Dr. Ed Young - Seeking Wisdom
And as we look back on Solomon, this as you may know was his autobiography, his memoirs, and he has walked us through a tough, tough place. He is talk about meaninglessness, and he says, "I've tried power, possessions, pleasure, projects". He said, "I've done everything I can do under the sun to find some meaning in life," and he says, "Let me tell you what I've found, zero, zilch"! He says, "Life is nonsense. Life is silly. Life has no permanent value". Now if you're not depressed yet, you haven't been here as we walk through these first six Chapters. Man, it's a downer! And people wonder why in the world we're studying Ecclesiastes. It is a Book of sheer philosophy. And a lot of scholars say, "How in the world did this Book end up in the Bible, in the Canon"?
Sheer philosophy! It's because Ecclesiastes almost forces you, and forces me to ask some big, hairy, pregnant, strong questions that we normally would not ask. Now we're going on the rest of Chapter Seven, and he pushes us right back down in the ditch! Look what he does, Verse 15. "I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility". Man, we got through with vanity, now it's futile! He said, "My whole life is futile". Said, "Solomon, you've just been telling us how God's trying to make us valuable. Now you say all life is foolishness? It's futility, it has no meaning, no rhyme, no reason, no purpose, no background, no past, no present, no future? It's all futile"? And if that's not tough enough, he asks us one of the hardest questions anybody can ever be asked. He said, "There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness".
Did you get that? You know what he's saying? "Why does bad things happen to good people"? There's the big one! Solomon, we were cruising all right, now you've thrown this one at us! Why does bad things happen to good people? And the reverse of that, which really disturbs me almost as much as that, why does good things happen to bad people? That really upsets me, because it all speaks of injustice! One thing we're all into is justice, unless we're concerned with it. If there's a problem, we say, "Boy, I want justice," but I'm talking about you, "Well, let's wait awhile before we get to this justice business and think a little bit about grace, you know"? Good things happen to good people, that's just, right? Anybody have a problem with that one? Good things happen to good people? Bad things happen to bad people? That's justice... Anybody have a problem with that? No, that's the way it works.
Boy, when bad things happen to good people, good things, that's good, and when good things happen to bad people, man, that frustrates me! That's injustice, isn't it? We need an explanation for this, and there's no simple one. Why? Because, ladies and gentlemen, you are not God, and I am not God. Does God know what He's doing? God, let me give you just one little thing God has done. God took and hung those stars into space. Does that impress anybody? God knows what He's doing. I don't know, and that's the reason we have to stay in contact with Isaiah 55:9-10. Isaiah 55 says, "His thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my ways, or your ways, or our thoughts". God knows what He's doing. And that old song that we've heard most of our lives, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".
He's got the Middle East in His hands. He's got Syria in His hands. He's got Iraq and China. He's got America. He's got all the world in His hand. He's got you and me, brother, you and me, sister. He's got everybody in His hands. He is sovereign! In light of that, when we have these unbelievable tragedies, and things in your life and in my life, we just have to look up and say, "God, I don't get it, I will never get it in this life, but there will be a day, as we read in the Scripture, we will know as we have been known".
And that, it will all come together. In the meantime, I keep on my desk a little poem that I have to read periodically. I think it speaks to right where we are, trying to deal with this big question. "If God wants to drill a man, and thrill a man, and skill a man; when God wants to mold a man to play the noblest parts, when He yearns with all his heart to create so great and bold a man that all the world would be amazed, watch His methods, watch His ways! How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects. How He hammers him, and hurts him, and with mighty blows, converts him into frail shapes of clay, which only God understands. When his portrait heart is crying, and he lifts beseeching hands, how he bends but never breaks, while His good he undertakes. How He uses whom He chooses, and with every purpose infusing him, by every act induces him to try His splendor out. God knows what He's about".
So he deals with this question. But he doesn't stop there. Looks like that's enough, time out! We've got it. Why does, why do bad things happen to good people? My glory! And then he challenges us again. By the way, a good teacher always challenges you, always forces you to think, always brings up things you wish they hadn't brought up, always comes at something at an angle you never would have thought of. That's what good teachers do, ladies and gentlemen. I've sat under a lot of teachers and said, "How long am I gonna be here"? And I said to other teachers, said, "My. man, what, what..." That's what good, he's a good teacher! So he keeps on challenging us, and look what he does next. It gets even more ferocious for me. Verse 16. He said: "Do not be exceedingly righteous". Huh. "And do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself"? Verse 17, "Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time"? "It is good that you grasp one thing, and also not let go of the other thing".
Did you hear that? Were you really listening? He says, "Look, self-righteousness, unrighteousness". He said, "Hold them together". He's saying don't be too wicked, don't be too righteous at first glance. But what's he saying? He's saying first of all, don't be self-righteous. The most unattractive thing anyone can do who names the Name of Jesus Christ is to be self-righteous. I meet people all the time who want to out-pious me. I let them win! The more pious they get, the more I confess the sinner that I am, which is very easy. "Oh, they're quotin' the language of Zion! Praise God! Hallelujah! I don't brush my teeth without asking God if it's His will". Oh yeah, oh yeah, I run into 'em! And you get so pious, so self-righteous.
