Hello everyone. Let’s continue through the book of Ecclesiastes in this Bible Study that we’ve been going through, through this wonderful book. Last time we left off at the last verse of Chapter 5. So let’s pick it up in Chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes now and see God’s Word as it was inspired through King Solomon.
Ecclesiastes — Chapter 6
1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
2 A man to whom God has given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wanted nothing for his soul of all that he desired, —
There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t have, this man that he’s talking about here.
2 — yet God gives him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eats it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
Or an evil affliction. Now, you may have known people like that where they have a lot and they worked hard for it and yet it ends up in somebody else’s hands. And try as they might, they can’t retain it. Or if they die, their family can’t retain it. But a stranger gets it. And Solomon says “That’s vanity.”
Remember, he’s writing this book when he looks at life, making observations about life in general without God in the picture. We’ll see more about that as we go along.
3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
In other words, if that’s all there is to life, he may as well not have been born. He may as well have been a stillborn—if that’s the best that life has to offer. And quite often that is the best that life has to offer to people—and even less than that. And it is a futile thing when you view life in general without God in the picture. It seems so hopeless. It just seems so unjust, unfair and cruel in many, many instances. And we’re going to see that Solomon shows that is the case. But he’s leading to a very important point that can change that for each individual who will listen to what he has to say at the end of this book.
4 For he comes in with vanity, and departs in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
5 Moreover he has not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this has more rest than the other.
Talking about someone who as a little baby is either a stillborn baby or not even born, at least he doesn’t have to put up with all of the grief that others have to put up with in life.
Notice Ecclesiastes 6:6 now.
6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet has he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
And that is to the grave.
7 All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
You think about that. When you really get down to it, if you don’t have enough to eat then everything else kind of falls by the wayside. So all of this trouble and effort and energy and use of resources, etc., a lot of it just simply goes to putting food on the table and water in the house so you can eat and drink. And yet when you eat and you drink and you’re filled, the next day you got to start over again, eating and drinking water yet once again. And if that’s all there is to life, then it seems rather empty and futile. That’s the point.
8 For what has the wise more than the fool? what has the poor, that knows to walk before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
In other words, a better translation of verse 9 is this: Better is what the eyes see than what the soul goes after, and this is all grasping for the wind. So that’s a better reading of verse 9. In other words, a bird in the hand is better than 10 in the bush. What you see, at least you can enjoy that, rather than hoping for other things and never being able to have it, and so therefore your life ends up just being frustrating.
10 That which has been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
A lot of people don’t know that. They take on more than they can handle and bite off more than they can chew, whether it’s dealing with people or circumstances. And once again they end up boxed in and painted in a corner and wondering what to do next. Some people figure out in life to try to avoid that. But either way, you can only go so far and then you kind of run out of: “Well, what do I do next? And what’s going on? And what are the answers to all of this?” Unless God is in the picture.
11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
12 For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
You’ve probably walked along on a sunny day and seen your shadow either before you or behind you depending on where the sun is. And when you really consider life on the backdrop of the timeline of thousands of years or you consider anybody’s life and use 6,000 years of history as a backdrop, we end up being a mighty small dot. Maybe not even a dot. And yet people get all wrapped up and all entangled in the things that go on in this world and lose sight of the things that really count. And that’s futile—is what Solomon is saying here, and the message that we find in this book, at least part of the message.
Ecclesiastes — Chapter 7
Ecclesiastes Chapter 7:1
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
If God is not in the picture, of course. But I want to concentrate a bit on the first part of this verse of Chapter 7 in Ecclesiastes.
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; —
You know, there was a time when people really put a lot of value in their reputation. They tried to leave an outstanding legacy and they tried to establish an upstanding reputation. Their word meant everything. And so when they were dealing with other people, whether it was a business deal or just interpersonal relationships or just trying to work out this, that, or the other situation, a good name was much more valuable than very precious ointment. Because when that individual said this is the way it is, that’s the way it was going to be. “I’ll be there.” He or she would be there. “I won’t do that.” They wouldn’t do that. “I’ll keep this confidential.” They kept it confidential. And they had that reputation. I tell you what, if you tell him something, it’s not going anywhere.
Well, don’t you think it’s getting rather difficult to find people like that nowadays. You can still find some like that. But more and more nobody cares about their reputation. They don’t care anything about the example they’re setting. They don’t care anything about what anybody thinks of them. They can think they’re immoral because they are and they don’t care. They’ll just go ahead and still be immoral or be big gossips or filthy mouths or unreliable, irresponsible. They don’t care. “If that’s the reputation I have, who cares. It’s my business. I’ll live my life the way I want to.” And that’s causing a general breakdown in society because no society is going to survive where people have no interest whatsoever in their good word and in keeping their word and in being responsible and reliable.
