June 20, Ecclesiastes 7-12

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Wise Sayings

A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
since that is the end of all mankind,
and the living should take it to heart.
Grief is better than laughter,
for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad.
The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.
It is better to listen to rebuke from a wise person
than to listen to the song of fools,
for like the crackling of burning thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of the fool.
This too is futile.
Surely, the practice of extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
and a bribe corrupts the mind.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools.
10 Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
since it is not wise of you to ask this.
11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance
and an advantage to those who see the sun,
12 because wisdom is protection as silver is protection;
but the advantage of knowledge
is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.
13 Consider the work of God,
for who can straighten out
what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that no one can discover anything that will come after him.

Avoiding Extremes

15 In my futile life[a] I have seen everything:someone righteous perishes in spite of his righteousness, and someone wicked lives long in spite of his evil. 16 Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Don’t be excessively wicked, and don’t be foolish. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you grasp the one and do not let the other slip from your hand. For the one who fears God will end up with both of them.

19 Wisdom makes the wise person stronger
than ten rulers of a city.
20 There is certainly no one righteous on the earth
who does good and never sins.

21 Don’t pay attention[b] to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you,22 for in your heart you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.

What the Teacher Found

23 I have tested all this by wisdom. I resolved, “I will be wise,” but it was beyond me. 24 What exists is beyond reach and very deep. Who can discover it? 25 I turned my thoughts to know, explore, and examine wisdom and an explanation for things, and to know that wickedness is stupidity and folly is madness. 26 And I find more bitter than death the woman who is a trap: her heart a net and her hands chains. The one who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner will be captured by her. 27 “Look,” says the Teacher, “I have discovered this by adding one thing to another to find out the explanation, 28 which my soul continually searches for but does not find: I found one person in a thousand, but none of those was a woman. 29 Only see this: I have discovered that God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.”

Wisdom, Authorities, and Inequities

Who is like the wise person, and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A person’s wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed.

Keep[a] the king’s command because of your oath made before God. Do not be in a hurry; leave his presence, and don’t persist in a bad cause, since he will do whatever he wants. For the king’s word is authoritative, and who can say to him, “What are you doing?” The one who keeps a command will not experience anything harmful, and a wise heart knows the right time and procedure. For every activity there is a right time and procedure, even though a person’s troubles are heavy on him. Yet no one knows what will happen because who can tell him what will happen? No one has authority over the wind[b] to restrain it, and there is no authority over the day of death; no one is discharged during battle, and wickedness will not allow those who practice it to escape. All this I have seen, applying my mind to all the work that is done under the sun, at a time when one person has authority over another to his harm.

10 In such circumstances, I saw the wicked buried. They came and went from the holy place, and they were praised[c] in the city where they did those things. This too is futile. 11 Because the sentence against an evil act is not carried out quickly, the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit evil. 12 Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, I also know that it will go well with God-fearing people, for they are reverent before him. 13 However, it will not go well with the wicked, and they will not lengthen their days like a shadow, for they are not reverent before God.

14 There is a futility that is done on the earth: there are righteous people who get what the actions of the wicked deserve, and there are wicked people who get what the actions of the righteous deserve. I say that this too is futile. 15 So I commended enjoyment because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdomand to observe the activity that is done on the earth (even though one’s eyes do not close in sleep day or night), 17 I observed all the work of God and concluded that a person is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun. Even though a person labors hard to explore it, he cannot find it; even if a wise person claims to know it, he is unable to discover it.

Enjoy Life Despite Death

Indeed, I took all this to heart and explained it all: The righteous, the wise, and their works are in God’s hands. People don’t know whether to expect love or hate. Everything lies ahead of them. Everything is the same for everyone:There is one fate for the righteous and the wicked, for the good and the bad,[a] for the clean and the unclean, for the one who sacrifices and the one who does not sacrifice. As it is for the good, so also it is for the sinner; as it is for the one who takes an oath, so also for the one who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: there is one fate for everyone. In addition, the hearts of people are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live; after that they go to the dead. But there is hope for whoever is joined[b] with all the living, since a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything. There is no longer a reward for them because the memory of them is forgotten.Their love, their hate, and their envy have already disappeared, and there is no longer a portion for them in all that is done under the sun.

Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting[c] life,which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun. 10 Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

The Limitations of Wisdom

11 Again I saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. 12 For certainly no one knows his time: like fish caught in a cruel net or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time as it suddenly falls on them.

13 I have observed that this also is wisdom under the sun, and it is significant to me: 14 There was a small city with few men in it. A great king came against it, surrounded it, and built large siege works against it. 15 Now a poor wise man was found in the city, and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 And I said, “Wisdom is better than strength, but the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and his words are not heeded.”

17 The calm words of the wise are heeded
more than the shouts of a ruler over fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner can destroy much good.

The Burden of Folly

10 Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil ferment and stink;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
A wise person’s heart goes to the[a]right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.
Even when the fool walks along the road, his heart lacks sense,
and he shows everyone he is a fool.
If the ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your post,
for calmness puts great offenses to rest.

There is an evil I have seen under the sun, an error proceeding from the presence of the ruler:

The fool is appointed to great heights,
but the rich remain in lowly positions.
I have seen slaves on horses,
but princes walking on the ground like slaves.

The one who digs a pit may fall into it,
and the one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
The one who quarries stones may be hurt by them;
the one who splits logs may be endangered by them.
10 If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge,
then one must exert more strength;
however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.
11 If the snake bites before it is charmed,
then there is no advantage for the charmer.[b]
12 The words from the mouth of a wise person are gracious,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
13 The beginning of the words from his mouth is folly,
but the end of his speaking is evil madness;
14 yet the fool multiplies words.
No one knows what will happen,
and who can tell anyone what will happen after him?
15 The struggles of fools weary them,
for they don’t know how to go to the city.
16 Woe to you, land, when your king is a youth
and your princes feast in the morning.
17 Blessed are you, land, when your king is a son of nobles
and your princes feast at the proper time—
for strength and not for drunkenness.
18 Because of laziness the roof caves in,
and because of negligent hands the house leaks.
19 A feast is prepared for laughter,
and wine makes life happy,
and money[c] is the answer for everything.
20 Do not curse the king even in your thoughts,
and do not curse a rich person even in your bedroom,
for a bird of the sky may carry the message,
and a winged creature may report the matter.

Invest in Life

11 Send your bread on the surface of the water,
for after many days you may find it.
Give a portion to seven or even to eight,
for you don’t know what disaster may happen on earth.
If the clouds are full, they will pour out rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or the north,
the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
One who watches the wind will not sow,
and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.
Just as you don’t know the path of the wind,
or how bones develop in[a] the womb of a pregnant woman,
so also you don’t know the work of God who makes everything.
In the morning sow your seed,
and at evening do not let your hand rest,
because you don’t know which will succeed,
whether one or the other,
or if both of them will be equally good.
Light is sweet,
and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun.
Indeed, if someone lives many years,
let him rejoice in them all,
and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many.
All that comes is futile.
Rejoice, young person, while you are young,
and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.
And walk in the ways of your heart
and in the desire of your eyes;
but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment.
10 Remove sorrow from your heart,
and put away pain from your flesh,
because youth and the prime of life are fleeting.

The Twilight of Life

12 So remember your Creator in the days of your youth:

Before the days of adversity come,
and the years approach when you will say,
“I have no delight in them”;
before the sun and the light are darkened,
and the moon and the stars,
and the clouds return after[a] the rain;
on the day when the guardians of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
the women who grind grain cease because they are few,
and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,
the doors at the street are shut
while the sound of the mill fades;
when one rises at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song grow faint.
Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road;
the almond tree blossoms,
the grasshopper loses its spring,[b]
and the caper berry has no effect;
for the mere mortal is headed to his eternal home,
and mourners will walk around in the street;
before the silver cord is snapped,[c]
and the gold bowl is broken,
and the jar is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel is broken into the well;
and the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.”

The Teacher’s Objectives and Conclusion

In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and write words of truth accurately. 11 The sayings of the wise are like cattle prods, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd.[d]

12 But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. 13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all[e] humanity. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

“A good name is better than fine perfume.” I continue to try and teach my children this truth. It takes a long time to build up a good name and a very short time to destroy it. Endeavor to live a life filled with the Holy Spirit and ask Him for the wisdom to build a good name for his name’s sake.

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