“The Balance of Wisdom”
Ecc. Pt. 8
Opening Illustration: Story from Bluefish Tv “Vikiel’s Story”
Thesis: We all need the balance of wisdom in our life because it will helps us balance the daily issues in life on this earth but it will also help us to balance the reality of eternity.
1 A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
5 It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke
than to listen to the song of fools.
6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools.
This too is meaningless.
7 Extortion turns a wise man into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
13Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
14 When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, a man cannot discover
anything about his future.
15In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,
and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.
16 Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
19 Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.
20 There is not a righteous man on earth
who does what is right and never sins.
21 Do not pay attention to every word people say,
or you may hear your servant cursing you—
22 for you know in your heart
that many times you yourself have cursed others.
23All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
“I am determined to be wise”—
but this was beyond me.
24 Whatever wisdom may be,
it is far off and most profound—
who can discover it?
25 So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly.
26 I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
but the sinner she will ensnare.
27“Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered:
“Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—
28 while I was still searching
but not finding—
I found one upright man among a thousand,
but not one upright woman among them all.
29 This only have I found:
God made mankind upright,
but men have gone in search of many schemes.”
Solomon in this chapter is exploring the benefit and the balance that comes from wisdom in life. He once again is observing life in Israel and within his kingdom and he highlights how important it is to have the balance of wisdom in our lives. He notes that wisdom will help us to have the right perspective in life and the right philosophy of life. Solomon is at the ½ point in his journal and we see a shift in his writing and his observations about life.
Last week we saw a man in despair most likely as a result of the rebuke of the Lord for Solomon’s sins and his response to the Word from God. This word was harsh, rebuking and setting in motion the repercussions of Solomon’s sins. God told Solomon that the Kingdom would be ripped from his family line because of his sin of idol worship and the condition of his sinful wives and his support of their worshipping other gods. Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord and he would pay the price for his sins - he personally and his family. His choice to allow his wives to lead him astray cost him, cost Israel and it cost his family.
In this new chapter today we see a shift in the writing and the mind set of Solomon. His focus returns to wisdom – something we have not heard a lot about in this book up to his point. Chuck Swindoll makes this observation about our chapter:
The man is describing life under the sun-ragged-edge reality, without God. Thus far in his journey, that has been his mindset, and it continues to be. But from here on, something begins to come into focus-the wisdom that has been conspicuously absent. The terms wise and wisdom appear thirty-five times in the latter half of his journey. Why? Well, to quote my prodigal friend, Solomon is “coming back home.” He still has quite a way to travel, but his pilgrimage now takes a turn in the right direction. Perhaps that best explains the change in Solomon’s writing style when we arrive at the midpoint in this journal. Instead of continuing the narrative style he has employed thus far, he turns to the proverbial style-brief, crisp, simple-sounding statements that offer insightful principles for handling life” (Living on the Ragged Edge, page 191).
Solomon’s transition in attitude here is a result of being rebuked corrected, and
confronted by the Lord. It’s as if as he says in verse 5, ‘It is better to heed a wise man’s
rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.” Solomon shifts gears here because the Word
of God and its correction brought him back to his senses to wisdom! The correction of a
wise God opened his eyes to his evil ways and caused him to repent and look to
wisdom from above again rather than through the eyes of cynicism.
Solomon shifts here from a narrative style to a proverbial style of writing which is common in
the book of Proverbs. It’s as if he has decided to return to wisdom as a way of life.
T.S. - Let’s look at his introductory remarks here and see what happens when we have the
balance in life that comes from wisdom from above:
I. The balance view of life when wisdom is in control 7 insights from Solomon
a. “A good name is better than fine perfume.”
i. Solomon says that it is better to have a good reputation then to be wearing Gucci clothes or Polo clothes and be considered a person with an ill reputation.
ii. Swindoll states, “A good name is that which influence and character… that which changes lives…that which has a fine reputation. A good name is certainly to be preferred to that which simply has a pleasant aroma.”
iii. Many people prefer to buy name brands because of their reputation than buy something cheaper with no reputation.
iv. A person with a good name is honored way more than a person who smells good.
b. “The day of death is better than the day of your birth.”
i. Philippians 1:23-24 helps to answer this wise thought:
1. 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
ii. Paul was looking forward to passing over from here to eternity. He knew that Heaven was far better than this earthly existence.
