Ecclesiastes 7

Wisdom (7:1–29)

13–14 Who can straighten what God has made crooked? (verse13). Man cannot alter or undo what God has done (see Ecclesiastes 1:15). God has ordained good times and bad times (verse 14), and we must accept both from His hand. Though God’s ways may be hard to explain, believers can be confident that God will use even the “bad times” for their good (Romans 8:28).

15–18 The Teacher has observed that in this life the RIGHTEOUS sometimes perish and the wicked sometimes prosper (verse 15); righteousness does not give us automatic protection from death and hard times (see Psalm 37:23–26; Proverbs 3:12and comments). Therefore, says the Teacher, we should not try to be overrighteous (verse 16)—that is, we should not be legalistic in our righteousness (as the Pharisees were in Jesus’ day); if ordinary righteousness can’t protect us,much less can legalism! Neither should people go to the other extreme and become overwicked (verse 17); that is the way of license. The person who fears God—who has wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)—will avoid the extremes of both legalism and license (verse 18).

19 Wisdom is more powerful than military might (see Proverbs 16:32); wisdom is necessary for leading a good life.

20 One must also recognize that all humans have a natural inclination to sin; no one can avoid sin or be completely righteous (see Romans 3:10; 1 John 1:8).

21–22 Don’t listen to gossip, says the Teacher (Proverbs 20:19); you may end up hearing gossip about yourself! All of us have gossiped at some point, so we can be sure that others will gossip too. In other words, the temptation to listen to gossip will always be with us, but we must resist it. Gossip only stops when there is no one to listen to it!

23–26 Here the Teacher (Solomon) describes his determination to be wise, but he finds it beyond him16 (verse 23). Nevertheless, one thing wisdom has taught him is the bitterness of a woman who is a snare (verse 26). It was women like this who “snared” Solomon into sin, and left him in great bitterness indeed (see 1 Kings 11:1–13).

27–29 During his search for wisdom, the Teacher has found only one upright or wise man among a thousand17 (verse 28)—that is, essentially no one (see verse 20). He knows that in the beginning God made mankind upright, but that afterward men disobeyed God and followed their own schemes18 (verse 29). For the Teacher, this is further evidence that life is meaningless. However, he has indeed found out one thing of great importance: the cause of all man’s trouble arises from his sin, his sinful “schemes.” It is sin that makes life meaningless. And this is why the Gospel of Christ is such good news: Christ came to take away our sin and give meaning to our lives once more (John 1:29).

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