Wisdom v. Weapons

Eccl. 9:16-18.

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

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Young David was given the King’s own armor and weapons, but they overpowered him and he refused them. Instead, he wisely chose the weapon he knew and had been successful in using. Goliath mocked. Then he died.

If we are wise, we will heed words of wisdom, and choose them over weapons of war. Sadly, the human heart would usually choose to fight rather than listen to reason.

It is also true, and very sad, that a poor man’s words are rarely heeded, no matter how much wisdom they carry.

Verse 16 tells us that wisdom is better than strength. The Preacher knew that even though wisdom is not appreciated and it is ultimately vain, it was still better than strength. The problem, of course, is that no matter how strong a person, a king, a country, may be–sooner or later, a stronger one arises.

It is also true that the one who makes the most noise usually gets the most attention. A central tactic of dictatorial government is to tell the same lies over and over, loudly, until people finally begin to accept them as truth.

Wisdom is better – better than strength (weapons of war), better than foolishness – but all the good that wisdom does can quickly be taken away by one sinner who destroys much good. It is much easier to destroy than it is to build.

In a church, for instance, a pastor may labor for 40 years or more to build. Many souls are won to Christ; many people’s lives are changed. He’s not doing all that work alone. There are people working beside him, holding up his arms, praying for him.

It can all be torn down in a very short period of time by just one noisy person who gathers followers with enticing words and appealing promises. It’s a very sad thing to see.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Sleep is Sweet

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This verse, memorized a long time ago from the KJV: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

When Terry had a job that took him away from home overnight, I had a hard time sleeping. Every creak and groan, every blast of wind coming across the prairie and slamming into the house, kept me awake.

I was teaching full time, and desperately needed to sleep. As I look back on it now, I realize I was struggling with anxiety as well, partly due to the lack of sleep.

One night was particularly frightening. There had been a very severe blizzard, leaving those Midwestern roads a mess, covered with black ice. I knew he was on the road, and I worried. I slept in snatches, and when I finally got up around 5 a.m. he still wasn’t in bed with me.

That’s because he was asleep on the sofa. He’d come in around midnight and didn’t want to wake me, so he just crashed in the living room. While I worried and prayed and visualized terrible things, he was sound asleep in our living room.

After I quit pounding on him and trying to smother him with a pillow and screeching, “DO YOU KNOW HOW SCARED I WAS!!” I left him begging for mercy while I got ready to drive to work. That was when the phone rang, and I got the message that school had been canceled.

I told him I was going to bed. He was responsible for whichever kid came stumbling out of a bedroom. Above all, no one–absolutely no one!– was to bother me.

If you believed that bit about screaming for mercy, you’re very gullible. He was convulsed with laughter. Terrible man.

Well. Those were the good old days. Now, I have trouble sleeping because of restless leg syndrome, and I’ve finally found some solutions. But the most important thing I’ve found is that I’m not alone. Lots and lots of my Facebook friends have the same problem.

You don’t realize how precious sleep is until you aren’t getting anywhere near enough.

God intended for us to sleep. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d forgotten about that wonderful verse, memorized when I was a newlywed and alone for a couple of weeks while Terry went to annual training. It helped me then. And, finally, it’s helping me now. I’m a practical person, and I’m not going to give up my weighted blanket, but I will also pray when I climb into bed tonight and ask the Lord to calm my mind and my heart.

He is the ultimate sleep treatment.

God Remembers

Eccl. 9:13-15.

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

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This photo made me smile. It’s a bit removed from today’s passage, but it demonstrates why the simple dog is content, while the much smarter man is not. Enjoy the moment, make it last, and stop craving what you don’t have.

Solomon shares a little story with us in these verses. It almost feels as if it should start, “Once upon a time. . . ” Whether or not it is a true story, it shows us that Solomon is still thinking “under the sun” thoughts. There is nothing after the grave. The very least a man can hope for is to be remembered, and even that is taken away from this poor wise man who saved a city from the power of a mighty king.

I think I have shared with you before that someone has posited that within 60 years of your death, no one will remember you—-unless you have done something truly memorable, like Christopher Columbus or Genghis Khan.

