Ecclesiastes 7

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Ecclesiastes 7:1-6

Wisdom

7 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 everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration 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 the rebuke of a wise person
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.

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It is better to have a good character than to appear good on the outside. Perfume, cosmetics, fine clothes, success, awards, acclaim are pretty meaningless because although these things can be enjoyed and may project something about me, they do not convey the substance of who I am. 

They are masks and projections. A person’s Facebook page is the same as marketing spin for a product. It tells the world the image you want to portray. I thought a lot about authenticity in recent months. A conversation with one of my daughter’s last night rests on my mind. We both expressed how we struggle to express feelings of anger or love. Such feelings demand vulnerability and risk of rejection. These are deep waters.

For some people, death frees them from pain and trouble. The Teacher thinks about death and about the times when we are grieving. He says that these thoughts are valuable. They are reminders that life is short and transient. They are reminders of what’s important.

The foolish person thinks only about pleasure. He is like the farmer in Jesus’ parable who said: ‘Eat and drink. Enjoy yourself.’ But God described him as a fool. God said that the farmer would die during the night (Luke 12:19-20).

Verse 5 is a reminder of the story of Nathan awakening  King David to his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-12).  A true friend is an honest voice rather than a misleading voice of flattery.

Verse 6 informs us that thin, small branches are ineffective as fuel for fire. They burn very quickly and though they may make a lot of noise, they do not make much heat for cooking. The small branches burn too quickly and the pot does not boil. The foolish person laughs loudly and makes a lot of noise for no reason and that’s of no benefit to anyone.
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Ecclesiastes 7:7-10

7 Extortion turns a wise person 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.
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In verse 7 we see a wise man who falls. People choose wise men to be their leaders. Wise men however are vulnerable. They will be tested with the additional trust, power and influence they have been afforded. I was one of those men.

In verse 8 we are reminded that difficulties, challenging times come to us all but the sun rises and the sun sets. Life goes on. Challenges may refine us and help us grow. Difficulties will last for a period only. Sometimes they may last longer than we expect but it’s important to be patient and trust that God is at work rather than try to manipulate with pride.

In verse 9 The Teacher warns people who are in difficult situations or in unhappy situations. They must control themselves. Only foolish people allow themselves to remain angry for a long time. They will have trouble with other people. And foolish people will never be completely at peace.

In verse 10 we discover that nostalgia is not what it used to be . 🙂 

The Israelites thought about how things were in Egypt. But they remembered only the good food that they had enjoyed there (Numbers 11:5-6). They forgot all the things that they had suffered there as slaves.

Dwelling too much on the past, reminiscing too much about the past is a sure fire way to stagnate the present. It’s unhelpful and ultimately lacks gratitude. Living on past glory will not be helpful to your present moment. There is a difference between enjoying good memories and living in the past.
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Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

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:
Wisdom preserves those who have it.
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In Proverbs 3:13-18, we read that wisdom is more precious than silver, gold, or precious stones. Here the Teacher reiterates that thought. A financial inheritance is a good thing. It can bring security to it’s beneficiaries. Wisdom also offers security. It is a protection from the challenges and difficulties that we encounter in life. Wisdom does not prevent the trouble although it can divert us from a lot of trouble but it certainly equips us to handle it and gives us a healthier perspective about whatever we encounter in life. Wisdom comes from walking with God.
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Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

13 Consider 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 this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.
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Verses 13-14 remind us that so much is outside of our control. We may be able to influence a situation but we can never have complete control. God will use everything for our good whether the experience is pleasant or not. His desire is to form Christ in us and that’s probably not going to be an easy transition when we consider that we are actually quite unlike him.
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Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

15 In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
16 Do not be over righteous,
neither be over wise—
why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be over wicked,
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.
Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
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Verse 15 presents us with a frequently discussed issue. How is it that sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things come to really bad people. This is not helped by Psalm 91:16 where we read that God said: ‘Because he loves me, I will satisfy him with a long life.’ But that is not always true. Also, we see wicked people who seem to have easy and happy lives (Job 21:7-15).

How do you answer that?
There are no absolutes. The righteous life equips you to handle stuff like this but the self centred life does not. It only can see the injustice and cannot see that there’s something far greater going on here than mere cause and effect.

Verses 16-17 are very freeing. Do not be over righteous. Whilst this is not a licence to sin or will fully do wrong is perhaps more saying …don’t get too obsessed with what’s right. Live by principles and values but do not be a slave to rules. Don’t be too religious. The spirit of the law is love, the letter of the law whilst technically correct is merely a clanging cymbal or resounding gong without love. It’s useless.

Verse 18 is the icing on the cake. It’s no surprise that Jesus called a group of Pharisees “blind guides”. No surprise that he gave a stiff rebuke in Matthew 23:23. To act in an overly religious way is to tear the heart out of why we do what we do, why we live this way.

Fear God, walk with God …It’s as simple as that to me. I don’t need to make a song and dance about it (even if Godspell was quite good) I just need to live it.
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Ecclesiastes 7:19-25

19 Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.
20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one 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.
23 All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
“I am determined to be wise”—
but this was beyond me.
24 Whatever exists 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.
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Wisdom is an endless pursuit and yet just to scratch the surface and embrace what we can equips to handle life’s challenges. Whatever others do to us we surely have done to them. Our mind should be on keeping ourselves in check and not obsessed with other people’s wrongdoings, or misjudgements. This is not our journey or our business. Spiritual wisdom is empowering and does indeed propel us to be fully alive.
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Ecclesiastes 7:26-29

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 created mankind upright,
but they have gone in search of many schemes.”
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Is this a passage about the lure of lust. If authored by Solomon perhaps it’s a reference to the 700 wives that turned him to worship false gods (1 Kings 11:3-4).  Is there something autobiographical in this passage?

Is this the seductress about whom Solomon warns young men in Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:1-14; 6:24-29; 7:1-27?

In verses 27 to 29, Empirical acquisition of knowledge is exposed for it’s shortcomings. It will fail. We cannot become upright through our pursuit of wisdom. We can only allow God to take on this work in us.

If the author is Solomon. Perhaps he has looked back over his life, and found there are very few men {perhaps 1 in a thousand} who are totally upright. In all the women he married, he did not find one who truly loved God. His wives were heathen women. Is this a realisation that “very few truly are saved”. Very few embrace a walk with God.

I don’t need to reflect too much over this. I know full well the destruction that lust brought upon my life and the suffering, disappointment and everything else that it brought on those around me.

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