I learned something pretty cool last week. The book of Ecclesiastes was written by a man who called himself (Co-Hel-It) “Qoheleth” which means “The Professor.”
- Now we understand that Qoheleth (co-hel-it) is indeed King Solomon.
- King Solomon was a man whose life was all over the map.
- There were certainly times whenever he “lost his way in life.”
However, most understand that near the end of his life, Solomon returned to the Lord and gained unique perspective on life.
- In his later years he became very “philosophical” about life and that He had a strong desire to pass on his wisdom to the next generation.
- His life’s mission was to “teach the next generation that life without God is futile and meaningless. And life with God is provides a joy and purpose that is beyond imagination.
Up til now in Ecclesiastes “The Professor” has simple been chronicling some of his own observations about life…acknowledged difficulties that have left him perplexed and you know, we feel the same way about life at times!
- But now, he begins to identify certain attitudes and behaviors that seem to bless those who are followers of God.
In some ways, this section of Ecclesiastes reads much like Proverbs. It features wise statements that cut to the quick and that are easily remembered.
- What is really interesting about these verses [7:1-10] is that they seem to built around the word “Better.” He acknowledges that there are some things which are just BETTER than other things.
- And if we want to live a blessed life then we should choose the better things in life.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-10 “A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 4 The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. 5 It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools. 6 For as the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool; And this too is futility. 7 For oppression makes a wise man mad, and a bribe corrupts the heart. 8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. 9 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. 10 Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. .”
A couple of things jump out rather quickly in these verses.
- Number 1, when someone has a vital relationship with God they are going to have a peculiar, different view of life.
- Number 2, a follower of God is most likely going to have a very different philosophy of life than the culture has…
One thing is for sure… in today’s climate there is a clear distinction between the way a Christ follower thinks and the way the world thinks.
- With each day they grow more diametrically opposed to each other.
- So the Professor doesn’t mince words in telling us that one system is better than the other.
So with that said, let’s consider a few areas in which our thinking is better….
I. About Our Reputation 1a “A good name is better than good ointment” “Perfume”
Ill: Ruth Moore Perfume- You get a whiff of them and the scent lingers after they leave, and you can often remember the fragrance of their lives long after they are gone.
To be honest, that is the way reputations are. Listen to what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 “14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;”
I overheard two older gentlemen talking about “reputation.” were talking about what goes into having a good reputation. They concluded that two things go into having a good reputation…
- Demeanor- having a pleasant purity about you, being well behaved, a maturity in your manners
- Discernment- having a consistent mature judgment, a consistency in your character.
Honestly, I cannot argue with their assessment… it makes a ton of sense to me.
- What I sense though is that these two qualities will grow in us as we continue to grow in Christ.
- In other words, the closer we are to Christ the better our demeanor and discernment. And these qualities (along with others) will create within us a beautiful fragrance that will remind others of Jesus.
- And often that fragrance will linger on long after we are gone…
II. About Death 1b-2 And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because [a]that is the end of every man, And the living [b]takes it to [c]heart”
Now be honest, how many of you did a double take when you read “and the day of death better than the day of birth?”
- I realize that statement will take you back initially.
- However, from God’s perspective it is spot on.
Think about it this way, when we are born we come into a fallen world. A world full of evil, hate, suffering and anxiety.
BUT when we arrive in heaven, we are coming into a place that is prepared for us by the divine architect Himself.
- And truthfully, He does some outstanding work… I have seen His portfolio for years.
ILL: Coming up 81 in Western Virginia is a beautiful drive! (traffic isn’t beautiful (Man’s work) but God’s work… the landscape can be breathtaking.
ILL: On that drive I can look out on these glorious pastures and see some rather Ornate Homes… why would we build some ornate homes. Probably because within us, there is a longing for something better in life. Perhaps it is Ecclesiastes 3:11…We are recognizing a longing for something better, more beautiful.
One of these days, each of us will be facing eternity. And when you are a follower of Christ, you can face eternity with a whole different perspective.
- Eternity is not an end… it is the ultimate beginning. And we don’t’ have to face it alone.
ILL: Older man reading the 23rd Psalm at a funeral. After reading it, he said “never forget that the good Shepherd is always with us. And when it comes our time to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, He’ll be there with you.” And you know… “He has never lost a sheep yet!”
III. About Frustration 3 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.
When we become a follower of Christ, little by little we experience a change in the way we think about frustrations.
- Check out that verse again.. 3Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”
- Okay, you need to understand that it is not God’s desire that you and I live constantly in a state of frustration!
