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Ecclesiastes 7-12

by Chuck Smith

Tonight we want to return again to the book of Ecclesiastes beginning with chapter 7. And as we return to the book of Ecclesiastes, again, it is important that we make note of the fact that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his later years. After he had assiduously pursued to find the purpose and meaning of life in so many different things: in wisdom, in wealth, in fame, in building, in pleasures. And after his pursuit, which carried him into every area and experience of life, he came up with the conclusion that life is empty and frustrating. Solomon made the mistake of searching for purpose in life under the sun. And if your purpose is limited to under the sun, chances are you will come up, as Solomon, with the conclusion that life is a mistake. That it is not worthwhile. That everything is only filled with emptiness and frustration.

But God did not intend for you to live a life under the sun. God intended that you should experience real life in the Son. In First John we read, “And this is the record, that God has given unto us, even eternal life, and this life is in the Son. And he who has the Son has life” (I John 5:11-12). There is real life. There is real meaning and purpose to life. When you find the life in Jesus Christ.

The life apart from Him, apart from the spiritual dimension, living a life on the animal plane of a body-conscious experience and a body-conscious level will lead a person to despair even as the philosophies of today have concluded. That man will be led by reason to despair. Life is hopeless. Thus, man must take a leap into the upper story of experience and man must have some kind of a non-reasoned religious experience to save him from the despair of reality. And so the philosophy led man to the point of despair by reason. And then his only suggestion for man is jump out of reason. Become unreasonable. Take a leap of faith into a non-reasoned religious experience in order that you might not despair because life is hopeless. This is the conclusion that Solomon drew after trying everything.

Now as we read the book of Ecclesiastes, it is a book of despair. “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). The conclusions that Solomon came to are conclusions of natural, human reasoning apart from God. Therefore, they are not to be taken as doctrinal truths. You are dealing with a man searching for life apart from God and his conclusions are not doctrinal truths. Except that they do bring to you the end result of natural reasoning, but not divine wisdom. So they show you man apart from God and the despair and hopelessness of man apart from God. And the conclusions that are drawn are in that kind of a background. They’re not doctrinal truths, because if you take the step into the spiritual level, you’ll come to a far different conclusion of life.

Back in the book of Deuteronomy when God was giving the law to Moses, and because God could foresee down through time to that particular time in the history of the nation of Israel when they would demand a king, and because God knew that one day they would no longer be satisfied with Him being king over them and would want a king, God incorporated even into the law of Moses 400 years before they ever had a king, God incorporated laws for the kings. Because God knew that 400 years down the line the people were going to come to Samuel and say, “We want a king like the other nations around us. And because God knew they were going to say that, He incorporated into the law in the book of Deuteronomy laws for kings.

Now it is interesting as we look at the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy, as God is setting up the laws for the king, beginning with verse 14 of the seventeenth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord said, “When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, ‘I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me.’” And that’s exactly what they said to Samuel, “Set us up a king over us that we might be like the other nations.”

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose. One from among your brothers shalt thou set king over thee. Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses. Forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away. Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn the fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them. That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left. To the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

But verse 17, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.”

It seems prosaic to declare God understands human nature. And God’s laws are written for our admonition, and they weren’t written in vain. “When you set up a king, one thing a king isn’t to do, he’s not to multiply wives lest they turn his heart away.”

Now let’s turn to First Kings, chapter 10. As we are reading of Solomon, remember he wasn’t to multiply gold unto himself or silver or horses, but as we read in verse 14,

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents. He had traffic of spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia. He made two hundred targets of beaten gold; six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pounds of gold went into one shield. And the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon. Moreover, he made a great throne of ivory, who overlaid it with the best gold. [Down in verse 21,] All of the drinking vessels were of gold, the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver, for silver was counted as nothing in the days of Solomon. [Verse 27,] And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars to be as the sycamore trees in the valley, for the abundance. And Solomon had brought horses out of Egypt (I Kings 10:14-19, 21,27,28).

