Comments for Study 7
Memory Verse: 4
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I. A King's Word is Supreme (8:2-8)
>1. Who is our king and what does this mean? (2-4; Revelation 19:16)
* Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 "Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, "What are you doing?"
* Revelation 19:16 "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
* "Obey the king's command"
* "because you took an oath before God"
* "Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence."
* "Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases."
* "Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, "What are you doing?"
>What is promised those who obey his command? (5-6)
* Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 "Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."
* "Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm"
* "the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure."
>What is the proper time and procedure?
* "For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter"
* "though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him."
* Solomon begins to conclude his thoughts. Chapter 8 starts out once again addressing the subject of wisdom; this time its good value. Wisdom is stated as the cause of a change in a person's countenance from sadness to a smile (1). Learn something new and understand something that puzzles and usually the immediate reaction is relief and a sense of accomplishment. However, wisdom is more than knowing facts; wisdom is understanding the cause and reaction to events as well as why something is the way it is. When a parent understands that their children's nature is to use gas (guilt, attitude, silence) to manipulate them then they are happy for they have gained a tool.
Verse 2-5 gives the wisdom to obey the king because his word is final and unchallenged. The New Testament expands this to obey the law so that we will not always be looking over our shoulders.
Verses 6-8 expand on obeying an authority that can make life miserable to knowing procedures and timing and God who is the ultimate authority. Obeying human authority that is evil and corrupt in very difficult. When to speak up and when to shut up takes wisdom. The interaction between children and parents expounds upon this. A society that has broken families eventually fails.
>2. Do we know the details of our life? (7)
* Ecclesiastes 8:7 "Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?"
* "Since no man knows the future"
* "who can tell him what is to come?"
>How much control do we have over our time of death? (8)
* Ecclesiastes 8:8 "No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it."
* "No man has power over the wind to contain it"
* "so no one has power over the day of his death"
* "As no one is discharged in time of war"
* "so wickedness will not release those who practice it."
* "No man..." - "No one..."
* The engraving titled "Skull and Bone" appears in a book with the title "De doctrina moriendi opusculum, necessaria ad mortem foeliciter oppetendam pr[a]eparamenta declarans" by Clichtove, Josse (d. 1543). A skull with a bone in its mouth rests within an ornamental border of various other bones. The Latin inscription, "memor esto quoniam mors non tardat," means "remember that death does not tarry". Eccli. 14 (does not exist) is cited though can be placed with many verses in the book included 2:14, 10:14 and 12:14. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>What then would be the wise thing to do?
Four truths about mankind are stated in these two verses.
1) No man knows the future (7).
2) No man has power over the wind to contain (restrain) it (8.).
3) No one has power over the day of his death (8.).
4) No one is discharged in time of war (8.).
Jesus knew the future. Several times he told his disciples how, where, when, and why he would be betrayed, arrested, tried, crucified, and most importantly rise from the dead three days later. He also very specifically told his disciples, especially Peter that they would all leave him when this happened. He also told them how they would feel and act when he was crucified.
Jesus had power over the wind. Twice he restrained a strong wind blowing on Lake Galilee to his disciple's astonishment asking, "Who is this that even commands and controls the wind?" Jesus had power over the wind.
Jesus had power over the day of his death. Jesus knew all the details of his death. He knew he was the Messiah from birth; especially at his baptism. The Old Testament revealed the entire life and death of the Messiah. Jesus knew all the details of his death including the year, day, and hour. Yet the disciples noticed that on his last trip to Jerusalem he was determined to go there. Even as he prayed on the Mount of Olives just before he was arrested he could have run away. He did not. Even when he was arrested the soldiers fell at his word, "I am he." Jesus had power over the day of his death.
Since Jesus knew his future, had power over the wind and had power over his death he was no man. He was a very man and very God. Jesus was God in the flesh; Immanuel.
So what of the fourth truth? "As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it." A loose translation is, "There is no way to avoid the war (no furlough against death). Wickedness will not save wicked people from dying."
Death tried to defeat Jesus. Yet Jesus rose from the dead. Death had no power over Jesus. "Where oh death is your victory? Where is your sting?" Why? Jesus was not wicked. Jesus had not sinned; not once.
This is my Jesus. Who is he to you?
II. The Truth of Life in This World (8:9-17)
>3. What does it mean to lord over others? (9)
* Ecclesiastes 8:9 "All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt."
* "All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun."
* "a man lords it over others"
>What do such people seek? (10)
* Ecclesiastes 8:10 "Then too, I saw the wicked buried--those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless."
* "I saw the wicked buried"
* "those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this."
* Reading Ecclesiastes and one can become cynical and bitter for it points out some social truths that occur generation after generation. Some have the authority to hurt others (9). Wicked people get an honorable burial (10). They went to church and remained wicked (10). These wicked people received praise in the city where they did all this (10). Perpetual social injustice is meaningless (10).
I have seen all these things and more. Those who are hurt rise to power and do the hurting. The oppress rise in power and oppress others. The bullied become the bullies. The human heart celebrates anything sooner or later. What is praised today becomes the subject of revulsion tomorrow. The meaningless of human life under the sun.
