Sermon: The Wisdom of God (Ecclesiastes 9-12)

The Wisdom of God

Ecclesiastes 9-12

Ecclesiastes, so far has shown us that life is more than material goods.  We saw that we cannot purchase purpose and meaning and especially, we cannot purchase happiness.  Life is more than stuff

Luke 12:23 (ESV)

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

In Solomon’s second sermon he taught us that God has determined our lot in life and we bring glory to Him when we are thankful for the everyday things He gives us. Contentment with our circumstances is really contentment with God.  When we live in a truly thankful spirit we are glorifying the Lord.

In his third sermon, he taught us about the things in life that we would assume to be good and bad.  He basically writes that we shouldn’t assume that prosperity leads to happiness and don’t always assume that adversity leads to sadness.  Again, his focus is with the material world and its ability to provide meaning for us.  He hits a very important point when he concludes that God must be honored and worshipped no matter what things may look like to us because we are not privileged to see the complete picture.  We cannot see the ending and so we must be careful when we make conclusions about if what God is doing is good or bad.

When we don’t understand God’s purposes we must trust in God’s person. What we know for sure about God from the Bible must trump our inaccurate perceptions of life.  Here’s why, we are fallen sinners God is perfectly holy.  Second, we are finite and God is infinite.  We see the present through sin-smudged glasses and God is orchestrating the present with perfection.

As we learn these great truths from King Solomon we also sense a little bit of frustration and even emptiness in Solomon’s true claims.  He saw some truth but was still surrounded by darkness.  He was getting very close to real meaning but it still seemed somewhat elusive.

He was the wisest of the wise but still all Solomon had was man’s wisdom.  What he lacked was wisdom of another sort.  Our lives are a quest for meaning, so was his.  His search led him to the final ultimate conclusion.  It looks like at the end he got it right, not by man’s wisdom but by God’s

The conclusion of Solomon’s Sermon Series on life is found at the end of the book.

Eccles. 12:13-14 (ESV)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  [14] For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

We are not let in on the details concerning how God worked in Solomon’s heart to reveal this to him, we can only wonder.  The bottom line for us is that there is only one true source of wisdom and as Solomon discovered, we’re not it.  Humans do not have wisdom within them.  We need it but it cannot be found within us.

It seems as if Solomon possibly could have read the Book of Job and gleaned godly wisdom from some of its pages.  Perhaps in his quest for meaning, he turned to the ancient scrolls for answers.  Maybe he longed for true wisdom until he concluded the truth or perhaps he read his Bible.

Job 28:28 (ESV)

And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ “

In this last section of the King’s great work, he discusses the importance of godly wisdom.

I want to do things a little different today in that I want to look at one particular passage that Solomon places in his sermon as an illustration to his quest for wisdom.  As he goes back and forth to explain wisdom by various truths and by various proverbs, he throws in this example.

***Before we get too far I have to give credit here to Sinclair Ferguson and his small but very powerful work on Ecclesiastes.

Eccles. 9:13-18 (ESV)

[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.

Let’s analyze this passage for a minute.

A little city with few men in it. VS A great king and a great army

All looks hopeless for the little city.

This passage almost sounds like prophecy concerning our poor deliverer.

All looked hopeless for us when Satan had us bound in sin’s chains.  When the human race was enslaved to sin and all but captured and destroyed.  He was very powerful and his influence was felt all across the earth.  Mankind was in a hopeless situation.  Sin had separated us from our heavenly Father.  In this small city there was a poor wise man who would become its Savior.  In our case there was this poor wise man who took on the dark forces of evil and won!

1 Thes. 1:10 (ESV)

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

There were two things that seemed to amaze Solomon when he remembered this account.  The first, of course was the event itself.  One poor wise man in a tiny town with a small population could deliver the people from a great King and a great army.  The second amazing thing was that no one remembered him.

Here is a man that met the needs of a society only to find that after the danger seemed to be over he was all but forgotten.  Not only was he forgotten but he was despised.

Let’s look to see just how clearly this points to Christ.  We learned a few weeks ago that the entire Bible points to Jesus Christ.  OT and NT have one topic of concern and that is making Christ known.  From Genesis to Revelation it’s a story of God’s work of redemption, that’s called Biblical Theology

Let’s do a little biblical theology and see if what Solomon is talking about does in fact propel us through the centuries to Christ.

