Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
Do not pay attention to every word people say,
or you may hear your servant cursing you –
for you know in your heart
that many times you yourself have cursed others.
All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
‘I am determined to be wise’–(Eccl. 7:19-25 NIV)
but this was beyond me.
Whatever exists is far off and most profound –
who can discover it?
So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly.
Wisdom provides us with personal inner strength, beyond that of the wisdom of ten city rulers. This inner strength helps us cope in life with the many difficulties that come in life.
Of course, the possession of wisdom does not prevent sin. The presence of sin has an impact upon the use of wisdom. Having extolled the virtues of wisdom the Preacher brings us back to reality, because there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.
The Preacher gives the example of the use of the tongue in sinning. This is a frequent example of sins in the Bible. Because sin is in the world, there will always be gossip. The Preacher says not to pay attention to every word of gossip, because you may find that some of the gossip is about you. How might we know that gossip is happening? Because, in our hearts we know that we have been involved in gossip and have spoken ill of others. Learn from the hurtful things that you have said of others. How much good did they achieve? What good will it do to hear similar things said of yourself? If we are wise, we will make sure that our own words pass a few simple tests before we dare to speak. If that person could hear me, would I say this? And is this the way that I would say it? Am I saying this for the glory of God, and for the love of my brother or sister, or am I only saying it to vent my own frustration?
The Preacher tells us how limited wisdom is. We have a built-in bias towards sin and foolishness that it restricts our wisdom. There has never been so much learning in society than we have today, with information on any topic available at the touch of a button. We have the knowledge but not the wisdom. The Preacher himself, perhaps one of the wisest people, lamented about the sparsity of wisdom and the difficulty of finding wisdom. Knowing the limit of wisdom is part of wisdom. No one can come to a comprehensive understanding of the universe, for the concepts are beyond us and most profound.
Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky. Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumour of it has reached our ears.” God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells,(Job 28:20-23 NIV)
The Preacher carries out his search using his wisdom. He considers the concept of wisdom, folly and madness. His search fails. It wasn’t due to lack of effort because he was determined to be wise and he gave his mind to understand and investigate. The admission of failure is a humble surrender to the fact that no one can understand what God is doing in the world.
Lord help us to be wise in what we do but help us to humbly admit how we need You every day. We cannot possibly understand the times in which we live, nor can we understand everything that happens in our lives. The little wisdom that we have is tainted with sin. Lord we confess our sin before You. Be pleased to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteous for Christ our Saviour’s sake, in whose name we pray. Amen.