More Bitter than Death: Ecclesiastes 7:15-8:1

As the Teacher has considered his pursuit of wisdom in chapter 7, he has shared that the day of our death has more to teach us about life than the day of our birth. Additionally, he has shown us our fretting and worrying about tomorrow is only relieved by our being able to “see the sun” — which is to see that this life is not all there is.
This week the Teacher concludes by reminding us that wisdom is not found in the face of another man like himself. Here’s summary of the first seven verses.
verse 18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
Our problem is not that we need either more rules, “do not be overrighteous” nor is it found in less restriction “do not be overwicked”. Our deliverance into wisdom comes neither with legalism nor with foolishness. How does one avoid all extremes? It begins first with the fear of God.
 
verse 19 Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.
Here the Teacher reminds us that our deliverance or safety does not rely on our having more input or advice. Though counsel is good and the sign of a humble and teachable spirit, one can actually avoid God and the wisdom he offers in a self-reliant dependence upon others.
verses 20-22 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you-for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.
The fact of the matter is that no man is the righteous one who fears God. And this is not argued by saying we have all done the most wicked thing we could imagine, but rather that we all have succumbed to the most petty sins of the heart which fuel gossip, envy, and slander. Our problem is not that we merely do wicked things, but that if we are honest, our innermost selves are deeply bent and broken.
verses 23-24 All this I tested by wisdom and I said, “I am determined to be wise”—but this was beyond me. Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound—who can discover it?

Lastly, the Teacher shows us that no amount of self-determination or effort can win the fruit of wisdom. It is beyond him, far off and unknowable.
Lastly, lastly, lest you think this all dark and despairing, the Teacher again is leading us to joy. He is drawing us to the conclusion that, “Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance” (verse 8:1). As you prepare for Sunday and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper consider, what brightens your face? What softens your hardness? On Sunday, we’ll look at this more in depth for in this is found the wisdom which Qoheleth has been seeking.

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