ECCLESIASTES 8

 

Tonight we are getting back to our study on Ecclesiastes and we will be looking at chapter 8.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed.2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God.3 "Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him."4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, "What are you doing?"5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment,6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly.7 For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?

 

Whenever you are having problems figuring something out it can cause you to have a very serious look on your face. While it can be fun at times to be challenged with a problem, if you cannot find an answer it will continue to affect your mood. However, if you are able to figure out a solution to the problem, your demeanor will change and you feel like a load has been lifted. Most of the time this will cause you to be in a happy mood and you face will show it. This is exactly what Solomon is talking about in verse 1.

 

2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God.3 "Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him."4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, "What are you doing?"5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful;

 

Early on in the life of the children of Israel, they did not answer to a physical king, God was their King. During Samuelís life, they decided they wanted to be just like the other nations and have a physical king. In 1 Samuel 8, we learn that God allowed them to have one, and He had Samuel tell them how the king would behave and how he would have authority over their lives. Of course, their first king was Saul. From that time forward, they always had a king or some governing body, which is why we see Solomon saying in:

 

Proverbs 24:21 My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those given to change;

 

This is not something limited to the children of Israel because we are taught to keep the law of the land and to submit to the governing authorities of the land as well.

 

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

 

1 Peter 2:13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Also Tit. 3:1.

 

Nations that have risen and are in place have been put there by God. We are not to abandon the leadership just because we do not like them, and we are certainly not to turn to doing evil things. Instead, we are taught to pray for those in charge (1 Tim. 2). If we go against the law of the land, we will have to face the consequences of breaking those laws.

 

Does this mean that we are never to go against those in power? The answer is no:

 

And a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment,6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly.7 For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur?

 

I believe in part that Solomon is saying that we have to use our heads when it comes to following the law of the king. On one hand, we need to do our best to submit to all the laws of the land, but on the other hand we must submit to the will of God first. For example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego would not submit to the kings decree to bow down before the image he created because that would cause them to sin against God.

 

They did not know what the end result would be, but they wisely chose Godís will over the kings. Same thing with Daniel when he refused to not pray to God just because the king made a decree not to. So, while we are to do our best to be a peace with those in charge, we must never put their laws above Godís law.

 

Though Solomon is talking about a physical king or those in power in our verses, we can also see how these verses could apply to God Almighty because He is our supreme King. However with Him, there is no corruption and we are to obey all His commands. When we do not we sin, and the consequence of turning against His has eternal consequences.

 

Also from our text, it teaches us about the uncertainty of the future, but we should not dwell on that because it will only make us miserable. Instead, we should keep our heads high and trust in God.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:8 No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.

 

Here we learn four different things.

 

  1. No one (that is no human) has power over the spirit and they cannot retain it, which means to keep it or have control over it.

 

Only God has power over the spirit because it belongs to Him:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

 

No matter how hard man may try to control the spirit or destroy the spirit of man he cannot. It should give us comfort to know that God is the one in control of our spirit and that He will make a righteous judgment of where our spirit will end up in eternity.

 

  1. No one has power of the day of death.

 

Yes, someone might argue that we do have power over death because many people have been saved from death from our advanced medical treatments. It is true that some have been brought back to life shortly after they died by using CPR or other methods, but this only extends a person life and does free one from death. We may be brought back from death 100 times, but in the end, we will face death. There is no escaping that day.

 

However, thanks to Jesus, we can rejoice and know that death is only the end of our existence on the earth. Jesus has shown us through His resurrection that we too will live after death and that on the judgment day, our spirit will be further clothed with a body that will never wear out (1 Cor. 15).

 

  1. There is no release from that war or as the ESV words it ďThere is no discharge from warĒ.

 

Basically, this is saying that once you are in a war and you fighting it, you cannot leave it because every person must do their part in the battle. Adding a spiritual slant on this, we as Christians cannot be discharged or excused from fighting in the spiritual war of righteousness versus wickedness.

 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

 

4. Wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.

 

When people join the majority and engage in their wickedness it will not save them. There is no fair play for those who live in sin. They will turn on you just as fast as you turned away from God. Not only will associating with wicked not deliver you from their hands, it will certainly not deliver you from the wrath of God.

