I remember when my parents went on a trip to Egypt and the Holy Land. Herschel and Corny Wiley also went in the group. When they got off a train in Egypt, they discovered Corny left her passport on the seat. Not the end of the world, but a very annoying obstacle to overcome. At the other end of the day, the train was to return to the same station. The odds of Corny’s passport being on the train were slim. The train came. It had been hours. Dozens of passengers. In Egypt. Guess what. The Passport was still on the seat. Everything will work out.
A. Live By Wisdom: You gotta love the introductory verse to this chapter, Ecc. 8:1. READ. This is a wonderful truth “Who is like the wise man?” The implied response, there is nothing like being wise. Nothing greater. What is wisdom? Wisdom is not only knowing what is right, but also doing what is right. If a toddler sticks her hand in the fire, she is not foolish, she is lacking experience. She does not have wisdom because she does not know that fire burns. If you stick your hand in fire, you are a fool. You know fire burns but you do it anyway. You lack wisdom. // If I stay up till 4 in the morning on Saturday night watching movies, I am a fool, because I know I will be extremely tired on Sunday morning and not be able to think straight (yawnnnnnn ~ fall asleep!) . The fullness of wisdom is doing that which you know is right and good. Why do students continue to put off home-work till the last minute? Why do people drive without a license? Why do you keep pushing buttons you know will cause problems. Change your ways!
Here is the good news about living with wisdom. You do not have to learn anything new in order to be wise. In order to be wise, put into practice what you already know to be true. God does not hold things against you that are beyond your knowledge! As you practice living by wisdom, you will gain greater knowledge, and you’ll be wiser still by putting more into practice. There is noone like the wise person. The good news is you be wise without understanding everything. You can live a life of wisdom in fear of the Lord with your present level of knowledge. Combining wisdom and fear of the Lord is FREEDOM.
Take the simple advice of Jesus, “Turn the other cheek.” The wise person applies it. Let every possible offense go. And think about it. If I turn the other cheek and let the selfish person win the battle, on the human level I have just lost, but once again we come back to believing everything’s gonna work out.
I really like the result of Ecc. 8:1… that last phrase is awesome: wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance. Live by wisdom and the result is a supernatural joy, an extraordinary peace…
You probably have your own favorite oxymorons, phrases that are contradictory: Jumbo Shrimp, advanced beginner, adult male, Amtrack schedule, army intelligence, airline food, add to the list: a frowning Christian, a pessimistic Christian, a joyless woman of faith. “Wisdom lightens a person’s face, softening its hardness.” How do you soften a hard face? This is not an advanced formula for skin cream. Live by wisdom.
Everything’s gonna turn out all right when you are live by wisdom, wisdom demands you go against your nature and resist the temptation to do things your way, to get angry, to get revenge, to grab for yourself, but to turn the other cheek, to not respond harshly, to let offenses roll off your back, and in the face of adversity, respond instead with a light heart, the joy of the Lord. To live with wisdom is to be joyful.
B. Another truth that hangs over Ecc. 8: Things are not always as they appear. For the sake of time, I cannot go into detail over every verse… it’s all about wisdom… obey the king, obey authority… do what you need to do… READ Ecc. 8:2-6… just as water flows down the path of least resistance, so you will find more satisfaction and peace if you go with the flow of life. Don’t fight every step… We may not understand the unfairness of life, but it will work out. Of course we need to be responsible, of course we need to fight injustice for the powerless, but there does come a point where we need to leave it in God’s hands …
We don’t need to understand everything because not everything is as it appears. One day, a bus driver was driving along his usual route. He didn’t encounter any problems for the first few stops; a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well. At one stop, however, a big hulk of a man got on. He was 6’ 8”, built like a bodybuilder, and his arms hung down to the ground. He glared at the driver and told him, “Big John doesn’t pay!” Then he sat down at the back of the bus. The driver was 5’ 3”, thin, and very meek, so he didn’t argue with Big John. But he wasn’t happy about it. The next day, the same thing happened. Big John got on again, made a big show of refusing to pay, and sat down. It happened the next day, and again the day after that. The bus driver began to lose sleep over the way Big John was taking advantage of him. Finally, he could stand it no longer. He signed up for bodybuilding courses, karate, judo, and a class on finding your self-esteem. By the end of the summer, the bus driver had become quite strong and felt really good about himself. The next Monday, Big John entered the bus and again declared, “Big John doesn’t pay!” Enraged, the driver stood up, glared back at Big John, and bellowed, “And why not?!” With a surprised look on his face, Big John replied, “Big John has a bus pass.”
Things are not always as they appear.
