Friday, May 12, 2017

Ecclesiastes: Does Anything Really Matter? Day 15, Proverbs About Wisdom

Solomon was in a thoughtful mood yesterday and he provided us with several valuable points for godly living. Today he makes some observations about wisdom in the form of proverbs.

"Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what He has made crooked? 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." (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14) This is similar to something Job said when his wife criticized the Lord for allowing hardship into their lives, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10) Solomon says, "The good days and the bad days both come from the hand of the Lord. He is sovereign over all things and all events. Who can question Him or stop Him? So when days are good, let us enjoy them. And when days are bad, let us remember that the same God made those days too. We don't know what tomorrow will bring; therefore, if we find any good in today, let's be thankful."

"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. Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise---why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool---why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes." (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18) He has observed some things that seem unfair and depressing to him. Sometimes good people die young and wicked people live to be old. In his sad and bitter mood Solomon decides, "There's no point knocking yourself out to be righteous! What reward is there for it? The righteous often don't make it into their old age, while the wicked seem to keep on going and going. Maybe it would be best to live somewhere in the middle and not be too good or too bad. It's helpful to be wise, but only to a certain degree. On the other hand, being foolish and making poor choices might lead to dying before your time. So I advise moderation in this as well. It doesn't pay to be too wise and end up like me, tormented by your thoughts. It also doesn't pay to be a fool and end up dying while doing something stupid."

We have to keep in mind that some of the things this depressed king says are coming from the perspective of a man who has lived most of his life as a wayward child of God. There is some merit to what he says about avoiding extremes, but his words spring from a cynical and disillusioned heart. He can't figure anything out and so he thinks he will stop trying and just live a mediocre life. He knows that working hard in our own strength to be righteous can lead to fanatical legalism, pride in our own works, and a sinful self-righteous attitude. At the same time he sees no value in being foolish, blindly going wherever the crowd leads us and getting ourselves into trouble. Up to a point this all appears to make sense, but God did not call us to live mediocre lives. He called us to live extraordinary lives in Christ. He called us to live lives filled with meaning and purpose.

"Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city." (Ecclesiastes 7:19) I think he's talking about worldly wisdom, not spiritual wisdom. But what he says is true. A wise general can conquer a fortified city if he is crafty enough, no matter how many rulers try to defend it.

"Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Amen, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) I imagine it troubles Solomon greatly that for all his wisdom he is unable to live a perfect life. He began his reign in the right spirit toward God but then went astray, and now that he is trying to find his way back to God he feels defeated by the fact that no matter how hard he tries he will make mistakes. He's trying to find righteousness by works instead of the righteousness that comes by faith.

We are all going to mess up but that doesn't mean we should give up and stop trying, as Solomon seems on the verge of doing. The more we fall in love with Jesus and with the word of God, the less desire we will have for sin. We will naturally begin to live in ways that are more honorable. But while we live in these bodies the flesh is going to keep fighting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that sometimes we will still fall prey to our carnal natures and do something wrong. (Galatians 5:17) Thank God we don't have to depend on our own strength to be justified in His eyes! We depend instead on what Christ did for us. We can repent of our sins and be restored to righteousness because the One who was righteous died to pay for our sins. The Apostle John, godly man though he was, struggled with the same trials and temptations that we struggle with in this fallen world. He knew we were going to mess up sometimes but he also knew Who could restore and strengthen us, "But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." (1 John 2:1)

It's easy to get down and out and to fall into the mood we find Solomon in today, especially when we try to be righteous through works. He's worn out from trying to live a righteous life in his own strength. He's failed in finding satisfaction in all his wisdom, wealth, relationships, and projects. Now he isn't finding satisfaction in righteousness either because he's relying on himself instead of on the Lord. If living the Christian life makes us feel weary, it's probably because we are depending on ourselves instead of on Christ. If doing right feels like hardship, we are probably living in a carnal spirit and not in the Holy Spirit. If praying, reading our Bibles, teaching the word of God, or performing Christian work seems like it's taking too much effort, it's time to start drawing our strength from Christ, the source of all strength. I can understand Solomon's weariness because it happens to me sometimes. There are days when I get up and think, "I don't know how I'm going to write the blog this morning! My mind is blank!" Then I have to remember it's God I depend on to speak through His word. If I get up every day and try to do it in my own human strength it's not going to profit me or anyone else. The same thing goes for any work we do in the Lord's name. Why do we so often think we can do His work and leave Him out of it? Why do we ever imagine we can accomplish anything for God's kingdom with nothing but our own feeble hands? If you're feeling tired and worn today, maybe all you need is some time alone with the Lord. I know I do. I need some refreshment in my spirit and that type of refreshment can only come from Him.

Our worship song link for today is below.

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