He’s not to multiply horses, not to go back to Egypt. Solomon’s so far getting an F for the course.

And as we get into chapter 11,

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites, and of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, [He’s not to multiply wives, oh. Flunk him.] three hundred concubines: [And what does it say?] and his wives turned away his heart (I Kings 11:1-3).

 Four hundred years earlier God had warned about this very thing. God had forbidden this very thing with the warning, lest they turn his heart away. Solomon thought he could beat God. He thought he knew better than God. He thought he knew better than the law of God. But you don’t.

God knows your human nature better than you know it yourself. And God has given laws to protect you. For God knows what the consequence of the violation of these laws will be.

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after [the pagan gods of] Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, the Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem (I Kings 11:4-7).

Actually it’s on the, if you’ve been over to Jerusalem that hill that goes on up to the Mount of Olives down at the area of Gihon Springs. That is the hill where he built all of these and it’s in the sight of all Jerusalem. It’s right across the valley. It’s in the sight of all Jerusalem. He began to build these pagan temples, a place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. “And also likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (I Kings 11:8).

So every time he married a wife from some different area, he’d build a temple for her so she could go over and burn incense to her god right across the hill where all of Israel could see.

So Solomon had turned his heart away from God, and in turning his heart away from God, he lost the meaning of life and the purpose of life. And now he is an old man and he is writing of his experience. The consciousness of the greatness of Jehovah, God of Israel, has passed from his mind. And he’s trying to find life apart from God. And he finds that life apart from God is nothing but emptiness. Therefore, you cannot take as scriptural doctrine the conclusions that Solomon came to in regards to life and death, because he is reasoning, this is the reasoning of man apart from God and you need to look at the book of Ecclesiastes as that.

Human wisdom, perhaps in its highest expression, yet apart from God is foolish. As God said in Romans, chapter 1, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). And any time you in your human wisdom seek to find a purpose of life apart from God, it’s foolish. Your wisdom has led you to foolishness.

Now chapter 7 of Ecclesiastes is a series of proverbs and, of course, Solomon was filled with proverbs. We just have completed the book of Proverbs of which the majority were written by Solomon, and in chapter 7 he does go into another series of proverbs, sort of unrelated again to each other, but just little sayings of human wisdom.

A good name is better than precious ointment (7:1);

Better to have a good name than to have good perfume.

and the day of death than the day of one's birth (7:1).

Now that sounds pretty much in despair, doesn’t it? “Oh, the day of a person’s death is better than the day of his birth.” That’s one who has become cynical because he has sought to find life apart from Jesus Christ. And in that case, it may be true. But living with Christ is a glorious life.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of merriment (7:2-4).

So he has taken a very jaundice view of life, a very jaundice view of pleasure, of joy, because apart from the Lord it is all emptiness. It is all a sham. And because he was seeking it apart from God, he experienced the emptiness of it, and thus, he became a bitter old man. Bitter with life.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: it’s just emptiness. Surely oppression makes a wise man mad; and a gift destroys the heart. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this (7:5-10).

You always hear them talk about the good old days. They say that’s not always so true. The good old days when we didn’t, when you women didn’t have automatic dishwashers and vacuum cleaners, and wall-to-wall carpeting in your house, supermarkets down the block. You all grew your own gardens. Ground your own flour. Used the scrub board. Oh, the good old days. No, we have it pretty nice. We always look back, though, and we think about the days of our youth when Orange County wasn’t crowded, when it was full of orange trees instead of subdivisions. But there are advantages both ways.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom gives life to those that have it (7:11-12).

Money’s good, but wisdom will give life to those that have wisdom.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? (7:13)

Who can actually do anything against the work of God? We’re powerless and helpless against the work of God.

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that a man should find nothing after him. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness (7:14-15).

