In our study of Ecclesiastes chapter seven, we will look at Solomon's conclusions about following the crowds. He compares the wisdom of God to the foolishness of going with the flow.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
Solomon begins with two hard truths that can tell us much about our walk with Christ. When he speaks of a "good name" we probably think about what others think about us and, like perfume, that may make us feel good but often perfume is used to hide an odor. The "good name" that is important is the new name that is ours in Jesus Christ. Are you more worried about how Jesus sees you (good name) or about how the world sees you (perfume)? Most people enjoy their life on the earth and want to stretch it out as long as possible. Solomon reminds us that the day of our death on this earth is much better than the day we were born. Your agreement or disagreement with this statement can reveal a lot about your walk with Christ. What could be better than leaving this earth to go to be with Jesus in heaven?
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
As Christians, should we walk around all sad and miserable? No, that is not what Solomon is saying. He is speaking about the different perspectives of life. There are those that walk through this life with no regard for the end and what happens when we die. They live according to popular opinion and what feels good to them. Solomon is telling us that it is better to keep in mind that we are all going to die and face our Creator. The sorrow that he speaks of is the sadness at our sin and its effect of separating us from God. This sadness gets us to the place where we can have a change of heart and come to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
A wise mind lives his life on earth with eternity in mind while the fool lives for today.
It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless.
In our world today, it seems like we are bombarded with the idea of tolerance and getting along with everyone. Here, we see that Solomon found that it is much better to listen to the man that is trying to turn you away from the ways of the world than to listen to the those that preach tolerance. He reminds us that those that are of this world will be gathered and burned just as the thorns are used to heat the pot.
Extortion turns a wise man into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Solomon has shown us that there are two sides to the road of life and now he warns us that Satan wants us on the wrong side. We see, here, two of the tactics that are used to get people to walk on the wrong side of the road. The first is extortion and is threatening to expose something that is not generally known and would be embarrassing. This relates to pride and the "good name" that we spoke of in verse 1. If you know who you are in Christ and are less concerned about what others think of you, then, there is less chance that this tactic will be effective against you. The second tactic is bribery and is in fact being paid to switch sides. There are those that will do anything to get ahead and to have more things in this life even if it means an eternity of torture. If our heart is reminded of the "house of mourning" and the implications for eternity, this tactic will fail as well.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?' For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Solomon tells us that, when these schemes of the devil and those he can use come, we are wise if we remember that God is in control. We can call on His name and patiently wait for Him or we can let pride creep in and try to handle them ourselves. We must also realize these schemes are an attempt to get us to cave in and walk down the middle of the road so we don't offend anyone. Solomon warns us not to look back at how these trials did not come before we were in Christ.
Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
Wisdom is a gift from God and is simply the ability to put Godly knowledge into action. It is being able to apply the principles contained in the Bible to everyday situations. As Jesus is referred to as the "Word of God" the wisdom that Solomon speaks of is Jesus. He penetrates our hearts to draw us to Him and to preserve our lives for eternity with Him. Remembering this will help us in dealing with the schemes that are brought against us.
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: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.
A piece of wisdom that Solomon shares with us here is the fact that God is in control at all times. He is there in the good times and in the bad times. The devil wants to use the good times to make us think that we do not need God and the bad times to make us think that God does not care about us. This is an attempt to get us to give up and go along with everyone else and walk down the middle of the road. The wise man will praise God in the good times and cling to Him in the bad.
In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his 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. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
Here, Solomon plays the part of devil's advocate to show us how he wants us to walk in the middle of the road. He tells of how he has seen those who serve God die young while those who do not live many years on this earth. He basically says that you can live a longer life if you don't offend anyone with your righteousness (walk in the middle of the road). You won't make any enemies to plot against you and everyone will get along. He goes on to say that the devil does not want us to be overly wicked and we might ask ourselves: "Why?" The answer is that, deep down inside all of us, God has placed a conscious and even the most vilest of offenders has a line of morality that they will not cross. The devil does not want us to get to that point because he knows that, if we do, we will see the need for a Savior. Solomon goes on to show us how people will twist the Word of God in an attempt to get us to accept this compromise. Today, there are efforts (even within the body of Christ) to get us to compromise (walk in the middle of the road) and they even go so far as to say that there are many paths to a right relationship with God. Although this sounds good, it is a lie that is being used to set many people up for destruction.
Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.
Throughout the Bible, the number ten speaks of the completion of the earthly cycle of things. Here, Solomon tells us that a wise man has more strength than all of the earthly governments. This is a sharp contrast to what he was saying about going along with the ways of this world. The devil will tell you that it is better to "go with the flow" and "you can't change anything" but God gives us the wisdom to know that, through Him, we can! An example for Americans today is the so-called Obamacare health legislation. Governments are telling us that we must look to them and their programs for our physical well being. The wise man (mature man of God) will realize that Jesus is the Great Physician. As Christians, we can look to Jesus for the treatment and healing of our illnesses and in fact He can and does cure things that the medical doctors cannot and He does it for free.
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you - for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.
Solomon introduces us to another tactic of the devil which is isolation. Satan wants us to believe that we are the only ones who have ever sinned. The Hebrew word for cursed is qalal and it means to make fun of or minimize (what we would call "beat down" or "bullying"). The devil will use the words of others to beat us down to a place where we believe that we cannot be saved. At that point, we will give up and go with the flow walking down the middle of the road. Solomon warns us to ignore all of the talk and remember that it is what God says about us that matters and not the words of sinful man. We can ignore what others say if we remember that our words were used to hurt people before we gave our lives to Christ.
All this I tested by wisdom and I said, 'I am determined to be wise' - but this was beyond me. Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound - who can discover it?
Solomon tells us that this knowledge of the schemes of the devil and the ways of the world was impossible to understand on his own. He realized that it was only through the power of God that he (and we) can understand what is happening around us and why it is taking place. In our world today, many people are chasing wisdom by attending more and more colleges and getting more advanced degrees in learning. Although it is good to take in information, we must remember that it is only God that can give us wisdom. There is no Bible college degree that can replace the power of God.
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.
Solomon understood that wisdom came from God and did not understand why someone would look to the ways of the world for guidance. He described it as stupidity and we can agree that walking down the middle of the road is not very smart. If you do so, then, you can expect to be hit by traffic and that is crazy.
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.
Now, Solomon speaks of his personal failure as he describes the dangers of falling for a woman that God has not made for you. We must remember that God had told Solomon that the kingdom would be divided after he died because of the fact that he had married a woman that God had said to avoid. He fell for her outward beauty and disregarded the wisdom of God.
'Look,' says the Teacher, 'this is what I have discovered: Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things - while I was still searching but not finding - I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.'
Solomon's conclusion is that God made man in His image but man chooses to stray and follow the ways of the world. It is easier to go along and get along than to stand out. It seems that this is even more true these days.