1. Swindoll states, “Both Paul and Solomon are saying, “If I had my ‘druthers,’ I’d rather be out of this life and into eternity. I’d rather be beyond this veil of tears and home in glory, enjoying the presence of the Lord. That’s a lot better.” So in that sense, the joyous days following our death are better than all of the painful and stressful days that follow our birth. Those who know the Lord in a personal and intimate manner (deep down, Solomon did) can make such a statement” (194).
iii. The problem in America as I see it is that we all celebrate births and birthdays and run from celebrating deaths.
1. I still recall a funeral I did a while back which was for man who died in Alaska and his wife asked me to do his funeral service here in Balsam Lake. The service was called a “Celebration of Life Service” and they highlighted all the great things and adventures that this man had experienced.
2. It really was a celebration of life!
a. It was not a time to mourn but a time to rejoice! For Jerry it was a day to rejoice leaving this world and leaving a disease ridden body to cross over into Heaven to health, goodness and the presence of the Lord Jesus!
c. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting”
i. Swindoll notes the following thought about our proverb, “A blunt paraphrase of the comparison would read, ‘Visiting a funeral parlor is better than gorging oneself at a banquet’ or ‘A thirty-minute stroll through a graveyard is better than an entire afternoon at a carnival, or spending a weekend in Vegas” (194).
ii. When you talk about what is going to make the most difference in life attending a funeral and realizing that you are going to die. This insight from wisdom changes or it should change your lifestyle because of the reality of the Judgment Seat of Christ. But a person who thinks only of party hardy now and never prepares for the future is foolish and does not have the balance of wisdom in their life.
iii. Places which make us focus on our immortality are good places because they make us think about death and the necessity of preparing for it!
d. “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”
i. Swindoll says, “As a pastor, I’ve seldom had a wiser audience than in a funeral service. They really listen. Sure it’s frightening, but it’s amazing how much perspective is gained when we get a glimpse of life from the back door” (194).
1. When we are faced with a life and death situation it becomes amazing how priorities change. Death and its entrance into life caused wisdom to rise up and that challenges us to re-evaluate our priorities in life.
ii. Sure laughter has its place but life is not all about acting like a clown and laughing without ever facing the reality of our death and where we are going at our death.
iii. Solomon also adds this thought “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.”
iv. So many people run to the house of pleasure today but they never contemplate their eternal destiny they think if they laugh enough and have a good time enough then they will never have to deal with their imminent death.
1. Many people live in denial and this not wisdom!
e. “It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools.”
i. He also adds, “6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools.”
ii. I have been in bars, wedding receptions and family parties and observed my family and others get wasted and I listen to their meaningless laughter over stupid things and I can relate to what Solomon is saying here.
1. What good is it to laugh at stupid stuff and never listen to sound wise advice.
a. How many times have the same people gotten wasted went out and drove drunk, this was and is not funny, and how many times has the judge tried to speak wise counsel to them only to ignored because the next night there at the bar again laughing it up and getting into a car to drive drunk again.
iii. Solomon says we need to listen to wise man’s rebuke and quit listening to the fool’s songs!
1. He is thinking of his own life and his own rebuke from God and it has awoken the gift of wisdom in Him.
iv. So who are the wise men out there:
1. It could be your boss
2. It could be you pastor
3. It could be your spouse
4. It could be the police officer
5. It could be the judge
6. It could be the Doctor
7. It could be a therapist
a. The truth is we must all be open and willing to learn from the rebukes of the wise because they are trying to help. We need to listen to them when they say, “If you keep doing this it will cost you and may even kill you!”
v. Swindoll states, “It isn’t time to laugh at more jokes when life’s crashing in around you. The crunch is on…and it’s time to come home again. Enough time and pain and loss and brokenness before its counsel is heard. Coming to terms with reality includes our being open to rebuke of the wise” (197).
1. Wisdom gives us the balance in life of when it is time to laugh and time to serious and be prepared for our eternal future.
f. “The end of a matter is better than its beginning”
i. The truth is the closer we get to death the more we seem to take it seriously. We also seem to take our behavior more seriously as death is knocking at the door of our life. We also seem to take our spiritual condition more seriously as well.
1. But what happens if you die premature?
a. What if you do not have as much time as you think?
ii. We were watching a movie the other night about a man who could re-live this one day over and over until he got it right. He actually had the opportunity to live that day over and over again so that he could get it right.
1. We’ll that works great in the movies but that is not the case in real life!
2. We never get do-overs with our time – once we use it up its gone never to return again!
3. I laugh at these movies because these people kill themselves do all kinds of wacky things just to wake up again to do it all over again.
a. The truth is you will die once and then face God so you better be ready!
iii. Swindoll states, “Once we reach the end, we know the whole story, and that is better than the beginning of a matter where desires lack substance” (197).