I’ve observed this. There have been good men who perished, died young in their righteousness. There were wicked men who lived many years. Therefore, his conclusion. Now it’s not scriptural, it’s not biblical. I mean, it’s not in the sense, it’s not godly. Human looking at life. Seeing that righteous man died young and a sinner lived to be a D.O.M., became a dirty old man, he came to this conclusion. Truly just pure human wisdom.

Don’t be overly righteous (7:16);

Don’t get too involved in righteousness.

neither make thyself over wise: why should you destroy yourself? (7:16)

Now it’s a wrong conclusion. The righteous don’t always die young. There are some beautiful old saints of God. But don’t be overly righteous. Why should you kick off soon? Also,

Don’t be overly wicked (7:17),

Be moderately wicked.

neither be thou foolish: why should you die before your time? (7:17)

So purely human type of reasoning of life.

It is good that you should take hold of this; yes, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all. Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city. For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (7:18-20).

Now, in this he was correct. The Bible said, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). The Bible says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). A human observation that is correct.

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear your servant curse thee (7:21):

They say that an eavesdropper rarely hears anything good about himself. You know, you’re that kind of person that’s always trying to eavesdrop on other’s conversations. And so he’s sort of warning you against that. Don’t take heed; don’t try to listen to what they say. You’re going to find out they’re cursing you.

For [you know how that] oftentimes in your own heart that you have likewise cursed others. All this have I proved by wisdom (7:22,23):

Not by God, I proved it by wisdom. But the wisdom of man, the Scriptures said, is “foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19).

I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is afar off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out? I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even the foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner will be caught by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the Preacher (7:23-27).

Or the debater, or the word…it was translated into the Septuagint  ecclesia, the assembler.

one by one, to find out the account; Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found (7:27-28).

So in all his thousand wives he did not find a decent one. Now, he did find one man out of a thousand. So men have a little better record as far as Solomon is concerned. But you might, of course, also observe he didn’t marry any men and you don’t really know a person till you marry them. But if he was, you know…people, it’s interesting people seem to repeat mistakes, and you find a person who has been married five, six, seven times. It really can’t be that the other person was wrong all the time. You say, “Well, it might be. It might be the person is just a, who has been married that many times is just a poor judge of character.” And they’re following a pattern because we often do. We married the same kind of person. And always you think, “Oh, the second time around, you know, I’ll be wiser, make better choices and all.” But we are bound by certain patterns and if, of course, you get a godly, righteous woman, her price is “far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). And you’ll find one in a thousand every time. You find one who loves the Lord. How glorious it is, how beautiful it is to have a wife who loves God, who calls upon the Lord. What a blessing, what an asset they are to our lives.

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions (7:29).

God made us straight, but boy, how we have searched otherwise.


Chapter 8

Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of the king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What are you doing? (8:1-4)

The king stands as the authority. You can’t really come to the king and say, “Hey, what are you doing?” And the same is true of God. Paul said, “Who are you to say unto Him that has created you, ‘Why hast Thou made me thus?’” (Romans 9:20) The sovereignty of the king, which also speaks to the sovereignty of God.

Whoso keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? (8:5-7)

So you don’t really know what’s going to be, when it’s going to be. The future is so uncertain.

There is no man that has power over his spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it (8:8).

No man has any power over the spirit. When the time comes for you to die, you don’t have any power over your spirit to retain it, to cause your spirit to remain. No power in death. The only one who really did exercise that kind of power over his spirit was Jesus Christ. When on the cross, it said, “He bowed his head and dismissed His Spirit” (John 19:30). He had earlier said unto them, “No man takes My life from Me, I give My life” (John 10:18). In order to keep with what He said, “No man takes My life,” when He was hanging there on the cross after He cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30), “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit” (Luke 23:46), He bowed His head, and it said, “And He dismissed His Spirit.” He said, “Okay, you can go now.” And He died. He had power over His Spirit to dismiss it. We don’t have that power.

All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man rules over another to his own hurt. And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity (8:9-10).

I see life moving on. People are soon forgotten after they die. Life is empty.