Yet the author has a point in reminding me of the cynical and bitter truth. A lifestyle, a way of living exists that makes life to the full possible. Yesterday I experienced at the end of the day subdued anger when walking in the hot summer evening followed by quiet rest floating in a cool pool all by myself.
Seek the Lord,
praise him in song.
Melt in tears,
of release and low.
And He will be thy content.
>What did Jesus say about this? (Matthew 20:25-28, 23:5-12)
* Matthew 20:25-28 "Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
* Matthew 23:5-12 "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.' "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
>4. How does fallen man see justice?
* Ecclesiastes 8:11 "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong."
* "the sentence for a crime"
* "the hearts of the people"
* The heart of all people is the same from generation to generation. The people who have decided that either God does not exist or if there is some kind of God he/she does not care for humanity and/or themselves, their sense of morality is self-defined. Personally defined codes of ethics shift, swirl and fade away like clouds in the sky.
When it is discovered that crimes go unpunished we humans begin to seek a way to get what is wanted even though it may be illegal in our society (11). The heart of mankind can easily become filled with schemes to do wrong.
The basic principle applies to any social group including congregations and families. When a toddler discovers they got away with eating a cookie and some candy they will go back for more until they are caught. A tweenager will sneak out a window late at night once and then many times that follow if they get away with it the first time. When a man or woman cheats on their commitment to their spouse once they soon find themselves in another's bed many times after that until it is discovered.
The compulsion to do that which is unwise, unhealthy, socially harmful and evil is strong. Even when we want to do right, doing so can be hard to resist doing wrong. A remedy exists. Allie with God and his strength will enable us to do what is good and right for ourselves and others.
>When will it go better for God-fearing? (12)
* Ecclesiastes 8:12 "Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God."
* "a wicked man"
* "I know"
* "it will go better"
* "God-fearing men"
* "reverent before God"
* The agraving titled "Old Man and Second Coming" appears in a book by Wesley, Samuel (1662-1735). The old man is encouraged to think about death and the final judgment as Jesus returns. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>What will happen to the wicked?
* Ecclesiastes 8:13 "Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow."
* "the wicked do not fear God"
* "it will not go well with them"
* "their days will not lengthen like a shadow."
* Everyone wants to live, not die. Occasionally we may consider committing suicide and a few go thru with it when they lose all hope. Still, for the majority of our lives, we want to live as long as possible. The fear of death is part of living under the sun. The fear of death is a base compelling emotion.
Dealing with the fear of death is subjective to our life perspective. A person with a wicked heart will commit many crimes believing they are extending their life (12). A person with the fear of God will refrain from sin though it may shorten their life. A good person will even lay down their life instead of sinning and/or lengthen someone else's life.
Death of the physical body is not the end of existence. After death, each person will be judged by God. The motivation of our actions will be justly reviewed. "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil." (Romans 2:6-9)
"Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow."
>5. What happens that doesn't make sense? (14)
* Ecclesiastes 8:14 "There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless."
* "meaningless that occurs on earth"
* "righteous men who get what the wicked deserve"
* "wicked men who get what the righteous deserve"
>Since these things happen what do many do? (15)
* Ecclesiastes 8:15 "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."
* "So I commend the enjoyment of life"
* "nothing is better for a man under the sun"
* "eat and drink and be glad"
* "Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."
>What does Jesus tell his people about this? (John 16:33; and 1 Peter 4:12-19)
* John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
* 1 Peter 4:12-19 "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
* Some people believe to one degree or another that if a person does bad or evil eventually they will be punished. They also believe that if we do what is right then goodness will follow us all the days of our lives. However, in life on earth (under the sun) sometimes righteous people may get what the wicked deserve, and wicked people may get what the righteous deserve (14).
Take for example Joseph who did nothing wrong and was sold into slavery merely because his brothers were jealous. He remailed in slavery and even went to jail for perhaps 20 or more years. Meanwhile, Saul remained king for over twenty years while David lived as an outcast in caves and deserts. Though it is true that Joseph became the second in power in Egypt and David became king of Israel. That doesn't mean much when sitting and sleeping year after year in a dark damp prison and cave.
Solomon considered the uncertainty of those who live righteously or wickedly. He recommended the enjoyment of life because nothing is better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad (15). Enjoying life is a choice that does not depend on how much wealth or power we have. Enjoying life does not mean we engage in sensual pleasures that weary the body and soul. Enjoying life means making the simple things link eating and drinking joyful.
Making the daily decision to enjoy each moment no matter how simple is assurance that joy will accompany us in our work all the days of the life God has given us under the sun (15). Jesus lived in a poor back-water Roman-occupied territory. His short three-year ministry was not without obstacles and challenges. Still, he lived a life of joy that attracted thousands of people who wanted to have what he had.
>6. When Solomon, the wisest man tried to understand what did he conclude? (16-17)
* Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 "When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth--his eyes not seeing sleep day or night-- then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it."
