It is Wise to Be Wise
Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 8:1-17
Sermon Theme: Wisdom does not enable us to fully know and understand the works of God. Yet it is still wise to be wise.
None of the rich, the powerful, the honorable, or the accomplished of the sons of men, are so excellent, useful, or happy, as the wise man. Who else can interpret the words of God, or teach aright from his truths and dispensations? What madness must it be for weak and dependent creatures to rebel against the Almighty! God has, in wisdom, kept away from us the knowledge of future events, that we may be always ready for changes. We must all die, no flight or hiding-place can save us, nor are there any weapons of effectual resistance. The believer alone is prepared to meet the solemn summons. Wickedness, by which men often escape human justice, cannot secure from death. Solomon observed, that many a time one man rules over another to his hurt, and that prosperity hardens them in their wickedness. Sinners herein deceive themselves.
A good man’s days have some substance; he lives to a good purpose: a wicked man’s days are all as a shadow, empty and worthless. Let us pray that we may view eternal things as near, real, and all-important. Faith alone can establish the heart in this mixed scene, where the righteous often suffer, and the wicked prosper. Solomon commended joy, and holy security of mind, arising from confidence in God, because a man has no better thing under the sun, though a good man has much better things above the sun, than soberly and thankfully to use the things of this life according to his rank. He would not have us try to give a reason for what God does. But, leaving the Lord to clear up all difficulties in his own time, we may cheerfully enjoy the comforts, and bear up under the trials of life; while peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost will abide in us through all outward changes, and when flesh and heart shall fail.
(From “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”)
- Is every question about the meaning of human action always a question about the action of God?
- Are you concerned not to make wrong judgments and bring misery on yourself in this life and that to come?
- Do you take time to make competent decisions that fit a particular situation? Is your mind clear to see through problems and find a godly solution?
- Humans have the power to harm one another no matter how wise one may be. Are we being prudent in using our power and wisdom to comfort and bless one another instead of taking an opportunity to execute our designs when human weakness appear?
- No one has the power or the knowledge to act correctly in every situation—the world is an unpredictable and dangerous place. Are you relying on Jesus to guide you through the difficulties?
- Do you recognize the human impotence (inability) to control the wind, to prevent death, to get out of a battle, and for someone who is evil, to be rescued from their final fate?
- Are you patiently waiting on God to unlock those mysteries of life which have baffled you from the first?
- Are you striving with a fear of God having a tough-minded quality of fidelity and devotion to God?
- Are you struggling with the discrepancy between observation (what is) and values (what ought to be)?
- Are we to submit with hopeful resignation to the wrongs which spring from human tyranny and injustice?
- As a prudent believer, will you submit to injustice, but not inflict it?
- Does life seem unfair when the just are treated in this life as if they were wicked, and the wicked as if they were just? Does the sovereignty of God come into question? Divine justice distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked for “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30).
- Do we question the justice of God in the governments of the world when we see so much evil against the righteous? Not understanding God’s own mysterious terms — God’s delay in judgment (Matthew 24:48-51) exists only in man’s short-sighted view. It gives scope to the sinner to repent, or else to fill up his full measure of guilt; and so, in either case, tends to the final vindication of God’s ways. It gives exercise to the faith, patience, and perseverance of saints.
- Do we tend to be mutinous when we don’t get our way with God?
- Does it give you comfort that the unrighteous will not flourish beyond the grave (Psalms 49; 73)?
- Do you prize God’s gifts of joy and contentment as a kind of compensation for the hard life?
- Do you try to have a sunny countenance—the reflection of a tranquil conscience and serene mind?
The following are from “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” (29 Vols):
TO KNOW THE GOOD IS ALSO TO KNOW EVIL AND TO AVOID IT. (By Didymus the Blind): Whoever knows what is good also knows at the same time what is bad. “To know” here does not mean “to do” but simply “to know about something.” Because when the commandment is given to turn away from evil and do good, we must also know evil in order to be able to turn away from it and to choose good. About these things the apostle writes with the following words: “But test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:21-22). One sees here that whoever tests everything, knows that the good is to be chosen and obeyed and that the evil is to be avoided.… Ecclesiastes means that he who obeys the command does not know an evil word, that is, he does not say that he does not “understand” it, but that he does not “use” it.
THE DEVIL DECEIVES THOSE WHO ASSENT. (By John Cassian): It is clear, then, that no one can be deceived by the devil except one who has chosen to yield to him the consent of his own will. As Ecclesiastes clearly puts it in these words: “For since there is no speedy opposition to those who do evil, therefore the heart of the children of men is fully set to do evil.” It is therefore clear that each person goes wrong from this; namely, that when evil thoughts assault him he does not immediately meet them with refusal and contradiction.
YEARNING FOR ANOTHER KIND OF LIFE. (By Augustine): In fact, Solomon gives over the entire book of Ecclesiastes to suggesting, with such fullness as he judged adequate, the emptiness of this life, with the ultimate objective, to be sure, of making us yearn for another kind of life which is no unsubstantial shadow under the sun but substantial reality under the sun’s Creator. For a person becomes as insubstantial as the insubstantiality that surrounds him, and it is by God’s righteous decree that he, too, must pass away like a shadow.
GOD ORDAINS IT. (By Gregory the Great): So Solomon bears witness, saying, “There are just men to whom many things happen, as though they had done the deeds of the wicked; and there are wicked, who are as secure as though they had the deeds of the just.” God no doubt so ordains it of his inestimable mercy, that scourges should torture the just, lest their doings should elate them, and that the unjust should pass this life at least without punishment, because, by their evil doings, they are hastening onward to those torments that are without end. For that the just are sometimes scourged in no way according to their deserving is shown by this very history that we are considering.
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