Ecclesiastes Episode 8

Beth's Notes

1 Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance. 2 Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. 6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him. 7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? 8 No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. 9 All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt. 10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried--those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless. 11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 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. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow. 14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth:  righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. 16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth--his eyes not seeing sleep day or night-- 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.  Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.  Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 (NIV)
Prayer: “Make the Word come alive to us, Father make it come alive….”
In Chapter Eight of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon continues his discourse on wisdom, investigating the value of it, and in so doing comes face to face with the problem of evil and wickedness – a problem no thinking person can honestly avoid.
In all actuality, it is not unbelief which creates this problem with evil, rather faith. If there is no faith and we have no sense of “ought” within us, who is to say what is “good” or what is “evil”? If there is no God (faith), then we have nobody to blame but ourselves for what happens in the world or perhaps fate. And left to our own devises, sans God, it is never a pretty picture – think the people of Noah’s time pre-flood or Lot’s time pre-destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah- sin is forever spiraling downward. If we believe God is good and loving we must face the difficult question of why there is so much suffering in the world. Does God know and not care? Or does He know and care but lack the power to do anything about it? Or does He know and care yet allows these things for reasons beyond our comprehensions. Some people become agnostics or atheists when pondering these questions, but in so doing they create a whole new set of problems. Where does all the good come from in the world? Where the sense of “ought” implanted within each one of us?  
It is difficult to believe, is it not, that the enjoyable and beautiful things we have in our world were produced by mere chance or happenstance.  God’s fingerprints are found on each flower and butterfly and bird in the air and everything else in all creation. Even God Himself stated in Isaiah 40:25-26:
25 “To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25-26 (NIV)

King David echoed that sentiment in Psalms 8:3-4,  standing amazed that the Lord of the universe even thought about man much less cared for him.

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalms 8:3-4 (NIV)

From His sovereign position in heaven God watches over His created universe. HIS universe – remember, it is all His. In controlling history, God establishes rulers and removes them. God, who cannot be compared to anyone or anything, knows everything about His Creation and sustains it by his righteous right hand. In His strength He created, controls and sustains – even the millions upon millions of stars, each one of which He amazingly has named. Indeed, it is God Who knows the explanation of all things, not mere man. Just read the last five chapters of Job where God begins by asking His suffering servant a myriad of questions of which Job had no clue how to answer, beginning with the first one in Job 38:1: 
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone--7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:1-7 (NIV)

And God continued asking Job question after question of which Job (and everyone else for that matter) would have been (and still are) clueless. All wisdom has its source in God. And wisdom is always used in a positive sense in Scripture. Wisdom here meaning wise, skillful, intelligent, prudent, experienced, clever, knowledge, insight, judgment. True wisdom includes a reverent attitude towards the Lord.
In Proverbs 9:10 we discover:
10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

I recently read a story about a man who was raised in a Christian home, prayed to receive Christ at a young age, felt called to the ministry and pursued training in seminary. Married a Christian girl and had several kids. He pastored a couple of churches. However, through his time in seminary and then as a pastor of small churches, he became an aggressive atheist. The two reasons he gave for walking away from his faith are intriguing:  First he stated that Christianity “doesn’t work” citing an example of when he was younger and he liked a girl and she did not like him back. He prayed and prayed for God to help him win her over but it never happened. Secondly, his conversion to atheism was propelled by the problem of evil and suffering in the world. He came to the conclusion that there could not be a loving and just God with all that was going on around him. Sadly, many people struggle with these same facts. These realities can drive some from God and others to doubt. Hardships can cause skepticism and some to teeter on the edge of unbelief. That is why the knowledge of God’s Word is SO important because God is not a Santa in the sky and we are promised troubles in Scripture (and all could say “Amen” to that I am sure!). Solomon himself seems to have this problem in Ecclesiastes – teetering on the edge of unbelief because of all the sin and mess he sees in the world (often neglecting his own heart to his misfortune). However, instead of driving Solomon away from God, it actually drives him to God in faith.  