Do you not read the Bible that Jesus was harder on the people who were self-righteous than He was on prostitutes? Did you pick that up in the Scripture? Absolutely true! We can be so pious, so self-righteous, it just takes the life out of anybody. And we bump into this periodically. Solomon says self-righteous. Then he goes the other thing, he says unrighteousness. Oh man, you mean you got to be a little wicked? You gotta hold onto that too? It's like telling your wife, "You know, I'm 90% faithful, don't worry about me, I'm a..." How's that workin' for you? So he's saying keep a little unrighteousness here? No, no, no. What's the theme here? The theme is righteousness. What is righteousness? That's an old-fashioned King James Version, isn't it? We don't hear it in modern conversation. "Well, how's your, how righteous are you"?
Nobody's ever asked me that. But it's a very big word. the word righteous literally means to be right wise. Right wise. It means in the sight of God and His wisdom, you are a-okay! You are all right! And therefore, righteousness has three parts to it. A righteous person is someone who's right with God. How did he get right with God? By the way, I've tried to get right with God and I've got a perfect record, I failed every time! What about you? We get right with God by the provision made by Jesus Christ, and we take off the old and put on the new, we take off ourself and put on Jesus, and He is, in His righteousness we abide, and therefore when God the Father looks at someone who's put on Jesus, He doesn't see you, or He doesn't see me. God sees His Son, Jesus Christ and said, "Hey, he or she is righteous! My son, My daughter in My family".
That's the first thing. We have to be righteous. That's how we become righteous. The second part of righteous is the right relationship with yourself. A lot of us don't have a right relationship with ourself. We don't get along with ourself. We don't spend a lot of time by ourselves unless there's racket going on, or we're doing something because we don't like the person we're with. It's right, it's me, it's you. So if you're righteous, you get along with yourself. A little Verse we're gonna bump into, says here, he says, you know, "I tried this myself. I didn't make it". He went deep. He said, "I couldn't find it". And look how he handles it. He handles it so, so strategically. He talks about, perfectionist, and he talks about criticism. Verse 20, "Indeed there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins".
There are two words for sin in the Bible. One word is, you missed the mark. That's shortcoming. I don't mind that. "Well, Edwin, you fell short". Yeah, okay, yeah... But the other word for sin says, "You crossed the line". Ohhh, that's a little worse, isn't it? If you fall short, I've got some shortcomings. We, oh, we don't mind saying that! But there's a line, a moral line that has been drawn, and you and I have gone over that moral line with intentionality. That's another depth of sin, is it not? Solomon said we've all sinned. We've all fallen short. I read about a, probably a spurious story about a zoo. The gorilla got sick, and the gorilla was a big attraction. People stopped coming, the gorilla was being treated by the vets, and so they had to get somebody to play the gorilla, so they found somebody who's a body builder, and he always wore those short shirts.
I've never seen anybody built like me wear those short shirts, I don't know. I don't know what that means. He wore these short shirts, man, he had muscles coming out his toenails, and they hired him to play the gorilla. They got a gorilla suit; they dressed him up. Said, "You play the gorilla. We gotta have a gorilla to get a crowd," and this guy got in there, and he liked the role! I mean, he was eatin' bananas, he was clowed, he was beatin' on his chest! He was swingin' on the tires! He was flippin' on the trapeze, and boy! He was just lovin' it! But about the third day, he got on the trapeze. He got so carried away, he flipped and fell off in the lion's den. And a lion came up to him. He said, "Oh, I'm not a gorilla! I'm not a gorilla"! And the lion says, "Shut up, or we'll both be without a job"! Solomon said, "We've all struck out, folks! Be careful of a perfectionist".
To be around a perfectionist, you're gonna stay in trouble all the time, are you not? And then he talks about criticism. He says, "When your servant criticizes you," someone that knows you well, that would be the context, "someone who knows you well criticizes you, what do you do about it"? What do you do about criticism? I tell you what I do. When criticism comes, I first of all consider the source. Then I look at it and take it before God. I say, "God, is there any validity here? What's going on here? Let me hear it, let me understand it. You speak to me," and He does. If there's validity, I try to deal with it. Ask for forgiveness. Go make something right. Criticism. And the rest of the criticism, I do with it, I take it and I just punt it! That's what you do with criticism. That's what he's saying here. He's saying, "We're all gonna receive criticism".
You wanna not receive any criticism? Just don't do anything! Solomon here is going to the depths of our being, trying to figure out if there's any way to find meaning, and he goes on and talks about his search. Look what he says in Verse 25, "I directed my mind to know, to investigate, to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolish of madness". I mean, he says, "I went down". He talked to everybody, listened to everybody, read everything, studied everything, looked at every situation, trying to get to the depth and find some meaning, and he said, "Man, it's all so silly and so crazy, I didn't come up with anything"! Isn't that something? And then he goes on and just says, "I've come up with two little things".
