Pastor Tom Ascol continues in the series on Ecclesiastes with a sermon entitled “How to Live Well” centered on Ecclesiastes 7:15 – 29. As we have seen, the author, Qohelet, has been brutally honest about life on earth having identified a seeming lack of fairness. In today’s passage, he wrestles with the unfairness of the young dying and the wicked prospering.
Qohelet teaches three lessons the first of which is “Sometimes the world does not make sense.” The author is not alone in his struggle (for example, see Psalm 73). In fact, Qohelet claims attempting to ‘live by the rules’ does not guarantee things will go well. An honest assessment of life, from Abel to the present, teaches us our sin has broken the world and things are not fair. Thus, v. 16 teaches us not to have too much or too little regard for how we live. Of course, we should live in obedience to God seeking His glory. We are to fear the awesome God (v. 18). But, the danger in having too much regard for the way we live is that we then try to manipulate God, as if because of our presumed righteousness we can somehow demand or expect God’s blessing. This was the mistake of the Pharisees; living an externally holy life while ignoring the heart does not work. We should not expect guaranteed results in a world fallen away from God.
The second lesson is that “Wisdom and righteousness are good but limited.” Wisdom is extolled throughout Scripture. There is, however, a limit to human wisdom, even the wisdom given to humans by God. We do not have the wisdom God has; His ultimate wisdom, the wisdom that explains everything including Qohelet’s observed apparent unfairness in life, is beyond our grasp. Similarly, we are limited in our righteousness. Paul, in Roman’s 3, even references Ecclesiastes; there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. We are all flawed, a truth that should make us humble in encountering the flaws of others. Just as we need mercy we should extend mercy. So, we cannot make life work by our own wisdom or our own righteousness. Both the wisdom and righteousness we need are only to be found through Jesus Christ. If we want to live well in this world we can do so only through trusting Jesus who will then become wisdom and righteousness to us (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Our third lesson is “There are warnings that should govern our outlook on the world.” Qohelet gives us four. Verse 26 shows sin is seductive and destructive; vv. 27-28 shows ultimate meaning and purpose cannot be discovered through human ingenuity; v. 28 shows there are virtually no truly righteous people in the world, and; v. 29 shows the reason the world is broken is because of human sin. All this points to one overarching fact: the only way to find the lives for which we were created and for which we long, is to be reconciled to the God who made us, and the only way to be reconciled is through Jesus Christ. Today, humbly trust God in his goodness and love for us.
This sermon was given by Dr. Tom Ascol on January 8, 2017 at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL.
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