Can I Keep on Going?
Lesson Passages: Ecclesiastes 7:11-14, 15-18; 8:10-12,16-17
August 11, 2013
1. Accept Godly Wisdom (Eccl. 7:11-14)
2. Avoid Foolish Extremes (Eccl. 7:15-18)
3. Know God Is in Control (Eccl. 8:10-12, 6-17)
Focus on This Goal: To challenge adults to choose to live as God intended regardless of their circumstances
Scripture 1 -Accept Godly Wisdom (Eccl. 7:11-14)
11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance and an advantage to those who see the sun, 12 because wisdom is protection as money is protection, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. 13 Consider the work of God, for who can straighten out what He has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him
Verse 11- Wisdom may be defined as the proper use of knowledge. As such it is found on different levels. For example, a person may have knowledge that an empty light socket has electrical current. Not putting one’s finger into the socket and avoiding being shocked shows a certain level of wisdom. However, an even higher level of wisdom is shown by putting in a light bulb and lighting up the space.
In 7:11, wisdom points out the highest form of wisdom. It is wisdom that comes from God rather than from human understanding. Such wisdom gives people as much benefit as an inheritance. An inheritance is wealth the heir did not earn. Instead, it is wealth earned by the work of previous generations. Therefore, it represents added riches that are given without any special effort on the part of the heir. Nevertheless, the wealth is legitimate. Likewise, godly wisdom comes by understanding from God. It is gained as an act of His grace rather than from human discovery. It is even more valuable than wisdom learned from the so called “school of hard knocks.” Godly wisdom gives an advantage, or profit, over other choices. Those who see the sun means people who are alive. So godly wisdom provides something beyond what human intelligence can offer.
Verse 12 – Both money and wisdom have a certain ability to protect people from certain troubles. However wisdom gives even greater protection than wealth, particularly wealth acquired through an inheritance. Here the word knowledge refers to the understanding of divine truth. Wisdom is the proper use of that divine truth in a certain situation. The advantage of wisdom over wealth is especially shown in difficult times. During hard times wealth can be used up in providing for one’s needs or by a drop in its monetary value. Either way, it soon vanishes. In contrast, wisdom increases as it is used. Every time knowledge is applied, lessons can be learned. Thus valuable knowledge is added to the person’s supply of wisdom. More wisdom enables wise persons to continuously know what they need to do to protect their lives. An old saying expresses similar logic: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Verse 13 – The thinking of fallen human beings is that it does not pay to serve God. People imagine that more can be gained by ignoring God and behaving selfishly. In 7:13, Solomon expanded his advice for living in the present by focusing on God and His eternal purposes. The Hebrew word work has the general sense of that which is done or made. When used of God, it often points to His activity in the world of human history. His “works” include both the wonders He performed for the people of Israel (such as the parting of the Red Sea as they came out of bondage in Egypt and His acts of creation. As such, the term shows God’s total power and His skill in carrying out His purposes.
What Solomon was talking about regarding God’s having made crooked is unclear. Some biblical scholars have suggested that it refers to tests that God works in the lives of people. Others have argued that the phrase means human understanding of God’s ways—they seem crooked or do not make sense. In either case, the thought is clear: the acts of a totally powerful God cannot be overturned nor tinkered with by human action.
Verse 14 – This verse clears up Solomon’s question not needing an answer in 7:13. It is to be understood in the setting of financial circumstances. While stated in terms of wealth and poverty, the sense remains the same whether the language is literal or otherwise. Regardless of whether people’s days are filled with prosperity or adversity, they are to live with an awareness that God is working out His purposes in all situations. Being able to see this reality allows one to find peace by accepting that one’s financial situation comes from the Lord.
The apostle Paul carried this teaching one step further. He declared to the Philippians that depending on the Lord enables a believer to achieve God’s purposes however impossible a task might seem. Solomon also indicated that the principle has broader outcomes. God’s people must always trust the Lord in everything, because we do not know the future. But He does. The ability to declare future events is a part of God’s nature. Our circumstances can and do change; God knows what our future situations will be before they change. Today’s adversity or prosperity often is God’s preparing us for the future. [Learn to trust Him in all things.]
Avoid Foolish Extremes (Eccl. 7:15-18)
15 In my futile life I have seen everything: there is a righteous man who perishes in spite of his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in spite of his evil. 16 Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Don’t be excessively wicked, and don’t be foolish. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you grasp the one and do not let the other slip from your hand. For the one who fears God will end up with both of them
Verse 15 – The ancient Israelites developed a wrong understanding of certain general principles set forth in the law, particularly certain principles in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Scriptures provided blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. Popular thinking was that if people carefully obeyed the letter of the law they were guaranteed permanent wealth and long life. On the other hand, financial disasters, suffering, and accidental deaths were always proof of wickedness. The study of the Book of Job shows that such conclusions sometimes fly in the face of reality. Yet the incorrect thinking hung on among the Israelites and was widespread in Solomon’s day.
