Ecclesiastes 9:13-10 - Walk Wisely in a Wicked World

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Welcome Message Thanks for having me - grateful for the opportunity Turn to the book of Eccl Chap 9 starting in verse 13. Introduce self. While you turn there, let me do a quick recap of the theme of the Book and what has been covered thus far: Main theme of Ecclesiastes: The narrator of Ecclesiastes, referred to as the "Teacher" or "Preacher", believes that life is hevel, temporary and fleeting like smoke or vapor. Humans try to build meaning and purpose in life apart from God, investing in pursuits and things that have no lasting meaning, but time marches on, we all die, and bad things happen to good people. It's a little depressing, but what the teacher makes clear is that the key to contentment comes from wisdom, accepting hevel, (meaning accepting that there are things we can't understand) fearing God, keeping his commandments, and putting our trust in him. We remain puzzled by life's mysteries, but God will bring true justice that fuels our ability to live lives of honesty and integrity. So far in the book, the Preacher has discussed: The neverending flow of time, all of our achievements and technological advancements will one day vanish and be forgotten All of our activites that we pursue to achieve happiness, wealth, career, status, pleasure are "hevel" trying to capture the wind, an enigma The vanity or wisdom and knowledge, not that these things are bad, but that they don't guarantee happiness in life So as we continue our study, let's look to our passage to see what the "Preacher" has to say to us today. But first, let me pray for us. Prayer Grateful Wisdom Prepare my heart and their hearts to receive the TREASURE of your word! Scripture Let's jump into the scripture for today. You can follow along in your bibles. I'll be starting in Chapter 9 vs 13. Ecclesiastes 9:13 - 10 13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. 17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. Chapter 10 1Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left. 3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool. 4 If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness[a] will lay great offenses to rest. 5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6 folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7 I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves. 8 He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9 He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them. 10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.[b] 11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer. 12 The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor,[c] but the lips of a fool consume him. 13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness. 14 A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? 15 The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city. 16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18 Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. 19 Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. This is the Word of the Lord Purpose of the message (What's the Big Idea) Now there is a ton of stuff we could talk about in this passage, but based on where we are in our nation there are a couple of things I'd like to call out in particular. I've titled my message today "Walk Wisely in a Wicked World" "Walk Wisely in a Wicked World." So later today, if someone asks you what the message was on today, you can tell them, "Walk Wisely in a Wicked World" So let's dive into the text and see what God has to say to us. In Chapter 9 vs. 13-16 there is a pretty amazing story about a mighty king who besieges a small town. You would think this would be an easy victory, but in this case, a poor wise man, saves the city. Amazing right? Sounds like it would make a great movie, complete with a ticker tape parade at the end honoring the under-dog hero! Unfortunately, that isn't what happens, the wise man is quickly forgotten and the text actually uses the word "despised". That's depressing. However, the Preacher goes on to tell us that even though the poor man was despised, that doesn’t degrade the value of wisdom. As you've seen throughout the book of Ecclesiastes this is a recurring theme, wisdom and living wisely don't always get you the results you might expect, but that does not diminish the inherent value of wisdom. In Chapter 1:18 we can see this when the Preacher says: For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. Then in Chapter 2:14 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. So even though these passages paint wisdom as Hevel - like smoke unable to be grasped, or an enigma that doesn't make sense, the Preacher goes on to tout the inherent value of wisdom: In Chapter 4:13 13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. And Again in 7:11-12 11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. 