Interestingly, most people forget that man caused sin to be in the world through disobedience – though warned against. Before the fall no such mess existed. After the fall, it did not take long for sinful man to spiral down to the lowest level. All of us are guilty in this and because of our guilt, none of us could stand before a Holy God – there was nothing we could do in and of ourselves to cleanse us of our guilt – and that condition eternally separated us from Him in Hell. We needed a perfect sacrifice – enter Jesus. But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And you want to talk about unfair? I will tell you about what is unfair. What is unfair is what Christ did for us.  Listen to the words of Isaiah 53:1-12:  
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:1-12 (NIV)

Thank you Jesus!  If God’s Son suffered so much for us how dare we question His goodness when we walk through our trials and tribulations.  We have already been told we were destined for them. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 Paul tells us:
2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted.  And it turned out that way, as you well know. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 (NIV)

Jesus also promised us trials and tribulations when He was walking on this dusty earth. We see in John 16:33:
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

God has a design for everything in creation and wisdom literature calls living according to that design “wisdom”. God’s plan is for His children is to walk in the way of wisdom (the Word) because it is the right way, the good way. It will preserve our lives because wisdom is protection…and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. Living against God’s design is foolishness (to say the least) because it threatens our lives whereas living according to God’s way of wisdom leads us to an abundant life – a life of fullness albeit often difficult. (Yet walking without Him is even more difficult and furthermore, wasted.) No one can fully understand God’s ways as He has told us in Scripture. In Isaiah 55:8-9 states:
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Remember as well, earth is not out home heaven is. And in heaven every wrong will be made right – we can take that to the bank. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:9:
9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” -- 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

I love what Malachi tells us in Malachi 3:14-4:3:
14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ 16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. 17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. 1 ‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 3:14-4:1-3 (NIV)

Also, Scripture tells us it is God’s to avenge and He will repay.  Interestingly, God gives us through the pen of Isaiah a glimmer of both the millennial kingdom and the eternal state in the new heavens and the new earth in Isaiah 65:17-25:
17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 9 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 4 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 65:17-25 (NIV)

In these verses the Lord described the millennial kingdom, which is seemingly identified here with the eternal state (new heavens and a new earth). In Revelation, however, the new heavens and new earth follow the Millennium. Most likely Isaiah did not distinguish between these two aspects of God’s rule; he saw them together as one. After all, the Millennium, though 1,000 years in duration, will be a mere pinpoint of time compared with the eternal state.  During the Millennium, Jerusalem will be a place of joy. Also the Lord Himself will rejoice over it, for sorrow will be vanished. Though death will still be present, life spans will be extended and people will enjoy safety and the produce of their vineyards. God’s blessing will be on their work and families and He will speedily answer their prayers. Wild animals will lose their ferocity and harmony and safety will prevail under God’s good hand. 

Presently, righteousness is not always rewarded and wickedness is not always punished, and sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous meet with disaster, but it will not always be so – we can rest assured of that! 
Next we see in Ecclesiastes, Solomon writing on obedience to authority.  God seems extremely concerned that we learn to submit ourselves to rightful authority – as long as it does not go against God’s revealed will.  We must learn to obey human authority so that we will obey God whose Lordship demands our full obedience from the heart – knowing He has our best interest in all that He commands for us to do. Obedience is always key in following the Father. If we learn to obey our parents then we will learn to obey our ruling authorities and in so doing we will learn to obey God.  God teaches us by degrees, Amen? Paul brings obedience to the familial level in Ephesians 6:1-9:
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”--which is the first commandment with a promise-- 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.  Ephesians 6:1-9 (NIV)

Paul writes in Romans 13:1-7 regarding obedience to the governing authorities:
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Romans 13:1-5 (NIV)

Lastly, God through Peter gives this explanation on obedience to authority in 1 Peter 2:13-23: 
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. 18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:18-23 (NIV)