What he’s saying here is: That’s a very valuable thing when your word is good and when your reputation is upstanding,. And it is. And we all ought to try to establish upstanding reputations. And we all ought to have a word that is our bond. If we say it, we’re going to back it up. And if something changes, we’re going to tell the person that it’s changed. Otherwise they can count on our word. They can count on our agreement. They can count on our promise. Just think what kind of society we would have if everybody had that kind of reputation.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Once again, if God is not in the picture. You’ll see more genuineness in the house of mourning than you will in the house of feasting. Because in the house of feasting, pretty soon you’re going to see greed and maneuvering and politics.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
Makes a person think and be a little more sober than just throw all caution to the wind. But, if life is being lived the way God wants us to live it, well then sorrow is not better than laughter. There’s a time for sorrow and a time for laughter. And laughter is wonderful. And what’s fun today will be fun tomorrow. And you know what, when you look back on yesterday, it was the kind of fun that you cherish, not that you hope nobody finds out about.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Well, once again, without God in the picture. The choice between the two will probably be the house of mourning because they’ll be less trouble there instead of some roadhouse somewhere where there’s drinking and cussing and dancing and fighting going on. And that’s supposed to be fun, but it isn’t—not really, not in the long run. And it’s not the kind of fun you look back on and say, “Boy, that was great.” It’s the kind of fun you look back on and say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that and hope nobody finds out about it.”
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
That’s right. It’s better to have somebody who will be upfront and honest with you and tell you the truth. And then you can change the problem or be aware of a blind spot you have, than for a fool who’s trying to flatter you and use you and manipulate and maneuver you, telling you, “Oh, it’s just all, just so wonderful.” That’s going to get you nowhere except in trouble, isn’t it?
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, —
You ever heard that sound? I have.
6 — so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
7 Surely oppression makes a wise man mad; and a gift destroys the heart.
A better translation is: Surely oppression makes a wise man a fool. That often can happen and he will make reckless decisions because he’s being oppressed. But look at this. A better translation is: A bribe corrupts the heart. That’s very true. We see this in politics. Be careful when somebody gives you something. Make sure it’s done with sincerity. Otherwise you could just be being set up. And rather than a gift, it’s just a bribe. And rather than a sincere compliment, it’s just flattery to put you over in a particular position so you can be taken advantage of. The Bible warns us about that—right here in verse 7 is the case in point.
8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
It can all be good if we’re doing things God’s way and if we’re living life the way He intended. But if you just leave Him out of the picture, then the end is better than the beginning.
8 — and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Now you never want to be the proud in spirit. But the end can be good and the beginning can be good and the patient in spirit is always good. And that then will not leave room for the proud in spirit. That’s doing it God’s way.
9 Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Can you imagine how much grief and sorrow and trouble have been caused just by losing one’s temper? There are people today who are dead who’d still be alive if somebody hadn’t gotten mad. There are marriages today that have ended in divorce that would actually still be together if people had learned to control their emotions and their temper. Think of the children that have been injured and even beaten because of anger. Now there is a time to be angry and sin not. We ought to be angry at evil. We ought to be angry at people being mistreated. We ought to be angry at injustice, yes. But we should never lose our temper and therefore lose control and therefore get into a world of grief.
9 Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry: —
In other words, maybe the first reaction ought to be no reaction. And then proceed to be deliberate in the course of action you’re going to take. And perhaps some thoughts should be given to arriving at a conclusion instead of jumping to a conclusion just out of anger. These are words of wisdom here from Solomon, inspired by God in verse 9. We ought to weigh them pretty carefully
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Well, you know, people do talk like that. And in some ways the past was better and in some ways the past was more noble. There were more virtues and values and standards. But I’ll tell you, if you study history, the past was horrendous. Just take a look at it and you’ll see starting way back to the Garden of Eden coming through to the times when Noah was alive. It was so horrible that God wiped it out with a flood that time. You come on through to the Tower of Babel and Nimrod and Babylon and paganism. A horrible time. You just follow the timeline through history all the way up to this day, and you will see that it’s just one variation or another variation of wickedness and evil and pain and suffering and injustice and terrible horrendous, horrible living, with a little bit of relief here and some exception over there.
So to say, “Well, it was so much better in the past than it is now.” In some ways, that’s true. But in other ways, no, it was just as bad as it is now, if not worse. It’s just that there were not as many people with as many things that they could do as much evil with. But you just study the roaring 20's and you just study the dirty 30's and you just study war—the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and so on and so forth. It’s a futile view to say, “Oh man, back then everything was just great.” There were some great times, but there were also some horrendous times. Even in the area of disease and poverty. So he’s saying here, you’re kidding yourself if that’s the approach you have.”
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
You know, I’ve known people who’ve received a huge inheritance and because they had no wisdom, they have blown every penny of it. I know very few things that will disappear quicker than money. But if you use wisdom, I’m not saying selfishness, but if you will use wisdom in how you handle an inheritance or in how you handle blessings or in how you handle money, that then can be a real blessing. It can be something that is a good thing.
