“Just Not Enough” – Ecclesiastes 10:1-7

February 23rd, 2014

Ecclesiastes 10:1-7

“Just Not Enough”

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Bible Memory Verse for the WeekFor all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  —Romans 3:23

 

Background Information:

  • Ecclesiastes 10 is like a slice from the book of Proverbs.  The Teacher-king raps out one short proverb or wise-saying after another.  Often there is little or no transition as Solomon jumps from one thought to the next.  Yet there is a consistent theme running through the chapter: wisdom is better than folly.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 102-03)
  • Despite the chapter division, this verse continues the themes of the previous verses, on a more individual level.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 133)
  • (v. 2) Although I have heard it thus quoted, admittedly with tongue in cheek, verse 2 is not there to give you advice on how to vote at the next election!  In many languages the right hand becomes the symbol of skill or success, no doubt because the right hand is the one most naturally used by most people.  Even God always uses his right hand:

Thy right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,

thy right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy (Ex 15:6).

In the great parable of judgment in Mt 25:31ff., the sheep, acceptable to God, are placed on his right, while the rejected goats are placed on the left.  Our English word “dexterity,” meaning skill or cleverness, comes from the Latin word for the right hand; whereas sinister, meaning harmful or threatening, comes from the Latin word for the left hand.  If we are suspicious of something someone has said to us or about us, we refer to a “left-handed” compliment.  All of this is no doubt a gross slander on naturally left-handed people, but that is how language has developed.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 68-69)

  • (v. 2) The right hand is commonly used in Scripture as a symbol for protection, power, and the presence of God (cf. Ps 16:8, 110:5, 121:5-8; Col 3:1).  With this imagery, Solomon is saying that a wise person goes God’s way, and in doing so, receives the benefits of a God-centered life.  A fool, however, travels in the opposite direction and thereby forfeits the advantages a godly lifestyle brings.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 99)
  • (v. 2) When the Preacher says that the fool is on the left, therefore, he is telling us that the man is going the wrong direction in life.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 233)
  • (v. 2) It may be that the Good News Bible is correct in translating verse 2, “It is natural for a wise man to do the right thing, and for a fool to do the wrong thing,” but equally it might mean that the attitude of a wise man leads to success, while that of a fool leads to failure or trouble.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 69)
  • (v. 3) This poor judgment is not a well-kept secret.  The very “way” a “fool walks” announces that he “lacks” (for the negative force of this, see 4:8, “deprive,” and 9:8, “lack”) “wisdom” (lit. “heart,” or “good sense”).  “Walk” and “way” probably signify “conduct,” or “direction of life” here as they do so often in Proverbs and in Psalm 1:6.  The fool’s actions speak for themselves.  “Shows” is literally “says.”  By poor decisions he announces his status as “fool.”  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 212)
  • (v. 4)  “Conciliation” (NIV calmness) is literally “healings,” a word that the Bible applies to strained relationships (Jdg 8:3; Prv 12:18) as well as physical ailments.  “Pacifies” (NIV put to rest) is really “puts at rest” (see “permit to sleep” at 5:12), while “great offenses” or “sins” describes the outrageous conduct of an ill-tempered leader.  The lesson is that the self-controlled person who has less rank is really more powerful than the out-of-control supposed superior.  “Be aware of life’s injustices” was another part of the Preacher’s practical advice.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 213)
  • (vss. 4-7)  Whereas verses 1-3 defined the difference between wisdom and folly, verses 4-7 give us practical advice for dealing with the many foolish people we meet in the world.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 234)
  • (vss. 5-7)  Verses 5-7 further elucidate the kind of foolish behavior that such rulers indulge in, preferring as they do to promote and to take advice from people who share their foolish outlook: “Fools are put in many high positions.”  The antithesis to fools here, “the rich,” is perhaps at first sight surprising after 9:13-18.  The point of that passage, however, was to argue that wisdom ought to be heeded regardless of the social class of the wise person; it was not to argue that all poor people are wise and capable of roles in government.  (Iain Provan, The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, 195)
  • If wisdom is your highest reference point, then you see foolishness as the bane of existence.  Solomon saw it everywhere, and it galled him.  In his three books he uses the words fool, fools, foolish, and folly a staggering total of 128 times.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 249)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why these discouraging proverbs concerning wisdom and the hardships we can expect to face even in light of our manifesting wisdom?