One thing is for sure, a day is coming when wickedness will be judged and even kings will not escape. Therefore, we are to entrust ourselves to Him Who judges justly. As no one can stop the wind or prevent the day of their death or get discharged from the war when the fighting is fierce, likewise, nobody can stop the inexorable working of God’s law in Galatians 6:7-9:
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-9 (NIV)

The wise servant understands that “time and judgment (procedure)” must be considered in everything we do because it takes discernment to know the right procedure and words (or lack of) for the right time. The impulsive person who overreacts and storms out of the room is probably only making the problem worse. Wisdom helps us understand people and situations and to discern the right thing to do at the right time. The wise heart will know the proper procedure.  

We all have the options of disobeying, running away, defying orders, and even fighting back. But before we act, we must first prayerfully exercise wisdom and seek to discern the right “time and procedure.” What is God’s will in every circumstance – and sometime this can be very difficult. Pray, pray, pray. It is not easy being a consistent Christian in this complicated, evil world. We not only need God’s wisdom but His power from the indwelling Holy Spirit which He freely bestows to all His children. He gives us all that we need to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. We can ask for the wisdom of God and receive it by faith. James tells us in James 1:5:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (NIV)

Assistance is readily available from “the giving God”. To those who lack wisdom, this valuable resource is available for the asking. James assumed his readers would feel the need for wisdom, not merely knowledge. God will not only provide wisdom, but will do so generously, and not grudgingly. Like Nehemiah prayed before approaching the king: “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” God listened and heard His humbled servant and granted him abundant favor. Nehemiah knew how to discern “time and procedure”. If we seek to do God’s will and desire for Him to receive all glory, He will bless our prayers. We will not put Him in our proverbial boxes of our own making though and our blessings may (and often) look different than for what we prayed – yet we can trust Him to act on our behalf. He delights in His children standing firm in His will, mature and fully assured. And we will never outgive Him – though the road may be extremely hard. Also, the road to ascension is always through humility. God opposes the proud yet gives grace giving way to grace to the humble.   

We have the options of disobeying, running away, defying orders, and even fighting back. God desires our obedience but does not force us into it. So much of our futility and brokenness is due to our own sin and our own idolatry in which we turn God’s good things into ultimate things which fail to provide and keep us empty. God’s way is the best way and when we choose it, the Creator smiles. Ian Thomas writes:
“That is why your free ‘yes’ to God, at any given moment, fills His heart with greater joy than all the thrilling wonders of a million universes thrown out into the vastness of outer space by the word of His power. Nothing else in creation has the capacity to love Him, because nothing else has the capacity to choose Him.” Major W. Ian Thomas  

Solomon goes on to say that no one knows the future indeed we have no power to control even the wind much less death. Only Christ was able to say that He had the authority to lay His life down and the authority to take it up again – because He is God. God is the One in control of man’s destiny. It is through His grace and power which allow people to continue living. Scripture states in Deuteronomy 32:39:
39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 (NIV)

And again in 1 Samuel 2:6-9:
6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.  For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; upon them He has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.  It is not by strength that one prevails.” 1 Samuel 2:6-9 (NIV)

Things do not always work out the way we believe they should. Some of God’s dearest children are laden with sharp spiritual conflicts. God sometimes allows their faith to be shaken or to doubt the principles in His Word. But He is never far from them. God’s ways are so unsearchable and deep, that they sometimes exercise His children greatly. Yet we must not look at things in their confused state rather in the outcome. Remember as well, He is never nearer than to the one who is presently in the fire – just ask Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.    

I recently came across a story of a young lady who called herself “Nightbirde” – AKA Jane Marczweski.  She was on America’s Got Talent and sang a song she wrote, bringing tears and testimony to the hard core Simon’s eyes and ears. She brought the house down winning the best of whatever it is you win on that show. Prior to singing her song she told the story about her life – how she had cancer with only a 2% chance of survival and how her husband left her when he found out.  She was a believer in the Lord Jesus and sang on the praise and worship team at her church. She stated: “I am so much more than the bad things that have happened to me.” And “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore until you decide to be happy.” And “Two percent chance of survival is not zero.” And lastly, “Just because someone leaves you doesn’t mean that love isn’t real.” She has recently gone home to be with Jesus.

