In this chapter, we have more ideas that run contrary to the natural values of man. We should remember that Ecclesiastes is a book of wisdom using hyperbole to express profound ideals. The primary focus of the ideals is that improving the spirit through service to God is infinitely more valuable than working to improve the state of our brief physical lives. Keeping this in mind will help us as well look at the ideas presented in chapter 7:
- Day of death > Day of birth
- Mourning > Feasting
- Sorrow > Laughter
- The wise choose mourning
- Fools seek pleasure
- Rebuke of the wise > Song of fools
- The end > The beginning
The main takeaway from these ideas is that there are certain activities in life that bring us closer to God. Our life will be better if we build wisdom upon these; think of them as foundational ideals. Our lives will be enriched and we will be better served to pursue spiritual endeavors over the physical. The pursuit of pleasure has the long-lasting effect of causing us to drift apart from God.
Here are some additional ideas found in verses 11-12 are are more familiar, ideas which have established Biblical precedents:
- Patience > Pride
- Knowledge used properly is wisdom, which benefits a man
- Money used in the right way is protection
- Do not live in the past
Verses 13 and 14 give us some very practical ideas to keep in mind as we pursue wisdom. Who else besides God is the author of righteousness and can also fix what mankind ruins? It is an impossibility for us to create spiritual conditions of success; only God can do this. Mankind has tried and continues to try and live without God and to live on man’s terms, but the efforts consistently fail. If it was up to man, pleasure and happiness would be the goal of life, but in this section we understand that both the good and the bad make up the entirety of life. By thinking outside of ourselves and our normal mode, we can see the facts of existence in which we live, we can better handle the challenges of life, and our wisdom to live in the present excels along with our ability to prepare for eternity. This is the gift of Ecclesiastes. It gives us the foundations of wisdom upon which we can build. It is reasonably safe to assume that mankind would never come up with the ideas expressed in this book on his own because they run contrary to our nature. But the ideas themselves are truth and God asks us to transcend our natural state as we endeavor to meet Him on His terms.
Verses 15-22 include reasons to pursue moderation in life. It is once again important to remember our station; realize our limitations and prosper within them, not try to exceed our boundaries only to look foolish. This is not a suggestion to not work hard and improve yourself, but is rather an admonition to not foolishly pursue the unattainable. This section goes on to describe how we are all imperfect. We should not put too much stock into the things we overhear that people say about us. In all likelihood, we have said unkind things about other people as well.
Can we live a life before God without attempting to understand and even live by these ideas? Yes, I believe we can. However, if we want to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God as well as a more satisfying existence, keeping these ideals in mind will get us there: “Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city.” (v. 19)
That is why when Solomon describes his life as meaningless, we can grasp his meaning even though it sounds absurd. Is life meaningless? Well, no. We find abundant meaning and satisfaction in our relationships and our various pursuits. Pleasure, too, can be a welcome respite from our work. But in the wide view of eternity, our earthly lives are meaningless; the only meaningful endeavor we have in this flesh is serving God.
Concluding this chapter is verses 23-29. Solomon has laid hold of the ideals described in this chapter and has reached some conclusions. He resolved to pursue wisdom and become wise, but he was unable to do so because the greatest wisdom was beyond his reach. He found that there is a consequence for the fool that is made up of an evil woman. He also found that endlessly seeking and searching for meaning is folly because there is no absolute righteousness to be had on the earth in either man or woman. Rather, it is wisdom that should be sought. The detail about not finding a virtuous woman for Solomon is understandable considering of some of the choices that he made with his life. We know from the Bible that Solomon loved many foreign women (I Kings 11:1). The character of woman that would have been predisposed to this kind of life does not lend itself to a good character. Knowing this, it does not mean that a man cannot find a virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10-31).
God created us for perfection, but we instead sinned in the garden and God has had to make allowances for our return to Him: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Tonight I urge you to understand and accept the profound statements of wisdom found in this chapter, and to build your own house of wisdom in your heart that will sustain your spirit and make you a more acceptable sacrifice before the true and living God.