First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ September 6, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 7:1-6; Luke 6:20-26
“Wisdom for Better Living” is the title of my Meditation today and I believe it captures the spirit of the words of Ecclesiastes chapter 7. Ecclesiastes chapter 7 marks the second half of the book. In this chapter, King Solomon pauses, and he seems to reflect on the wisdom he has shared in the previous six chapters. The key word in today’s scripture is “better”; it’s mentioned 5 times in six verses. In Ecclesiastes 7, the Lord shows us that some of the medicine that tastes the worst has the best cure. In these verses, Solomon is going to goad us into thinking outside the box.
Most Bible commentators would tell us that there is a shift in Ecclesiastes 7. You can easily notice it. It’s a different way of looking at things; a different way of looking at life. You could say that the Preacher has gained a new perspective. From chapter 7 on, the Preacher’s focus becomes less man-centered and more God-centered. His journey of wrestling with what life is all about is ending; he is beginning to come back home. Some evidence of this change is the frequent occurrence of two terms, “wise” and “wisdom.” They appear almost 35 times in the latter half of the book.
The Preacher’s new perspective is illustrated by seven examples in chapter 7. King Solomon was able to see things differently. The apostle Paul said the same thing in Philippians 3:7, “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” So this morning and next Sunday, we will be exploring how Solomon looked at things differently at eventually, this led him to better living.
First: Reputation is Better than Riches
“A good name is better than fine perfume,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:1. This parallels the words of Proverbs 22:1 which similarly reads: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
Just to clear up any confusion, the Bible is not talking about our actual names. My name is Mouris. There is nothing fancy or unique about that as thousands probably shar it. I’m talking about what your name implies; your reputation and the character you possess inside. It identifies who you are from a moral and ethical standpoint. Essentially it is what you are all about. When people hear your name mentioned, what do they immediately think of you?
That’s amazing when you think about it. Your good name is better than all the money in the world! Does that seem odd? It certainly doesn’t fit with what our culture thinks about having money. A good name still provides more value than money. Why? Because riches are fleeting, but a good name is eternal. Riches could be with us one minute and gone the next. We can’t take riches with us once we leave this world at the time of our death.
A good name, however, is theoretically eternal. How many men and women of history are still being spoken of in a positive light? Solomon invites us today to think about our own legacy. How will your legacy be remembered and portrayed by family, friends or colleagues once you are gone? Will they focus on the value of your life or only remember that you cared about yourself and your wealth? What kind of legacy we are leaving behind? “A good name is better than fine perfume.”
Second: The House of Mourning is Better than the House of FeastingIn verses 2-3, the Preacher introduces a few statements that totally go against what most people would think today. “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death, than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:1-3.
What does the Preacher mean by these words? How can the day of death be better than the day of birth? How can going to the house of mourning be better than going to the house of feasting? How can sorrow be better than laughter? I would rather go to a wedding not a funeral, a happy occasion not a sad one.
People prefer to go to festivals which brings them happiness and there is nothing wrong with that. But Solomon wanted to remind the people back then and us today with an important truth. Life, our life, my life and your life, has a beginning and it also has an end. Unfortunately, lots of people forget this truth. The present world we see today is not permanent. The unseen ‘soon to come’ God’s Kingdom is permanent!
What King Solomon is saying is simple: Death is the destiny of everyone who lives. Therefore, those who are alive should consider the reality of their own deaths in order to gain a heart of wisdom. Our death is imminent. The mortality rate is still 100%. The wise will lay this to heart. It’s important to think about the shortness of our lives and the certainty of our deaths because we are all prone to spend our days pursuing things that have no eternal value. In other words, it is crazy to live our lives without ever thinking about the end of our lives.
The Bible teaches us that living with our end in mind creates a life of wisdom and purpose. So even when we think about our own mortality, when we visit the “house of mourning, may we live there with an unshakable joy in our Master who is currently preparing a “house of feasting” and a “house of pleasure” for all who trust Him.
Friends, today’s Scripture passage will shock us for sure. It puts right before our eyes some of the most unusual logic or perspective we will ever encounter. In fact, Jesus did the same thing. In Luke 6 he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” So today, as we remember the Lord’s death and gather around the Lord’s Table, let’s remember that the death that Jesus died, senseless and brutal as it seemed at the time, is God’s amazing logic and plan for our redemption. The common person cannot comprehend it. But it is the wisdom of a holy God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts neither His ways our ways. Let us draw near with humble thankfulness. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.