Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/25/17 Sermon - Even Wisdom Doesn't Answer the Big Questions

“Even Wisdom Doesn’t Answer the Big Questions.”

Ecclesiastes 8


In today’s chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon admits,

which must have been difficult for the wisest man on earth to do,

that there are limits to human knowledge.

Solomon has come to the conclusion that wisdom may be helpful,

but for humans, it is limited.

Regardless of how knowledgeable humans become,

their wisdom is still,

unable to answer the “Big Questions.”

Solomon also recognized

that regardless of the amount of wisdom one obtained,

there were those who had supremacy,

the king and God.


Solomon begins chapter 8 with a question, “Who is like the wise?”

Rhetorical, yes,

yet for those who obtained wisdom, Solomon recognized they were the happier ones. A wise person could be recognized by their shining face and gentle expression.

In the Old Testament a shining face generally meant they were in favor of God.


The chapter continues with more advice. Today’s advice is

for us to obey the king’s commandments.

Which understandably he would advise since he was a king.

Actually, submission to authority is a concept God has put throughout Scripture. Interestingly enough, obeying the king has little to do with the actions of the king. One does not have to agree with the king, and the king does not need to earn the people’s respect. Solomon in the Old Testament, and Paul in the New Testament, both agreed that we should obey the government authority as part of our obedience to God.

Oh bother!

My human side questions, “Why?”

“Where is the justice in that?”

Immediately after I asked those questions I realized I had reverted back to my childhood. How many of us rebelled against the authority of our parents, yet in reality we needed their protection and limit setting which offered us security. The concept of disobeying authority has been around since the beginning of time, beginning with Adam and Eve. From God’s perspective, our obedience to our government has little to do with how those in authority behave and has more to do with His sovereignty. Governments are a human creation, In the Old Testament time of Solomon, the government was NOT made up of a separation of powers and multiple branches of government. This was a time of monarchy and kings and basically it was unwise, or often lethal, to disagree with any of them.



Solomon recognized that not only were humans limited in their vocal and demonstrative opinions of the king, they were also limited in their knowledge. The perimeters of human knowledge are the past and the present. Only God knows the future. This is due to the fact, that humans are limited by time. God, however, has not limits of time. Solomon recognized this limitation of time. And because of it, Solomon viewed wisdom not having the capacity to answer some of life’s biggest questions. For instance, “Why were the deeds of the wicked soon forgotten?” Solomon witnessed evil people getting away without punishment while they were alive, only to be buried, then forgotten. Justice, for Solomon, would have been that even after death the wicked should be punished. Solomon, also thought that the wicked were not always punished for their wickedness quickly enough. Therefore, allowing the wickedness in the hearts of humans to remain wicked. Solomon was such a realist. I get it. I have seen this occur while teaching a classroom  as well as in raising my children . Should I, the parent or teacher, allow time to pass from the infraction of a child and the punishment of that infraction, the effect is diminished. Yet, when I address the grievance at the moment it occurs, and the intensity of the punishment matches the intensity of the infraction, positive change is more apt to happen.  The idea that the wicked are often not punished for their actions is as true today as it was for Solomon.


Yet did you notice, Solomon steps out of his “under the sun” premise enough to realize that for those who fear God, it will go well.

And since he knows that the wicked do not fear God, eventually, at some point, the wicked will receive their just deserves.


But Solomon still couldn’t let go of the fact that it often seems the bad have it good and the good often have it bad. Back to meaningless! Solomon found no viable answer to this question. We still struggle with that question today. Even though God had an entire book written about it called, the Book of Job. Since for Solomon there didn’t seem to be an answer, his response was to live for the moment with the understanding that there was more than what one could see. There you have it. For Solomon, the best counsel he could offer was to try to make the best out of a bad situation and enjoy the life around you. Solomon realized life can be seen either way and chooses to look at the glass as “half-full.”


Solomon spent a great deal of time and energy seeking answers to questions that, regardless of how many sleepless nights he spent pondering, he could not come up with clear answers. The one thing that keeps coming clearer and clearer for Solomon was that God is Sovereign. Basically, God has our back. Things are rarely as they seem. There is a God, and with the assistance of angels they ultimately have more powerful than whatever evil can dish up on earth. Paul gave suggestions to the Ephesians on how to prepare for such battles.


"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Eph. 6:11-17


I recommend you re-read those verses when you get home today. Because Solomon and Paul understood that when things around us happen, we are not able to see the big picture. But God can. And Paul gave us some concrete things to do when life seems out of our control.


