TEXT: Ecclesiastes 7: 19-29
THEME: Living between Wisdom and Foolishness #2
We continue to listen to Solomon, as he speaks about wisdom and foolishness in this 7th chapter. He is speaking to believers. All believers live between wisdom and foolishness, since all of us are born in a state of sinfulness. All of us are influenced by the sinful world so manipulated by that arch – sinful being, the devil! Paul freely admits this in Romans 7. Thankfully however, believers are no longer held captive by sinful foolishness. The Lord Jesus Christ has died to set us free from our natural addiction to foolishness , so that every believer is empowered to live a holy life and gain true wisdom as we live under the life giving Holy Spirit and under sound of the wisdom of God’s Word.
We are no longer slaves, but it is very possible for Christians to be enslaved by foolish living once more - and in this sense we continue to live between wisdom and foolishness. The fear of God , or lack thereof, will dictate the direction in which we move!
A true Christian will desire to live wisely. Paul encourages us in Eph. 5:15 -17 to “look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Biblical wisdom challenges our conventional thinking which is influenced by the flesh , the world and the devil. Every time Solomon speaks about wisdom in this chapter (13x) he formulates aspects of this wisdom in an utterly unconventional way: Here are some samples:
· The heart of the wise in in the house of mourning (v. 4)
· Better to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools ( v.5)
· Why were the former days better than these? It is not from wisdom that you ask this (v.10)
· Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise (v.16)
· Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than 10 rulers who are in a city (v.19)
· All this I have tested by wisdom. I said: “ I will be wise, but it was far from me.” (v.23)
Godly wisdom, as v. 23 indicates is elusive, and the Bible counsels us that in this pursuit of godly wisdom we must learn to “ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5). This wisdom is rooted in the fear of the Lord (v. 18b) and it is life giving (Proverbs 9:6).
Human wisdom, expressed in being too wise in our own eyes cf. v.16; Prov. 3:7 “Be not wise in your own eyes ; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.” ) and being too self- righteous can be extremely damaging to us - cf. v.17 “Why will you die before your time?”
With these few opening thoughts in mind let us continue to look and learn from Solomon’s wisdom in Chapter 7 : 19-29
V. 19: Godly wisdom is profounder than conventional political wisdom : “Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.” One person with godly wisdom in any city has more ‘strength’ than a city that has 10 appointed rulers.(see also Ecclesiastes 9:17,18). The Hebrew word for “wisdom” (hokmah) refers to “the skill of living”. It relates to having emotional intelligence which is derived from having a godly perspective and a godly power to live life. The history of the world amply illustrates that most political rulers, gifted as they may be with verbal ability and charisma , very quickly get lost when they smell the scent of power. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely “ said Lord Acton (1834 -1902 ), an English historian and politician.  And so,just because you have “10 political rulers”, in a city or country does not mean that you are in good hands. Pray that you will have truly wise men, informed by the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God in your city and country. There is a wonderful example of a wise woman in 2 Samuel 20 :16-22 who saved her city by her wisdom. The Word of God is the source book of the wise. A man with a Bible could stay in a cave for a year, (without TV and newspapers) and at the end of that time, he could know from his reading what everybody else in the world was doing, and what the answer to the world’s dilemma’s would be.
V. 20: Godly wisdom is never found perfectly upon this earth. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” Whilst possessing wisdom is a wonderful thing, it is never perfectly possessed by any righteous man. Solomon is our “Exhibit A”. He was the wisest man alive in his day. His wisdom was legendary and known beyond the borders of his own land (1 Kings 4:29-34; 1 Kings 10:7) and yet we read in the Bible how he made fatal mistakes and some very unwise decisions. It was particularly his relationship with many women that caused him to be foolish (1 Kings 11).
So here is wisdom that we need to get. Don’t look for perfect wisdom in any man on the face of this earth. Learn that the wisdom of the most righteous man imaginable on earth is mixed with sin. “There is no one righteous … not even one “ (Rom 3:10-12 - see Psalm 14:1-4; Ps 53). We must not overlook this humbling testimony to the universal and total corruption of the whole race of man. It is indeed true that this has been so often overlooked. The general assumption of modern Psychology is that man is essentially good, and given time, it is thought that man will improve and evolve into perfection. This is of course a very naïve view, and mankind in its records of written history has shown absolutely no promise into this direction.
