SERIES: BE SATISFIED
“THINK ABOUT IT”
A young girl came into the kitchen one afternoon and complained that her stomach hurt. Her mother told her, “That’s because your stomach is empty. You just need something in it and you’ll be fine.” The mom fixed the little girl a sandwich and she felt much better.
About a week later, the mother and little girl were in the grocery store. They ran across one of the elderly members of their church. After some small-talk, the elderly member mentioned that she was heading home because she had a headache.
Before the mother could say anything, the little girl said, “Mommy says your head hurts because its empty. You just need to put something in it and you’ll be fine.”
Last week, we looked at some thoughts expressed by Solomon concerning wisdom. His thoughts continue in our passage today.
Eccl. 8:1-17 – Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance. Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?” Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him. Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt. Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless. When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow. There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under
the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night- 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.
I’m sure that Solomon would agree with the old Persian proverb:
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child; teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows, is wise; follow him.
I agree with the old preacher that said, “God gave us two ends: one to think with and the other to sit on. Heads you win, tails you lose.” Solomon challenges us to seek wisdom. He is telling us that wisdom enables us to meet challenges in life that defy easy answers and quick solutions. Solomon is talking about spiritual wisdom as opposed to earthly wisdom. Prov. 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Solomon recognizes that earthly wisdom and spiritual wisdom are two different things.
A number of years back, 75 prisoners in Saltillo Prison in northern Mexico started digging a secret tunnel they had designed. They had planned the tunnel so that it would bring them up on the other side of the prison wall.
Five months later, guided by their own genius, they tunneled up into the nearby courthouse. They ended up in the very courtroom where most of them had been convicted and sentenced. The surprised judges returned all seventy-five escapees back to the prison while a lot more time added to their sentences.
Prov. 9:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Solomon emphasizes the “fear” of God three times in 8:12-13. The inevitable conclusion is that this is the only way to live one’s life.
We can ask God for wisdom and receive it by faith. James 1:5-8 – 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. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James warns a little letter in his letter about two kinds of wisdom. James 3:17-18 – Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
What is wisdom? Jesus says in Mt. 7:24 – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Listening for God, studying His Word -the Bible - and being obedient to what He says are the wisest things we can do.
OBEY THE KING
One of the marks of obedience to God is submission and obedience to those God places in authority over us.
Rom. 13:1-7 – Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Rulers in the ancient world had the power of life and death. They very regularly used that power in an unreasonable manner as fit their whim at the time. Solomon describes an officer in the royal court. There was probably no more challenging career in ancient times than serving in a king’s court – expectations were high, the pressure was immense, and if you messed up? Off with your head! Solomon says that no one is higher than the king. Whether the king does the right thing or the wrong thing, no human being is able to hold him responsible. The king is going to get his way.
There are basically four responses to the orders of the king. I think they apply to us as we seek to be obedient to God by being obedient to those over us in our government, on the job, in the church, and in our families.
The first response is simple disobedience – refusing to do what we’re asked. Solomon says to be careful because we have made an oath of commitment to follow the leadership under which we serve. Disobedience can mean discipline or even punishment.
The second response is desertion – leaving your position. You can just see someone walking out on their job or their commitment to their country, their church, or their family.
In some situations, leaving can be the act of integrity. I read this week about a Christian press operator that had left a great job at a large printing firm because the company had decided to start printing pornographic magazines. He took another job that paid less than the one he left but he had his integrity intact.
The third response is defiance. In context, Solomon is talking about seeking ways to overthrow the king. This would be the man who left the service of the king and sought out others who had similar feelings to oust the king from his throne by hook or by crook.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.” Was he right? Biblically we see some examples for us to follow. In Daniel Chapter Three, we Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defy the order of the king of Babylon to bow to his image when the music was played. They went to the fiery furnace and God preserved them. In Daniel Chapter Six, we see Daniel openly defy the order not to pray. He went to the lion’s den and again, God saved him. The apostles stood before the Sanhedrin and had previously been ordered not to speak again about Jesus’ death and resurrection. We find their reply on this occasion in Acts 5:29 – Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
We shouldn’t defy the government on every minor matter but we do have an obligation to stand as God’s people on issues that God deems righteous. Right now, our legislators are working on additions to the “Hate Crimes” bill. They’re trying to include any acts against homosexuals and the so-called transgendered. If this legislation passes, it opens the door for preachers who proclaim what the Word of God says concerning homosexuality to be sent to jail. It opens churches who hold fast to the Bible to lawsuits and fines for calling homosexuality a sin. You’re probably thinking, “That can’t happen here.” But it’s already happening in Canada.
