Day 19: Being wise is a good thing (8:1)
“Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed” (8:1).
There is no doubt that Solomon (aka the Preacher) thought wisdom was a good thing, even though he ended his life doing foolish things, like marrying foreign women who caused him to turn from the Lord. But at the start of his reign, it was wisdom what he wanted and asked God for, ahead of riches and power, the getting of which is evidenced in his Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes words, which as we have already said were all about wisdom. He begins this part of his “sermon” by asking two pertinent questions, the answers to which we might all want to know. The desirability of being wise and knowing the right answers respectively, is also all too clear. Put in another way: “only the wise know what things really mean. Wisdom makes them smile and makes their frowns disappear.” (8:1 GNT.)
Wisdom has practical, down to earth consequences, like submitting to authority, akin perhaps to honour thy father and mother. Here, it is about earthly authorities, i.e. kings: “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 a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (8:2-4). Obedience to the ruler is an issue that faces us all and one Paul tried to tackle when writing to the church at Rome, then under the rule of the despotic Roman emperor: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God” Romans 13:1,2. The conclusion the Preacher comes to is to obey, although no doubt he would have recognised the times when not to, e.g. when it meant disobeying God. And he was quite clear that many kings were bad: “I saw all this when I thought about the things that are done in this world, a world where some people have power and others have to suffer under them” (8:9). But when it comes to getting a proper perspective on life and practising wisdom, the Preacher understood: “There is a right time and a right way to do everything, but we know so little! None of us knows what is going to happen, and there is no one to tell us. No one can keep from dying or put off the day of death. That is a battle we cannot escape; we cannot cheat our way out (8:6-8 GNT). Life’s events are indeterminate, other than we die, even if we know little, including when we die. But there is a right time and way to do things, like seeking the way of wisdom.
Prayer: Forgive us Lord when we despise the way of wisdom, when knowing wisdom to be a good thing. Give us grace to submit to both good and bad kings.