ECCLESIASTES 7:1-9:18 | 2 CORINTHIANS 7:8-16 | PSALM 48:1-14 | PROVERBS 22:17-19
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The Preacher is not the most optimistic man. He has already said many times over that there is nothing new under the sun, and that all is in vain. In this passage, he speaks more on the futility of all human endeavor, and yet, there is some thoughtful advice that is offered. Solomon, through the words of the Preacher says this:
10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
Wisdom preserves those who have it.
And then again, he cautions: 16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself?
But perhaps the greatest truth that the Preacher captures is in these lines: 20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.
He continues with more obvious truths such as this one:
7 Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?
8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death.
And even as he exhorts one to preserve knowledge and wisdom, the Preacher is quite clear in encouraging the physical pleasures of life, as can be seen in these lines:14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
And more in line with this simplistic view of gaining “enjoyment of life” is borne in these lines: 7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
But perhaps the most depressing of observations that this Preacher makes are contained in these words: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
How true it is that very often time and chance do seem to trump effort and long-suffering!
Turning now to our continued reading in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, we learn of Paul addressing his readers concerning the earlier writings that might have given offense to them. Paul says he has no regrets because it brought about a positive change in their conduct. It was no secret that the early Christians in Corinth were engaged in the most despicable of behaviors, and their general conduct left a lot to be desired.
And if his stern words offended them, Paul says, it only brought about “godly sorrow.” He says: 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
Turning now to our reading in the book of Psalms, we find one that is full of thanksgiving and praise, and possibly one that the people of Israel recited aloud during their worship in the Temple. David writes:
9 Within your temple, O God,
we meditate on your unfailing love.
10 Like your name, O God,
your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 Mount Zion rejoices,
the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments.
Finally, we turn to our passage from the book of Proverbs, and find one of thirty “sayings” that Solomon, the wise king of Israel has put down. This first saying is as follows:
17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise;
apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
and have all of them ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I teach you today, even you.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.