My response is that I guess if the additions to the hate crimes bill become the law of the land, I hope you’ll come visit me in jail. I cannot defend telling a lie – that deviant sexuality is acceptable to God – just because it’s more convenient for me. The jail term will be nothing compared to the eternal punishment God has in store for liars. It is love, not hatred, that spurs my concern for the homosexual. The Bible says that we’re to speak the truth in love. That’s what we’re charged to do. Is it loving to allow someone to go to hell just because I might have to face the consequences of an earthly political system? Jesus warned his disciples in Mt. 10:28 - Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The fourth response is discernment. Wisdom helps us understand people and situations. It helps us to figure out the right thing to do at the right time. Solomon says that we need to think things through. In most cases when we deal with people in authority over us that we should pick our battles and to choose carefully when we decide to fight those battles. Warren Wiersbe says, “We have the options of disobeying, running away, defying orders, and fighting back. Before we do anything, we have to exercise wisdom and seek to find the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”
PREPARE FOR DEATH
A young family attended church on Sunday morning. They came home and after lunch, their son was upstairs playing. He yells, “Mom! Mom!” The mother goes to the stairs and says, “What is it? Come down here and talk to me.” The young boy comes downstairs with a puzzled look on his face. He says, “Mom, is it true what the preacher said this morning? Do our bodies really come from dust and then when we die do our bodies go back to dust?”
The Mom replied, “Of course, dear. Why?” The little boy said, “Then you’d better go upstairs and look under your bed ‘cause there’s someone either comin’ or goin’!”
Solomon reminds us again that death is something that overtakes us all. It doesn’t matter what our station is in life. It doesn’t matter whether we’re wise or not. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re in charge of anything, like a political leader, or not. The warning is: there is an appointed day in which you will meet God. Are you ready?
It should humble us that we’re not in charge. We’re powerless to change the wind when it’s blowing. We can’t send another wind from another direction to change the direction of the first wind. We can’t change the day of our death. We can’t discharge ourselves from the military in the middle of a war. Know that God is sovereign.
Because there will be a day that we will die and face judgment, Solomon warns us to avoid wickedness. So many are willfully wicked and lost in their sins and really don’t care one way or the other.
Reminded of a story I heard years back about a preacher who dreamed that he stood in front of a long flight of stairs. He was told to climb the stairs. He was handed a piece of chalk and told to put a chalk mark on each of the steps for each sin he had committed in his life.
He was halfway up the staircase when he saw the one of the deacons from the congregation he served coming down the steps. He asked the deacon, “Why are headed down the steps?” The deacon said, “I gotta go back and get some more chalk!”
Solomon mentions that one of the most perplexing things is life is how sometimes the wicked appear to receive reward and the righteous appear to be oppressed. We see that too and wonder why things seem to be that way. Life is frustrating when you try to place moral and spiritual restrictions on people who live life “under the sun.”
It may seem as if the person is getting by with their evil deeds but Solomon hold it as a matter of faith that the righteous will be vindicated in time. The way to vindication is to fear God – to show Him the proper respect, awe, and worship He deserves. We then understand that God is not weak, just patient. 2 Pet. 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise; as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Solomon uses the example of someone who dies. They frequently went to the temple and appeared to be a good person. They received a lot of praise from people but did not live a godly life. Yet, he was given a great
funeral, with a eulogy that praised his goodness, while the truly godly people were ignored and forgotten.
I heard about a preacher at a funeral who spoke glowingly about a man who had been a scoundrel. During the service, the widow turned to her son and said, “Go make sure that’s your father in that casket.”