Augustine in his “Confessions” maintained that the only reason why one might think a baby is good, is that the baby has not got the ability to show of its evil nature. He said, (jokingly) that if a baby had the strength when he emerged from the mother’s womb, he would seize the mother by the throat and demand his milk! The only good that we can do is the good that Jesus does in us and through us, but apart from that fact the wisdom of Solomon’s observation stands: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
V.21,22: Here is great wisdom to live by: “ Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. Most of us do not have ‘elephant skins’ when it comes to gossip and criticism directed against us. “Words”, says Solomon in his Proverbs, “go very deep” (Prov. 16:27,28 ). “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” (Prov. 18:8;26:22)
How do we deal with such a matter? This requires wisdom. C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) offers very good advice for preachers, who like most public figures have to endure their fair share of gossip, malicious speech and criticism. What he has to say on this matter in his book “Lectures to my Students” can be used by all sensitive Christians who have become victims of gossip and malicious talking. In a chapter entitled “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear”  , which is essentially an exposition of this text (Eccl. 7:21), he says that “you cannot stop people’s tongues, and therefore the best thing is to stop your own ears…”.
So don’t eavesdrop; don’t listen in on every conversation. Public persons like myself must learn not to take everything to heart that people say.
Also remember this: If you get upset when people talk about us, remember that you have been prone to do the same thing!
So how do you deal with gossip? The general rule is that you should be quick to defend other people’s integrity and say, “Don’t talk about my brother or sister like that.” In general make it your aim to stand up for others and not to defend yourself. One man said, “I never worry about people who say evil things about me because I know much more about myself than they do, and I know that it is worse than what they are saying.”
REFLECTION : Can you see how difficult it is to learn or cultivate wisdom? It does not come naturally. True wisdom comes only from God. You may wonder why Solomon could make such a statement about the failure of his wisdom, when God had granted him apparently such an abundance of wisdom (1 Kings 3:9–12). However, remember that God gave Solomon wisdom primarily to discern and administer justice in his kingdom. As he writes this book Ecclesiastes, Solomon realizes that his wisdom has limits. No human being (affected by the fall v.29) possesses the capacity to understand God’s mind. And so Solomon’s search for that kind of wisdom brings him to the same conclusion as those reached by Job (see Job 28:12–13). The ultimate wisdom “is not found in the land of the living” (Job 28:13). Yes, such wisdom “is deep , very deep ; who can find it out ?” (Eccl 7:24).
That is why Solomon makes the next statement :
Vv. 23, 24 : The limitations of human wisdom : “All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
Here is the next bit of wisdom that we may learn: It is wisdom to accept the fact that we cannot understand everything that God is doing in the world! It is wisdom to accept the fact that the corruption that sin has brought about makes life very confusing at the best of times.
The battle in Solomon’s mind is clearly stated in v.26 : I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. Solomon’s search for wisdom was sincere, thorough, and intensive. The desire in us ‘ to know’ is probably connected to our being made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). Again we need to be reminded that sin has damaged and limited our ability to understand (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). For this we need the Lord to reveal His thoughts and ways to us. We are encouraged in this regard to ask , seek and knock (Lk. 11:9 ; James 1: 5-8). The wise man knows that he does not know, and this is what helps to make him wise!
Vv. 26-28 : And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found.
This may be a disturbing text for our women, but I think that we must be very careful to read this as a general statement. Solomon is clearly speaking about a woman who seduces weak men like himself. Solomon knew the powers of a woman’s seduction. This very fact eventually led to his downfall. His many women collectively turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11). Now it is significant that in his introductory chapters to Proverbs he speaks a lot about this type of woman, and he associates her with folly (Prov 9:13–18). As you will remember, the discussion of wisdom and folly form the background to this passage, and so this interpretation makes sense.
Now remember that Solomon is not running women into the ground. Elsewhere he has depicted wisdom as a woman (Prov 1:20–33; 9:1-6) and spoke highly of a number of good women (Eccl 9:9; Prov 18:22; 31:10–31).
There is no justification to take the statement made in v. 28 as a universal truth regarding all women.
So, what does Solomon mean when he declares, “I have found one man among a thousand, but I have not found a woman among all these” (v. 28)? He was referring to his own situation, where he was ill advised by all these women.Let’ s be honest; what godly woman would place herself willingly in the midst of the jealousies, ungodliness, and politics of Solomon’s royal harem? There was not one woman there that captured his heart back to God. The true wisdom that Solomon needed her was this. Find yourself with God’s help that one good woman, and be satisfied with her. Let her be your minister!
And, mind you, what is true for the perceived deficiencies of women is actually also true for men!
V.29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. God is not to blame for the absence of wisdom— mankind is. From the Fall to the present, people have turned away from God and away from wisdom. They have all walked the path of foolishness. Isaiah nailed the issue down so very powerfully: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa 53:6).
Thus, the chapter concludes with the observation that all people pervert the right way of God—they twist that which He had created straight.
It is wisdom to see that, and thus in humility turn to God and to seek His forgiveness in Christ and to walk from there in daily dependence with Him . For this you were created. Amen !