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.
Verse 1 begins with a lesson in body language. There is something about a kind face, an engaging warmth. With wisdom comes peace and a reduction in our stress and anxiety levels. This radiates outwardly. It’s visible. Someone recently suggested to me that they couldn’t believe how calm I was in a pressurised situation at work. It’s not something that can be faked but when we choose to align ourselves with spiritual wisdom it is hard to be shaken no matter what is going on around us.
Verse 2, refers to the oath in 1 Chronicles 29:4. The People made a serious promise to obey their king. All King David’s important officials and David’s other sons promised to be loyal to his son, Solomon. They asked God to be a witness to their promise.
Verses 3 & 4 are a reminder that the king is the ruler of the land. He is the authority God has put in power. This is saying, do not try to get away from the rule of the king. Do not shirk your duty.
To act against the king would be foolish. The king had absolute authority. So it was better to remain loyal to him. The king could punish people in whatever way that he chose. Nobody should ask him to explain his actions. Before the Israelites had a king, Samuel, warned them. If they have a king, then they will have problems and difficulties (1 Samuel 8:10-18).
A wise man knows when to apply the proper course of action for the best outcome, whether in an earthly sense before the king, 8:2, or an eternal sense before God, verses 12-13.
When you keep the commandments of the king, you will not be punished. The wise man sees beyond the immediate and certain that there is a God in heaven who will judge the whole earth, including the king. Approaching the king needs to be done in a thoughtful and wise manner.
This is true of all governing authority! In the big scheme of things a leader, a king a governing authority do not stay in power for long. Let it be and allow it to run its course. God is present. He is king.
God has appointed a time for everything but man knows neither the time nor the outcome.
We are sorely limited in our dominion over life. How much more significant this makes the virtue of wisdom!
Death is as precarious and uncontrollable as the wind.
There is a limit to people’s authority. Nobody can control the ‘wind’. This is the Hebrew word ‘ruach’, which also means ‘spirit’. So this ‘wind’ includes people’s spirits. The same word also means ‘breath’. Death happens when a person no longer breathes.
Jesus dismissed His own spirit from His body, and told it to go to the Father, when He said:
Luke 23:46 “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”
We do not have control over our spirit to tell it such. Our spirit leaves our body at the command of God. We do not know what hour, or day, we will die on this earth.
Verse 9 reminds the readers that people cannot choose how long they will live. But they do have the power to affect other people’s lives. They can cause trouble and pain for other people. And sometimes they can control other people. The Hebrew words do not make it clear which person has the pain. It may refer to the person who is causing the pain. Or it may refer to the person who is receiving the pain. Both meanings are true. Those people who cause pain to other people damage their own character and their own heart. This was and is true in my story
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.
In this section we read that the teacher is puzzled by the injustices in the world.
He has observed that the wicked received an honorable burial and praise after their death. This observation is reinforced by the fact that the fortunes of the righteous and the wicked are often reversed: The righteous sometimes get what the wicked deserve and the wicked often get what the righteous deserve as we’ll see in verse 14.
In this particular case, the wicked were given a place of burial with the righteous. It, also, appears they had pretended to be righteous, because they came and went from the temple in Jerusalem.
He further observes that It is not good to delay the punishment that people get for their crimes. It sends the wrong message and makes people think that nothing has been done.
Those living sinful lives, who are not punished immediately, cause others to go the way of sin, too. They make it look like there are no consequences.
Of course human judgment is flawed and God’s judgment is not.
There is no real advantage for the wicked, although at times it might seem so. God’s temporal patience does not eliminate final judgment.
The teacher never counsels his readers to forget God and cast their lot with the wicked; because he knows by faith that it will go well with the righteous who fear God, and ultimately it will not go well for the wicked.
It is really of no concern to us how God deals with someone’s sin. It’s not our business. The only thing that is our business, is how we respond to God’s invitation to a walk with him and to engage in life his way.
The teacher knew that God had not promised long life to the wicked. It troubled him that he saw apparent contradictions to this.
In verse 14 the Teacher repeats the problem that is a puzzle to him. People who deserve rewards receive punishment. But wicked people seem to receive rewards.
This is a vapour, a mist, it’s temporary and transient. Eat, drink, enjoy life. Take what comes to you and embrace it with God as blessing or learning. Do not be too concerned about what may be happening or not happening to others. Embrace the gift of life that you have been given. Walk with God and love people.
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.
Many things are not fair in the world. But there does not seem to be any immediate answer to this puzzle.
So the Teacher encourages people to enjoy their life. He has already given this advice 3 times (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 3:13; 5:18).
God decides how much time each person can live on this earth. So, people should enjoy all the days that God gives to them. Then we can even enjoy our toil. Present moment living is a very freeing thing. Most days I live it.
This is not a commendation of pleasure seeking or unbridled rampant selfish indulgence.
This is clearly a faith position on the teachers part, since what he observes in life seems to contradict it. This is a letting go of needing to be in control and trusting the providence and sovereignty of God. It’s quite the opposite of grabbing what we can but rather accepting what we have and don’t have …the good and the difficult to accept. That this is all from the hand of God and looking for the blessing in all of the hand we have been dealt.
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labour 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.
The Teacher was eager. He wanted to discover the purpose of our lives. So he invested a lot of time and energy in attempting to figure it all out. In the end he concluded that there is a limit. The minds of men cannot understand everything about God’s ways. Even wise people cannot do that, whatever they might say. They will never understand everything about the purpose of life. Because we are merely human, we are to trust God.
God’s work is amazing, but at times incomprehensible. That’s why it is amazing. It’s good to be fascinated but there comes a point where trust God or trust self is our only choice.