Thoughts About Wisdom (3)

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Thoughts About Wisdom (3)

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 7:11-28


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The past few weeks, we have been noticing a specific section in the book of Ecclesiastes. This is part of our ongoing study of this book as we note Solomon’s search for the meaning of life. We are in a section which addresses some qualities associated with wisdom.   In this text we find (at least) 5 qualities associated with wisdom (From: Wilson Adams, Ecclesiastes, Courageous Living Series):1) It Gives protection, 2) It Gives perspective; 3) It Gives balance; 4) It Gives strength; & 5) It Gives insight.

We have noted the first 4 of these.   Tonight, we notice the final one – wisdom gives you insight (23-28).   This is a challenging section that we need to consider both in context as well as within the culture it was written.   That helps to explain what could be perceived as an insult.

Tested by Wisdom (7:23-25)

  1. All this I have proved by wisdom…but it was far from me. (23-24)
    Even with Solomon’s wisdom from God, there were questions he could not answer. There are things that we will NEVER know the answer to.   Consider God questioning Job at the of that book – Job 38:1-4ff.     Be careful before questioning God ever – Romans 9:20-21, “Who are you to reply against God?…”
    1 Corinthians 1:20, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
  2. He tried – he applied his heart to know (26).   In this verse we find either a pattern, or a list of things we should consider if we want to grasp as much as we can about some given subject.
    1. He applied his heart to know– he was serious about it.   This was not superficial.   We know that if we truly want to succeed at something, we need to put our heart into it. That is especially true in learning about God.
    2. He searched – he looked everywhere he could.   He “left no stone unturned”.
    3. He sought out wisdom – he investigated everything he could.   When you are looking for something, you investigate whatever turns up to see if you can know better.
    4. He asked why – and the reason of things.   This s a part of investigating.   I am no engineer, but I KNOW some engineers, and my son Jonathan is studying to be an engineer.   He explains all the classes he has to take – they are about math and science and they explain WHY things work like they do – down to the minutest detail. That’s how you ensure that bridge will not collapse, or the plain will not fall out of the sky.
      To the best of our ability, the better our understanding of WHY something is, the more wisdom we will have.   THINK about that spiritually!
    5. He even sought to understand wickedness and its foolishness, and madness.   Sometimes when you understand the antithesis of what you are investigating, it can help give you answers and greater wisdom concerning truth. We are to beware of the devil – 2 Corinthians 2:11 – we are not ignorant of his devices; 1 Peter 5:8, be sober and vigilant to be aware of Satan.
      But WHY men act evil, foolish, rashly or absurdly, we cannot know.   Have you, as a righteous (or fairly righteous) person ever been amazed at how wicked some people can be?   WE see it all around us!   There are things about evil we will NOT be able to fully understand – be we KNOW we want no part of it!

Wisdom gives insight (7:26-29)

  1. More bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets
    This is a certain type of woman – consider ungodly women in proverbs.

