Read Ecclesiastes 8
8 Who is like the wise?
Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
and changes its hard appearance.
Obey the King
2 Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 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. 4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.
7 Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?
8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
so no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
9 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. 10 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.
11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no 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 their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
There are benefits and limitations to wisdom. Wisdom allows us to apply our knowledge in a way that leads to right living whereas the fool continues in the folly. We see that in the first part of the chapter where Solomon tells us to obey the king because when the fool revolts, there are consequences for their actions. Verses eight and nine are the hinge point for this chapter. “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.“
We are ruled by governing authorities and God. A lot of the Christian life is learning humble submission to authority. There is so little in life that we actually have control over. For some, this can be a discouraging thought, but when we have the wisdom that God is sovereign we can express the confidence in verse 15:
“And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”
In our time in Ecclesiastes we have seen how much of life is vanity (Hebrew: hevel). While everything has a time as we read in chapter three, we are given a glimmer of hope in the midst of a heavy book. That the best thing we can do is to enjoy the gifts of common grace that God has given us. We should all be aware of the things that help us love God more and we should do more of those things to the glory of God. A hot shower, a great meal, a sunrise or sunset, nice weather, or even a warm fire with good friends. It is wise and right to enjoy the simple things in life.
- What makes you love God more?
- What do you try to control in life?
- Why is it so hard to grasp how little control we truly have?
Dr. Thomas Constable, a former seminary professor and scholar, said this about this passage: “Solomon again recommended the enjoyment of life, not in a pleasure-mad way but in the sense of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor (cf. 2:24; 3:12-13; 5:18-19). This joy will make labor more enjoyable. We should receive each day’s joys as God’s good gifts and rejoice in them.”
Harris Creek Sermon
Here is the sermon from Harris Creek’s Ecclesiastes series based on Ecclesiastes 8 “The Search for Meaning: Submitting to Authority”.
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