I remember talking with a teen girl in my office some years ago. She was into everything Goth, poor child, and the music she enjoyed was depressing. She asked me to listen to her favorite artist with her, so I would “get” what she loved. I listened. I didn’t understand some of it. And the music was dissonant, driving, and miserable. I don’t remember the singer’s name.

Curious, I asked her if she’d ever heard of the Beatles. I didn’t love all their music, but at least they could sing, harmonize, and think a little more deeply than their “Yellow Submarine” song would indicate.

She was blank. Never heard of them. Really? The BEATLES?? But see, that was back in my generation, 50-60 years ago now, and they’re just no big deal any more.

For me, the take-away for today is to realize that while men may forget about you, God never does. “Men quickly forget, but God never does. He knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). He has a book of remembrance before Him for those that fear the Lord (Malachi 3:16), and their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).” (David Guzik)

Ensnared in an Evil Time

Eccl. 9: 12. “For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”

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This is quite a picture that Solomon paints. Think of all those fish swimming in the ocean, unaware of the net that is waiting for them. Fish, they say, have very short attention spans. Your goldfish can pay attention for around 9 seconds. So once it reaches the far end of the aquarium, it has no memory of where it started, Around and around it goes. Just an interesting note here: Studies are showing that normal human adults have an attention span, these days, of about eight seconds, largely due to the rapidly moving digital age in which our eyes are caught. Did you ever wonder why advertisements flash on and off so quickly? That’s why. We can’t pay attention very long. I remember when a typical ad took several minutes, and the only visual was of someone holding the product while the voiceover extolled its virtues. All in black and white.

Anyway. Back to the fish. They have no sense of the brevity of life, because they simply can’t pay attention long enough to say, “Hey, guys! There’s a big old net over here! Turn around and go the other way!” And BAM! Their lives are over.

Same for birds. There’s a reason we say that folks who can’t pay attention to the world around them are birdbrains. When we lived in central Minnesota, we had a large picture window looking into our back yard. Lots of woods. And lots of dumb birds who smacked into that window time after time, knocking themselves loopy. We finally taped up the black silhouette of a large hawk on the window, and the smaller birds began avoiding it.

Just as the fish and the birds get caught in nets and snares, their lives ending in a moment, so it can happen to us. We can be caught in an evil time before we know it, and our lives are never the same.

What is an evil time?

Think of 1930’s Germany, still suffering from the effects of the Versailles Treaty, electing Adolph Hitler to rescue them from financial depression. To accomplish his purpose, he blamed the “greedy” Jews and began to systematically remove them first from their homes, and then into the death camps. That was an evil time. Unexpected, nearly impossible for the extremely poor to escape. Many of them didn’t really believe the stories they heard, and were caught up in the evil before they knew it. What is shocking to me is that so many people today still deny the Holocaust in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary.

We humans often see only what we want to see, denying any other possibility. Like fish. Like birdbrains.

Be Men of God!

I hope you will forgive me for a departure from my routine this morning. I just saw a post on Facebook that stirred up all sorts of reactions in me. I have decided to share that post here, and then my own reaction to it.

I’m sure many of you have seen it. I’ve seen it at least twice. Here it is:

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Let me clarify that Cary Grant, the very famous actor you see in the topcoat, was no paragon of virtue. While he was a renowned actor, he also was far from the kind of man I’d want to spend my life with. It’s the appearance we’re looking at here, not the character.

The man on the right may be a perfectly kind, thoughtful kind of guy. But he looks like he’s not sure whether he’s a man or a woman.

The National Organization of Women, founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan, started out with the goal of improving the status of women. It wasn’t long, however, before it became radicalized and was preaching that “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” (Gloria Steinem). The message was clear: Women don’t need men. Men need to be in touch with their feminine side and be more like women. The world would be better off with feminized men. There would be less violence, more reasonable talking.

So take a look at the world today and tell me, how’s that working for us?

Here is what I wrote on that meme:

“The goal was to empower women and emasculate men. This— – person—–even walks/stands more like a woman than some women do.