Now because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil (8:11).

One of the common mistakes that people make is that of misinterpreting the nature of God. One aspect of God’s nature is His tremendous patience with rebelling man. God is exceedingly long-suffering. God puts up with so much. He doesn’t strike immediately, but oftentimes forestalls judgment for months, for years. And thus, it appears that the evil man is getting away with his evil actions, his evil deeds. And people begin to misinterpret the long-suffering of God. Because He doesn’t execute His sentence speedily, because He doesn’t immediately come down to the fist of judgment upon a man, a man many times thinks he’s getting away with his evil. Thinks he has put one over on God. Thinks that he has been clever and has hid his sin from God, or worse yet, thinks that God is condoning what he has done. Because I’m still blessed and I’m prosperous. “I’m a prosperous cheat, so God is condoning my cheating. It doesn’t matter to God that I cheat. It doesn’t matter to God that I lie or I steal or whatever because look, I’m blessed. It doesn’t matter to God that I’m living an immoral life, because look at all that I have.” And people begin to misinterpret God’s grace and God’s long suffering as God’s approbation for their actions and for their lives. Not so. That’s a fatal mistake to make. God does know. God does see. God does care. God will judge. But because God doesn’t judge immediately, because the sentence of God isn’t executed speedily, because God is giving you opportunity to turn, God is giving you opportunity to repent, God is giving you the opportunity to come out of your sin and to be saved and He’s very patient with you. God’s not willing that any should perish but that all should come into repentance. You see, the real delay in the return of Jesus Christ is just God’s unwillingness that men should perish.

As Peter is talking about the second coming of the Lord, he said, “Hey, in the last days there are going to be scoffers that are going to come saying, ‘Where is the promise of Jesus coming again? They’ve been talking about that for years. He hasn’t come and He’s not going to come. Things just continue as they were from the beginning.’” But Peter said, “God isn’t slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness, but He’s faithful to usward. But He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). Therefore, consider ye actually this time as God’s patience in order that men might be saved.

So, because God has waited so long, because God hasn’t speedily executed His sentence against the evil, people begin to assume that God has just withdrawn Himself. That Jesus isn’t coming again. That all of the talk of the rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ is just piped dreams, a misinterpretation of Scriptures. And they begin to make fun of the return of Jesus Christ. They begin to scoff at it, even as Peter said they would. It’s because they are misinterpreting the patience of God waiting for men to be saved, because God is not willing that any should perish. So God is very kind. He’s very loving. He’s very patient. He’s very long-suffering. He’s giving you chance after chance after chance. But it is tragic when people misinterpret God’s patience and God’s kindness. And thus, they give their hearts over to evil because they think that God is too remote to care. “It doesn’t really matter to God how I live. God doesn’t really know.” And they give their hearts and their lives over to evil to live an evil life. That is a tragic, fatal mistake of misinterpreting God’s grace and God’s goodness to you.

Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged (8:12),

Remember he was talking about how he saw that the ungodly man was living a long life, the righteous were dying young and the ungodly were living long. So, “Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged,”

yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him (8:12):

Now, in the end the best life is the life of fearing God, walking with God. Fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. So I know that in the long run that life is the best. It’s going to be well with the man who has departed from evil.

But it shall not be well with the wicked (8:13),

In the end God’s judgment will come. You can’t escape it. God’s judgment will come, and thus, I surely know it will be well with those that fear God. “But it shall not be well with the wicked.”

neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he fears not before God. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: so I said that this also is vanity (8:13-14).

Things happen to both good and evil men. Same kind of experiences to both. A righteous man gets cancer; an unrighteous man gets cancer. A righteous man has prospered; an unrighteous man has prospered. Who makes this observation? What happens to one happens to the other. It’s emptiness.

