The beginning of wisdom

[Ecclesiastes 7:15-18]

In this Morning Prayer, based on 2 Chronicles 9:7, I mediated about on blessed homes, blessed churches, and blessed nations. This is what 2 Chronicles 9:7 says: “How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” As I meditated on this Word, I came to think of how blessed it is to meet a wise leader. The reason is because Israel was blessed because they had the wise king Solomon. Because the king of Solomon wisely made the nation of Israel strong, because he did righteousness with the justice (v. 8), the people of that country were a blessed people as the queen of Sheba had spoken. To be a blessed family, the husband/the father, who is the head of a family, must be wise. To make our company a blessed company, the president of the company must be wise. In order for our church to be a blessed church, the pastor must be wise. To be a blessed nation our president must be wise. So we prayed for the leaders at the Morning Prayer today. We prayed that God would give wisdom to our family leaders, company leaders, church leaders, and country leaders.

We have been meditating on the seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes every Wednesday night prayer meeting. Verses 1 to 4 are ‘The Heart of Wisdom’, verses 5-7 are ‘Repentance of Wisdom’, verses 8-10 are ‘Service of Wisdom’, and verses 11-14 are “Beauty of Wisdom”. In the midst of that, in today's Ecclesiastes 7:18, King Solomon speaks of those who fear God. As I meditate on this passage, I am reminded of Proverbs 1: 7: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but a fool despises wisdom and discipline." So with the title “The beginning of wisdom”, I would like to think about how those who has the beginning of wisdom and fear God act.

Look at Ecclesiastes 7:18 – “It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” King Solomon says that those who fear God are avoiding both extremes. I personally think that "balance" is important in Christian life. The reason is that I think that our Christians are living a unbalanced faith life. One example is that Christians like the day of their prosperity and not the day of trouble as in Ecclesiastes 7:14. Although we believe that we enjoy grace whether in the day of prosperity or the day of trouble, we do only enjoy God’s grace in the day of prosperity but not the day of trouble. What do you think? Do you enjoy the grace of God who helps you in times of trouble? Do you experience God’s grace when you are in trouble, something you didn’t see when you were prosperous? Do you see that when we are afflicted we see ourselves as sinners and that we see others around us that we have not seen in our triumphs, that we see the just God who judges sin and that we will live with the Lord forever? I feel more and more urgent that we need a balance in our faith life when we see that God not only gives us the day of prosperity, but also they day of afflictions. We need not only the day of prosperity, but also the day of trouble. God has made both of these days in our faith so that we can live by faith in God alone since we can not count our future things and know them (v. 14). Therefore, we should not have only prosperity. We need suffering. But nowadays we Christians seem to know the blessings of prosperity, but they do not seem to know the blessings of suffering. This is a life of faith that has lost balance.

What we do not understand is not only the future (v. 14). We also do not understand why the righteous should suffer and the wicked to prosper. In other words, not only did God make us not to understand why there is the day of prosperity and the day of trouble, but also why God in his sovereignty the righteous suffers and the wicked prospers. Look at Ecclesiastes 7:15 – “In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.” King Solomon says that he does not understand why the righteous perish and the wicked live long. Do you understand? Shouldn’t the righteous who believe in Jesus enjoy the blessings of long life? How can the wicked enjoy the blessing of long life? It is a sovereign work of God that can not understood with our understanding. Therefore, we can only admit God's absolute sovereignty. And we have no choice but to walk by faith in the sovereign God. We are bound to only obey God’s Word. One of the words of God is to avoid the both extreme. Those who live a balanced life of faith and are wise and fear God will avoid both extreme. What does King Solomon's talking about here refer to? It refers to “the one” and “the other” (v, 18), which means not to be too righteous and too wicked. In other words, the Bible says that those who have the beginning of wisdom, those who fear God avoid being overly righteous and overly wicked.

First, King Solomon encourages us not to be over-righteous.

The "righteous" that we speak here refers not to the righteous who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, but to the hypocrites who claim themselves as righteous (Park, Yun-sun). Who are thy hypocrites? They are like the Pharisees, who obey God's law and seek salvation. In other words, the hypocrites are those who seek to be saved by their own good deeds. The hypocrites are those who seek to gain the righteousness of God through their own efforts and merits, rather than the righteousness of God being imputed to them. Their righteousness is to acknowledge their efforts and merit, and to uplift themselves on their own. In the end, this righteousness can only make them proud. Eventually, the hypocrites considered themselves wise. But their wisdom was never wisdom from above (Jam. 1:15). How can we know this? The wisdom that comes down from above is meekness, that is, humility, and the hypocrites have proud that elevate themselves. So this is what King Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:16: “Do not be over-righteous, neither be over-wise-- why destroy yourself?” This word reminded me Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” We must not be too righteous to avoid being defeated.

Second, King Solomon encourages us not to be over-wicked.

Look at Ecclesiastes 7:17 – “Do not be over-wicked, and do not be a fool-- why die before your time?” This doesn’t mean that it is okay to be a certain wicked person. Rather, it is a warning word that warns of extreme evil. That’s why King Solomon is exhorting us not to be too wicked. Then how can we become over-wicked? That is, we are not fearing God, but are disobedient to the Word of God. A fool who pursues extreme evil disobeys the Word of God because he believes there is no God. For example, the extreme wicked are very foolish. And the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure (v. 4). Also, the heart of fools is dominated by covetousness and likes bribes (v. 7). The foolish people is arrogant (v. 8), and quickly provoke in his spirit (v. 9). What can we hope for from these people? What does the Bible say about this extreme wicked people? King Solomon says that the extreme wicked die before the due date (v. 17). However, somehow this verse 17 seems to be somewhat contrary to the words of the second half of verse 15. King Solomon said that in the second half of verse 15 there was a wicked man who lived for a long time. But in verse 17, he said that the wicked can die before the due date. How should we interpret these two words? Look at Ecclesiastes 8: 12-13: “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.” Although we may think that the wicked men live long in their wickedness (7:15), the Bible clearly says that it will not go well with the wicked and their days will not lengthen (8:13). The reason is because the wicked do not fear God. The Bible clearly says that those who do not fear God do not live long.

Those who fear God do not live extreme lives. In other words, the wise men who fear God do not live both extreme, that is over-righteous or over-wicked (vv. 16, 17). Those who fear God with the root of wisdom are neither over-righteous nor over-wicked. The reason is that those who fear God who has the beginning of wisdom know that being over-righteous is self-defeating, and that being over-wicked will die before the due date. Rather, they are free from all of this and have a balanced life of faith. The balanced life of faith is justified by faith in Jesus Christ, so they live only by faith and live a life of hating evil. The reason they hate evil is because they fear God (Prov. 8:13). And because they fear God, they love righteousness. Therefore, those who fear God with the beginning of wisdom hate injustice, love righteousness, and walk on the path of righteousness. And those who fear God will not turn to the left or right. I hope and pray that we all have the beginning of wisdom and fear God.