 

Answer:  Wisdom is just not enough to allow you to enjoy life in a world that suffers from FWS (Fallen World Syndrom)That is why we cannot make wisdom or knowledge our god.  Also, a relationship with the Living God and His creation must be about grace, not wisdom.  Otherwise you will become frustrated, wounded, bitter and angry.  Not really the life any of us want.

                                                                                               

The Word for the Day is . . . Forgive

 

What is Koheleth trying to teach us?:

I-  A small amount of folly destroys a great amount of wisdom.  NOTE:  Wisdom is just not enough to be your god.  (Eccl 10:1-3; see also: 1 Cor 5:6; Jas 3:5 & examples: Josh 7:1, 19-21; 1 Sm 15:17-26; 2 Sm 11:1-5; Gal 2:11-13)

 

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.  My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.  — Abraham. Lincoln.

 

Some stupid remarks or some foolish actions can destroy what ought to be a delightful family or church gathering.  It doesn’t take much to destroy a relationship that was months in the building.  Some complaint, some argument, some thoughtlessness or wickedness–that’s all it takes.  Just a few flies!  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 101)

 

It is very sad when a person tells everyone that he is a Christian and then exhibits stupid behavior.  God’s Name is at stake.  That is one way of taking God’s Name in vain.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 102)

 

Alas!  Alas!  In an unguarded moment how many have tarnished the reputation which they were many years in acquiring!  Hence, no man can be said to be safe, till he is taken to the Paradise of God.  (Adam Clarke, Holy Bible Commentary and Critical Notes, Vol II, 495)

 

The best course, therefore, is not to see how much folly we get away with, but how much we can get rid of.  (T.M. Moore, The Christian Worldview Journal, July 11, 2011)

 

Verse 3 pictures the ordinary lifestyle of a stupid person.  It is not necessary for him to do anything extraordinary to proclaim his stupidity.  Everything he says and does as he walks through life, makes the fact abundantly clear.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 102)

 

It is easier to make a stink than to create sweetness.  —Derek Kidner

 

Just as dead flies ruin the best of ointments, so it happens to the best of counsel in the state, in the senate, or in war; along comes some wicked rascal and ruins everything.  –Martin Luther

 

The power of a Spirit-filled life cannot be overestimated.  But every Christian must also be aware of the tremendous danger of compromising with sin.  A little too much self-confidence, a small yielding to the flesh, and our testimony can be lost.  (Richard W. De Haan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-end Streets, 126-27)

 

It takes only one foolish little mistake or one thoughtless slip of the tongue from a high official such as a president and, before you know it, every newspaper and newscast is carrying it.  It could mean the end of an excellent career.  It might even decide the course of history.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 103)

 

In an early speech, the Preacher warned us not to bank on wisdom as life’s highest good: “For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl 1:18).  He was speaking to extremists, to those who touted wisdom as the key to life’s problems, as the pearl of great price for which everything else should be sold.  He warned those who praised wisdom to the heavens that it would produce at least as much bane as blessing.

He made his misgivings clear about those who overvalue wisdom.  Yet nowhere did he celebrate foolishness.  With all its problems, wisdom was to be heartily preferred to folly.  Do not let wisdom be your god, but let it be your guide, was his advice.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 211)

 

Folly has dangers and wisdom has limits–those twin points are made in the first proverb.  Folly is so powerful that a little of it–like a bad smell–can overwhelm large amounts of wisdom.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 212)

 

A little folly is enough to produce immense mischief.  The unguarded moment–the hasty word–the irritable temper–the rudeness of manner–the occasional slip–the supposed harmless eccentricities–all tend to spoil the fragrance of the ointment.  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 234)

 

We begin in verse 1 with a thought that is close to that on which the previous section ended: it does not take much to destroy something of beauty and value.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 68)