The first thing we must do is understand that Solomon is in a discourse on wisdom.  He believes that there is a type of wisdom which he possesses that’s very predictable.  He has learned this wisdom through trial and error and through his logic.  Things like, death comes to all people, Someone saved all his money only to leave it to someone else to enjoy, Eat and Drink and enjoy life because it is short, Everyone who dies goes to the grave, dead flies in perfume stink.  Then there seems to be another type of wisdom.

Solomon noticed this unpredictable other kind of wisdom, when he witnessed this little city escape a great king.  There is man’s wisdom then there is God’s wisdom.

Fear God and keep his commandments

Job 28:28 (ESV)

And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ “

In proverbs, the writer composes very artistically the section of Scripture.  He writes as if Wisdom is speaking and writes as if Wisdom is a person.  However, wisdom isn’t a person it’s a figure of speech or a way to cause words to come alive as we read them.

Proverbs 8:23-35 (ESV)

Ages ago I was set up,

at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

[24] When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water.

[25] Before the mountains had been shaped,

before the hills, I was brought forth,

[26] before he had made the earth with its fields,

or the first of the dust of the world.

[27] When he established the heavens, I was there;

when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

[28] when he made firm the skies above,

when he established the fountains of the deep,

[29] when he assigned to the sea its limit,

so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

[30] then I was beside him, like a master workman,

and I was daily his delight,

rejoicing before him always,

[31] rejoicing in his inhabited world

and delighting in the children of man.

[32] And now, O sons, listen to me:

blessed are those who keep my ways.

[33] Hear instruction and be wise,

and do not neglect it.

[34] Blessed is the one who listens to me,

watching daily at my gates,

waiting beside my doors.

[35] For whoever finds me finds life

and obtains favor from the Lord,

[36] but he who fails to find me injures himself;

all who hate me love death.”

Wisdom was in existence prior to creation.  The wisdom of God is eternal wisdom.

Now let’s take things a step further.

Wisdom is not a person but there is a person who is Wisdom.  There is a person in which the wisdom of God comes through.  His name is Jesus.  As with the Wisdom of God so the Son of God is not created but eternal.

In Biblical Theology our goal is to discover what the whole Bible teaches about a given subject.  What does the NT say about wisdom.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was thinking about the two kinds of wisdom, much like Solomon was, a worldly wisdom coming from man and a heavenly wisdom coming from God.

1 Cor. 1:18-25 (ESV)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  [19] For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

[20] Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  [21] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Paul tells us authoritatively that Jesus is the wisdom of God.  He contains all of God’s wisdom.

John had this in mind when he put his twist on the Word of God being Christ in the introduction to his gospel.

John 1:1-3 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  [2] He was in the beginning with God.  [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As we think through this truth, we can think about the wise words of Jesus.  For example the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever preached.  In it we see the difference between our wisdom and God’s.  Jesus said things like…

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

[2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

[3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

[5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

[6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

[7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

[8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

[9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

[10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

[11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

At the conclusion of His sermon the people were overwhelmed with wonder and amazement.

Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV)

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,  [29] for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus was teaching God’s wisdom not man’s wisdom.

We are all on a quest for wisdom and meaning.  We must find God’s wisdom who is Jesus Christ.  Without this wisdom we are eternally lost.

As we continue to study the Bible we make yet another discovery…The greatest act of God’s wisdom was the cross.  How did God fix the devastating effects of sin?  The Cross was God’s answer.

From a human standpoint, the cross was a miscarriage of justice or an unfair mistake.  An innocent man treated terribly.  However, for God it was infinitely wise.

In Christ we see a poor wise man rescuing a small city through God’s wisdom…the cross.

Can you see God’s wisdom in the death of His Son?  Do you seem to be a little like Solomon in that your life has places in it of emptiness?  Are you searching for meaning and happiness?  Let’s listen to Solomon. Solomon’s quest for wisdom was a quest for Christ.

Eccles. 12:13-14 (ESV)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  [14] For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

I pray that we take these words to heart.  God will bring into the light of His judgment every deed.

Do you know Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God?  Is the cross of Christ foolishness to you or is it the power of God for salvation?

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