- The Professor is trying to teach us that times of frustration can actually lead us into times of growth, that will often result in greater wisdom, character and even perseverance.
David and Goliath--- He faced Goliath when he was maybe 16 years old. But David didn’t become King of Israel until he was 30 years old. So, what happened in the years between 16 & 30. Ran for his life from Saul, day after day, year after year, endured amazing stress that would cripple many, constantly in danger and suspense. But during those times David grew in the Lord, learned to pray, rely on God.
IV. About Relationships 4-54 The [d]mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the [e]mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. 5 It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools. 6 For as the [f]crackling of thorn bushes under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool; And this too is futility.7 For oppression makes a wise man mad, And a bribe [g]corrupts the heart..
Followers of Christ should think very differently about relationships.
- Let’s be honest, for many people in our culture friendships & relationships are about having someone to have fun with, to meet your need for companionship.
- But if you know Christ, then you should want a friend who will build you up spiritually, someone who will challenge you to grow in Christlikeness.
Notice verse 5, “5 It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man Than for one to listen to the song of fools.”
So as you evaluate your relationships, your friendships, perhaps you should ask this simple question, “is this person inspiring towards Christ or are they pulling me away from Christ.”
V. About Circumstances 8-9 8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning; Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit. 9 Do not be [h]eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools..
When we know the Lord we think differently about our circumstances. Verse 8 says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.”
- I believe this is Solomon’s version of Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who know the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Whatever begins in your life, whatever the circumstances bring— those things will somehow work for good; they will some how end well.
- I cannot explain it except to say that this promise is as deep and as rich as redemption itself.
When Jesus died on the cross, He shed His perfect and sinless blood to provide comprehensive redemption for us.
- That means, He redeems our souls from sin. He redeems our bodies from the grave. He redeems our circumstances from despair and disaster.
- The end of a thing is better than its beginning, for all things work together for good.
Many people around the world today are blessed by the ministry of Bible teacher Beth Moore, but God has raised up powerful women in every generation to be teachers of His Word. A hundred years ago, a woman named Grace Saxe was the Beth Moore of her day. She especially worked with the great evangelists of her day—D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday—to help teach the new converts that came out of their meetings. She taught the Bible in great arenas. Her name was a household word, and her books are collectors’ items today. Originally, Miss Saxe aspired to be an overseas missionary. After a missionary board accepted her, she purchased her tickets, packed her trunks, said her farewells, and prepared for depart on a given day. But suddenly her father was taken very ill and by morning was not expected to live. Sitting by his bedside, Grace missed her ship. As soon as the vessel sailed, her father regained strength and was as good as new. This experience confused and angered Grace, and she complained harshly to the Lord and asked Him for an explanation. By the end of the week dramatic news arrived—the ship had wrecked at sea. All on board were lost. Grace Saxe never did become a career missionary, but she went on to travel the globe, both in person and by book, and her ministry endures to this day.
The Lord knows how to redeem our circumstances so that the end of a matter is better than its beginning.
VI. About Today 10 “10 Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this. .”
You know, I hate to admit this… Because Adam Perry already say’s I’m ancient.
- But sometimes, I am guilty of saying exactly what verse 10 states. My childhood stretched through the late 1960’s and1970’s.
- As I look back on those times sometimes I have a tendency to romanticize those days.
Television was cleaner back then. I felt safe walking to school and playing in my community. My parents could let me play in the neighborhood without too much worry. Our schools were never on lock down, and gas was about 50 cents a gallon.
But you know, the good old days were not as good as I tend to remember them being. We didn’t have air conditioning in our house… and certainly not in our car. Medical advancements were slower and many people who had sickness that killed them back then, would be saved today.
Ill: When I was about 9 years old we had a very nice African American family move into our neighborhood on the corner of Lapland Dr and Newbridge. They had a boy about my age named Vince. We used to play kickball in the street and basketball in the culdesac. Not long after Vince’s family moved in was the first time I can remember seeing hate on display. I was about 9 years old walking down Lapland Drive toward Vince’s house when I saw a burning cross. It wasn’t too long after that Vince’s family moved out of our neighborhood and I never got to see him again.
Even as 9 or 10 year old boy, I knew there was something very wrong with using a cross (tremendous symbol of love & grace) as a symbol of hate. I’m afraid, the good ole days are not always as good as we remember them to be…
You know, the times, the days are always what they are… and on this planet there is no such things as “good ole days.”
- As children of God we should have a very unique way of looking at the days in which we live.
- We believe that God has placed us on this earth for such a time as this…
- We are alive today, right here, right now by divine appointment, in His timing, and for His purpose.
- We are here to take the gospel to our generations.