The Book of Ecclesiastes
James J. Barker
THE RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT OF GOD
- Ecclesiastes 8 continues
with the theme of wisdom (8:1).
- Commenting on Ecclesiastes
8:1, Merrill Unger writes, “This is true wisdom – genuine piety that trusts in
God and reveres Him. Who is…the
wise man? The man who possesses
this heavenly wisdom, possesses grace, and is accepted by God” (Unger’s
Commentary on the OT).
- Dr. Unger also points out
that this wisdom “beautifies a man and maketh his face to shine (like
Moses’, Ex. 34:29, 30; and Stephen’s, Acts 6:15) and causes the boldness
(strength, austerity, severity) of his face to be changed (Deut.
28:50) into a benign expression as the result of true
- This reminds us of the story
about President Abraham Lincoln.
It is said that Lincoln, when he was President of the U.S., was advised
to include a certain man in his cabinet. When he refused he was asked why he
would not accept him. “I don’t like his face,” the President replied. “But the
poor man isn’t responsible for his face,” said the advisor. To this, President Lincoln said, “Every
man over forty is responsible for his face.”
- President Lincoln understood
that wisdom (or a lack of wisdom) affects a man’s countenance. King Solomon came
to realize there was “sore travail” (1:13) and “much grief” (1:18) in searching
- Furthermore, Solomon
discovered that while he searched earnestly for wisdom (and was considered the
wisest man in the world), ultimate wisdom was still “far from him” (7:23,
24; cf. 8:16, 17).
- Ecclesiastes 8 teaches that
we need wisdom as we deal with worldly leaders, some of whom are good, but some
that are wicked (Eccl. 8:2-4; cf. Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-18).
- The Bible teaches us that
because God is righteous and God is holy, He must punish sin and reward
- Even the thief on the cross
understood this. He said to the
impenitent thief, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly;
for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done
nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40, 41).
- The apostle Paul wrote in
Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
IT IS WISE TO SUBMIT TO AUTHORITY
And we pledge allegiance to
As we submit to those God
has placed over us, we also recognize that God is the righteous Judge over all
human kings and rulers (8:5—8).
There are many examples in
the Bible of believers who acted wisely before heathen rulers (e.g., Joseph,
In Acts 5:29, Peter and the
other apostles stood before the council and said, “We ought to obey God rather
The purpose of government is
the righteous administration of justice.
When rulers properly perform their duties, both they and the people they
rule enjoy the blessings of God.
However those in authority are often unjust
- Human government (like
marriage, the family, and the church) was instituted by God. Since God ordained human government
(back in the days of Noah – cf. Genesis 9:6) for man’s protection and man’s
benefit, man is obligated to obey those in authority
- The “oath”
(8:2) was a promise to God by the people to be faithful to their king and
to give him their allegiance. Today, we are obligated to obey and pray for those in authority (I
RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS OF GOD (8:10-14).
- In verse 10,
King Solomon refers to a funeral service.
“The place of the holy” refers to the temple in Jerusalem. Apparently the wicked man was given a
proper funeral service, with a nice eulogy. But soon the wicked are
- I heard about these two
brothers who were very wicked. One
of them died, and his brother told the preacher that he would make a very
generous contribution to the church if he would say something nice about his
brother at the funeral. The
preacher prayed about it, and accepted the offer.
- This is what he said at the
funeral: “John Smith was a dirty, lowdown rascal. He was a drunkard, a crook, and a
liar. But he was a fine, upstanding
citizen compared to his no-good brother.”
- The wicked continue to sin
with impunity because they think they can get away with it (8:11). Trials seem to drag on for ever;
witnesses are intimidated or even murdered; judges and jurors are bribed, etc.
- The wicked do not realize
that someday they will stand before God and be judged (8:12,
- The prosperity of the wicked
has always been a stumbling block to both unbelievers and believers. The Psalmist deals with this in
Psalm 73. “For I was envious
at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3; cf. Eccl.
- In this life, the wicked
often get away with their crimes, but some day they will face God (8:14). King Solomon’s father, King David, said
in Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that
- Oftentimes, Christians are
frustrated and upset at the injustice they see in the judicial system. Rich people often get away with all
sorts of crimes, even murder.
Solomon says in Eccl. 8:14 that this “is a vanity which is done upon the
ENJOYING GOD’S BLESSINGS
- Rather than get upset over the unfairness
we see in this sinful world, we are to enjoy the blessings of God
- This is a frequent theme of
Ecclesiastes (cf. 2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:18; 9:7).
- Once again we are reminded
of the apostle Paul’s words in I Timothy 6:17, God “giveth us richly all things
- This Thanksgiving we should
be grateful for all of God’s blessings.
- True, godly wisdom is
manifested in a humble acceptance of the will of God (8:16, 17). We have to accept the fact that
there are many things we will never understand in this world (8:17; cf. 3:11;
7:23, 24); i.e. “under the sun” (cf. 8:9, 15, 17).
Romans 11:33 says, “O the
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable
are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”