1. Life is Christ brings a wisdom to it that says at the end of a good righteous life awaits the blessings of God and this is better than living in this sin filled world!
g. “Patience is better than pride.”
i. Patience is such a struggle in our fast paced world today. We all struggle with it. We get impatient waiting in line at Walmart. We get impatient with the slower driver on the road even when it is snowing or the food that takes too long to be served.
1. I personally struggle with being patient at times and have more often than not kicked myself for not waiting or for responding to quickly to a situation.
a. Swindoll states, “How much better to be calm than angry, because with a patient spirit there emerges a groundswell of wisdom. On this pilgrimage from earth to heaven, one of God’s great goals is the development of our inner character, which implies the replacement of a proud spirit with a patient spirit. As that transpires, wisdom has a platform upon which to work. Our haughty spirit pushes wisdom aside, and when it does, we play the fool” (198).
ii. Solomon highlights this thought further in verses 9 and 10:
1. Verse 9, 10 – “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions.”
a. These issues also deal with patience and pride – Anger is driven by pride and a lack of patience. If you allow anger to drive your emotions then you will be a fool. You will do things that you regret and you will make situations worse not better.
i. Trust me I know!
b. The next verse (10) also ties in with patience and pride. The longing for the good old days is a lack of satisfaction of the present. This is a lack of patience – an unwillingness to change and to adapt to the current situations in life.
i. Swindoll adds, “We don’t need ‘the good ol’ days’ in order to survive. Wisdom is quite capable of flourishing in the midst of gut-wrenching reality. I especially like the way C.S. Lewis brings us back to sound bottom-line basic.
1. We want…not so much a Father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven…whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’…I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction…The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to word ‘love,’ and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake…We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us…” (199).
T.S. - Solomon comes back home to wisdom and shares with us insights from heaven then he adds another thought which says “Wisdom brings balance to life and it is only found in God.”
II. Wisdom is essential in life because it brings balance to our lives.
a. Wisdom helps us to balance the reality of life on this planet and the reality of eternal life in the future.
i. Ecc 7:11-14 points out two of the major benefits of wisdom.
1. Swindoll in his book Living on the ragged Edge labels these two benefits as follows:
a. Wisdom preserves our lives from human pitfalls. The pitfalls? Go back to what the man wrote. I think of several examples:
i. With inheritance comes the pitfall of pride. Wisdom preserves us from that.
ii. With affliction comes the pitfall of doubt and disillusionment. Wisdom preserves us from that.
iii. With the anticipation of relief, vindication, even rewards for doing what is right comes the pitfall of resentment and bitterness. Wisdom preserves us form that.
2. Solomon is absolutely correct: “Wisdom is protection.” But it is more than that.
a. Wisdom provides our lives with divine perspective. We are first invited to ‘consider the work of God,’ then we are given several occasions when that will provide us the perspective we need:
i. “For who is able to straighten what He (God) has bent?”
ii. Swindoll adds, “The Lord our God is ultimately in control and theologians call this divine sovereignty. Unfortunately, it has become a point of argumentation rather than our personal ally. God is in charge, meaning if He has ‘straightened’ something, its wasted effort to try to bend it. This divine perspective is designed to replace resistance with relief.”
1. “In the day of prosperity be happy!”
iii. Times are good? Great! Or, in today’s vernacular, Enjoy! There is no reason whatsoever to allow guilt to rob you of the joy that should accompany prosperous times. Divine perspective frees us to be happy.
1. “But the day of adversity consider-God has made the one as well as the other.”
iv. Swindoll highlights “Again, this divine perspective wisdom brings reminds me that the Lord God is just as involved and caring in adversity as during prosperity.…God’s ultimate design is nothing short of perfect. He’s got a plan, but without operating on the basis of His wisdom, we’ll panic and run or we’ll stubbornly resist His way” (The above information is taken from pages 200-201 of Living on the Ragged Edge.)
b. Swindoll parallels my thoughts on the two benefits of wisdom;
i. Wisdom protects us and helps us to make right choices as we live in a world filled with sin and deception.
1. This supernatural ability to make the right choices and do the right things preserves my life – it blesses me rather than curses me.
2. It prevents me from doing things that will scar my life, ruin my life, and affect those whom I love.
3. Wisdom from above will always point me toward God and His ways and in the end this will benefit me and my family for eternity.
ii. Wisdom’s strong balancing point is that it will helps us to stay focused on Eternity – it will give us divine perspective and it will highlight how my actions today will affect my future in eternity.