 

“A little folly”–the small things that we often think do not matter, the half truth or that “harmless” lie that gets us out of trouble for the moment, the fiddle in filling up the tax return, the letter we know should have been written and was not.  But such small things can be insidious things, working away to undermine our moral fiber, leading ultimately to serious consequences for ourselves and our relationships with other people.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 68)

 

A wise man gravitates toward the good, the foolish toward the bad (v. 2).  Even when the foolish tries to keep in the middle of the road, his encounters with normal people show him up for what he is (v. 3).  Again, this may be taken as metaphorical.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1185)

 

Again the proverb warns the readers not to place an ultimate trust even in wisdom.  Life must be taken day by day from the hands of God.  There is security nowhere else, not even in wisdom.  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 133)

 

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

For want of the shoe, the horse was lost;

For want of the horse, the rider was lost;

For want of the rider, the battle was lost;

For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost;

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.   (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 254)

 

II-  If a superior has it out for you, respond with calmness or healing, not retaliation.  NOTE: Your loyalty is just not enough to insure harmony.   (Eccl 10:4; see also: Prv 15:1; 16:14, 32; 25:15; Eccl 8:3; Rom 12:18; 1 Pt 2:13-25; 3:1-2)

 

As a Bible teacher, it is not my place to say which political leaders are wise and which are foolish.  Sometimes this is unnecessary anyway, because as the Preacher has said, the fool lets everyone know that he is a fool.  But whenever we see things turned upside down–whenever a society celebrates immorality, perpetrates wrongful violence, punishes righteousness, denies the authority of God, or persecutes his people–we may be sure that folly is in control.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 235)

 

Sometimes our encounters are with authorities.  These may be tax officials, employers, or any “rulers” to whom we have to submit.  If we clash with them, we should not walk out in a temper.  Neither if we are at cross purposes with our supervisor should we resign at once.  We should rather take an objective look at ourselves, and maybe we will find that we should apologize.  Unwise people, however, lose their temper and suffer accordingly.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1185)

 

Here we are given sound advice on how to handle a hot-headed boss.  We might paraphrase it this way: “If your superior becomes angry at you, do not hand in your resignation, because your calm and cool composure can quiet his hot temper.”  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 100)

 

He urges us not to give in to the unjust anger of others, even if they are people in authority.  If you know what you have done is right and in keeping with God’s word, stick to it.  Maybe your boss is angry with you because you were honest or didn’t take advantage of some customer.  Don’t go along with him.  And don’t become angry and quit.  Be calm.  The “ruler” may even come to his senses and thank you for it in the end.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 104)

 

This dynamic is also important for leaders to understand and to convey to students who are contemplating running away from difficult situations involving authorities.  The decisions of bosses and others may often be modified if and when the student is able to present his viewpoint in a confident, reasonable, and non-threatening manner.  That is essentially what self-possession means.  If, however, he goes to pieces, gets all nervous, or starts to row the other way, he does anything but inspire confidence in his view.  When one is sure that the view he espouses is right before God, he must maintain that view even in the face of anger by others.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 103)

 

The same word which the RSV here renders as “deference” is used in Prv 15:4, in a phrase which the New English Bible translates as “a soothing word.”  You must be prepared says Koheleth, to accept criticism, not least when it is justified.  This is something many of us find difficult to do.  In the face of criticism we are far more likely to go on to the defensive, often a rather belligerent defensive.  Tempers rise.  Calm it, is Koheleth’s advice.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 70)

 

The dangers of a “spirit” out of control in a person were warned about in 7:8-9.  The latter verse implies that the “ruler” here (10:4) was behaving like a fool.  But that does not, argues Koheleth, give an administrator or courtier the license to behave in kind.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 213)

 

III.  Leaders are not necessarily wise.  NOTE:  Wisdom is just not enough to guarantee life is fair:  FWS.  (Eccl 10:5-7; see also: Prv 19:10; Jn 16:33)

 

