10:30 am.  Sermon may be viewed or heard at http://www.kcog.org.

1 Timothy 4:12–5:2 (NKJV)

4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

5:1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.

Be the One (Set the Example)

4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Do the Work

13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Use the Gift

14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.

Know the Truth

15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

Treat Others With Dignity

5:1 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.

Takeaway Thoughts

Be An Example
Do the Work
Use the Gift
Know the Truth                                                                                                                     Treat Others With Dignity

The End is Better

Ecclesiastes 7:8–16 (NKJV)

8 The end of a thing is better than its beginning;
The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
10 Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
And profitable to those who see the sun.
12 For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense,
But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.

13 Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight what He has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.

15 I have seen everything in my days of vanity:

There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness,
And there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.

16 Do not be overly righteous,
Nor be overly wise:
Why should you destroy yourself?

Solomon says that the end is better than the beginning.  That seems true at times and at others it does not.  You may begin a project with a big bang and see great progress, then hit a snag and not finish well.  However, the completion of a project, no matter how hard the process may have been, is better because you have the satisfaction of success and finality.  Therefore, don’t let the process create undue anger or frustration.  Rather, rejoice over the end result.

The Preacher goes on to say that wisdom is just as valuable as a defense as money.  It gives life and it is profitable to those who will embrace it.  Also, he encourages the reader to consider how God works.  Whether the path before you is crooked or straight, God made the path.  If you don’t like the path, or if you don’t understand it, trust Him, for He made the path.  He can take you through it.

Finally, the writer makes a very fatalistic and pessimistic thought.  The righteous perish and the wicked live, so don’t worry too much about being righteous or wise.  Don’t kill yourself trying.  I think this writing is simply the frustration of a very wise man who had come to a place of futility.  He had done it all and still had not found the fulfillment for which he hoped.  However, in the very next verses, he also warns against evil and the judgment that comes with it.

Solomon is reverberating the frustration and hopelessness of a generation–his and the current one–a cry that rings through the hills even now.  What’s the use?  Yet the only path to find that fulfillment and hope is found in God.  Solomon will eventually share that in these passages.  Be sure to look for it, or else Ecclesiastes will make you want to go to bed and cover your head.  This kind of reminds me of the song from a few years back by the band U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”  The lines of the song talk about all the experiences had by the singer, but yet he still was looking for It, the fulfillment of his being.  I submit that the purpose and hope we look for is found in Jesus Christ.  Seek Him today and know His joy, His comfort, His peace!  Hang in there, because the end is better than the beginning.