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Ecclesiastes 7:25  (King James Version)
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<< Ecclesiastes 7:24   Ecclesiastes 7:26 >>


Ecclesiastes 7:23-29

God is allowing us some insight into Solomon's heart and life. He gifted Solomon with a proclivity for understanding and wisdom, but this passage reveals that achieving them did not come easy.

The true God gifts us to enable us to fill our place in the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:1-11), but this does not mean He gives the gifts in full-blown perfection so we can fulfill that role without effort (Matthew 25:14-30). His gifts must be developed, fine-tuned, and polished until they are truly fit to be used—even then they are still less-than-perfect in actual practice.

Solomon is confessing a truth that we, too, discover as we continue our conversion. Finding wisdom is difficult and not as satisfying as we might think. These verses are a confession by the author that, despite all the great intellectual gifts given him, in the end what he did not know far exceeded what he actually knew.

This section is a reminder of Solomon's purpose, as stated in Ecclesiastes 1:12-13: “I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this grievous task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” He was indeed gifted, but God in no way drilled a hole in the top of his head, stuck a funnel in the hole, and poured wisdom in, requiring no effort on Solomon's part. He had to participate in the search to reach his goal. It became a lifelong pursuit.

This pursuit took earnest effort. His goal was set; his was no superficial overview. With earnest, exhaustive thoroughness, he applied himself to discover what lay behind the conduct he observed. He wanted to know the reason of things, as verse 25 shows. Why did he search so thoroughly? “Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city” (verse 19). He was looking for spiritual strength through understanding. The fruit of that search would be wisdom to equip him to make better choices.

Wisdom, spiritual sagacity, can be an extremely valuable resource. Sagacity indicates “discernment,” that one is “keen,” “perceptive,” and “sound in judgment,” insuring that one's choices produce good fruit. Through verse 19, the Bible is showing us that wisdom can govern thought, the will, and one's actions to produce good results. This is not to say that he found them all, but that is what he was determinedly seeking.

The deep insights he found revealed the order and harmony supporting the things he witnessed from the outside. However, we should understand that seeking wisdom exacts a price. It is interesting how the Bible compares the costs of achievement: by the value of what a person might buy on the market. It declares that one pays more for wisdom than for goods that people expect will fetch a high price on the open market. Wisdom's costs are largely in terms of time, attention, and discipline to achieve (see Proverbs 3:13-15; 8:11; 16:16).

Solomon looked at problems from all sides, and even analyzed the opposite of the way he first saw things. He uses terms like “wickedness,” “folly,” and “madness,” showing that he was looking deeply at human behavior. He examined these things so closely that he believed that at least emotionally, he experienced a small measure of the characteristics—even the bad ones—he was searching into.

What did Solomon learn from this? Ecclesiastes 7:23-24 reveals it was humbling: “All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, 'I will be wise.' But it was far from me. As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?” It was far more difficult than he imagined when he began. If we measure our gifting against his, what kind of wise plan could we produce that would impress God to remove the burden of a trial? As we can see, searching for wisdom is a necessity but difficult. The answers are rarely right on the surface.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions



Ecclesiastes 7:23-29

This entire section examines wise judgment, whether the source of our problems is God, fellow man, or ourselves. We must ask ourselves if we are truly making an effort to pursue holiness, without which, Paul says in Hebrews 12:14, “no one will see the Lord.” Is that where our problem lies? Are we really making an effort worthy of the treasure we have been freely given? Do we have something to repent of regarding the time and energy we expend? Our conclusion will parallel his conclusion to some degree: It is no wonder that salvation must be by grace!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 balances this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” We will never have complete answers because God in heaven is also working things out in our lives, and His purposes take precedence over our weak efforts and conclusions. Much is beyond our control.

Two major truths are revealed from Solomon's confession: First, a truly wise person will be humbled realizing that he does not know everything, and this lack of knowledge will affect his choices and conduct because he knows he is terribly ignorant. Second, the humbling will move him to be cautious in his judgments so that he does not condemn God, others, or even himself. Recognizing these truths tends to balance our thinking because we know that what we have now is marvelous—but crumbs compared to what is coming. Thus, we can see that a study of the path Solomon took, though difficult, can be beneficially humbling.

The children of God must be constant learners. Why? We are not merely looking for salvation but also preparing for the Kingdom of God and for service to Him and mankind in that Kingdom. However, we must submit to the fact that the knowledge of God is like a distant star, a destination so far off that we will never reach it in dozens of lifetimes. This reality points to why we need everlasting life. We must humbly accept this truth now, knowing we will never reach it, but keep earnestly working toward it to be as prepared as possible.

I Corinthians 4:1-8 presents a hurdle we must deal with regarding the accumulation of knowledge or position:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you have not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

A pitfall exists even in the earnest search for wisdom and truth: Human nature sometimes follows the path of flaunting it. We must be strongly resist this. The wise person knows this is true and resists self-glorification, making him wiser.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions



Ecclesiastes 7:25-27

Solomon begins to relate his conclusions by listing the prostitute first, using her in three senses: The first is in the specific sense of Proverbs 7, the way of a literal street-walker. The second sense is the suggestion that she could illustrate any of the powerful but unlawful desires working within any of us. The third is perhaps that she symbolizes all of mankind being lured by the spirit of this world. In other passages, God characterizes Israel's conduct before the world in this way.