    1. Proverbs 5:2-8, 6:23-29, 7:6-27, etc. – the adulterous, seductive woman who is a trap
    2. Proverbs 21:9, Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
      Proverbs 21:19, Better to dwell in the wilderness, Than with a contentious and angry woman.
    3. The same thing could be said of men who are worthless and base and destructive –
      Proverbs 6:12-14, A worthless person, a wicked man, Walks with a perverse mouth; He winks with his eyes, He shuffles his feet, He points with his fingers; Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord.
      Proverbs 11:18, The wicked man does deceptive work, Bu he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.
      Proverbs 25:26, A righteous man who falters before the wicked Is like a murky spring and a polluted well.
  2. He who pleases God shall escape her, but the sinner shall be trapped by her. This is why I believe this to be a particular type of woman – one who is godless and manipulative.
    The one who is seeking to please God, will WITH WISDOM, consider who he associates with and who he will marry. See the above proverbs and many more.
    How many marry unwisely (both men and women) because they look at outer appearances rather than the godly disposition (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14).
  3. Here is what I have found…one man among a thousand…
    1. He is looking for answers to whatever he is searching for.   NOTE that this text does not tell us specifically what Solomon is addressing here. Some have speculated:
      • A true friend – Proverbs 18:24 – there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
      • Whether men truly are better than women (or the reverse) – he could NOT prove it
      • Character – such as uncompromising integrity and truthfulness, honesty, genuine, etc.
      • A real man (or woman) who is everything he ought to be.   The “ideal” man.
      • A man who is TRULY upright where God is concerned (see vs. 29)
      • Wisdom itself that is fully developed and applied
    2. One man in a thousand, but among women I have found none –whatever it is, in his search he finds it to be a rare quality.   Are there things we KNOW are extremely rare qualities in people?
      NOTE: Some see this verse (and vs. 26 above) as an insult to women.   Such is NOT the teachings of scripture. There is no defense for men who look down upon women, to think of them as second class.   I believe such is contrary to God’s will and His view of both men and women (Galatians 3:27-28).   But here are some considerations:
      God did not even intend for the wife to be a stepping stool, but rather his help meet to be by his side.
      SO here are some considerations with this text:

      • First consider the context – he is describing a certain type of woman. An immoral and/or contentious woman whose ungodliness makes him miserable.
      • Second, Solomon had trouble with his women – a thousand wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3). They turned his heart from God. Were any of THEM good for him? Suppose he had a godly wife in the mix, did he have time to notice her?   (Not a defense, but if anything an indictment against polygamy)
      • Third, one source also noted that we hear people make “blanket” statements even though there may be exceptions to it (which is typical of proverbs).   It is observed this was from the perspective of a man making this judgment. Women, who have been mistreated by men, might make the same statement about all men.
      • Fourth, CONSIDER the previous verses (21-22) – are you reading more into what was said than what was intended? We may never know for sure, but is it possible?
        Have you ever been rash in your judgments and words? Just thoughts.
      • Fifth, as mentioned above, consider Solomon’s background with all his ungodly wives, and the men around him were not much better (how many were around him because of his money, power, or fame?)
      • Sixth, Solomon in Proverbs (the literary form of this portion of Ecclesiastes) spoke highly of the value of a virtuous wife
        Proverbs 18:22, He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.
        Proverbs 19:14 Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord.
        And of course there is King Lemuel in Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
      • It is because of such things that I believe he is identifying a specific TYPE of person
        Whatever the point, whatever he was looking for, it was EXTREMELY rare, but needed.
      • Some commentators have observed that Solomon may be speaking in repentance and as a warning – “Don’t do as I have done”.
      • ONE more observation, concerning “one man among a thousand” – how many individuals (male or female) can you think of in history who lived perfectly in every way?   How many men can you think of that were sinless?
        I do not believe Solomon’s point was messianic, but are we not thankful for that ONE AND ONLY “man” who came to die for us.   As we see in Acts 4:12, there is no other name through which we can be saved.

Truly, this ONLY I have found:

  1. God made man upright – note what he concludes in wisdom.   God didn’t make man evil. When he was created God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:27 – we are created in His image; also vs. 31).   Even today, we are not born evil – we become evil and sinful. That is another lesson.
  2. But they have sought out many schemes – such is the nature of mankind throughout history.   He has given in to Satan’s lies and sought in so many ways to discredit God and live selfishly.   The Bible is FULL of examples – from Adam and Eve hiding and thinking they could hide from God; To Cain murdering his brother and thinking he could lie to God; To the Jewish leaders who betrayed Jesus, sought to discredit Paul, etc.
    Solomon saw this and grieved.

Friends, wisdom is a good thing and to be sought rather than folly.   If you want to live with real and lasting meaning, learn from the book of Ecclesiastes and remember the conclusion of the whole matter – Fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).   Is there some way that we can help you spiritually?   We stand ready right now.   Think about it!