Notice the assumption that it is the rich, probably the landed aristocracy, who ought to hold positions of power and prominence in public life.  It is the rich not the wise, who are in the opposite camp from folly in verse 6.  This is possibly a natural assumption for Koheleth to make, since in his day only the right would have either the influence or the leisure to acquire the skills needed for government.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 71)

 

The social order of which he approves assumes that everyone has and knows his rightful place in society.  Yet, much to his horror, he has seen slaves, who ought to be on foot, riding on horses, and “princes”, men of high rank, having to walk.  It is as if he had seen someone driving up to the Social Security office in a Rolls Royce to collect his welfare benefits, while someone who naturally moved among the social elite could not afford the fare for a taxi to take him home.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 71)

 

If the “rich” make better officials, as Koheleth suggests, it is because they usually have more experience of managing large enterprises and their potential for success has already been tested.  And to the practitioners of conventional wisdom, wealth would have been viewed as a sign of divine blessing.  The Preacher knew that such was not always the case, but he also knew that very few fools stayed wealthy for long, so great was their aptitude for squandering what they had.  (David Hubbard, Mastering the OT: Ecclesiastes, 214)

 

Solomon has in mind here a form of political inequity.  Fools are awarded high government positions, while the wise receive civic jobs of limited authority and prestige.  Of course, King Solomon is not suggesting that everyone who rises to political prominence is foolish and incompetent.  However, he is confronting us with the fact that one’s level of skill and discernment does not automatically guarantee a position of equal authority.  Rather, other factors–such as popularity, wealth, and friendships–often win people jobs that they are unqualified to perform.  Recognition of this phenomenon can help us become more realistic about human government and its limitations.  (Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge, 100)

 

Unfortunately, the man at the top is not always right.  He too may lack wisdom and enjoy manipulating people and situations.  He finds jobs for his supporters and enjoys humiliating anyone of influence (vv. 5-6).  There are also many little manipulators in the world of business who have undeservedly risen to the top (v. 7).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1185)

 

The Preacher presents an anomaly which would have been more vivid in the ancient world, where horses were associated with kingship and wealth (cf. Dt 17:16).  (Michael A. Eaton, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 135)

 

Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of Congress.  But I repeat myself.  –Mark Twain

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  How does a relationship with Christ get us out of the quagmire in which Koheleth puts us?:

A-  Jesus came as an example to prove that even living a perfect life doesn’t insulate one against hardship, injustice, accusations, and suffering. (Mt 19:21; Jn 13:1-15; 1 Cor 11:1; 2 Cor 5:21; 8:9; 12:7-10; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Pt 2:13-25; Heb 2:9-10; 4:15; 5:8-9; 7:28; 9:11)

 

When we suffer and handle it with grace, we’re like walking billboards advertising the positive way God works in the life of someone who suffers.” — Joni Eareckson Tada

 

There is something about an absolute demand for comfort, even in the littlest things, that wrecks our communion with God.  My natural man tells me I have a right to live in total comfort, so whenever this comfort is threatened because the climate control malfunctions or life circumstances push back a meal for an hour or two, I get a true picture of the demandingness of my heart and the bitterness and anger that cause my spirit to growl, like an untamed beast, at the slightest discomfort or inconvenience.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 179)

 

While physical pain may be a part of the fall, God can and does use it for our spiritual advancement.  Brother Lawrence said God “sometimes permits the body to suffer to cure the sickness of the soul.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 170)

 

Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life.  “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34).  He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).  When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing the disciples’ feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15).  The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission.  The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood.  (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 116)

 

Only once in all the recorded words of Jesus did our Lord announce that He would provide an “example” for the disciples, and then He washed their feet (Jn 13:15).  Only once in the rest of the NT does a writer offer an “example” (1 Pt 2:21), and that is an example of suffering.  Serving and suffering are paired in the teaching and life of our Lord.  One does not come without the other.  And what servant is greater than the Lord?  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 23)

 

B-  Jesus came to liberate us from our carnal hearts and our need to take revenge which leads us to live frustrated, bitter, anxious, angry lives in light of the FWS.  He did this by demonstrating the overcoming power of a life of forgiveness, mercy, love and grace.   (Mt 6:12-15; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25; Lk 6:37; 11:4Rom 12:18-20; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; Heb 12:15)

 

Not willing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  —Mark Gungor

 

Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.  —Charles Spurgeon

 

There is a direct correlation between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of self-knowledge.  When you know yourself, you will forgive.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 184)

 

The man who opts for revenge should dig two graves.   For he will go in one of them.. — Chinese Proverb

 

“If you want to know the problem in any organization, look for the ego.  There is no forgiveness where there is ego.

