Series: Under the Sun: The Book of Ecclesiastes
Eat, Drink and ....?
September 06, 2020 | John Ewart
Passage: Ecclesiastes 8:1-17
Solomon is determined in his search for meaning in Ecclesiastes 8.
Listen to him…
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.
Who is wise enough to understand and interpret the situation?
That’s a huge question depending upon what you are seeking to understand.
Some things will be impossible to understand as I have alluded to in the past and we will discuss more in a moment.
But we can seek to live wisely.
In that wisdom, many questions are possible to answer with God’s Word and help.
Living wisely guides us to what we can know and how to apply it.
Solomon almost sounds optimistic in this first verse!
He continues his search for the answers to the pressing questions of life.
Does your face shine with wisdom as you navigate this life?
Does knowing Him and His Word brighten you up and give you hope?
Solomon shares wise ways to continue the journey.
Here are some ways to be like a wise man.
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? 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.
- Be Submissive to Proper Authority
Keep the king’s commandment can mean “observe the king’s face” that is, try to assess the king’s mood and direction from his expressions.
A play off verse 1.
Does the king’s face shine with wisdom?
In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.
Scripture tells us that it is wise to heed the ruling authorities as it is linked to our commitment to God.
We should be hesitant to rebel against them because they are established by God.
Hear what Paul wrote and note to whom he wrote it: the church in Rome.
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.
Interesting passage for today’s time and context.
You think that is by accident?
God knew what the days would be like when this was preached.
These passages certainly do not mean we must obey the governing authorities no matter what, but it does mean we must submit to the role of the governing authorities in all matters that do not violate the will of God.
That is a hard truth for some I know.
The desire to be hasty to go from his presence, in verse 3, can mean disloyalty.
The tendency to criticize, demean, and even antagonize authority figures is common in our culture.
Whether we are talking about politics or the church.
There are times when it is appropriate to disobey governing authorities in order to fulfill the will of God.
But these times must be clearly biblical and not simply personal opinion.
Examples can be found in Scripture.
Think of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, and the apostles in Acts 4.
They obeyed God which led them to disobey their earthly authorities and they experienced the consequences of doing what was right.
The apostle Paul, while a prisoner of Rome, said he was a prisoner of the Lord.
Paul had a healthy respect for earthly rulers as we saw in Romans 13, but he also knew that God was ultimately sovereign over his life.
Earthly powers, even as mighty as the Roman Empire, can never stop the advance of God's Mission.
There are also practical aspects to this Solomon says.
The king is going to go ahead and do whatever he wants anyway.
He is not accountable to you for what he does.
Not in the days of Solomon especially.
So if and when you know the king’s desire, you will be wise to do it at the right time and in the right way, even when you cannot see the full purpose, as long as it does not violate the Word of God.
There may even be times when there is room to make positive change.
The wise man waits for the proper moment to make his case or stand and does not waste his influence on a lost cause.
Think of Daniel.
He knew when to submit to the Babylonians by allowing his name to be changed.
Then he was able to have his request granted not to eat the king’s food which was a violation of God’s Word for him and he became healthier than those who did.
Eventually he had to take a stronger stand against worshipping anyone but Yahweh because it was a clear violation of God’s Word.
He accepted his punishment and of course God intervened and delivered him.
The godless Babylonians all noticed including their king.
We are to intercede on behalf of those in authority over us.
I Timothy 2:1-5
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
But we are also reminded that in the end we must believe God will judge.
Our spirits are beyond the control and the oppression of any earthly ruler.
Ultimately, we depend upon the One who controls eternity.
We certainly cannot.
It is to Him we truly submit.
It is to His authority we bow.
We are not released from the confines of warring with life and death and we do not know when one will end and the other will begin.
But we know God, in His unlimited authority, does know these things.
Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.
And we have read this passage before: Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
We have a very limited amount of time and even less control over it.
So, we must submit to the authority of the Creator who positions earthly authorities in place as we press on in this war of life and death within the earthly contexts in which He has placed us.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
- Be Sure of Promised Accountability
There is also a limited amount of time for evil to oppress.
Solomon says I’ve seen it all and I can’t make sense of it!
A wicked man receives a hero’s funeral
Sometimes the pain caused by an unjust ruler is made worse because his evil is ignored when people remember him.
Because God’s judgment is delayed, the wicked think nothing of it and are encouraged to sin even more.
There seem to be no consequences.
God’s will is not fully done on earth as it is in heaven yet.
Sin is here and inequities continue to abound.
Righteous people suffer and unrighteous people prosper.