12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. And then in our text for today, Chapter 9:17-18 17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. I'm sure we can all think of a time where a leader has so lost their head that they are screaming and shouting and making a big scene. We all know that they are just trying to draw a crowd and get on the news. But here the preacher says “the quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded.” The quiet words of the wise can deliver a city. The quiet words of the wise are “better than might”; they ought to be heeded. Next, we see the Preacher in Chapter 10 contrast the value of wisdom to the destructive evil of folly. In verses 1-3 1Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left. 3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool. Foolishness is toxic and pervasive, meaning that it spoils any of the good things it touches. The Preacher writes in verse 2, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of a fool to the left.” He does not mean “right” and “left” in the American political sense of conservative and liberal, or Republican and Democrat. “In ancient Israel the right hand connoted power and deliverance [see, e.g., Ps 89:13]; the right side, moral goodness and favor. Hence the place of honor was on the right side. The left hand usually symbolized ineptness and perversity.” In Jesus’ parable of the judgment of the nations we also read that the Son of Man “will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left” (Matt 25:33). There are some who believe that the "Preacher" character in the book of Ecclesiastes was in fact King Solomon. Although that may or may not be true, there are few better examples in the Bible of someone who was great and powerful and yet ruined their legacy through foolishness. You can read the story of Solomon in 1 Kings 1-11. You may recall that Solomon was the son of King David and received the gift of amazing wisdom from God, when he prayed for wisdom instead of power and fame. Through Solomon's amazing wisdom, he was able to build an incredible kingdom - in fact he expanded the borders of Israel to the furthest they would ever reach. He also amassed unbelievable wealth, at one point his yearly income of gold was 666 talents which is over $1 BILLION per yearand that was just the gold not including his other possessions and property. However the most important achievement of Solomon was the building of the temple. If you haven't done so, I highly encourage you to check out the 3D narrated video tour of Solomon's temple on YouTube. It really helps to show you the awesome beauty of the temple in a way that is hard to do from just reading the text. But, despite all of these amazing accomplishments and Solomon's unmatched wisdom, he allowed foolishness to creep in. Specifically, he took foreign wives - LOTS of foreign wives actually, and they turned his heart to idolatry. As a result, God punished Solomon and his sons Jeroboam and Rehoboam split the country in half in what would be a long history of division and civil war that would last until the Babylonian captivity. So, if the first part of our text deals with wisdom and folly in general, the next part of our text deals with how wise people should act as citizens of a nation. In verses 4-20 we see several key points: If a ruler (or some other agency that has authority over you) loses their temper or finds some fault with you, a wise citizen will remain calm and not make any rash decisions. V4 Even though there may be rampant corruption in government, a wise citizen responds to that corruption with a careful, measured approach. V5-7 We must remember that Government has the power of the sword over us. In Romans 13: 13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Government must be handled carefully, if we attempt to "dig a pit" for our leaders to fall into, we may very well find ourselves falling into that same pit, or we may be struck by the same "stones" that we are attempting to carve, or if we don't take time to sharpen our tools, but try to bluntly bash our way through our problems, we may find ourselves hurt by the very wood we are attempting to chop. V8-11] If we want to influence change in our government, we must be wise in our words. I'd like to re-read verses 13-15: 13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness. 14 A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? 15 The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city. I used to be in the military and my last duty station was in Northern VA. For several months, I traveled daily to Washington D.C. Even though it is only 35 miles, my commute was anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on the traffic. During that commute, I found myself consumed with political talk radio. Which in Northern VA, is broadcast on multiple FM stations. Now I don't know if you have ever listened to political talk radio, but I had to stop listening to it. It was destroying my mental health. That is no exaggeration. The constant anger and name calling was so toxic to me, and it left me feeling hopeless because there were rarely any solutions offered, it was just attacks on the people who disagree. Vs 15 should be translated, “The effort of fools wearies him who does not know the way to town.” In other words, the advice of foolish counselors is so bad that they cannot even give simple directions. Their long-winded explanations only wear out the confused traveler. How much worse to take their counsel in affairs of state. Now this is not to say that we shouldn't be informed of the major issues affecting our world and country. We just need to be very careful what we fill our minds with, and the voices that we allow to dominate our minds. In fact, our text goes on starting in verse 16 to describe the destruction that bad rulers can have on a nation. 16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17 Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18 Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. 