 

What has God done with our sins?  They are “forgiven” (1 Jn 2:12); “forgotten,” “cleansed,” (Jer 33:8); “gone,” “atoned for,” (Rom 5:11); “covered” (Ps 32:1); “cast into the depths of the sea,” (Mic 7:19); “removed as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12); “blotted out as a thick cloud” (Is 44:22); “cast behind God’s back” (Is 38:17); and “remembered against us no more” (Jer 31:34).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom, 68)

 

True forgiveness always entails suffering.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 101)

 

Getting angry would only make things worse, for as Derek Kidner explains, “It is better to have only one angry person than to have two!”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 236)

 

In the decades that have followed I have learned much more about the fight against anxiety.  I have learned, for instance, that anxiety is a condition of the heart that gives rise to many other sinful states of mind.  Think for a moment how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety.  Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing.  Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly.  Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people.  Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things.  So if anxiety could be conquered, a mortal blow would be struck to many other sins. . .

. . . Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 53-54)

 

At this point many people ask the question, “Why couldn’t God just forgive?”  An executive of a large corporation said, “My employees often do something, break something, and I just forgive them.”  Then he added, “Are you trying to tell me I can do something that God can’t do?”  People fail to realize that wherever there is forgiveness there’s a payment.  For example, let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home.  I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey.  Daddy loves you and forgives you.”  Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.”  Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?”  The fact is, I do.  There’s always a price in forgiveness.  Let’s say somebody insults you in front of others and later you graciously say, “I forgive you.”  Who bears the price of the insult?  You do.

This is what God has done.  God has said, “I forgive you.”  But he was willing to pay the price himself through the cross.  (Josh McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, 115-16)

 

“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder.  Because the latter (namely murder) may be an impulse in the heat of the moment where as the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart”.  (Alister Begg sermon, “Measure for Measure)

 

When a church learns to forgive, they’ll be able to grow.

When a marriage learns to forgive, that relationship will be able to grow.

When a team learns to forgive, that team will be able to grow.

When an organization learns to forgive, that organization will be able to grow.  — Steve Brown

 

God will forgive anyone anything except for those who don’t forgive anyone anything.  — Steve Brown

 

Forgiveness is a prerequisite for love.  — Steve Brown

 

“We don’t want to forgive others because it makes us even, not superior.”   — Steve Brown

 

We see that the elder brother “became angry”.  All of his words are dripping with resentment.  The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.  Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try very hard to live up to standards.  (Timothy Keller; The Prodigal God, 49-50)

 

A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.  —Ruth Bell Graham

 

Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God.  You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) and allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God.  You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear: “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them.  Love is your only choice.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 70)

 

Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love.  To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us.  Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies.  If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test.  Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam.  We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love.  Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment.  Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God’s answer for your pain.  God gives you a way out: love!   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 68-69)

 

Koheleth’s attitude, however, might lead us to stop and think as to how we are to use the Bible to help us to make political judgments.  There are within the Bible powerful voices of protest, demands for justice and fair sharing, a challenging “bias towards the poor.”  Yet there is very little in the way of direct criticism of the social structures of the day.  Even Jesus seems to have taken them for granted.  He tells the story of the way a man deals with his servant who comes in after a hard day’s work on the estate: “Do you tell him,” Jesus asks, “to hurry and eat his meal?  Of course not!  Instead you say to him, ‘Get my supper ready, then put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may have your meal’” (Lk 17:7-8, GNB).  Jesus tells that story with a purpose, to underline the need for the disciple’s total obedience.  But there is no hint in it of any criticism of the social life he is describing.  Paul similarly accepts by and large the social institutions of his day, including slavery and male domination.  (Robert Davidson, The Daily Study Bible: Ecclesiastes, 71-72)