“Life seems unjust” is such a recurring theme for the king of Jerusalem.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Better- Why do good things happen to bad people?
Evil men seem too frequently to be able to escape without consequence.
Why does Oswald Chambers die at 43 in Egypt?
Jim Elliot murdered at 29?
Why does the innocent child die at the hands of a drive by shooting?
“We see as thru a mirror dimly”
We don’t know when God is going to end this and judge all wrong, but we do know this: we know we are promised that God will keep His Word.
There will come a day when every man and woman who has ever lived will receive justice and accountability from the Judge, Almighty God!
That’s a promise!
He will make the holy adjustment and we can be sure and certain of that truth.
The wicked will not escape no matter how long the judgment seems to be postponed.
He will balance out equity and justice.
Even if the sinful do not recognize it now.
They will later.
It might seem evil triumphs and good suffers for now but there will be a Holy accountability coming.
That day is coming, and we must fear God and submit to Him.
I promise you, as sure as I know anything, all will be held accountable!
Again, Paul writes to the church sitting at the center of the empire:
But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
Justice does not always appear to rule in our world.
It seems to be postponed.
But God does rule. Always.
He is at work though we do not always understand.
His will ultimately will be done.
Be submissive to the proper authority.
Be sure of promised accountability.
Solomon finishes with…
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. 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.
III. Be Sustained by Purposeful Action
Life is mysterious.
It is too complex to figure out on our own.
The Bible contains some mystery as I shared last week.
This past Wednesday night n=some of your pastors discussed this on a panel.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
No one knows when the Second Coming will occur and yet it is amazing how many try to figure out what God calls a mystery.
God operates in the realm of a wisdom that transcends us.
He is neither based upon nor limited to human logic and knowledge.
And many just will not accept that.
They do not like that.
That means He is greater than I am, and I cannot control Him, and humanity despises that which it cannot control.
When we forget that, we are in trouble and we cause trouble.
1 Corinthians 2:11
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
In order to deal with life when it seems so backwards, we must remember and embrace the fact we cannot understand how and why God works every time.
Faith must be stronger than understanding.
We must admit- I am only human.
We must admit- I don’t understand why and I may never know why while here.
But we must also, by God’s help and power, not let that affect our faith.
In fact, we should ask God to use that lack of knowledge to deepen our faith.
We must remember Job who did not have the answers but believed anyway!
We must be like Abraham who obeyed the promises of God demanding much faith.
Remember that a 90-year-old woman and 100-year-old man had a tiny little baby!
Let that strengthen your faith.
God can do, and nobody can explain it.
If He could do it then, He can do it now.
If He doesn’t do what we want, we must remember He had a better plan all along.
So, we wait upon and trust in Him.
So hard for so many!
Too hard for some.
Remember, God has made everything appropriate in its time.
He has set eternity in our heart.
We must have an eternal perspective “above the sun” so the “peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.
God knows our tendency to worry when we do not control or decide.
We must be content to take His Word and the pieces He does reveal to us one by one without being able to always put them all together to make the whole picture visible.
We must submit to the truth that “Lord, you know what is the very best and you have the power to do anything.”
That’s what v. 15 is really about.
Don’t miss it. It is often used way of out of context and poorly.
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.
Solomon is not saying, “Eat, drink, live it up because all is hopeless anyway”.
This verse is teaching us that instead of going crazy and sinking into despair trying to deal with all that life throws at you, and trying to solve all the mysteries, which cannot be done, listen to this simple plan: “Eat, drink, and happily trust God!”
Live life and find contentment in your faith because God is working all things out.
Proactively fill your life with purposeful, biblical action to sustain yourself and even to the point of thriving and finding joy.
This is not simply some reactive retreat from life, but a proactive purposeful pursuit of what God means for your life to be!
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.
Seek His wisdom.
God will give us the ability to cope with reality even though we cannot explain it.
God will even use our struggles to teach and strengthen our wisdom.
I know there have been many times in your lives when it seemed that you just stood up only to be knocked down again.
We often blame sin and Satan, but do not miss the possible lesson God is seeking to teach you.
Proactively, purposefully, remember how to get up, how to walk and run with Him and with the community of His church.
Every time you get up you grow stronger!
Trials and temptation prove our strength under pressure.
Knowing we belong to God allows us to move forward.
He knows what He is doing.
We must acknowledge God as God.
Through all the misery and mysteries- to trust in Jesus, to trust in God, to depend upon His Word!
And when we do that, as one commentator wrote, “we too become a mystery, personifying untimely pleasure in the midst of unjust triumph and unfair circumstances.”
What a challenge!
I pray they must shoot us to stop us.