We are to:

> put on the full armor of God ( not our armor, which consists of complaining, trying to take control of something we really have no idea of what we are controlling, or becoming anxious or fearful ) no, we are to put on God’s armor


> did you notice, we are to put the armor on NOW, not wait until we are in the battle, but be ready, “so when the day of evil comes” not “if” but “when”.


> then God tells us to “stand our ground” He doesn’t say to fight, He doesn’t say to argue, to complain, He tells us, after we have done everything to get ready, “to stand.”

> before we stand we are to put on God’s armor, which looks like this:

  • Truth, around our waist - focus on the truth, the honest facts, not on what we THINK, or what it may be like, but the TRUTH

  • Righteousness as a breastplate - the piece of armor that protects our heart

  • We are to put the gospel of peace on our feet, wherever we walk, wherever we go, we are to promote PEACE

  • Then we are to carry a shield - that means we should expect enemy fire - why else would we need a shield? In fact, Paul tells us that our shield will not only shield off but will “extinguish ALL the flaming arrows of the evil one - not just some, but ALL of them. Our shield is our FAITH - and our faith need only be the size of a mustard seed, because, remember, it is not our faith that does the work, it is WHO are faith is in that does the work

  • We are not to forget to cover our heads, our minds, the thinking mechanism that often can create more troubles than actually exist, we are to cover our thoughts with our SALVATION, if only we would stop and remember that we are not our own, but we have been bought with a price, and our salvation covers a multitude of sins

  • God does give us one piece of offensive armor, and that is our sword of His Spirit, which is the “word of God.” Memorize it, quote it, use it, daily. How often would the demons of our minds be put away were we to speak God’s Word?


So what are we to do with these spiritual battles that we can’t see? Whether we are prepared for them or not, we all recognize that many events in our lives are difficult to understand. Especially when it seems that bad things happen to good people. Part of the reason we get frustrated with this concept is because we realize we do not have control. And when we don’t have control two emotions are bound to arise, either we become afraid or we become anxious.

Fear and anxiety.

Two emotions that often bring about various responses. In Scripture, fear is used in different forms, such as respect and awe of God.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

But the emotion of anxiety leans towards the need for humans to be in control of the things we want, especially when it comes to the future.

Think about it, when we are anxious, it is because we don’t know what is going to happen and we fear the worst. We read in verse 6,  How people who are anxious become “weighed down by misery.” or in verse 16-17, where “people are getting no sleep, day or night” There we have two indications that anxiety is evident. And when we think about it, anxiety becomes linked to envy, jealousy, and manipulation.


Solomon has brought up a basic human problem that still exists today. For many of us, it is difficult to accept what we can, and what we cannot, control. First we have to recognize there are things within and not within our control. Yet for some reason we would rather struggle trying to control everything. Which results in anxiety. Let’s face it, either we trust in the sovereignty of God and leave the future in the control of the Almighty, or we fret because we are left with very few options. Here are a couple ways people try to deal with anxiety, see if you can relate to any of them?


> some will try to control the people around them, as a way to try and protect themselves or others from harm


>  others exhibit anxiety by attempting to plan out every possible scenario that may occur to help dissipate the fear they have


Solomon advises differently, in verse 12, recognizing that when we cannot understand or control our environment, we need to turn our focus off our circumstances and place it on God,

and remember that if we fear God and we obey His commandments we may not get to know the future, but we will be given the wisdom necessary to deal with whatever occurs.


In Chapter 8 Solomon offers us this solution for the anxiety that may occur when we come to the realization that regardless of how wise we are, we are not in control. Whether we like it or not, unjust things happen.


First, Solomon suggests we accept the reality of our own finite human wisdom and understanding. Let’s face it, we don’t see the big picture from the vantage point of God.


So instead of trying to take control of our environment when things are not what we think they should be, Solomon reminds us to fear God and obey His commandments and rest in God’s sovereignty instead of our fear. Much easier said, than done.  Again, I think when we are anxious we tend to keep looking at what is making us anxious and not on God. Instead of allowing anxiety to weigh heavy on us, Solomon encourages us to look around us and to find His consolation which brings great joy and relief. Paul gives an excellent example of how God uses those people around us to encourage us and to lift us up, if we let them.




2 Corinthians 7:5-7New International Version (NIV)

5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.

 

We aren’t supposed to go this life alone. We are meant to be Christ, incarnate for those around us. To lend a hand, to direct each other back to strengthening our relationship with God. God promises us throughout Scripture that deep joy can be found by following God’s commands, rather than making our own. Then when disappointments appear, which they will, we can be free to NOT allow them to take over our lives with anxiety, instead we are free to experience the joy and peace God promises us in His scriptures.

Let’s pray.