C. I love Ecc. 8:12… READ. Live in Fear of the Lord. The folks who do everything wrong, who flaunt the laws, flaunt the rules of decency, live for themselves, in the short-sighted view of life it may appear they are the winners, but, not really… Fear the Lord and everything will work out: guaranteed. “Those who fear God will be better off.” (NLT). I am being very vague on purpose with this story, but it is a true story. Pray for the folks in the Clothesline because once in a while scary dudes show up. That’s one of the reasons I try hard to be around on Clothesline day because a) I am a man and b) chances are I will know any scary dudes that might come into the Clothesline. A few weeks ago a scary dude showed up, he was respectful, he came, he went, sometimes I wish I knew far less than I do…I have gotten to know this dude, I have often talked with him in passing, and my human judgment is that he is scary, somewhat manipulative, thinks he is smarter than me and can fool me, but sometimes, I practice the old adage, “Keep your enemies close”… When he came in I just knew something was terribly wrong, I am going to leave it by only saying, a scary dude. Later that week he was removed from Sumas by circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Everything will work out for those who fear the Lord. Everything will come to a head for those that don’t. I only tell this vague story because it happened so quick, often not that fast, but I thank the Lord that he sorted through everything. When the Bible says, “Fear” the Lord, by “fear” the Bible means respect, a healthy perspective on who I am and who God is…. God is love, one of the great truths, God is just, God is righteous, God is an incredible number of things, but he is also to be feared, meaning we are to sit in awe of him recognizing he is high and mighty and has authority and power that we do not possess. We are NOT equal to God, so we come to him with a healthy FEAR.
In Eccl 8:1-17, Solomon shares that in the midst of life we must trust that God is in control of those things we don’t understand. Practice wisdom, not everything is as it appears, live with a healthy fear of God, and have fun along the way. READ 8:15. Everything will turn out all right. Life is a gift from God, so make the most of it.
D. A simple Faith. Ecc. 8:16-17 speaks of a simple faith READ: Solomon discovered he could not know everything. On Friday, visiting UBC brought back memories of my own time at UW. The campus of 35,000 students is a city unto itself. Being from the tiny town of Sumas, a lot of people tell me how overwhelmed they’d be by a large city, or a large school. What I discovered is that everyone find their niche….you cannot know the entirety of Seattle, Pasadena or San Francisco. You cannot know every detail of the University of Washington. I remember the first night in the dorms at UW, I knew nobody. The food service on campus was not available, so we had to go off campus. My roommate and I, also from out of town, walked to the Ave, University Avenue. We came to a white outline of a man on the sidewalk and I guess I’d watched too many tv dramas because my first thought was that this was the sight of a murder. I thought, what kind of a place have I chosen to live? Later I discovered these outlines up and down the Ave ~ a form of art. As the weeks and months went by, I learned that everyone has patterns, and I found my routes, my buildings, my friends, my little world within the much larger world of UW, inside the much larger world of Seattle… God’s great knowledge and immensity overwhelmed Solomon. Solomon is not alone. The more we work and think through various quandaries, the more we ought to recognize that we are humble peons that can’t discover a thing. What we really need is to stop striving and straining and to return to simple faith in God.
Harry Houdini made a name for himself by escaping from every imaginable confinement—from straightjackets to multiple pairs of handcuffs clamped to his arms. He boasted that no jail cell could hold him. Time and again, he would be locked in a cell only to reappear minutes later. It worked every time—but one. He accepted another invitation to demonstrate his skill. He entered the cell, wearing his street clothes, and the jail cell door shut. Once alone, he pulled a thin but strong piece of metal from his belt and began working the lock. But something was wrong. No matter how hard Houdini worked, he couldn’t unlock the lock. For two hours he applied skill and experience to the lock but failed time and time again. Two hours later he gave up in frustration. The problem? The cell had never been locked. Houdini worked himself to near exhaustion trying to achieve what could be accomplished by simply pushing the door open. The only place the door was locked was in his mind.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to faith is trying too hard. Trying to understand too much. This is why wisdom starts with putting into practice what you already know. This is why respect for God is nothing but an attitude adjustment. Faith is not a complex process. It is not the result of years of education, pilgrimages, or flashy supernatural experiences.
Everythings gonna turn out all right… Practice wisdom, living out the little bit that you know to be true. We are fooled so easily, misunderstanding reality, reading between the lines wrongly, because not everything is as it appears. Fear God, respecting him, putting everything you cannot understand or control into his hands. The door to belief is ready to open and is locked only in the minds of those who choose to believe it is locked, those who choose to believe God is too complex. God wants you and me to stop trying so hard to figure this life out. Adopt a simple faith. The Lord simply wants us to humble ourselves and submit to Him. Will you trust Jesus Christ in the midst of this unstable and uncertain life? Will you choose to believe that He is bigger and wiser than you are? Everything’s gonna be all right. Amen.