* "When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man's labor on earth"
* "-his eyes not seeing sleep day or night"
* "then I saw all that God has done."
* "No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning."
* "Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it."
>What then is the wise course of life? (John 13:34-35, 15:1-4)
* John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
* John 15:1-4 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."
* The ways of the human heart and mind are many under every and all circumstances. Multiply that by many people. Try to comprehend the meaning of all that is done on earth. See all that God has done and comprehend it. Comprehension is impossible. That is what the Teacher, the author of this book is saying in these verses.
Deut. 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all his words." This is similar to the Teacher's conclusion in chapter 12.
Why then stop all work and leisure to consider the word of God? Why get up extra early in the morning to comprehend something from the Bible? These words are life. Where else can I go to find life? I will not comprehend the meaning of all and everything and that is fine with me. For what I seek is to spend time with my Father and receive from him life.
III. A Common Destiny For All (9:1-12)
* The engraving titled "The Old Woman" appears in a book by Holbein, Hans Totentanz (1497-1543) with the title "Les Images de la mort [de H. Holbein] : avx quelles sont adioustées douze figures ... La medecine de l'ame. La consolation des malades. Vn sermon de mortalité, par sainct Cyprian. Vn sermon de patience, par sainct Iehan Chrysostome". Two skeletons, representing death, dance around an old woman. A broken hourglass, representing time, sits on the ground in the lower left-hand corner. The 54 images of Hans Holbein's "The Dance of Death" (Lyon, 1538) were cut by Hans Luetzelburger and here appear in the 1547 Latin edition of the work. Ecclesiastes 30 (does not exist) is cited though can be placed with many verses in the book. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University: http://www.pitts.emory.edu.
>7. What can we have confidence in? (1)
* Ecclesiastes 9:1 "So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him."
* "the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands"
* "no man knows whether love or hate awaits him."
>What is true of all men? (2)
* Ecclesiastes 9:2 "All share a common destiny--the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them."
* "All share a common destiny"
* "the righteous and the wicked,"
* "the good and the bad"
* "the clean and the unclean"
* "those who offer sacrifices and those who do not"
* "As it is with the good man, so with the sinner"<
* "as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them."<
>Since the righteous are in God's hands and we all die, why is it wise to live by faith in Jesus?
>8. What is the nature of fallen man's heart? (3)
* Ecclesiastes 9:3 "This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead."
* Romans 3:22-24 "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
* "This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun"
* "The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live"
* "and afterward they join the dead."
>What is our hope? (4; and 1 Corinthians 15:19-21)
* Ecclesiastes 9:4 "Anyone who is among the living has hope--even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!"
* 1 Corinthians 15:19-21 "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man."
>What is the hope of those who are not in Christ? (5-6)
* Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun."
* "For the living know that they will die"
* "the dead know nothing"
* "they have no further reward"
* "even the memory of them is forgotten
* "Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished"
* "never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun."
>9. What is the life philosophy of the godless? (7-10)
* Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 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. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."
>What did Paul have to say about this? (1 Corinthians 15:32-34)
* 1 Corinthians 15:32-34 "If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame."
* Consider this: death awaits you and you do not know when it will come. Consider this: you do not know what will happen in the future; whether good or bad, whether love or hate; whether sickness or health, whether wealth or poverty.
The righteous, wicked, good, bad, clean, unclean, those who are religious, and those who are not will experience death. The righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits them.
Admit it or not the hearts of all contain evil and we do not know where it hides (3). In a dungeon we falsely think is well fortified lingers madness that always is ready to escape (3). Like cancer that is in everyone is benign today, tomorrow it may start to grow and consume other cells.
Considering these "go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 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. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." What awaits after death is judgment for the decisions made under the sun.
>10. Can all our planning and preparing ensure a good outcome? (11)
* Ecclesiastes 9:11 "I have seen something else under the sun: 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."
* "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."
* "The race is not to the swift." Just ask Aesop's tortuous and hare. "The battle does not belong to the strong." USA revolutionary war against Britain, the world power at that time proves this.
"Food does not come to the wise." Just ask the sage walking down from his mountain retreat to obtain food. "Wealth does not belong to the brilliant." Just ask the professor expelled for indecent conduct with a student. "Favor and success do not belong to the skillful and learned." Just ask the undiscovered starving artist.
"Time and chance (unpredictable events) happen to them all." Predominantly who we are and the decisions we make affect our future. However, nothing is guaranteed. No one can predict that which is unpredictable. Who predicted the pandemic? Yet, it had more impact on everyone than most of the decisions we made, are making, and have made.
Those who trust in and believe in themselves grow weary and/or despair when stuff happens. Those who trust in and believe in God find comfort and rest when all doesn't go their way. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," says Jesus. (Matthew 11:28)
>Is a happy and good life ensured? (12)
* Ecclesiastes 9:12 "Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."
* "no man knows when his hour will come"
* "so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them."
>Why is faith in Jesus a sure foundation to build our life on? (Matthew 7:24-27)
* Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."