I’m a strong person. I have my own mind, brain, opinions, goals, beliefs. No one pushes me around or does my thinking for me. And Terry loves that. But believe me when I tell you that for every bit of strength and independence I have, he has more. He’s a MAN who would never consider wearing tight shorts and standing with his chest all caved in, and wearing a man-bun. He can still put his foot down, which he did in insisting I retire sooner than I had planned. I love it when he does that, because it proves his love for me and his concern and care. It is not demeaning. Instead, I have the place of privilege and protection under his arm. A real man does that for the woman he loves, and if she has any brains at all she’ll respond with gratitude, grace, and boatloads of love and respect.

Pardon the rant. I’ve seen this picture twice now, and it just makes me feel sick. What we have done to men in this country is unconscionable. We’ve robbed them of everything that made them the kinds of men we can respect and whose leadership we WANT to follow. I’m thankful that my sons and my son-in-law are manly men, and the boys they are raising are following that pattern. They lead their families, provide and protect and love. That’s what real men do. Rise up, oh men of God! Have done with lesser things!”

A Snare to the Soul

Prov. 22:24-25.

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:

 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

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Anger is a dreadful habit. It makes the angry person miserable; it scares small children and animals, and it makes him impossible to please.

Nothing is ever good enough for an angry person. Critical, negative, nit-picking and explosive, their anger often degenerates into physical violence as well as verbal, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse.

The only antidote I know for anger is to identify the cause, pray, and forgive the hurt that caused the anger. It is not necessary for anyone to be controlled by someone else’s anger, especially once they become old enough to leave the home of the angry person.

There is so much that I could say about all this. It’s a deep and abiding problem, and there are people who feel they have a right to what they call righteous indignation. And yes, there are things we should be angry about. Abortion. Sex trafficking. Drug and alcohol abuse. Political abuse. There’s a very long list, actually. But none of these things give us an excuse to blow up like Vesuvius, pouring molten lava all over the people around us.

Solomon said we could entangle ourselves in a snare. The word snare is used to describe controlling an animal by putting a hook in its nose! That is what anger can become to us—it hooks us by the nose and leads us where we should not go.

It’s never smart to allow emotions to lead our thinking and behavior.

Don’t spend time with an angry person. You’ll start to act just like he does.

Time and Chance

Eccl 9:11. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

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Are you wondering, as I am, if Solomon is ever going to rise above his under the sun perspective? Just when he gives good counsel, as in the previous verse, he once again drops into an “Oh, well. Sigh. Shrug” kind of attitude.

I’m sure you remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Everyone knows that a rabbit is faster than a turtle, so naturally the rabbit will win the race. But he didn’t. Why not? Was it God’s fault? No, it was his own considerable ego that lost him the race. He was so far ahead that he decided to take a little nap, and the turtle crept past him as he slept. The race went to the one who persevered.

Remember the story of Gideon and his tiny little army of only 300? That battle should, by man’s perspective, have gone to the enemy. The much, much stronger enemy. But God intervened, and because of Gideon’s faith and obedience, he won. Same with David and Goliath.

Wisdom doesn’t necessarily gather wealth. Education doesn’t always end in fame and fortune. So much depends upon our obedience to God and the faithfulness of our walk with him.

But Solomon didn’t spin it that way. He laid it all at the door of time and chance. Fate. Luck. The whimsy of the gods. The timing not being just right.

Our God is never whimsical, unless maybe when He created the platypus 🙂 He is ever faithful, never dependent on fate, luck, or timing.

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Solomon’s thinking was very much influenced by his participation in the worship of the many gods of his wives and of the nations around him.

Don’t allow your thinking to be swayed by the world around you. Let it be the Word of God that teaches you how to think.

Do it With all Your Might!

Eccl. 9:10. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

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Solomon gives good advice here until he gives the reason he thinks people should always do the best they can: There’s nothing to do in the grave, where we’re all headed. There’s that under the sun perspective again. Life is over the moment one takes his last breath. Get everything you can squeeze out of life here on earth, because there’s nothing after death.

I’m thinking more and more that I should do a post or two just on what the Bible has to say about life after death in the Old Testament, but not today. I’m going to need to study that, get my ducks in a row, and make sure I’m teaching truth.

What I want to focus on this morning is the first part of the verse.

I have always understood the importance of doing the best job you can. My mom and dad taught us to work well, and not indifferently. When I got my first job after high school graduation, I was determined to be the best grocery store cashier I could be, and also to do my very best in my studies in college.

