Text: Ecclesiastes 8-10
There is such a thing as authority in life. You answer to lots of people or organizations who control different aspects of your life. Authorities can be good or evil. All human authorities are sinners who will die. But authority as a law stems from God himself as the final authority. As much as sinners must be recognized when they are in authority, how much more does God, who is the final authority, need to be recognized? This argument begins to make up Solomon’s conclusions about life.
Keep God’s commandments (vss 1-8)
- I do know that whatever the king says I need to do even if I can’t figure everything out.
- 1 Corinthians 7:19, 14:37, 1 John 2:3-4, 5:3
- Solomon points to the fact that a king’s word is judgment. What he’s hinting at is that God is a King. Therefore, you better fear the king and obey his words. This is the fear of the LORD.
- Solomon preaches the fear of the LORD as a duty and obligation of mankind.
- Solomon comes to the same conclusion about obeying God even if you don’t understand that Job did but through entirely different circumstances.
Fear God because he is THE King (vss 9-14)
- Some men look at life and say there is no judgment therefore I can get away with anything. These are the ones who don’t discern time and judgment as verse 5 said.
- Other men look at life and say there is no judgment NOW, but there is certainly coming to a judgment, therefore, I need to fear God.
- Eventually, it will be well with those that fear God and eventually, it will go badly for those who don’t fear God.
Much of the reason for things is hidden from man (vss 15-17)
- Solomon says that because life is filled with vanity, man should enjoy the life he can produce for himself. No one else will enjoy it like him. He won’t be able to pass it on with any assurance that the value will be passed on. This is said multiple times throughout the sermon (2:24, 3:13, 3:22, 5:18, 8:15)
- As much as vanity is a theme that runs through Ecclesiastes, the conclusion of the matter is essentially Paul’s conclusion that godliness with contentment is great gain.
- The end of chapter 8 Solomon reiterates the fact that even wise men can’t figure out everything God, the King, does.
- This is the same conclusion Job came to at the end of his trial. The difference with Job is that he was tempted to curse God and find fault with God’s way of doing things. Solomon isn’t being tempted that way. He’s being tempted with confusion and the inability to figure out what’s going on.
Living dogs have more opportunities than dead kings (9:1-10)
- We’re all headed for the grave.
- Do what can be done now, because now is what you have. There is no reincarnation or postmortem opportunity.
- Verse 7 sounds like it means something it doesn’t. God has given you an opportunity now, in this life. But after this life is the judgment. God accepting your works now just means that now is the acceptable time to get something done. You won’t have opportunities in the grave.
- If you’re going to enjoy life, enjoy it now. Or you can waste away in this life in misery.
Unpredictable and unintended consequences of life (9:11-12)
- Time and chance happens to us all. It’s incredible how much of our history, technology, and even culture is the product of unintended consequences.
- There are accidental catastrophes like the Great Leap Forward in China that produced the great famine killing tens of millions of people.
- There are accidental inventions like penicillin, velcro, dynamite, matches and Coca-Cola.
- There are accidental leaders. President James Garfield had a very interesting rise to power in the United States. There’s a book called Destiny of the Republic that chronicles his life and assassination. It also describes how the American medical industry was changed because of the ignorant treatment he received after being shot. Then a “quack” doctor tried to explain to the president’s medical team that they were making Garfield worse by their poor hygiene practices during surgery. The “quack” doctor was named Joseph Lister. He also invented Listerine.
Wisdom pacified the king, but wisdom was forgotten (9:13-18)
Tyrannical kings (10)
- An honorable man, like a king, who stinks because he’s a fool in verse 1.
- The point here is the king is the authority whether he is right or not. The right or wrongness of the king does not affect his authority.
- Follow is set in great dignity (vs 6)
- Solomon says he’s seen the basest of people put in honorable positions (vs 7)
- Verses 16-17 deal with the contrast between good authority and bad authority.
- And the broader point Solomon is making is that God is the King. And if you’re subject to sinners who are kings with authority, how much more are you subject to the King of kings who is Almighty? Therefore, fear God.
- This will be part of his conclusion.