1. Wisdom helps me stay focused on what really matters in life and that is how my actions today will impact my eternal future. If I do this today what will be the repercussions tomorrow and wisdom will answer that question for us to prevent us from destroying our lives and making them useless.
2. Wisdom tells me to fear God – Proverbs says this is the beginning of wisdom – fearing God is a good thing because this healthy fear will help me do the right things and it will drive me to honor God.
a. Proverbs 1:1-7: 1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
3. The truth is we cannot see the panoramic picture of this world and beyond without the wisdom of God.
a. Wisdom makes it possible to see beyond this life and into another dimension of time called eternity.
T.S. – Wisdom brings a balanced view of life here and life in eternity and it’s essential that I allow it to work in my life.
III. Now that we see the importance of wisdom Solomon then tells us to put it to work in our lives.
a. Ecc. 7:15-29 – God has given us wisdom to apply it to our lives and to live by it.
i. Wisdom is no good if you do not use it and Solomon tells us that he tried his best in human strength and knowledge to find it and he could not because it is only found in God.
ii. Solomon tries all types of sins and lifestyles trying to discover wisdom and it ended up being meaningless, boring and even fruitless.
1. So when he tells us in verse 24, “Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound-who can discover it.”
a. He found that he could not find wisdom outside of God! He discovered that wisdom comes from God not from investigations and the trying of sin. It does not come from discussions with others whether they are male or female.
i. He actually says a derogatory comment about woman in this section – I believe he tried to find wisdom in his many woman and discovered that none of them had it- remember they were worshipping and sacrificing to idols and doing all kinds of evil in the eyes of God! They actually led Solomon away from wisdom.
b. Swindoll states this, “We can’t make ourselves wise. We can’t grit our teeth or grunt real hard or double up our fists tightly or read enough chapters of the Bible to bring ‘instant wisdom’ into our lives. When Solomon tried to manufacture it, even he had to admit that it was far from him. Wisdom is a gift handed to us directly from the hand of God” (214).
b. We can try to create substitutes for wisdom in this world like knowledge, insight and information but this is not wisdom from God.
i. We can know things but science, geography and the like but this does not mean we are wise.
ii. No one can learn enough wisdom outside of a relationship with God. We need God to have wisdom. We need Jesus for wisdom.
1. Proverbs 8:1-36 is a chapter which personifies wisdom and it points to only person and that is Jesus Christ.
a. Take time to read this chapter this week and think of wisdom as who it is Jesus! The chapter will illuminate your mind to true wisdom from above.
iii. Swindoll notes, “In Solomon’s words, ‘they …sought out many devices.’ Many alternatives, many synthetics and substitutes were devised to replace the original order of things…We have replaced genuine righteousness with a mask of righteousness. And none of our manmade ‘devices’ brings us back to God. On the contrary, they push us further away from him” (217).
1. Solomon knew this because this is what he did to God and His gift of wisdom!
c. Solomon warns us that wisdom is only found in God and it is wise to look to Him for insight and direction in this life and beyond.
We have seen a shift in Solomon’s writing here in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 – You could say his melt down in chapter six opened up the door to God’s wisdom and insight again. His struggle in chapter 6 revealed a man who was humbled by the rebuke and discipline of God and this was good because it brought him back to the wisdom of God.
We all need to understand that wisdom is not attained by human knowledge, experience or the like it is really a gift from God.
Swindoll puts it this way: “Wisdom is not simply a theoretical, sterile subject to be tossed around by philosophers and intellectuals. Neither is merely a theological concept to be discussed along cloistered seminary hallways. It is practical. It’s designed to work for us. Our definition makes that clear: wisdom is the God given ability to see life with rare objectivity and to handle life with rare stability” (217, 218).
We learn that wisdom comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus and He is the only way we can connect with wisdom. He really is the personification of wisdom in the book of Proverbs and for life itself.
I Corinthians 1:30 states, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
Wisdom brings the balance that we need in life and in perspective of life and death. Wisdom will guard us in our daily lives from the fanatical extremes that exist in our society. It will protect us from evil and from the deceptions that are found in our society. It will expose the Devil and reveal the truth of God to us. When we decide to stop trying to conjure wisdom from ourselves and then choose to allow God to give it to us then life will be easier to manage. Life will have divine perspective and insight that will empower us to move toward the goal of eternity. Wisdom is essential for balance in life so we must ask for it from God.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Altar call: Swindoll challenges us with this thought which I want to close with today, “Yes, God has the whole world in His hands-the wind, the waves, the tiny baby, even you and me. Things aren’t out of control. The ragged-edge question is not: Will His wisdom work? But rather: Are we putting His wisdom to work?” (218).