 

Psalm 52:1 Ö" Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually.2 Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.3 You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah4 You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue.5 God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah

 

Solomon said:

 

Proverbs 14:32 The wicked is banished in his wickedness, But the righteous has a refuge in his death.

 

So, the wicked path is the wrong path.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

 

Solomon, had seen the oppression of man over man and the results it brings. Not only does it bring misfortune for those being oppressed, it will also eventually come back and bite the oppressor.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity.

 

Sometimes people tend to overlook the evil that people do. They allow these people who are living in sin to enter the temple. They have no desire to point out their sin or to warn others about it. When this person dies, they give them a proper burial like everyone else and those who know that personís deeds were evil simply forget about them and go about their day.

 

When people allow sin to go on and they turn a blind eye to it, Solomon says it is vanity. The he tells what happens when we refuse to deal with the wicked especially those that are of the household of God.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:11 Because the 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.

 

Everyone needs to remember this verse. This wisdom applies in all areas of life. For example, consider our law system and all its loop holes. What kind of message does this send to those who choose to break the law? It tells them that they might get in trouble, but even if they do it will not be much of a punishment. If the loop holes were removed and the punishments were swift and severe, how much do you think that cut down on crime? I think it would cut down on it a lot.

 

As parents, what happens when we do not follow through with our threats to our children? They think, well we can get away with more disobedience because mom and dad are just giving us idle threats. What happens when we deal with disobedience right away and consistently? Well the child understands that mom and dad are serious and they will know that when they mess up they will receive a punishment.

 

The same thing is true in the church. If Christians are allowed to get away with sinful behavior in the church without correction it will encourage others to do the same because there is no fear of correction. However, when a church sticks to what the Bible teaches and rebukes those that are string up strife or doing things sinful, then the members will know that such behavior will not be tolerated. For example notice what Paul said about an elder that is found guilty of sin:

 

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

 

So, the idea is to take care of sin right away. Donít let it go on, otherwise it will cause great problems for the church.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him.13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

 

Sometimes those who live wicked lives seem to thrive in this life. When someone sees their success, it causes them to want to pursue wickedness. It is true that the wicked sometimes prevail for a season, but the truth of the matter is that there victory is only temporary. Even if they live a long life and prosper up till they day they die, their victory and prosperity will end, and then they have nothing but an eternity of misery for their future.

 

Sometimes the righteous may be knocked down and put under the heel of the wicked all the days of their life, but victory will be theirs at death because when they live their life for God, they can know that the afflictions of this life are temporary, and they will get to have eternity of being in the presence of God and living in comfort and peace.

 

While the righteous will usual prevail over wickedness in our short stay here on earth there is always exception to the general rule. However, there are no exceptions for the wicked when it comes to eternity because they will not prosper after death and the righteous will always be victorious over them in eternity.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.

 

Again, Solomon observes that sometimes the righteous will suffer what the wicked should have suffered, and sometimes the wicked will receive the rewards or benefits that the righteous should have received. As I just said, these things happen sometimes, but these exceptions are limited to life on earth because this will not happen in eternity.

 

In verse 15, Solomon once again acknowledges that God blessed us with the things that we have, so we should enjoy the life we are given and be content with it knowing that we have eternity in heaven to look forward to.

 

Finally he says:

 

Ecclesiastes 8:16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night,17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

 

As wise as Solomon was, no matter how much research he did or anyone else does, they can never know everything about the working of God in our lives or how everything works in our universe. Though we cannot ever know it all especially all the ways of God, this does not mean that we should not continue to learn what we can and how to use that knowledge, but it does mean that we must grasp the notion that we can only obtain partial knowledge and partial wisdom and we should be content with what God has given us.

 

In conclusion, let us respect those in authority, but never put manís law above Godís law. Let us understand that sometimes the wicked may prosper for a season, but the righteous will prosper for eternity. Though we cannot have the complete knowledge or wisdom of God, let us be thankful for what we do have because what we do have teaches us everything we need to know about God, His plan for our salvation, and how we can live our lives in such away to be pleasing to Him and have heaven as our eternal home.