I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: there was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded(Eccl. 9:13-18 NIV)
than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one sinner destroys much good.
It is good to remember that the Preacher teaches us that wisdom is limited but it is still a good thing. The Preacher gives an example of the good use of wisdom. A small city with only a few people living in it was surrounded and huge siege works were set up around its circumference. The word translated siege works means nets and the singular is used in Ecc 9:12
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.(Eccl. 9:12 NIV)
The fish and the bird were caught in the siege works. They were making their way through life and then unexpectedly this evil happened, and they were caught. The people in the city had been getting on with life in the city and then unexpectedly a powerful king set a snare for them. The point is that wisdom got them out of the snare. In our lives the unexpected happens, and we must seek wisdom from God to know how to move forward. This man with wisdom was poor and insignificant, a quietly spoken man. The quiet words of the wise are to be heeded more than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Noise is no substitute for the astute judgement of the wise.
One might expect that the poor man’s words would be extolled, and his reputation celebrated as a hero. No! This didn’t happen. The extraordinary deliverance of the city by the poor man was soon forgotten. The incident had proved beyond doubt the value of wisdom. But to no avail, because the city resorted to gathering a stockpile of weapons of war to secure their city for the future.
The quiet words of the wise were shouted down by the loudmouth of a fool. The loudmouth, an example of one such sinner, destroyed the much good that had been spoken by the poor, quiet, wise man. The foolish sinner, in his folly, destroys the advantage that wisdom can give over the weapons of war. This is not a case for disarmament. The government of every nation has a responsibility for the security of its people. All its weapons should be deployed with wisdom. Wisdom is better than folly and stronger than the weapons of war. Wisdom offers a way forward when bad times come.
Sadly, wisdom and the wise are not always heeded. The Preacher is concerned that we achieve a balanced view on wisdom. The possession of wisdom does not make us equal with God. The Preacher has shown wisdom’s limitations, but that doesn’t mean we abandon wisdom. It is good to have God-given wisdom to help us through life.
Sadly, today we live at a time when information is more valued than wisdom. There has been an information explosion on the internet. I warn my students that when they are handing in their essays that they should not quote from Wikipedia. The information there is not always reliable, as anyone can publish information on their site. The point that I want to stress is that the information is not peer reviewed. When you are seeking to have a paper published in a journal, the editor of the journal will send the paper to a number of scholars in the area that you are writing to have it peer reviewed. That is to help ensure the standard and creditability of the research. It is wise to check what you read on the web. Remember that scrolling through many websites is not the same thing as research. You can find persuasive cases for every diet, every type of medication, every vitamin on the web. Every conspiracy can also be made to sound creditable. Every doctrine can be made to sound plausible. Every claim to have witnessed a miracle can be made to sound believable. Wisdom is limited but it is better than information. Use your wisdom to test what is claimed. The ultimate test is the wise use of the scriptures. One foolish assertion can take away the benefits of wisdom.
Lord help us not to be foolish and despise wisdom but help us to seek the wisdom that comes from above. Help us to surround ourselves by wise counsellors so that our ideas may be tested. We thank You for the fellowship found in the church where we are surrounded by those who are interested in our spiritual wellbeing. Lord help us both to be willing to give and receive wisdom from others because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.