Most of the time I write simply to sort out some of my own thoughts. It is a way for me to process ideas that come up in the course of my reading and conversations. I also do this in a private journal every several days or so. But on this site I do it a little more publicly just in case someone is interested in interacting about these matters. Part of the reason for doing this is, that I have always been interested in words and how powerful they can be. I remember as a young pastor, in getting ready to prepare a sermon, thinking that there are so many words in the world (English language); it’s just a matter of using the right ones in the best order. At one time, I considered that to be a huge challenge for each Sunday’s message(s). It’s still a challenge, but at this time in my life, words are much easier to find — partly because I feel more familiar with the Bible, its main thrust, and how those words can impact the world for good.
This week I’ve been enjoying again the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. As I’ve mentioned before this Book speaks volumes to me because much of its content has to do with a sense of despair, something quite characteristic of the times in which we live. It’s not a very popular book of the Bible because, at first sight, it’s anything but hopeful. Nevertheless, as is so often the case with difficult experiences in life, it is the kind of despair that the writer speaks of which can lead to wisdom. And this, I believe, is where Ecclesiastes points in the end so powerfully.
Some people think Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon after he had forgotten about God in the midst of all of his wealth and licentious living. (1 Kings 11:3 tells us that he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and that it was these who turned his heart away from God.) No doubt, Solomon did write Ecclesiastes at the end of his life because it seems to include a summary of life from his perspective after all that he did and all that he had possessed. It’s true that nowhere do we read of a kind of spiritual restoration, but I’d be more inclined to think that he writes as he does because after all he has done and experienced he has come to his senses about his folly and is using it, under God, to point everyone in the right direction. The inspired truth that Solomon writes about really is an extension of the consequence of what happened in “the fall” of Genesis 3, or of what probably happened so drastically in his own life.
In the end, no matter how it was achieved, Ecclesiastes holds so much wisdom for those who are willing to pay attention to it. For one thing, it is clear that wisdom is one of best things that anyone could ever experience. That conclusion is not as explicit in Ecclesiastes as it is in Proverbs but in these books, wisdom is upheld as being the most important thing a person could ever have (see Proverbs 3:14 and 15; also 4:7 and 8:11). But like God himself, who is really the Author of wisdom, there is so much about it that remains a mystery; that is so hard to find (Ecclesiastes 7:24). Yet, there are many evidences of wisdom in the world. So, at the least, Ecclesiastes describes some of the elements of wisdom, and then also, where it can be found.
Here are a few of my favourites about wisdom which I found recently that also really resonated with me (taken from the New Living Translation):
- A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume (7:1)
- Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties — because everyone dies and the living should take this to heart (7:2)
- Sorrow is better than laughter for sadness has a refining influence on us (7:3)
- Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. (7:10)
- Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? (7:13)
- Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right (8:5b)
- In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless. (8:14)
- I have observed … the fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle (9:11)
- Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king (9:17)
- As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honour (10:1)
- A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one (10:2)
- When you dig a well, you might fall in. When you demolish an old wall you could be bitten by a snake… (In other words, everything you do has risk, but risk doesn’t mean it isn’t good to do) 10:8-9
- Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom (10:10)
- Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions… (10:13)
There are many more, but these were some of the ones that stood out to me in the last few days. And regarding the means to acquire wisdom, Solomon’s answer comes to us in the final chapter of this great Book on wisdom: “Fear God and keep his commands…” (12:13). Whenever I read these words, I think of the Gospel concerning the wisdom that is found in Christ. It is by taking seriously the gift of his Son, and opening our lives to him, that we express what it means to truly fear the Lord, and it is in Jesus that all the treasures of wisdom are found (Colossians 2:3). I know this sounds awfully foolish to most people, but I’m reminded of Paul’s words when he said, “… we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths” (1 Corinthians 2:13). That’s the kind of wisdom I/we need!