But where wisdom is absent, it consumes people. How often have you heard in the news where somebody who had no money won the lottery and now he has, or she, thousands and even millions of dollars? Why, there have been books written on this where in many, many cases it ends up destroying the individual. It’ll break up marriages. It’ll break up family. It’ll ruin the person’s health. They have friends coming from places that they never even knew about. All of a sudden they show up needing money. And it just ends up being a huge curse, because wisdom is not applied to how it’s handled.
Once again, look at these words here. This book, called the Bible, is not just a book. It’s a whole library on life, how to live it, what to do, what not to do, and how it works and doesn’t work. And so I hope we will study it often and carefully.
12 For wisdom is a defence, —
That’s right. It’s a protective shade as one translation says.
12 — and money is a defence: —
Well, if it’s used properly.
12 — but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom gives life to them that have it.
That’s right. Wisdom gives life to them that have it. You know, one of the things about knowledge is if that’s all you have, it’s probably going to be misused and cause more trouble than it’s worth. But if you combine wisdom with knowledge then knowledge is tremendous. You know why? Because through wisdom you’ll properly apply and direct and implement that knowledge. Then you’re going to get a wonderful result, because you are combining wisdom with knowledge.
13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he has made crooked?
Can’t do it. God does what He wants. We can’t overrule Him. We need to get in line with Him. You cannot make something straight which He’s made crooked and vice versa.
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: —
Try to figure out where did this adversity come from?
14 — God also has set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
Kind of balanced it out, and if man will take note, once it’s over, it’s over and there’s nothing going to be after him. But if you do it God’s way, he can leave a legacy that will help others and do good even after he or she is gone. That’s putting God in the picture.
15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness.
We see that all the time, happenstance, time and chance, and justice is not always done. In fact it’s very seldom done in this life, lived man’s way according to man’s ideas and desires and proclivities—without God anywhere in the picture. Then verse 15 comes to life.
16 Be not righteous over much; neither make yourself over wise: why should you destroy yourself?
You’ve seen people who are know–it–alls, you’ve seen people who could be smart and who could be wise, who take it to the extreme and now they’re just plain obnoxious. Well, that ends up complicating everything for them and everybody else. He’s saying, “Don’t do that.”
17 Be not over much wicked, —
Well, we ought not be wicked at all. But of course, there’s going to be some fun and there’s going to be some mischievousness and all that kind of thing. But don’t take it to the point to where it becomes evil and wicked.
17 — neither be thou foolish: —
You can have fun and kid around, but don’t take it to the point to where it becomes foolish.
17 — why should you die before your time?
Well, there have been a lot of fights and even injury and even death from people taking just good–natured kidding to the point of foolishness. And then bad things start happening. Words of wisdom again.
18 It is good that you should take hold of this; —
Consider this, weigh it out.
18 — yea, also from this withdraw not your hand: for he that fears God shall come forth of them all.
Now he’s beginning to introduce the main point that he’s going to drive toward at the end of this book. One is: Fearing God, standing in awe of God, having God squarely in the picture and in the number one position in your life.
18 — he that fears God shall come forth of them all.
Escape them all.
19 Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
How much value is put on wisdom nowadays? And yet it’s one of the most valuable things in life—this matter of wisdom. And you know you can ask for it and God will give it to you. And you can learn to apply wisdom. And wisdom is not necessarily tantamount to gray hair and old age. It should be, and quite often it is. But I’ve known some younger people that have wisdom, and I’ve known some older people that don’t have much wisdom. And I’ll tell where true wisdom comes from. It comes from God and it comes from His word. And it comes from trying to do the right thing. It’ll make all the difference to those who have it and who grow in it and who apply it in life.
20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not.
Cut off from God, that’s the way it is. Some are less evil than others. But cut off from God —
20 — there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not.
Ultimately that’s the outcome.
21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest you hear your servant curse you:
22 For oftentimes also your own heart knows that you yourself likewise you have cursed others.
You know how people talk about you. Well, don’t let that ruin your day or determine your life. People are going to say things to your back. If you always try to go around and find out everything that’s being said about you among other people, it’ll drive you up the wall. And what he’s saying here is, before you do that, ask yourself, “Have you ever said anything to anybody else’s back to other people?” We ought not to, and we try to get to where we don’t that. But human beings being the way we all are, sometimes that happens. And so therefore, he’s just simply telling us, “Don’t take a whole lot of time worrying about all of that. Just get on with what you have to do.”
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
Solomon said he tried to set out to get wisdom and on his own he couldn’t. But God gave it to him. That’s how he had wisdom. That’s how he had understanding. And that’s how we can have wisdom and that’s how we can have understanding.
