School has started. While some schools begin in August, most all are in session following Labor Day. For decades the overriding purpose in going to school was to acquire knowledge. While acquiring skills for future education and the work place and helping students to be physically, emotionally, and psychologically healthy were also desired outcomes, the main purpose in going to school was to increase in knowledge. Now, given our digital age, knowledge can be obtained without a teacher. Maybe a good question would be, “Can a student extrapolate genuine wisdom from all that knowledge without a teacher?” Perhaps a teacher is necessary for helping students manage the information. To do that takes wisdom.
The wisdom literature of the Bible provides not only knowledge but also wisdom. This wisdom sometimes comes to us in snippets and proverbs. A collection of them is called a catena, which is an arranged catalog or list. Our texts today function as a catena. Solomon said, “Get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7), and our catena says, “Enjoy the benefits of wisdom.”
Wisdom Beats Foolishness
The context indicated that all the things Solomon tried still ended in meaninglessness. In fact, even wisdom (turned in on itself) can lead to foolishness. Wisdom does not make a good savior, but it sure beats being dumb. Solomon said that wisdom is better (the word is unique to Ecclesiastes, occurring seven times, and it means “profitable” or “advantageous”) than folly. He likened it to the difference between light and darkness. One benefit of wisdom is that it is preferable to foolishness.
Wisdom Gives Warnings
Ecclesiastes 4:13; 7:5
Wisdom sounds warning notes all the time. The wise hear them and heed them. The foolish refuse such a warning (to be taught or admonished). One would like to assume that age improves one’s ability to hear and heed wisdom. But that is not always the case. Age and wisdom do not always go together. Young and wise beats old and foolish (simpleton)—even if the old one is a king. Wise people, regardless of age will heed the rebuke of a wise person. Wise people are always trying to grow and improve. They accept criticism well. Adversity and prosperity (the context of chapter 7) can cause one to abandon wisdom. But the wise will avoid the song of fools (lifestyle of the foolish) and accept rebuke.
Wisdom Preserves People
Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12, 19
Ecclesiastes 7 reads like the book of Proverbs. Several contrasts are given. In the midst of those comparisons Solomon gave a simile, a metaphor, and a comparison. The simile and metaphor have to do with money. Wisdom preserves people like an inheritance does for a family. The people who go on living (those who see the sun) benefit when the inheritance is distributed. Wisdom is a shelter (some form of protection) in a similar way as money is an inheritance for a family. It preserves (sustains) those who have it.
The comparison has to do with power. A wise person has power. A wise person outstrips those usually viewed as powerful—to the tune of ten rulers in a city. While Solomon admitted struggling with the seeming futility of wicked people advancing without difficulty (Psalm 73), he knew down deep that wisdom protects people in a powerful way.
Wisdom Explains . . . Things
Much like Paul and James (1 Corinthians 1:20; James 3:13), Solomon asked, Who is like the wise? A wise person can explain things. The word explanation is a special Hebrew word. It is the word pesher. This word means, “This means.” It is what rabbis did when they explained Scripture. Homiletically speaking it has come to mean going through a text verse-by-verse. It is similar to what Ezra did in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:8)—translating, giving the sense, so the people understood. It is what Christian scribes do who are trained in the things of the kingdom (Matthew 13:52). It is what Paul wanted Timothy to do with the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It is what happens in believers through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:18; 1 John 2:27).
When a wise person who has proper decorum explains things it shows in the countenance. Wise peoples’ faces brighten (are illuminated). Wisdom helps a face that was once hard become soft and gentle (James 3:17, 18). Wisdom just makes a difference at several levels. Knowledge is good, but wisdom is better.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.