She intrigued me so that and I looked her up and found her blog site and read the following post, which was raw, real, and redemptive. I wanted to share it with you guys – though lengthy – to help us when we are going through these hard core times wondering the why or perhaps the where God is when we are at our lowest:
“I don’t remember most of Autumn, because I lost my mind late in the summer and for a long time after that, I wasn’t in my body. I was a lightbulb buzzing somewhere far. After the doctor told me I was dying, and after the man I married said he didn’t love me anymore, I chased a miracle in California and sixteen weeks later, I got it. The cancer was gone. But when my brain caught up with it all, something broke. I later found out that all the tragedy at once had caused a physical head trauma, and my brain was sending false signals of excruciating pain and panic. I spent three months propped against the wall. On nights that I could not sleep, I laid in the tub like an insect, staring at my reflection in the shower knob. I vomited until I was hollow. I rolled up under my robe on the tile.  The bathroom floor became my place to hide, where I could scream and be ugly; where I could sob and spit and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with my head on the toilet. I have had cancer three times now, and I have barely passed thirty. There are times when I wonder what I must have done to deserve such a story. I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him. Maybe He’ll say I just never learned the lesson, or that I wasn’t grateful enough. But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me. I am God’s downstairs neighbor, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.  I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset. Call me bitter if you want to—that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.” If an explanation would help, He would write me one—I know it. But maybe an explanation would only start an argument between us—and I don’t want to argue with God. I want to lay in a hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself that I’m praying to the God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but instead He let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray. For forty years, their shoes didn’t wear out. Fire lit their path each night. Every morning, He sent them mercy-bread from heaven. I look hard for the answers to the prayers that I didn’t pray.  I look for the mercy-bread that He promised to bake fresh for me each morning. The Israelites called it manna, which means “what is it?” That’s the same question I’m asking—again, and again. There’s mercy here somewhere—but what is it? What is it? What is it? I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the wind chimes. It’s not the mercy that I asked for, but it is mercy, nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: thank you.  It’s a prayer I don’t mean yet, but will repeat until I do.  Call me cursed, call me lost, call me scorned. But that’s not all. Call me chosen, blessed, sought-after. Call me the one who God whispers his secrets to. I am the one whose belly is filled with loaves of mercy that were hidden for me. Even on days when I’m not so sick, sometimes I go lay on the mat in the afternoon light to listen for Him. I know it sounds crazy, and I can’t really explain it, but God is in there—even now. I have heard it said that some people can’t see God because they won’t look low enough, and it’s true. If you can’t see him, look lower. God is on the bathroom floor.” Nightbirde - Jane Marczweski 
Though dead, she still speaks at least to my heart! He is always near to His brokenhearted children and those crushed in spirit.
Every single one of us is pregnant with purpose – no matter what that purpose looks like. Maybe it could be just to demonstrate to others that He is indeed near to the brokenhearted. Never waste your pain – it can be so profitable.    
The Word teaches us not to look upon things only in the present, but to see the outcome when God will direct all things to a sweet end. We are to consider examples in the Word of God for our encouragement. This wisdom protects us from emotional and carnal reasoning.  God’s plan for our lives includes both our prosperity and our adversity – and both are necessary. He mixes them together to bring about something beautiful even though we cannot often see what that is right now from our small vantage point. Our wisdom is limited so we need to trust God. That is the point of Ecclesiastes. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The one who fears God will avoid both self-righteousness and foolishness. That is the way we are to live life – trusting and relying on God. 