The Teacher had seen that reality did not agree with this wrong thinking. Wicked behavior did not bring immediate death. Nor did righteous behavior guarantee a long life. The righteous sometimes died young, and the wicked sometimes lived to be very old. Solomon had lived long enough and had seen enough examples to question the wrong thinking of exact punishment in this life. The word futile (or “vanity”) in Hebrew has an actual meaning of breath or vapor. It means the breath that is visible on a cold day. Hence it is an example of that which is fleeting and unimportant. Here the sense points to the shortness of life and thus it’s changing nature. Even with such limitations, the Teacher said his observations covered every possibility. [We have to understand that Solomon was not always right. He was wise but, he was not God.]
Verse 16 – Solomon said that sticking to extreme views was pointless. The phrase, don’t be excessively righteous, should not be understood to imply that sinning a little is OK and perhaps is even preferred. Such a statement would contradict the clear teachings of Scripture as a whole. Rather, it is a reference to too much righteousness in terms of unrealistic religious demands.
During the New Testament era, the excessive legalism of the Pharisees placed impossible religious demands upon people. In order to meet every letter of the law, the Pharisees required tithes to be paid even on the tiniest herbs growing in their gardens. They even went to the extreme of tithing on items they purchased. Such religious rules were unrealistic for common people struggling to survive. Furthermore, such requirements often discouraged God’s people and kept them from paying attention to the truly important elements of their faith.
Verse 17 – The term wicked means behavior that goes against God’s nature. It is unacceptable both to God and to the community of His people. This verse does not give permission for a person to sin occasionally. Rather, it shows the sinful nature of humanity. The Teacher recognized that sin is a reality in every human life. However, wicked behavior is not permanent. It can be changed. Therefore the Teacher encouraged the rejection of wicked conduct and warned that those who accept sin will be destroyed by it.
Verse 18 — Solomon understood that strict obedience of a set of religious codes doesn’t result in an improved life. Here the phrase, the one who fears God, points out the religious life that is acceptable to God. In this verse, the Teacher advised that true religion holds on to two things: devotion to God and enjoyment of God’s blessings.
Know God Is in Control (Eccl. 8:10-12, 16-17)
10 In such circumstances, I saw the wicked buried. They came and went from the holy place, and they were praised in the city where they did so. This too is futile. 11 Because the sentence against a criminal act is not carried out quickly, the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit crime. 12 Although a sinner commits crime a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I also know that it will go well with God-fearing people, for they are reverent before Him.
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16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the activity that is done on the earth (even though one’s eyes do not close in sleep day or night ), 17 I observed all the work of God and concluded that man is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a man labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if the wise man claims to know it, he is unable to discover it.
Verse 10 – Within the world of human existence, some people exercise certain authority over other people. Sometimes such power is abused. Wicked individuals rise to power and use their authority to twist arms or harm other people under them. Finally, however, unjust rulers die. The phrase, the holy place, could refer to a temple or a religious shrine. For example, many Egyptian pharaohs erected funeral temples near the tombs where they were to be buried. The phrase, came and went, suggests a procession whereby the coffin would be carried to the sanctuary for religious services and afterward taken to the burial site.
Solomon noted that he had attended such funerals of wicked individuals. As the Israelite head of state, Solomon likely attended funerals of other nearby rulers or powerful nobles from neighboring states. In a twisted sense, in the location where these wicked individuals committed their crimes, their victims praised them after they were dead. Even in death they were honored. Such practices were ridiculous. Whereas Solomon seemed to have political rulers in mind, the principle applies to anyone with authority, whether the head of state or a foreman over a few laborers.
Verse 11 – The context connects this verse with previous verses. So, the phrase, a criminal act, is similar to the term “harm” in Ecclesiastes 8:9. The wicked ruler lived a long life in which he enjoyed prosperity. At death he was eulogized as a great man. No temporary punishment for his wicked behavior was seen by his subjects. Therefore many decided that his wicked behavior was the secret to success. So they followed the wicked ruler’s example. [This was a bad mistake]
However, just because God’s judgment does not meet human expectations does not mean the wicked escape divine justice. The New Testament makes clear that God cannot be restricted to operating only within time and space. Much of His justice happens in eternity. Sin does not go unpunished.
Verse 12 – Although Solomon could give examples of when it appeared that wickedness had paid off for a person, he quickly turned down such faulty thinking. If wicked people got away with their sinful actions temporarily, they would later be judged because their actions went against God’s nature. Therefore the Teacher declared that God will take care of the people who sincerely fear Him. To fear God establishes a lot of emphasis upon God’s presence and power. Job’s case is one example of God’s permanent care of those who fear Him.
Verse 16 – Life is too complicated for any mortal person to fully understand. In his search to find meaning in life, Solomon put forth all of his brain power and resources to the seeking of wisdom. Seeing everyday human activity was his best method for getting information. However, even if he saw human behavior all day every day for a long period of time, he still wouldn’t be able to see everything. His gathering of information always would be half done. Because of this Solomon could never reach a complete conclusion.
Verse 17 – Solomon observed God’s activity too. But he discovered that he could not understand God’s activity. Examples of life’s lack of fairness and uncertainties are everywhere. Every attempt by human beings to fully understand what God is doing is bound to fail. Not even wisdom is good enough to understand His work. God is in control and people are to be confident with His total power over His creation. All that anyone can do is trust in Him.
WAYNE CLEMONS, TEACHER
Format duplicated and used by permission
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