Then I commended merriment, because a man hath no better thing (8:15)

And this is his human philosophy and human reasoning coming out again. Hey, it’s great to be merry because a man has no better thing under the sun. And it’s probably true. Under the sun, man, life is just very shallow and you live life in a very shallow level, and

under the sun the best thing to do is just to eat and drink and be merry (8:15):

Because man, that’s all she wrote. That’s the sum of life for you, so you might as well live it up because you’re going to be burning after a while. So you know, live it up now. Life under the sun.

for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun (8:15).

Might as well enjoy what you got now, because man, it’s going to be tough later.

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it (8:16-17).

A man cannot find out the work of God though you search it out.


Chapter 9

For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that fears an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead (9:1-3).

So one thing happens to everybody--they die whether you’re good or bad, sacrifice or don’t sacrifice. It doesn’t matter. You’re all going to die. And as far as Solomon was concerned, that was horrible. If all of your wisdom can’t cause you to escape death, all of your wealth can’t cause you to escape death, how dies the rich man? As the poor. How dies the wise? As the fool. They all die.

You can’t escape death was the conclusion of his human wisdom, but Jesus taught us how to escape death. Jesus said, “He who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). You can escape death by living and believing in Jesus Christ. But the human mind, human wisdom won’t bring you to that. It takes the revelation of God. And if you’re only coming at life from the human level and trying to find God from the human level, you’ll never make it. God must reveal Himself to you by His Spirit. And God has revealed Himself through His Word. And God has revealed, “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in the Son, and he who has the Son has life” (I John 5:11-12). “He that lives and believes in Me,” Jesus said, “will never die.”

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion (9:4).

I guess so.

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead don't know any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten (9:5).

Now those who teach the annihilation of the soul immediately turn to this as their scriptural proof. The book of Ecclesiastes, a book that deals with human reason, human intellect apart from God. And they pick out this Scripture to prove soul annihilation. “For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing, neither have they any more reward. For the memory of them is forgotten.” And then in verse 9, their second proof text. No, I beg your pardon. The second text is right in here somewhere close.

But anyway, Jesus tells us that there was a certain rich man who fared sumptuously every day. Moreover, there was a poor man who was daily brought at his gate, full of sores, begging bread and eating bread that fell from the rich man’s table. And the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died, and in hell, lifted up his eyes being in torment and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus unto me that he may take his finger and dip it in water and touch my tongue, for I am tormented in this heat.” And Abraham said unto him, “Son, remember that in thy lifetime you had good things.” Now that’s what Jesus said. The consciousness that exists after death.

Solomon with human reason and understanding said, “But the dead don’t know anything.” This guy knew that his tongue was tormented, he knew Lazarus, and he knew that he had brothers back on earth who were still living sinful lives. And he could remember his past sinful life. Now you have to either accept the word of Jesus or the word of Solomon in a backslidden state as he is trying to find the reason and purpose of life apart from God, life under the sun. It is wrong to take the book of Ecclesiastes for biblical doctrine. Better to turn to the words of Christ. He surely knew much better than did Solomon in his backslidden state.

Also their love [that is, of the dead], and their hatred, and their envy, [is forgotten] and it’s perished [annihilated]; neither have they any more a portion for ever of any thing that is done under the sun (9:6).

They’re through. It’s over. It’s all…it’s the end.

Go thy way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God now accepts your works. Let your garments be always white; and let your head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest [all the days of your life] all the days of your empty life, which he hath given you under the sun, all the days of your emptiness: for that is your portion in this life, and in thy labor which you take under the sun (9:7-9).

That’s all you’re going to get, man, so you might as well go for it. That’s life.

Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (9:10),

That’s their other proof text. “No work, device, knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” It’s not what Jesus said.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all (9:11).

There is no purpose in life. There is no guiding hand in life. It’s all a matter of time and chance. That’s his conclusion. That is not a Scriptural doctrine. Only Solomon’s conclusion of looking at things. Life is just time and chance. It doesn’t matter how swift or slow, weak or strong, wise or foolish. Life is just time and chance.

