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Lesson 9: Seeing Through a Glass Darkly *

Introduction: How smart are you? Smart enough, right? Are you smart enough to want to be wise? Smart enough to consider whether there is any benefit to wisdom? If so, what is the benefit of wisdom? Would you agree that it helps us to live better lives: not only in keeping out of trouble, but in helping us to get through trouble when it comes? This week King Solomon gives us a peek into his view of the benefit of wisdom. Let's wisely dive into our study!

  1. Looking and Living Smart

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:1. What does it mean to be wise? (For one thing, it means that you can explain "things.")

      1. Can you spot a wise man or woman?

      2. If not, can you spot a foolish man or woman? (Solomon suggests that being wise is reflected in your face. He says it makes your face less hardened and more "bright." The New Bible Commentary says a "bright face" means a gracious demeanor.)

        1. Do you know what Solomon is saying? Have you seen this "look" of wisdom? (I absolutely know what Solomon is writing about.)

  2. Obedience to Earthly Masters

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:2. What oath did you give to the king? (As a lawyer, I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States. Office holders take oaths. Members of the military take oaths. People who become citizens of the United States(as opposed to being born citizens) take an oath of allegiance.)

      1. How important are these oaths? (Solomon says if you give your word, then for that reason alone obey the king.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 8:3-4. Would this advice apply to dealing with your boss? (It would apply to anyone who has absolute control over some portion of your life.)

      1. What does it mean to "not stand up for a bad cause?" (The context makes it appear that if you oppose the king (or your boss) that by definition is a "bad cause.")

        1. What about the idea of standing up for what is right? (Read Acts 5:29. We must obey God, rather than humans. However, Acts refers to matters in which obeying "the king" involves moral questions. You can give "the king" your point of view, but you should avoid being in rebellion against the king unless it is a matter of sin.)

        1. What is the difference between being an innovator and a rebel in your job? (Sometimes this is a fine line. But, when you are directly opposing the person with the final authority you are being foolish.)

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:5-6. If we are told that obedience to the "king" will cause us no harm, why does Solomon go on to refer to a "proper time and procedure?" (There is a proper time and procedure for suggesting that the king is going in the wrong direction. Queen Esther (Esther 7) is an example of this.)

      1. Why does Solomon, in this context, write about "misery" weighing heavily on a person? (You may not be enjoying yourself while you wait for the right time and proper procedure to get things changed with the king.)

  1. Accepting What Cannot be Changed

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:7-8. In addition to the difficulty in controlling "the king," what other aspects of our life are out of our control? (We cannot really control future events in our life or the date of our death.)

      1. When King Solomon refers to "wickedness" not releasing us, what is he suggesting about our ability to control the future? (Some aspects of our future are just out of our hands. Other aspects of our future we have the power to influence - at least at some point in time. Avoiding wickedness keeps us out of the grasp of Satan - who only wants to harm us. Living intelligently (healthfully) gives us an advantage. However, if we enter into wickedness we unleash a series of events which we cannot control. If you want a more pleasant future, avoid doing evil.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 8:9-10. Will wickedness catch up with a person during this life? (Sometimes, sometimes not. Solomon points out the wicked man who attended church regularly and was praised at his funeral.)

  2. Incentives to Right Living

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 8:11-13. In the United States, criminal sentences are rarely carried out quickly. Numerous appeals are allowed. Individuals sentenced to death for terrible murders sometime live for many years on "death row." How does that affect our crime rate, according to Solomon?

      1. Even if the wicked are not caught, or are not immediately punished, does crime pay? (Solomon affirms that a God-fearing person generally has a better life.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 8:14. How can Solomon say that getting the wrong reward in life is meaningless? If you are good, and you suffer like the wicked, doesn't that say something important about our God? ("Meaningless" is the Hebrew word "hebel" which can mean, among other things, "transitory." Thus, things may not turn out exactly right here on earth, but God will make them right in heaven.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 8:15. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Does that about sum up King Solomon's philosophy? (Not exactly. He has already said that, in general, we live better if we obey God. Within the context of what Solomon is writing, I would paraphrase it, "Trust God, do what is right, eat, drink and take joy in the life and the opportunities God has given you, however long God has given you.")

    4. Read Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. What should you say if life does not make sense? What should you think about God if your life does not make sense? (A theme of the Bible is that God is God and we are mere humans - and don't forget it. Solomon says, "Look, even the smartest, wisest guy cannot explain all of life. Leave some things to God."

    5. Friend, God's wisdom makes your life better. Some of God's wisdom He shares with us. Some, is beyond us. Will you seek God's wisdom and be content to trust God even when wisdom is not enough to understand and solve all problems in life?

  3. Next week: "Whatever Your Hand Finds to Do."
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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