 

Rudyard Kipling said, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…you’ll be a man, my son.”  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 260)

 

Buddhism, in some forms, seeks to remove devotees from evil and suffering by extinguishing every desire, including hope.  Other forms of Buddhism are much like Hinduism–and Judaism and Islam as well, for that matter–in seeing the key as good behavior.  Scholars of Eastern religions sometimes recognize the inadequacy of their belief system.  I once met a Buddhist professor who was teaching comparative religion in Japan.  I asked him how he dealt with prisoners, since Buddhism has little to offer someone who has failed.  “Oh,” he said, half chuckling, “we have created ‘Pure Land Buddhism,’ a form that provides forgiveness.”  He frankly acknowledged that the idea of forgiveness had been borrowed from Christianity, simply because forgiveness and the hope it brings are such deep human needs.  But who would want to believe in a religion that some professor can adjust to meet some need?  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 325)

 

Which direction are you going in life?  Are you moving toward temptation or away from evil?  Are you moving the right way in discipleship or falling away spiritually?  Are you drawing closer to the people of God or going off by yourself?  Only a fool would go the wrong direction in life.

Notice the reason why the fool goes this way: it is because his “heart” is leaning in the wrong direction.  The heart is the core of a person’s being–the inside part of every person that either loves or does not love God.  Charles Bridges defined the heart as “the center of affection–the seat of knowledge–the source of purpose and emotion–the very soul of the spiritual life.”  Everything in life follows the heart.  The wise man goes the right way because his heart leans the right way, but the wicked man’s heart leans in the opposite direction, which is where he ends up going.  Wisdom and folly are inclinations of the heart.

Which way is your heart leaning–toward God or away from him?  Do you have a growing appetite for the Word of God, or does the Bible taste stale?  Are you moving toward or away from God in prayer?  Are you getting more serious about sin, or have you stopped pursuing personal sanctification?  Understand that the leaning of the heart determines the direction of the life.

Many people want to know which way to go in life.  They are looking for direction.  Well, the place to start is by making sure that our heart is in the right place–or at least that it is leaning in the right direction–because if it is, we will end up in the right place on the right road.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Ecclesiastes, 233)

 

The imprecatory Psalms seem to come upon victim’s lips much more easily than the prayer of Jesus on the cross.  If anything, they would rather pray, “Forgive them not, Father, for they knew what they did!”  The powerful emotional pull of revenge is not the only reason we resist forgiving, however.  Our cool sense of justice sends the same message: the perpetrator deserves unforgiveness; it would be unjust to forgive.  As Lewis Smedes puts it in Forgive and Forget, forgiveness is an outrage “against straight-line dues-paying morality” (Smedes 1984, 124).  (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, 120)

 

Heidelberg catechism questions #105-107:

105 Q.                     What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

A.            I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor–Not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds–And I am not to be party to this in others (Gn 9:6; Lv 19:17-18; Mt 5:21-22; 26:52); rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge (Prv 25:21-22; Mt 18:35; Rom 12:19; Eph 4:26).

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either (Mt 4:7; 26:52;  Rom 13:11-14).

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword (Gn 9:6; Ex 21:14;  Rom 13:4).

 

106 Q.     Does this commandment refer only to killing?

A.            By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness (Prv 14:30; Rom 1:29; 12:19; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Jn 9-11).

In God’s sight all such are murder (1 Jn 3:15).

 

107 Q.     Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

A.            No.  By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 7:12; 22:39; Rom 12:10), to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them (Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:36; Rom 12:10, 18; Gal 6:1-2; Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1 Pt 3:8), to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies (Ex 23:4-5; Mt 5:44-45; Rom 12:20-21; Prv 25:21-22).

 

Heidelberg Catechism: Question #60 Q. How are you right with God?

 

A.    Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).

 

There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment.  True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ.  Remember, our thoughts will always be colored by the attitudes of our hearts.  Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34).  He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21).  Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8).  From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks.  In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”

Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart.  This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us.  In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.

