world today is mad for knowledge and has little use for wisdom. But the old
computer geeks had it right: Data is not information. Information is not
knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom.
View Before the Cross
Ecc 9:1-10 For I have taken all this
to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in
the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will
be love or hatred; anything awaits him. (2)
It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked;
for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a
sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the
sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear. (3) This is an evil in all that is done under the
sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of
men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.
Afterwards they go to the dead. (4) For whoever is joined with all the living, there
is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. (5) For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know
anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. (6) Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have
already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done
under the sun. (7) Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your
wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. (8) Let your clothes be white all the time, and let
not oil be lacking on your head. (9) Enjoy
life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He
has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your
toil in which you have labored under the sun. (10)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it
with all your might; for there is no
activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.
comes to all
is fascinating to note that so many have passed through this world with no
contemplation of their day of death. It seems to surprise many that they will
die. What is of importance to us in this lesson is the timing: the hour of
your death is in the hands of God.
that surprise you? It is by his providence that you are here at all; all the
events of your life are in his plan. The real question is, “What next?”
is the difference between the days of Solomon and our day. Solomon knew the
character of God; he knew that the righteous would fare better with God than
the wicked. But he had no specific promises about what happens after death.
He didn’t know, “what next?”
calls this an “evil under the sun.” The argument is pretty simple, really.
You know that there is evil and indeed insanity running amok in this world.
You know that God is righteous – and yet you don’t see that God’s justice is
prevailing in this world. To the contrary, the righteous are sorely tried, and
the evil often seem to prevail. And then you die. It doesn’t seem right.
course, after the coming of the Christ we know the answer: there is a heaven
to gain and a hell to shun – and there is a day of judgment coming. Solomon
has pointed out the problem; Christ is the solution.
worse than you think
from Solomon’s point of view, things are bad because only the living have
hope. Stop and examine that for a moment. What you do in this world is what
counts eternally. Solomon reasoned that this must be so simply because he had
no information about life after death. Once you die, you can change nothing –
and therefore “future” is a word which is meaningless. That’s his view.
see it from the other side. For those who follow Christ, it is still true that
only the living have hope – for the dead in Christ are “present with the
Lord.” Their faith is now made sight. Hope is a virtue reserved for the
living. So live in hope while you can. Remember, your conduct counts.
once you are dead, who’s going to remember you? Your family will for a little
while, but eventually life moves on and you’re just a name in the family
genealogy. This is burdensome to some of us; we think that our loves and
hatreds should live on forever (ever try to pass on a love for classical music
to your kids?). We are very passionate about things, and we think others
should carry on that passion.
there – consider those who abolished slavery in our land. Do you feel their
passion today? No; their cause is completed; only a few names remain in the
history books. That’s the way it is; what are you going to do about it while
says Solomon, if you’re one of the righteous (see verse 1), then here’s what
you should do:
drink and be merry – for God approves of your work. If you’re one of the
good guys, don’t be gloomy. Act like you enjoy life – abundantly.
life with the woman you love. Notice the singular; and this is from
Solomon! It’s a basic fact for males: things go better when you’re
married to the woman you love, and enjoy that.
your vocation might be, give it your best shot – “as if unto the Lord.”
only have so much time on the planet; make the best of it.
Ecc 9:11-12 I again saw under the
sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors,
and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men
of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. (12)
Moreover, man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net and
birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when
it suddenly falls on them.
way to bet
race is not always to the swift – but that’s the way to bet. Consider, though,
that if you can bet on it, that means it’s not certain. Let’s translate this
well known passage into modern terms:
because you have the pole position, doesn’t mean you’ll win a NASCAR
race. Think about it; if it were always the fastest car that won, we
wouldn’t need a race, just time trials. Time and chance happen in NASCAR
as well as life.
were supposed to win in Vietnam, too. Remember? We were the ones with
all the technology – but wars are not just technology and strength. They
are struggles of the will – and our will wasn’t nearly as strong as
theirs. So the weak won.
it possible that among the starving people of Zimbabwe there are no wise
men? Or is it not more likely that Robert Mugabe’s kleptocracy prevails
is someone who got rich in the latest stock market dive, but it wasn’t
me. And I think I’m pretty smart.
Consider one Walter Johnson – the best pitcher baseball has ever seen.
He lost 271 games.
it is: time and chance happen to all. The word “chance” should not be
construed as probability; rather, it means “an event or interruption.” The
message is clear: stuff happens. Expect it.
has a significant implication. It means that you are going to face unexpected
events in your life – and these events are a test of the Christian character
you should be developing. And who knows when that exam ends?
Value of Wisdom
Ecc 9:13-18 Also this I came to
see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. (14)
There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it,
surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. (15) But there was found in it a poor wise man and
he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. (16) So I said, "Wisdom is better than
strength." But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are
not heeded. (17) The words of the wise heard
in quietness are better than the
shouting of a ruler among fools. (18) Wisdom
is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
is greater than strength
we are told – and then we go out to get more strength. While it is true that
“superior firepower is an excellent aid to negotiations” (George S. Patton),
there are reasons why wisdom is preferable:
alone leads to evil, because power corrupts. Without wisdom, strength
simply leads you into trouble.
you rely on strength, you will soon discover that every crisis means war.
(If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail). It is plain,
however, that war rarely produces benefits commensurate with its cost.
Lincoln once estimated that the North could have purchased all the slaves
in the South for the price of conducting the Civil War for ninety days.
does war end anything. War is not over when you have defeated your enemy;
it’s over when you have made your enemy into your friend. How much better
to make friends first!
poor man’s wisdom despised
you notice that in every FUBB
there’s someone with a memo in his Pearl Harbor file that screams, “I told you
so!” How does this happen?
reason is that we are social animals. In times of uncertainty, we look
for the man who seems certain. If we can’t find him, we look for the man
with the prestige. The lemmings are always looking for a cliff, it seems.
we can’t find the certain or the prestigious, we can always find the
rich. A guy with that much money must know what he’s doing, right? We
sure aren’t going to listen to the poor working stiff.
amazing what we can talk ourselves into, isn’t it? So how do we find wisdom?
heard in quiet places
is a fact: my wife’s wisdom has its own wisdom. She delivers it in the quiet
of the bedroom. Isn’t it amazing how much more likely a man is to listen when
she does it that way? Why is that?
reason is the ego. If wisdom is delivered in raucous argument, it’s
likely to be overwhelmed by the emotional response of “saving face.”
most of us also know that people who speak softly (but not hesitantly) are
confident of their wisdom. They don’t need to shout. Therefore we listen
to people who speak this way – if we can hear them at all.
is it not the case that God himself prefers the “still, small voice?”
only takes one idiot…
all this being indisputably true, why is there so much stupidity in the world
we live in? I submit a simple answer: it only takes one fool to screw things
up. Who knows how many wise men will be required to fix his foolishness?
I submit to you an example? Consider the Japanese Empire in late 1941. Their
relations with America were hardly satisfactory. This is not surprising given
their incursion into China and generally threatening attitude. The intelligent
thing to do was to back down, lighten up and make some substantial changes in
But that would have someone “lose face.” Despite the fact that a long war with
America could only have one result, the Japanese saw no choice but to attack.
They awakened the sleeping giant. Within four years they were crushed. They
knew this would happen, but convinced themselves that the Americans wouldn’t go
to war in a serious way. The result was completely predictable.
those in the cabinet who wanted peace were in the majority. They simply could
not find a way to avoid the war – without social disgrace. It only takes a few
moral idiots to send a nation down the wrong path.
a lesson for us. If you think that such “social pressure” decisions can’t
happen to America, I have only two words for you: “politically correct.”