25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
Of course, not all women are like that. Women are wonderful and they are blessings. We all have mothers. Hopefully many of us have wives and sisters and daughters. God loves women just the same as He loves men and they’re His daughters, just like men are His sons. He’s talking about the wrong kind of women that men get involved with. Just like the wrong kind of men that women get involved with. But quite often, men can just be taken down because of their desires and because of their weaknesses—just be taken down by a wrong woman or many wrong women. So that needs to be thought through very carefully.
27 Behold, this have I found, says the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the outcome:
28 Which yet my soul seeks, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
29 Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many —
29 — inventions.
Now, Solomon had a little bit of a different view of women than a lot of people did because he got involved in lots of wrong actions with lots of wrong women. And so his judgment here is a little bit jaded, and especially when he leaves God out of the picture. But, you know, we’ll see as we go along through this book. That gets kind of squared around. And therefore before we settle on a final conclusion regarding Solomon and women, we need to keep on going through this book. But he did have problems in that direction, which he had to get squared around and straightened out and had to repent of. And quite frankly there’s some indication that, that might have been his downfall in the end.
Ecclesiastes — Chapter 8
Ecclesiastes chapter 8 and verse 1
1 Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
Look how important wisdom is. It just transforms a person’s life.
2 I counsel you to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he does whatsoever pleases him.
Respect authority. Respect those in the office of authority. That can save you a lot of grief. Don’t do what they say if it’s wrong. But if it’s the law or if it’s right or if it’s not wrong, you might not like it, but you better do it and it can save you a lot of trouble and can actually end up turning out pretty good. Because when they have the authority, that needs to be respected. Not if it overrules God. But if it works within the Bible, that better be respected, that authority—authorities in society today.
4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: —
4 — and who may say unto him, What are you doing?
5 Whoso keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment.
Be careful, you know, to sass or rebel or undercut those in authority. You could pay a big price if you do that.
6 Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
7 For he knows not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?
And so therefore he’s uptight and worried about the future. But, you know, you don’t have that feeling when you’re trusting God and trying to do what He says.
8 There is no man that has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither has he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
That’s all in God’s hands, life, death, the future. We have to trust Him and get in line with what He says. And then we can live life with peace of mind.
9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man rules over another to his own hurt.
Well, to the hurt of the one he’s ruling over and to the hurt of the one who’s doing the ruling. He’s doing it with the wrong attitude for the wrong reason, has ulterior motives. Doesn’t turn out well. And everybody gets hurt. That’s the wrong person in power at the wrong time. It’s a very painful experience.
10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
Oh, they might have been in great power and had great influence in their day, but they’re gone now. And their life was just simply a passing shadow and accomplished really nothing. While at that time, they thought they were the greatest thing to walk in the earth.
11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Now, Ecclesiastes 8:11—that’s really one of the most important verses that we can go through in this book. It really lays out the flaw in our justice system today. And it gives the answer that could turn it around. Just look at what happens. You read it in the paper and hear it on the news all the time. Somebody will commit a crime, the proof is there, they may have even confessed, and yet the judgment is not rendered and the sentence applied. It can drag on for years and years and years and years. And so therefore the justice system kind of starts to break down and decay, because people don’t take it seriously. Keep that in mind now and let’s read verse 11.
11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
When there’s a crime, there should be punishment and it should be executed quickly. And then it sends the message: You know what, crime really does not pay.
But you look in our society today and people can draw the conclusion, “Well, you know what, crime really does pay.” It doesn’t, but it can kind of look that way, especially to someone with the wrong attitude and wrong motives. Why? Because the sentence either is never executed or it’s never executed speedily.
12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
It may look like the sinner is getting away with it, but ultimately he won’t. And it may look like the one who’s fearing God is not being rewarded, but ultimately he will. When all is said and done, that’s what works, obeying God. What doesn’t work is disobeying Him.
13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feared not before God.
14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.
Yes, that’s what happens because this world is not God’s world and society and mankind is not obeying God. So you get things turned upside down. But when you put God in the picture and start living life His way, it gets straightened out. Then we have things right side up. That’s not what we have now, but we will in the future.
15 Then I commended mirth, —
15 — because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun.
There’s more to life than that. But when God is not in the picture, that’s about the best you can do until you die. Think about how good eating and drinking and being merry is, however, when it’s all according to God’s law and done His way. Now that’s abundant living.
16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night sees sleep with his eyes:)
They just go all the time, workaholics or entertainment–aholics or whatever. Instead of having a balanced life based on moderation. Then they just burn out. And Solomon saw it in his day and you see it today. Look at his conclusion, verse 17.
17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, —
And go day and night seeking it, is what he’s saying.
17 — yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it [out].
Why? Because God and His Word are not in the picture.
So we’ll pick that up, with that thought, next time in Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes.
This is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.
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