19 Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 20 Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. Several key points to pull out from this section: Childish rulers bring woe upon the land - the issue here is not necessarily one of age but of temperament - anyone who has children or been around children for that matter know exactly what this means. Temperamental, immature, given to fits, selfish, violent etc. Gluttonous rulers who make the filling of their bellies (and bank accounts) their focus of effort rather than effective governing. Lazy rulers who allow the "roof to sink in" or in other words fail to maintain things causing them to crumble and fall apart.In the Middle East the flat roofs of houses required regular maintenance. The roofs “were covered with lime, which eventually cracked and allowed rain to seep in …, since no run-off was provided.” So the owner would have to apply fresh plastering from time to time. If the owner was too lazy to do this, the house would begin to sag and leak. The nation with its upside-down political order is like a house that is not maintained. The king is incompetent and the princes are off partying. Who is looking after the welfare of the nation and its citizens? Wasteful rulers who fail to steward the resources of the nation well. Wise Citizens will watch their words as it relates to government.We still have the expression, “A little bird told me.” We also have another expression, “The walls have ears.” And if the king hears about you cursing him, you will receive harsh punishment. A little folly in your talk can mean your death. The message is: Do not curse the king! Be wise and survive! Watch your talk!1 Matthew Henry, the Puritan Minister in his commentary on this chapter says the following: "the people cannot but be happy when their rulers are generous and active, sober and temperate, and men of business, wisdom, virtue, and the fear of God, beneficence (the quality or state of doing good), and a readiness to do good to all mankind, these ennoble the royal blood" Lucky for us, we live in America - which is NOT a democracy - that’s for you Trey, but a constitutional republic, where the people elect representatives to act on their behalf. So in our case the rulers that we have are entirely up to us. We get to decide through our vote. But you might say, I vote according to Godly principles but so many other people don't so my vote doesn't even really count. Well, Christian, then what have you done to make disciples? Who are you reaching out to build relationships and share the gospel with? Social and Political programs although valuable, are ultimately futile without transformed hearts among the people. Repeat. So I ask again, Christian, who are you discipling? Or are you placing your hope in some government program to fix all that’s wrong in the world? When the people are moral, they will elect moral leaders. It is that simple. This brings me to my application for you today: Application So based on the text today, how can we Walk Wisely in this Wicked World we find ourselves? First, we need to be informed about what God has to say about the major issues facing our world and our nation. Abortion Poverty Sex Slavery/Trafficking Racism Injustice Marriage Sexual Morality Refugees Religious Liberty If we want to be wise citizens we must know what the Bible teaches about these issues and that is IMPOSSIBLE if we are not students of this book. That means DAILY study and meditation. I mentioned earlier I was in the military, Like Trey - I served in the Marines. I was in an infantry unit. In that type of unit, we had to be experts in the use of our weapons and tactics. We drilled every day. Physical fitness, tactics, weapons handling etc. We had to be so good that almost everything we did was muscle memory. Meaning, that when the bullets were flying, you didn't have time to look up how to use your rifle, you didn't have time to think about what to do. You had to simply react from memory. That only comes from hundreds of hours of practice and study. Christian - you are in a war. A spiritual war is raging all around you. The difference is that "4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds." 2 Cor 10:4 Our sword is the word of God. How did Jesus fight Satan when he was tempted in the desert? With the Word of God. You must be an expert in using your sword if you have any hope of succeeding in this battle. You are blessed to have a pastor who is passionate about this book, but his preaching on Sundays is NOT enough. You must be a student of this book on your own, digging in daily. Do you know how much time it takes to read this book all the way through in a year? 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes per day to read the very words of God written for you. Someone may say, "you don't know how busy I am" and if I could gently admonish you, this is not a matter of time, but a matter of priority. What in the world is more important than the very words of God "breathed out" for you? 2 Tim 3:16 But, knowledge is not enough. First, we need to be informed about what God has to say about the major issues facing our world and our nation. So my second point of application is to Engage in our society. We can do this in many ways, but here are two: Make Disciples 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-20 How do we make disiciples? I think there is a big gap in the American church in that we have no idea what it means to "make disciples". To most who claim Christianity in America, that is the pastor's job. But Jesus is very clear in what is rightfully called "The Great Commission" that it is ALL of our jobs. Now there are tons of different resources out there that you can read, but I suggest that this is not that complicated. To make disciples, first of all, you need to be a disciple. You can't give what you don't have that’s a given. Then, find people who are lost, build relationships with them, share the gospel with them, and then if they become Christians, then you walk them through what this book teaches. If you don't know the answer to a question someone asks - so what? Find your pastor and ask him, he can help - that’s part of what he is here for! So Make Disciples, the second way we can engage our society is: Seek The Welfare of Your City "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jer 29:7 How do we seek the welfare of our city? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b] and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 And Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 There is an unfortunate division in the church today between groups who overemphasize the church's role in affecting social change or "loving people" at the expense of preaching God's word, and who downplay the church's role in society saying that all the church should do is preach the gospel. This sort of "either or" mentality is very unfortunate - when we can clearly see from God's word that God expects us to do "both and". We must be continually discipling people and being discipled ourselves, AND we must be informed and engaged in those issues that are destroying lives and dishonoring to God. Let's take the issue of abortion. I highly doubt that anyone here would disagree with me that abortion should be criminalized, not just regulated, criminalized. Not only is the individual right to life protected in our constitution but God himself takes the shedding of human blood VERY seriously. So, as Christians, we have a duty to elect officials who will work to pass laws that protect unborn human life. BUT we ALSO clearly have a responsibility to engage with women and girls who are dealing with crisis pregnancies and share the gospel with them. My wife Corrie used to volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy center in Virginia. If you don't know what that is, its pretty simple, they exist to encourage girls who are considering abortion to keep their babies, give them resources and most importantly in many cases share the gospel with them. My wife would be on call and if a girl called the center, Corrie would take the call. I distinctly remember her taking those calls and behind her gentle tone I could tell she was heart broken. I realized something as Corrie was doing this job. Did you know that over 90% of the girls that Corrie would talk to, did not want to have abortions? They were being coerced into getting an abortion by their husbands, boyfriends, or parents. That was when I realized that although these girls will be held responsible for their actions, they are also victims of a morally depraved society. And that is the church's fault. It's the church's fault that our society has devolved into what it has. We have been asleep at the wheel while the world around us is falling apart. Both And - not Either Or. We need to wake up as the church and start making disciples, and affecting change in our society. This same logic can be applied to all of the issues I provided on the list above. If you are looking for some more practical ways to engage on the issues on that list, I highly recommend you check out David Platt's book titled "Counter Culture" he goes through what God's word has to say about each of those issues on that list and then gives practical ways you can engage on them. So: First, we need to be Informed about what God has to say about the major issues facing our world and our nation. Second, we need to Engage in our society. My Final Point is to remember that Elections Have Consequences……..For Now. As I said in my first two points, we need to know what God's word says about critical issues facing our world and country and we need to be engaged in our communities. That also means prioritizing those issues and then voting based on what our well-informed and scripture saturated consciences tell us. And im not just talking about the upcoming presidential election, im talking about voting for your city council members, your state representatives, your mayor, your police chief, judges, etc. As a wise citizen, you have a responsibility to know these people and ensure that they are fulfilling those campaign promises and oaths of office. Elections have consequences. For now. I say "for now" because we aren't just citizens of America. We are also citizens of God's Kingdom, and for those of you who are Christians, this is INCREDIBLE news! 15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. 18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” 19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. Rev 11:15-19 Wow! Can you imagine that day? How I long for that day, this year more than any other year has made me long for the eternal kingdom of God, where there will be no more partisan politics, no more war, no more abortion, no more injustice, no more hatred, only peace and joy in the presence of God forever! So even though, we have a duty to be engaged in our society, and the elections of this world have consequences, no Christian should be putting their hope in social or political reforms, or in Donald Trump or in Joe Biden, because at the end of the day the Lord is our hope and he will not fail us his steadfast love endures forever. Let's pray. Prayer
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