For a man also knows not his time: as the fish that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great to me (9:12-13):

Now this is what I observed. It seemed like a great thing.

There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and he built great bulwarks against it: Now there was in this little city found a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then I said, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that rules among fools. Wisdom is better than the weapons of war: but one sinner destroys much good (9:14-18).

So his conclusions of observing a city spared by a wise man.


Chapter 10

Chapter 10:

Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking odor: so does a little folly to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor (10:1).

There are certain men that just should not be doing foolish things. We are reading quite a bit lately about the Bohemian Club and we are told of all the important people in the United States, men who are part of this Bohemian Club. Men who should know better, but evidently don’t. And, of course, we are told that our President and Vice President and former President Richard Nixon, David Rockefeller, that elitist of the United States, members of this Bohemian Club, and they have a little retreat north of San Francisco where they go once a year for a retreat. Where they entertain themselves by putting on foolish costumes and dancing around, and going through different types of rites and so forth in this Bohemian Club. But even as dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary carried a stink, so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor. In other words, men who are in reputation for wisdom and honor, it’s just folly and their life is out of place.

A wise man's heart is at his right hand (10:2);

I only bring that up because you’re going to be reading more and more about the Bohemian Club. The liberal press has decided to expose its activities because they are sort of ridiculous and, of course, they are out to get some of our leaders and to sort of demolish them as idols in our eyes. And so you’re going to be reading more and more about the Bohemian Club. And so when you read about it or hear about it, you’ll say, “I heard about that someplace. Where did I hear about that? Oh, yeah.” But it’s something that they are zeroing in on even as they’ve zeroed in on Nancy Reagan’s fancy clothes and all. They’re zeroing in on the Bohemian Club as one of the things. But you see, the problem is by belonging to it they have given them…and going along with the folly of this springtime retreat up there, they celebrate the coming of spring by putting on their little flowered tutus and dancing around and all. They’re exposing themselves to this. You’re really a man who is of reputation and everything else. It’s just out of place. It’s just like flies in the ointment of the apothecary. It’s just a stinking thing. And so it’s tragic that wise men can do such foolish things. Trying to somehow…it’s amazing to me what dumb things wise men can do and leaders can do and all.

When we were little kids, we would make up our clubs with our secret oaths and our initiations and our passwords, and you know, the whole thing. We were…had our own little mafias and secret organizations and you know, “Blood, man,” and just, we were brothers and this whole thing. Well, that’s great when you’re a little boy and living in a world of unreal fantasies. But when you grow up and you still get into these secret clubs and you have your secret passwords and your secret handshakes and your special little robes and clothes and hats and, you just haven’t grown up and that’s your problem.

Paul said, “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child, and acted as a child. But when I was old, I put away the childish things” (I Corinthians 13:11). When you get old, it’s time to put those things away. But some people just don’t grow up. And thus, they are exposing themselves to ridicule and to the press which will expose them. “A wise man's heart is at his right hand.”

but a fool's heart at his left (10:2).

Now I don't know that there’s any scientific. I don't know what he’s saying. Help! I think I’m getting a heartbeat.

Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool (10:3).

I mean, you’re, when you’re a fool you just, it’s obvious. You express it.

If the spirit of the ruler rises up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding will pacify great offenses (10:4).

Oh, how much better it is to yield a point than to hang on. And if we would only learn just to yield a point. It can pacify great offenses. It can stop big arguments. It can actually save your life at times. There’s some really nuts out there in the world. And a lot of people have been killed by insisting on their right of ways. “It’s my right of way.” And you can insist on your right of way but get wiped out. So, “Yielding can pacify great offenses.” Give in to the point. What difference does it make? Whether there were five or six fish in that basket. You know, you can get in the biggest arguments over some stupid thing like that. Get angry. Get where you don’t speak for a day or two because, “There’s five.” “No, there’s six.” “No, five.” Maybe there were five. Yield it. Why argue? It’s dumb to just argue over things like that. Yielding can pacify great offenses. Good advice.

