November 19, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-8.
Background: Ecclesiastes 5-6.
Concepts and Connections.
Contrasting: In this chapter, the preacher sets forth many contrasting ideas and reveals wisdom from these juxtapositions. The first half of the chapter is dedicated to proverb-like sayings, focusing at first on the contrast between death and life, sadness and happiness and things that are associated with this, and then moves on to wisdom and folly. Note the unexpected conclusion that is reached when the preacher considers life and death. He says that the day of death is better than the day of birth, the house of morning better than the house of feasting and sorrow is better than laughter. Though it may seem odd at first, there is much wisdom in these words, especially considering the mindset of the preacher here, as he looks out and sees vanity, oppression and vexation. Birth comes only to bring these items, but death is the finality of the matter, where the end is reached and our time on this earth is finalized. The house of mourning puts us in the mindset to think about the purpose and meaning of life, whereas the house of feasting deters such powerful questions. And with sorrow comes a cleansing of the soul. Wisdom comes from the house of mourning, for the house of mirth is fleeting and does not beg for wisdom, but rather embraces folly. He continues on this contrasting of wisdom and folly, asserting that the applauding and acceptance of fools means nothing, for it does not correct or help us mature. When the wise sees oppression he is driven mad, and anger is lodged in the heart of fools. Wisdom does not look to the past and reminisce over the “glory days,” for our time is now. Life is preserved through wisdom, and we should ever know that the Lord is sovereign over all.
The second half of the chapter gives more comparison, mainly dealing with wisdom. First, he invites us to consider that good and bad days (as we see them) are all given by God. There are times that the righteous dies young and the wicked lives long. Then the preacher focuses on moderation, advising his audience not to be overly righteous so as to destroy themselves or overly wicked or foolish, so as to die before their time. Wisdom is strength, but we know that there is no man who always is good and never sins. Thus, before we get so mad at others for doing something wrong to us, we should consider all the times we have done likewise to other people. Finally, the preacher turns to seek and find out wisdom, but it is far from him. He seeks to know wisdom and folly, and finds disparity. In his experience, he has found women who’s heart is snares and nets, taking the sinner with her. The preacher himself looks out to find righteousness in his own life, and finds little. Perhaps a man here or there, but in his experience he did not find such a woman. This seems to be his personal experience (perhaps biased from his own personal conflicts and trials), but note that he really isn’t praising any gender. His final conclusion is this: God made man upright, but all had turned to evil (see Genesis 1:27, 3:6-7, 6:5, Romans 2:23).
Honor the king and fear God: The preacher considers the king and the Lord above in this chapter, giving a discourse of wisdom regarding out position to both. He begins with the king, advising his audience to remember where they stand before the king, for the king’s word reigns supreme in the land. No one is able to talk back to the king, but the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way to do what needs to be done. He calls back on an earlier passage to reassert that there is a time and a way for everything (see Ecclesiastes 3). We must remember what little power and control we have in this world and not attempt to overstep those bounds. Likewise, when we are considering the presence of the Lord, we too should remember our place before Him. The preacher looks out and sees the wicked buried, but their sentence was not executed speedily. He sees that the heart of man is set to do evil, and sometimes the wicked prolong their life. The wisdom, however, is to know that in the end, it will not be well for the wicked, for they do not fear God. When those who do not fear God on this earth meet God in the end, their minds will soon be changed, but it will be too late. However, it will be well for the righteous, for the one who does fear the Lord. The preacher mulls more over his observation of the wicked receiving the things that are good and the righteous receiving the opposite, and sees vanity in it. His advise is the same as he has given earlier, to not fret so much, but to to be joyful in our toil in the days that the Lord has given us. The Lord’s wisdom is above all, and His creation will never be found out to the end. Though we study and learn more and more about His handiwork, we will never understand it all; we will never learn it all. This is being shown more and more in our research and study today, as every question we answer seems to lead to even more questions. This should humble us before our mighty Creator.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Habakkuk 1-3.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.