From the third and final lecture in the audio seminar Abounding Emptiness, Abundant Living
The third section in Koheleth’s argument is chapter 6:1 through chapter 8:15. This part takes the conclusions that have been reached thus far and begins to apply them to various issues, particularly issues regarding the apparent inequalities, the apparent misfortunes of life. For example, he shows in chapter 6:1-7 and 15 that with a proper analysis, man’s outward fortunes and his character often explain the so-called inequalities in life. You cannot read a book by its cover. Just because it appears that there is injustice and inequality and that God is not in control, doesn’t mean that He is not so. We must be careful about judging these things. Things are not always what they seem. The point is, in chapter 6:2, “God gives a man wealth, possession and honor so that he lacks nothing that his heart desires. But He does not enable him to enjoy them. A stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.” Without God’s gift, the prosperity that he gives you cannot be enjoyed. You need not only the gift, but the ability to enjoy. Otherwise, as he says in verse 7, all man’s efforts are for his mouth. Yet his appetite is never satisfied. You accumulate, you accumulate, you accumulate, yet you never come to satisfaction, apart from God’s gift of enjoying these things.
I would like to pause now and then we’ll continue our study on to the conclusion of Ecclesiastes. Look at chapter 7:16, please--a most misunderstood scripture from Ecclesiastes. It is rendered here, “Do not be over righteous neither be over wise. Why destroy yourself. Do not be over wicked and do not be a fool. Why die before your time?" How is it possible to be over righteous, I ask you? Is that actually what he is saying here? Well, the key, I think, is this word “wise.” It’s reminiscent of Proverbs 3:7, in which the writer says, “Be not wise in your own eyes.” What the writer is saying here -- he is not speaking of true righteousness -- he is speaking of pseudo righteousness. He is speaking in this kind of false spiritually. This super piety, this super-saint role model, that some of us have taken on, this kind of thing that makes us critical and condescending towards everyone. It’s a false kind of religiosity. That’s what he is saying. That won’t wash. What really counts is to fear God and to hold onto this. So don’t think more highly of yourself. Don’t get caught up in your religious activities. And on the other hand, don’t excuse your foolishness, your nonsense. Throughout the eighth chapter of Ecclesiastes, the writer deals with the whole issue of divine government as part of the divine plan and apparent problems that can arise. The Biblical view is that governments are Gods’ agent in this world for justice. Their divine purpose is the righteous administration of justice and we should acknowledge that. This theme, by the way, is not just a theme in the Hebrew Bible. It is a theme that Paul makes in Romans 13 and Titus 3. It’s a theme that Peter addresses in his First Epistle, chapter 2:13-18. That God, in his providential sovereignty, uses governments to accomplish his purposes. The purpose and calling of a government is to be the administrator, the righteous administrator of justice in this world. All of these have problematic issues and he addresses many of them. We simply don’t have time to dwell upon them but I encourage you to read these scriptures and contemplate them.
Because, the conclusion of the matter, the conclusion of the third section -- like each section has its own conclusion -- is in chapter 8:15. And it is a conclusion that is familiar to you now because he says, “therefore I commend the enjoyment of life because nothing is better for 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." So, once again, we see that despite the difficulties, the toil, the trouble, despite apparent inequalities in life, the oppression that some have, the fact that the righteous seem to suffer and the wicked seem to prosper. Despite all the inequities and difficulties of life, the truth of the matter is, God has a plan, and as part of his plan, as part of his purpose for us is the intention that we enjoy life, that we live it fully, that we live it abundantly. And to the extent that we fear before him, he graciously gives us the capacity to do so.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.