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceeds from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth (10:5-7).

There seems to be oftentimes inconsistency.

He that digs a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent shall bite him (10:8).

They used a hedge about to keep the serpents out. You break the hedge; the serpent will bite you. You dig a pit; you’ll fall into it. These are just sort of proverbs.

Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. If the iron be blunt, and he do not sharpen the edge, then must he put in more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct (10:9-10).

So figure it out, man. If you’re trying to chop wood with a dull iron, dull hatchet or dull ax, it’s going to take more strength. Sharpen it, takes less strength. Makes sense.

Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better (10:11).

He’ll bite, too.

The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? (10:12-14)

We don’t know the future. People talk so confidently of the future and all. You don’t know what’s going to be out there, you don’t know what the future holds.

The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knows not how to go to the city. Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! (10:15-16)

That means they were drunk all night so they eat in the morning.

Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness! By much slothfulness the building decayeth (10:17-18);

Now you that are managers of buildings and so forth, you might choose that to put above the timeclocks for the maintenance men.

and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answers all things (10:18-19).

Now my wife believes that this is a scriptural truth. But I was trying to tell you, this is Solomon and he’s talking about worldly wisdom. And it’s amazing how that the world thinks that money is a cure-all. Money will answer everything.

Curse not the king, no not even in your thoughts; and curse not the rich in your bedroom: for a little bird of the air will carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter (10:20).

It’s amazing how you say something about someone to a person in confidence thinking that that won’t go any further, but it’s amazing how many times it will get right back to the person. And then you have the phone call and say, “Did you say…?” And, “What did you mean when you said…” Oh, so better not to tell little birds. That’s where they got the phrase, “A little bird told me.” Came from this.


Chapter 11

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you don't know what evil shall be upon the earth (11:1-2).

You don’t know when you’re going to be in trouble, so be generous. Give out a portion to seven or eight people, because there might be a time when you’re going to be needing a handout yourself.

If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree falls toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be. He that observes the wind shall not sow; and he that regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all (11:3-5).

Things that we just don’t understand--how the bones grow in the womb, the way of the spirit. Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, thou hearest the sound thereof, but you cannot tell from whence it is coming, or where it is going. So is he that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). So we don’t know the works of God who makes all.

In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not whether it shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. Truly the light is sweet, and the pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is emptiness (11:6-8).

You might live a lot of years, but remember, you’re going to be dead longer than you’re alive. So you live to be 105, but those that back in the year 547 lived up to 680 even. You know, they’ve been dead a long time. This is what he’s saying. You might see the life for many years, but you’re going to see the darkness longer. Again, that’s life under the sun.

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of your eyes (11:9):

Poor advice.

but know thou, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (11:9).

Do what you want, but just remember, God’s going to judge you.

Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity (11:10).

Too soon old, too late smart. Someone said, “It’s a shame that youth has to be wasted on the young.” You think now, though, if you could only go back to your youth with the advantage of all of your experience and advantage of life now, man, what you could do. If you were just a teenager again back in high school with all of your knowledge and understanding at this point. I think of all of the wasted time that I had. I think of all of the opportunities that I had to learn and I didn’t take full advantage of them. It was a crazy thing, but I really didn’t decide to learn until I got into college. And then even at that point I look back to my high school years and I thought, “Oh, how ridiculous that I bragged that I never took a book home from school through high school. What a stupid boast!” Oh, of course, I’ve got my grades for college. But yet, I could have learned so much more. I wasted my youth in many ways. But what can you do? You can’t go back.


Chapter 12

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth (12:1),

It is interesting that most conversions are made during the teenage years. Seven-eighths of every decision for Jesus Christ is made while in your teenage years. That’s why it’s an important injunction, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”

while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them (12:1);

Don’t wait until you get old to serve the Lord, to give your life to Jesus Christ. Commit your life while you’re young, before those evil days come and you say, “Oh man, life has no more pleasure.” And so we have now an interesting sort of graphic description of the aged person.