Now, at the other end of my life, I find myself fighting the desire to just let the days slip by. I can, you know. I’m retired 🙂 No one to answer to, no one handing me a paycheck. I chose to allow myself to be lazy that first week of my retirement. I liked it. I read a lot, watched some reruns on daytime TV, did a little organizing and light cleaning because I wanted to. Terry seems to enjoy having me home, and we can still, after our 50+ years, sit and talk for a very long time.

I am limited to a degree in what I can do because of my lower back issues. Standing for more than 10 minutes or so is a problem, and I can’t walk far. I shouldn’t bend, nor lift anything even slightly heavy. Already, I’m finding it extremely difficult to abide by those limitations. There is so much I’d like to do here by way of housework. I will figure out how to do some of it without breaking the rules, because breaking the rules ends in days and days of pain. Not worth it.

So. I have a bi-weekly Bible study for women that I teach, as well as a high school history class. Both classes meet on the same day. I spend a good deal of time preparing, and the study is good for me. Also, writing this blog almost every day keeps me in the Word. I’m doing those three things with all my might, and I love it. The challenge energizes me.

Mostly, I want what I do to honor God. I’m not quite ready to be put out to pasture yet, and I’m very thankful for the teaching opportunities that I can use for God’s glory.

For me, that’s what this verse is about. Do whatever God puts before you. Do it with all your might. Do it with zeal, with purpose, and with joy. Honor God in the doing. There are rewards both now and in heaven, because the grave is nothing more than a place for the dead body that I’ll leave behind when I take my first breath in heaven!

Live Joyfully!

Eccl. 9:8-9.

Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

¶Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

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I just spent quite a bit of time trying to find a good explanation for verse 8: “Let thy garment be always white. . . ” One thing I’ve heard before is that in a very hot climate white clothing is much cooler than dark. Another source talked about white representing cleanliness and purity. Rev. 6:11 describes the saints as being clothed in robes of white.

There is, in practical terms, a feeling of freshness in white clothing. Perhaps it had some reference to the type of fabric, as well. I’m really not convinced that this is anything more than, in my own words, “Dress up a little when you go out and about; wear clothes that are clean and beautiful. And put a little (scented) oil on your head, in your hair, sprinkled over your head and neck so you smell nice.”

Verse 9 is probably the more important of these two, because it describes something Solomon apparently did not enjoy. He had too many women to be able to live joyfully with the ONE he loves. He offers the same advice in both Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. In living joyfully, lovingly, with the one you love, you can at least make your vain life a little better, he tells us.

Terry and I celebrated our 50th anniversary in June. That’s 18,250 days. Most of those days have been joyful, and have indeed added pleasure to “the days of our vanity (emptiness).” Some of those days have been terribly difficult, filled with sorrow, anger, fear, and doubt. We’ve had to work very hard. Our marriage has not been a walk in the park. But we have always been faithful to God and to each other, and in these later years of our marriage we are both finding reasons every single day to rejoice in each other. Life has not been vain; it has not been empty. I feel sorry for Solomon that he did not get to look back on his life with the same contentment that Terry and I have found in each other.

Nothing to Hope For

Eccl. 9:4-7.

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

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Solomon just can’t seem to get beyond his “under the sun” perspective; life from the viewpoint of man is just not worth living. Once you are dead, all hope is gone, so live life with enjoyment; live it to the fullest!

Dogs were considered pretty useless. To be called a dog was a great insult. But here, Solomon says that even a living dog has more value than a strong, beautiful lion that is dead. In death, there is no more strength; there is no more beauty.

I think Solomon must have dreaded death. He describes at as simply no longer existing; even if you were famous, you will no longer be remembered. The only antidote to the hopelessness of life, the inevitability of death, is to take every bit of pleasure you can while you are living.

Even God accepts you while you are alive; apparently, though, Solomon felt that after you die, even God forgets all about you.

And yet, we have Job 19:25-27:

25 For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

This same knowledge was available to Solomon, but his emotions, his thinking, and his ability to see clearly about the eternity of the soul, were all clouded by his grim, under the sun, unbiblical outlook on life.