When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God.  Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason.  The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15).  To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-82)

 

C-  Jesus came to be all we confess we could not be in order to insure that by faith in Him we might have access to a better future life which wisdom alone could never provide.  Jesus also gives us the heart to live a life of wisdom here and now in a place that suffers from the FWS.  (Prv 4:23; Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-26; 10:4; Phil 3:7-10; Heb 10:14; 12:2; 2 Pt 1:3-11)

 

The man—wise in the estimation of the world—is often proved to be the most foolish of men.  For—as an old commentator remarks—‘who can be more foolish than he, who turns away from Christ the Author of our salvation—who prefers transitory to eternal things—who denies the expectation of the future life—or who hopes to obtain it in the course of folly.’  (Charles Bridges, The Geneva Series of Commentaries: Ecclesiastes, 239)

 

Consider, for example: by what power did Moses break free from the “fleeting pleasures of sin” in the courts of Egypt?  The answer of Heb 11:24-26 is that he was set free by the power of faith in future grace.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 13)

 

The people of God do not serve Him in order to be forgiven but because we are forgiven.  When believers serve only because they feel guilty if they don’t, it’s as though they serve with a ball and chain dragging from their ankles.  There’s no love in that kind of service, only labor.  There’s no joy, only obligation and drudgery.  But Christians aren’t prisoners who should serve in God’s Kingdom grudgingly because of guilt.  We can serve willingly because Christ’s death freed us from guilt.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115)

 

Failure is the best time to determine if you are a man after God’s heart.  The difference between David and Saul was this: When David failed his failure drove him TO God.  When Saul failed, his failure drove him AWAY from God.  Saul was trying to save himself and when he was forced to face his inadequacies, he despaired of even trying.  David looked to God for his salvation and so when he failed he simply clung tighter to God who was the Rock of his salvation. — Pastor Keith

 

The Gospel is always more compelling to people who know their own inadequacies.  (Tim Keller message “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity Been an Instrument of Oppression”?)

 

Like Scripture writers, Augustine thinks of the heart not just as the seat of emotion or desire but also as the governing center of a human being—the human being at his center, at his core, considered in his fundamental orientation.  From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prv 4:23).  Hence, in Scripture, integrity is a pure heart (Mt 5:8); where integrity is lacking, it is the heart that is “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer 17:9).  Accordingly, when Paul wants to describe the source of our new power, love, and integrity, he testifies that Jesus Christ has taken up residence at the governing center of human lives: he “dwells in our hearts” (Eph 3:17).  Depending on its orientation, then, the fact that “the heart wants what it wants” may be our shame or our salvation.  (Augustine, The City of God, 14.13)  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 62-63)

 

As we have noted, there are those who say, “When you become a Christian, God gives you a clean slate,” but that is a lie.  God doesn’t give you a clean slate; He tears up the slate and throws it away and never gives you another one to replace it.  He doesn’t keep track anymore, because He is no longer a scorekeeper or a policeman or a judge—He is your Father.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 156)

 

A number of years ago a particular denomination issued a report on human sexuality.  Among other things, it suggested that we should no longer label as sin such things as fornication, homosexuality, adultery, or pornography.  When I heard of the report I was so angry that I literally could not speak.  I apologized to the congregation, sat down, and tried to compose myself.

Never before had I experienced anger that made me speechless.  Usually, the angrier I become, the better I talk.  After praying about it, I realized that for one of the few times in my life, I was experiencing the anger of God—and it was a fearsome thing to behold!

Listen carefully: God was not angry because of the sin of homosexuality, fornication, adultery, or pornography.  Does that surprise you?  God was angry—and I believe that I expressed that anger in my speechlessness—because the report had said that sin was not sin, thus burning the bridge of repentance, which is the only real source of power for the Christian.  The report’s horror was not that it seemed to forgive some horrible sin.  God does that all the time.  The report’s horror was that it said that there was no need for forgiveness.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 158-59)

 

Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself.  (Ps 63:3).  Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s.  All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10)

 

The Gospel is especially empowering and compelling to the poor.  (Tim Keller; message “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity Been and Instrument of Oppression?”)