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain (12:2):

As you get older you start putting stronger lightbulbs in the socket. My first awareness of my need for glasses is when the light wasn’t bright enough and I had to get a brighter light in order to read. And somehow the lights go dimmer as you get older. The muscles of your eyes don’t contract as they should in the adjustment of the pupil and all. And so you need more light in order to read. So remember. You see, I’m in the other end of the stick now when the years draw nigh.

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble (12:3),

That’s when you begin to get the palsied shakes of the old age; your knees and your legs begin to shake. You walk sort of shakily. It’s hard to have a smooth script as you’re writing, you know, you can. “Keepers of the house are trembling.”

and the strong men shall bow themselves (12:3),

You begin to hunch over your back. The grinders are your teeth.

and the grinders cease because they are few (12:3),

Of course, in those days they didn’t have the spare sets.

and those that look out of the windows be darkened (12:3),

Again, the reference to the eyes, the windows of your body, the eye, and you begin to become blind.

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low (12:4);

Your hearing gets bad, and the singing, “Yeah, what?” It’s a great life to look forward to, isn’t it? You start waking up early in the morning, the first song of the bird. You don’t sleep so long anymore. You don’t need so much sleep.

And when they shall be afraid of that which is high (12:5),

You start getting these fears.

and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper will be a burden (12:5),

Oh, there’s a grasshopper, what shall I do?

I was visiting a while back in one of the retirement homes, one of our members, and as I was going to leave, as I got to the elevator, I was on the seventeenth floor, and when I got to the elevator this little old lady came running up to me. She says, “Help, help, help!” And I said, “What’s the matter, Ma’am?” And she said, “There’s a man; he came right into my room. I didn’t invite him; he came right into my room. And he’s still there in my room and I can’t get him out.” And I said, “Well, I’ll get him out for you, Ma’am, you know.” She was a little old lady so I figured it must be a little old man, you know. I could have handled that. So I went back to her room with her and we went into her room and here I was ready to assume my authority and order the guy out. What are you doing in this room uninvited? And looked around I said, “Well, Ma’am, I don’t see anybody here.” She said, “Well, he came flying right in that window there. And he landed right there in the sink. And was just staring at me for a while, you know.”

Even a grasshopper can become a burden. Or a fly.

your desire shall fail: because man goes to his long home, and the mourners will be in the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel be broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity (12:5-8).

You’ve come to the end of the road, man. This is it. The mourners are out in the street. The pitcher’s been broken at the fountain. It’s all over. And what is life? Vanity, vanity. Your body is gone back to dust. Spirit’s gone back to God who gave it. And it was just one vast emptiness.

That’s life apart from God. And if you live apart from God, you will experience the same thing. You can’t escape it. There is no real meaning in life apart from God, apart from serving God. There is nothing worthwhile. Vanity, vanity, all is emptiness.

And moreover, because the [assembler] Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The [assembler or] Preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even the words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of the assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making of many books there is no end; and much study is weariness of the flesh (12:9-12).

I used to have that in my room when I was in school.

Now let’s hear the conclusion of the whole matter (12:13):

This is it.

Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil (12:13-14).

This is it. The best way to live is just to fear God, keep His commandments. Because one day God is going to bring every work into judgment, even the secret things whether good or evil.

Shall we stand. I pray that the Lord will give you a closer walk with Him. That you begin to understand life from the divine perspective. That you’ll experience much more than the emptiness of life after the flesh under the sun but will begin to experience the rich fulfillment of life in the Son after the Spirit. And so may God lead you by His Spirit into that full, rich life that He wants you to know and to experience in Jesus Christ. And may you begin to experience that which Jesus said was life more abundantly that He had come to bring to you. So may the hand of the Lord be upon your life this week. And may you walk with Him in love. In Jesus' name.

Chuck Smith

Pastor Chuck Smith began his ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in 1965, with just twenty-five people.