Solomon lets us know that the unrighteous will not thrive beyond the grave. Heb. 9:27 tells us that human beings are “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Solomon notes that that the wicked will be judged and the righteous will be rewarded. Because of that, we should fear God and live a righteous life
The evil person may live longer than the godly person. It seems that they get away with sin after sin, but the day of judgment will come and the wicked will not be excused. God will bring judgment in His own time.
Someone: “The same sun that hardens the clay melts the wax.” God’s patience and long-suffering toward
those who need to repent causes some to repent but others to think they can continue on in their evil deeds.
Solomon notes here that there are those who do not pay immediately for breaking God’s moral code and that they are deceived into believing that their behavior will never be called into judgment. Gal. 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
ACCEPT THE WILL OF GOD
Solomon reminds us that even wisdom has its limitations. God has deliberately made life unpredictable in order to frustrate those who try to control life. There are some, like the three friends of Job who claim to understand life. Their goal is to simply control life. They think that by following certain rules that they can avoid all calamities and then congratulate themselves when they see problems hit other people.
For all its value, wisdom can never control God.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to understand what God is doing and how things will work out. Is. 55:9 – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…”
One day, a new bus driver was driving along his route. He didn’t encounter any problems for the first few
stops; a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well.
At one stop, however, a big hulk of a man got on. He was 6’ 8”, built like a bodybuilder, and his arms hung down past his knees. He glared at the driver and told him, “Big John doesn’t pay!” Then he sat down at the back of the bus.
The driver was 5’ 3”, thin, and very meek, so he didn’t argue with Big John. But he wasn’t happy about it. The next day, the same thing happened. Big John got on again, made a big show of refusing to pay, and sat down. It happened the next day, and again the day after that.
The bus driver began to lose sleep over the way Big John was taking advantage of him. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He signed up for bodybuilding courses, karate, judo, and a class on finding your self-esteem.
By the end of the summer, the bus driver had become quite strong and felt really good about himself. The next Monday, Big John entered the bus and again declared, “Big John doesn’t pay!” Enraged, the driver stood up, glared back at Big John, and bellowed, “And why not?!”
With a surprised look on his face, Big John replied, “Big John has a bus pass.”
The person who has to know everything or simply thinks that they know everything is destined for disappointment. 1 Cor. 8:2 – The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
Dt. 29:29 – The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. God doesn’t expect us to know the unknowable but He does expect us to learn all that we can and obey what he teaches us.
What is Solomon’s answer? Solomon advises again as he has several times earlier in Ecclesiastes: enjoy life and delight in the fruit of your labors. He tells us that instead of worrying over understanding the complexities of life, we should rest in the knowledge that God is in charge and enjoy His blessings.
Solomon does not advocate the foolish “eat, drink, and be merry” of the hedonist. Solomon’s advice is the positive “faith outlook” of God’s people who accept life as God’s special gift and know that God give us so that we can enjoy His blessings.
1 Tim. 6:17 – Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. The key phrase for us is that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, we should be giving thanks for what we do have and just enjoy it.
Solomon wants us to look at our own lives – to think about how we live it and what will happen when the day comes that physical life ends.
Just three years ago, David Copperfield, the famous illusionist who made the Statue of Liberty vanish, purchased four tiny islands in the southern Bahamas. For those islands, he paid $50 million. He considers that price a bargain. He believes that one of the islands contains the fountain of youth.
According to Reuters news service, “Copperfield is coy about his reasons for the fountain of youth claim, but the man best known for entertaining with grand deception insists his archipelago also contains the legendary waters that bestow perpetual youth. Seriously.”
In a phone interview, Copperfield told Reuters, “I’ve discovered a true phenomenon. You can take dead leaves, they come in contact with the water, and they become full of life again. …Bugs or insects that are near death come in contact with the water, and they’ll fly away. It’s an amazing thing—very, very exciting.”
What if Copperfield’s claim turns out to be true? We have to understand that such a fountain can do nothing for the part of us that dies eternally – our souls. Eternal life only comes through Jesus Christ.