 

Well may the Accuser roar of sins that I have done, I know them all and thousands more.  Jehovah knoweth none.”  (from a hymn; Tim Keller, “The Great Escape”)

 

The human heart was deemed to be in need of instruction in moral uprightness.  There needed to be a renewing of the mind.

Today, however, such sentiment has been angrily and mockingly denounced in academia; laden down by our technology, we crawl to our halls of fame like Alexander, desperately wanting the world to believe that we, too, are immortal.  How revealing it is that in the bloodiest century of history we deny human depravity.  The relativism of ancient Greece has worked its way into modern America, though the Greek philosophers themselves, even in their day, warned that relativism would be suicidal.  To her credit, early America knew that this was not merely a philosophical problem, as real as that was.  This was a problem of the soul, and the heart of humanity was in need of redemption.  (Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, 40)

 

The Lord Jesus emphasized that it is essential for man to be saved by a mighty act of God if he is to be rescued from his condition of misery (Jn 3:3, 5, 7-16).  Even in the Lord’s Prayer the Lord teaches us to say, “Forgive us our debts” (Mt 6:12).  And this is a prayer that we need to repeat again and again.  He said, “The sick are the people who need a physician” (Mt 9;12).  We are those sick people who need a physician to help us and redeem us.  He said that we are people who are burdened and heavy-laden (Mt 11:28)…

The people who were most readily received by the Lord were those who had this sense of need and who therefore did not come to him with a sense of the sufficiency of their performance.  The people he received were those who came broken-hearted and bruised with the sense of their inadequacy.  (Roger R. Nicole, “The Doctrines of Grace in Jesus’ Teaching”)

 

You can’t forgive until you have been forgiven and only then can you forgive to the degree that you have been forgiven. 

 

Matthew 18:32-33

 

St. Augustine wrapped a powerful thought in vivid imagery when he said, “God always pours His grace into empty hands.”  The hands of John Newton could not have been emptier.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 17)

 

Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.

 

Worship point:  Jesus has shown you how and provided a way for you to enjoy life in all of its abundance in spite of the fact that our planet is contaminated by the FWS.  This alone demands our worship.

 

In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”?  We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Learn to live by faith, not by sight.  Sight alone will give you every reason in the world to confess that life is meaningless, empty, vain and foolish.  Learn the promises of God for those who trust in Christ.  Learn to live as aliens and strangers in this world and citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Learn the power of the life of faith.  Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

 

We need to ask ourselves if we have received a changed heart by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  This sort of self-examination is a spiritually healthy thing to do.  In fact, this is what the apostles often exhorted their readers to do (2 Cor 13:5; Phil 2:12; 2 Pt 1:5-11).  The first order of business is to know our own souls.  Are we trusting in the finished work of Christ alone for our salvation?  Is there evidence of God’s grace in our lives?  Are we growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24), and in the virtues mentioned in Christ’s beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12)?  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 50-51)

 

It is good for us to keep these truths in mind.  They prevent us from being overawed by the words of the high and mighty.  They also lead us to the Scriptures, the only source of real wisdom.  (Roland Cap Ehlke, The People’s Bible, Ecclesiastes, 105)

 

“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.”   (Jesus of Nazareth video)

 

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I’m not shouting ‘I’m clean livin”

I’m whispering ‘I was lost,
Now I’m found and forgiven.’

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible,
But God believes I am worth it.

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I still feel the sting of pain..
I have my share of heartaches,
So I call upon His name.

When I say… ‘I am a Christian’
I’m not holier than thou,
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!  (Submitted by Beth Shaw)

 

Quotes to Note:

The wise learn to channel passion to serve their purpose.

The foolish mistake passion for purpose and are forever at its mercy.

Even if the foolish choose a path to follow,

it is quickly abandoned as another suddenly appears more alluring.

This is the sign of the fool:

no purpose,

just passion.  (Rami Shapiro, The Way of Solomon, 80)

 

 

Christ:

Forgiveness & Grace Modeled

 

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