The righteous suffer while the wicked prosper. Or as Solomon says in verse 14:
“Righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.” Ecclesiastes 8:14 (NIV)

Indeed, in spite of good laws and fine people who seek to enforce them, there is more injustice in this world than we care to admit. Solomon speaks of a wicked man who died. He had frequented the temple and had received much praise from the people but he had not lived a godly life.  Yet, even in all his hypocrisy he was given a magnificent funeral with an eloquent eulogy, while the truly godly people of the city were ignored and forgotten. When Solomon reflected soberly on the situation, he realized that the deceased man had continued in his sin because he thought he was getting away with it. God is indeed long suffering towards sinners and doesn’t always judge sin immediately – yet His mercy is never an excuse for rebellion. There will always be consequences.
Solomon exposes to us the brokenness of this world – a brokenness that really hurts and bring emptiness – for the positive outcome of causing us not to build our lives on things or people or anything else other than God. Ecclesiastes is God’s goodness to us because He refuses to allow us to wallow in our broken futility. In His love He frustrates us. Our frustration over the absurdity of life drives us to God and His gospel. He is the answer to brokenness and meaninglessness.   
The wicked will eventually be judged and the righteous rewarded – you can take that to the bank. It is always wisdom to fear the Lord and to seek to live a godly life. It is good to be constantly examining our own lives as we will not go forward unless we recognize the danger within our own hearts – where does sin have victory – how has it prevailed and when we are defeated. Wicked, morally wrong, iniquity, godlessness, unrighteousness, lawlessness, injustice, dishonesty, fraud – all denote the kind of life which is antithetical to the character of God and bringing indictment and judgement upon those who walk in these ways. One who pursues wickedness will be destroyed. Men can be forgiven, however, if they truly repent. Paul encourages us on in 2 Timothy 2:15:   
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15 (NIV)

When we follow God’s design in this fallen world, things may not always work out immediately, but they will work out ultimately. God will make all things new in the end, and He will set all things right to His original design. The wicked will not prosper forever, and the righteous who are in Christ will not suffer forever.
Solomon next recommends the enjoyment of life. He said that life’s best is to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor (i.e., to eat and drink) and “to rejoice” or to be glad. Also, he noted that this joy would enliven one’s labor (i.e., it would accompany him in his work). As is obvious from earlier occurrences of this theme, this is not Epicurean hedonism based on despair but is a note of both submission and permission – if you will – to enjoy what one has been given. Man cannot control or predict adversity or prosperity; however, each day’s joys should be received as gifts from God’s hand and be savored as God permits.  All this, Solomon states, is to be while one is under the sun.  
The person who has to know everything, or who thinks he knows everything, is destined for disappointment in this world. Solomon went that route for us and doubtless will many of us be on his wisdom level – no offense! No man or woman can comprehend the totality of things or explain all that God is doing.
Historian Will Durant surveyed human history in his multivolume Story of Civilization and came to the conclusion that “our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.” Of course this fact must not be used as an excuse for ignorance and stupidity. We are to know what God has revealed to us. He tells us Deuteronomy 29:29:
 29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV)

God does not expect us to know the unknowable, but He does expect us to learn all that we can and obey what He teaches us. Indeed, the more we obey, the more He will teach us. A confession of ignorance is the first step toward true knowledge. The person who desires to learn God’s truth must possess honesty and humility. “Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.”

In ending his examination of wisdom in Chapter 8, Solomon concluded that wisdom is important to the person who wants to get the most out of life. While wisdom cannot explain every mystery or solve every problem, it can help us exercise discernment in our decisions. The wise person will know what to do at just the right time – through His power, for His glory.

“Christ’s love has depths in which the daring soul may drown, and abundant shallows for the humble to safely wade. Though our knowledge of Christ’s love is imperfect, we may know enough to shame us that we have not loved Him more….Let us pray that we may know more of the love of Christ, and be filled with the fullness of God.”  Vincent Alsop  
“Assurance enables a man to always feel that he has something solid beneath his feet and something firm under his hands — a sure friend by the way, and a sure home at the end.” Ryle

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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