Listen to these little things he's come up with. Verse 26, "I've discovered more bitter than death, the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are chains. one who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her. Behold, I have discovered this," says the preacher, "adding one thing to another to find an explanation which I am still seeking, but have not found. I have found one man in a thousand, but have not found a woman among all of these". Say, "Boy, he's a male chauvinist. He's misogynist". No he's not. What's he saying? First of all, when Solomon talks about women, I think I'd listen to him! He had a lot of experience. A thousand of them! Concubine and wives... Man, he was something! Solomon talks about women, you can't, "Boy, he doesn't know what he's talking about"! Ohhhhh! He's way ahead of anybody I know, anybody I'll ever know, anybody you'll... So he talks about women, he says, "Be careful. They'll get you in a net, they'll snare you"! He said, "The only way you can escape is to live a life that's pleasing to God".
Then he talks about men. He says, "I have looked at men. I found one man," boy, what he's saying, it's hard to find a man, or a woman, or anybody who's gonna be just right there with you 100% and hang with you through every situation in life. He said it's very rare to find that. What he's saying, turn to God. Lean on Christ. Count on Him, and all of this, he says, is vanity, vanity, vanity. But then he turns on a little light here. Puts it in theological context in Verse 29. "Behold, I have found only this, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many devices". Is not that true? Adam and Eve! There's the word, man, Adam. God made man, Adam and Eve upright in the Garden, but they sought out many devices in the fruit, and we sought out many devices, and God made us upright in His image; but we have gone and lived out our own lives in our own terms.
Man is the only animal that was made in the image of God. Mankind is the only living beings on this earth who can worship. No, no other animal worship. No other animal worships. No other animal has the capacity that we have, but how they lost that capacity! We were born upright. We began to live our own lives. We begin to be bent. We, we got down, and we become in one sense, animals, which the secular world says that's all mankind is anyway, a high class animal. But the Bible persists that we're made in the image of God and were born upright. And then he comes on and says, "There can be light in your life". Now I read this last Verse of Chapter Seven, and I said, "My goodness! That's a terrible ending. Take us back to the Garden of Eden! My, my, my! That won't work".
And then I remembered something we ought to always remember. The Bible did not have Verses and Chapters in it. These were added later. And then I said, "Well, maybe," and I read Verse One of Chapter Eight, and it concludes Chapter Seven! Look at it! He said, "Who is like the wise man who knows the interpretation of a matter"? Who is like a, who can interpret matters, life, all the challenges of, who in the world can do that? He says it is a wise man. Remember, worship leads to wisdom. Worship and wisdom are interchangeable. The fear of God in the Bible means that you are a worshipper. The most important thing you and I are to do as Christians is to worship! But we run into worship, we run into what? The Bible, and prayer, quickly. Most of us would say that God answers all of our prayers. No He doesn't.
You say, "Well, He says 'Yes, no, wait". Sometimes. There are two things that have to be in place for God to answer your prayer and my prayer. First of all, we have to be a Christian. We've talked about that a million times. But two things have to be in place. Number one, we have to be on praying ground. What does that mean? "Who will ascend unto this holy place? He that has clean hands and a pure heart. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person," there's our word, "is powerful". So first of all, for prayer to be answered, you and I have to have lives that are clean. We confess to God, God deals with us. Our hands are clean, our hearts are clean, our minds are clean. That's the first thing that has to be there for God to answer your prayer and my prayer.
Next thing, we have to pray in accordance with the will and the purpose of God, with the mind of God. Those two things active, He answers every single prayer that you pray and I pray because His plan, His purpose, Isaiah 55, is right on target for His purpose for you and for me, and for His Kingdom. Two things! That comes when we worship. And then what's the result of worship? We get the wisdom of God, and then the later part of this Verse is fabulous. Look what he says. "Who is like the wise man who knows the interpretation of, of a matter? It's those who have wisdom, those who worship. A man's wisdom," look what it does, "illuminates him or her and causes his, her stern face to shine". Some of you look a little stern out there. Listen! God's trying to make a diamond out of you and me. He's trying to light His light in your life and in my life so our faces will shine, oh!
Remember those two diamond prospectors who discovered diamonds? They didn't tell anybody, but they went to the little town and everybody saw that they had found diamonds, and they said, "We didn't tell anybody-how did you know"? And they said, "We saw it in your face"! In Christ, ladies and gentlemen, He comes inside of us like a fire inside of a diamond, the fire inside of someone who worships and God gives wisdom, begins to light up your life and light up my life, and that sternness, that staleness, that coldness will suddenly become a bright, luminous light! And they'll say, "I don't know what's happened to Sally! What in the world has gotten into Jim"? The light of Christ, expressed in the countenance. And suddenly, like a diamond has character, you and I begin to have character because Jesus Christ starts that fire inside of us and lights up our life, and lights up the life of everybody who comes in contact with us.