I Kings 11:1, 4-6 sums up Solomon's life in one vital area:

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. . . . For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David.

This same man advised in Proverbs 5:3-6:

For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell. Lest you ponder her path of life—her ways are unstable; you do not know them.

Failing to follow his own advice, Solomon was ensnared by many foreign women who lured him away from God and into the worship of foreign gods. The term “foreign” can apply, not only to those of a different ethnicity, but also those of a different religion and thus a different way of life that should have been alien to him. Used in this way, the prostitute symbolizes the world and its gods to the Christian. The world may be alluring to the senses, but it is deadly poison to a relationship with God.

The third sense may lead us to a positive solution. Solomon gives solid advice in Proverbs 7:4-5: “Say to wisdom, 'You are my sister,' and call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Science tells us that children are genetically more closely related to each other than to their parents. With this knowledge, we can grasp why Solomon suggests making understanding one's sister. Such a close, protective relationship would serve a young man well. In addition, he writes in Ecclesiastes 7:18, “For he who fears God will escape them all.”

Putting these factors together, we find that understanding, wisdom, and the fear of God are effective deterrents to any temptation. Solomon's greatest weakness appears to lie in his lack of the fear of God.

Believed and used, I Corinthians 10:13 provides a wonderful promise from our faithful God: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Understanding and wisdom, combined with the fear of God, will enable a person to find ways to flee the temptations to fulfill evil desires, as Joseph did in Genesis 39. The solution is easily stated and remembered—but we cannot allow the impulse to give in to temptation to intensify, or we will probably lose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions



Ecclesiastes 7:19-25

In verse 19, following the paragraph containing the paradox (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18), he writes, “Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten rulers of the city.” So Solomon made the accumulation of wisdom a major goal in his life, saying in verse 23, “I will be wise.” He wanted to be strong and able to confront all circumstances that beset him. He sought to be prepared.

In verse 25, he expands on his goal: “I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things.” This is a goal all of us should have. Wisdom does not stand alone. It is a result, built on true knowledge and understanding that a person accumulates along the way to attaining wisdom. All of these will serve us well in life, not only spiritually, but also in family life, business, and civic responsibilities in our communities.

It is interesting that in his search for wisdom, what he discovered may have also included insight into his personal defects. One of these may be revealed in verse 20, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Another may appear in verses 21-22, “Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” We can take these statements as encouragement not to allow what we discover in our search for wisdom to deter us from continuing on, despite how it affects us personally.

In the rest of the chapter, Solomon touches on a few things he learned that can help us in setting our expectations. However, he says other things that, while not negatives, we should also understand as we search, for instance, writing in verse 23, “But it was far from me.” The search for wisdom is a lifelong endeavor, requiring diligent and continuous effort. In verse 24, he asks, “As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?” He is gently informing us that we will never find answers to some things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fourteen): A Summary



Ecclesiastes 7:25-27

Solomon makes clear that wisdom is found, not on the surface of events, but only by those willing to work, to dig, to study, and to analyze to uncover it. Truth and error are most often mixed together in the same problem, so they must be disentangled from each other. We are discovering in the current liberal bent of our nation that some forms of human evil are so bold and irrational that they almost defy description. By way of contrast, Satan was so subtle in deceiving Eve that he slid the lies right in front of her, and she, in her naïveté, missed seeing the trap altogether.

We cannot expect, then, to have wisdom and safety always clearly spelled out for us. Some evil does not collect its due until a long time has passed. For example, Adam and Eve did not die for many years. Solomon's phrasing at the end of verse 25 suggests that he is searching for the most vivid examples of the most painful aspects of evil that he can find.

Wisdom has two major elements. The Bible emphasizes practical wisdom, which, in actual usage, is skill in living. In the world, though, the emphasis is on sagacity, which is more intellectually slanted, but also has practicality in being helpful in giving or receiving counsel. Both of these elements are good, especially when enhanced with God's truths.

In this section, Solomon is weaving the two elements together, which is why he uses such strong terminology. He uses “folly,” “foolishness,” and “madness”—significant terms—as descriptors. He wants to grasp the full gamut of wisdom; he digs deeply. In one sense, this is a warning: Do not be fooled by initial feelings. Everything that is not truly wisdom never satisfies for long, but it inevitably becomes more difficult to bear and overcome. The folly and madness of sin, which is never wisdom, always eventually appears. Its fruit cannot be hidden.

We can deliberately hide from its folly, but it is there. A lack of wisdom is always destructive. The Hebrew terminology in verse 27 indicates that he carefully made this search and that he apparently wrote Ecclesiastes late in life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions


 
<< Ecclesiastes 7:24   Ecclesiastes 7:26 >>



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