First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ September 13, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17; James 1:5-8
As we continue this morning our series in the book of Ecclesiastes, I want to refresh your memory that the second half of Ecclesiastes has a special flavor to it. As I mentioned last week, there is a shift that begins in chapter 7 and continues through the end of the book, through chapter 12; a shift that you cannot miss. It seems that the Preacher has gained a new perspective. He decided to view life through a different lens. His journey of wrestling with what life is all about has come to an end. One evidence of this change, of this shift, is the frequent occurrence of two important terms, “wise” and “wisdom.” They appear almost 35 times in the latter half of the book.
Highlighting the importance of gaining wisdom, Solomon opens chapter 8 with these words, “Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.” The Message translates Ecclesiastes 8:1 this way, “There’s nothing better than being wise, knowing how to interpret the meaning of life. Wisdom puts light in the eyes and gives gentleness to words and manners.” Wisdom is a very broad concept and it can be defined in many different ways. What is wisdom? How can a person acquire wisdom?
I like this story of the writer who arrived at an ancient village to write a book about the wise man in that village. “People say you are a genius. Are you?”, the writer asked. “You might say so,” said the wise man with a smile. “And what makes one a genius?” asked the writer. “The ability to see,” said the wise man. The writer was betwixt and between. Scratching his hair with one hand and rubbing his tummy with the other, he muttered, “To see what?” The wise man quietly replied, “To see the butterfly in a caterpillar, the eagle in an egg, the saint in a selfish person, life in death, unity in separation, the divine in the human and the human in the divine.” What a great statement the wiseman made! Being wise is having “the ability to see.”
Having examined very carefully and found out the vanity of many things in life, Solomon now in the second half of Ecclesiastes turns his heart to seek wisdom. If you remember from our reflections in Ecclesiastes 6, Solomon offered us a long and detailed list of good things, in fact, great things, but they never brought him lasting joy. Solomon talked about wealth and possessions, social status and honor, family and social life, longevity, achievement and successful careers. These are all great things, but they left King Solomon discontent. They never filled the emptiness of his heart.
As we get to chapter 8, Solomon’s heart is set to pursue one thing: wisdom. Wise up, Solomon would invite us today. What is wisdom? How can we gain wisdom? Is it even possible to gain wisdom? According to Ecclesiastes, who is a wise person? This morning, we will briefly address and examine these questions.
What is Wisdom?
Wisdom and knowledge are both recurring themes in the Bible; they are related but not synonymous. The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Knowledge, on the other hand, is “information gained through experience, reasoning, or acquaintance.” Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. Wisdom, therefore, is the appropriate application of knowledge. From a spiritual point of view, wisdom is a capacity of the mind that allows us to understand life from God’s perspective.
So, if we are to ask King Solomon today to briefly describe to us a life of wisdom, what would he say to us? What does a life of wisdom look like? The more I study Ecclesiastes, the more it becomes clear to me that Solomon would summarize the life of wisdom in two fundamental ways:
First: Bring God into the Center of Your Life
The first piece of advice Solomon would give us today in order to cultivate a heart of wisdom, we need to bring God to the center of our lives. A life of wisdom is a Christ-centered life. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, busy or got plenty of time on your hand, healthy or sick, let God be at the very center of your life. I know in the 21st century American culture, this is easier said than done. Our culture has deliberately chosen to reject God and God’s ways.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” says Solomon in the book of Proverbs 9:10. “Fear” in this context is not the fear one has of an enemy; it’s not being frightened, rather, it is honor and love for the Lord. Such fear is manifested in reverence and awe, in obedience to what God has revealed in order to live a life that pleases Him in gratitude for His salvation and grace.
Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the surest way to become wise is to pursue the knowledge of God and take it to heart. As we come to know more about Him, the foundation for wisdom becomes firmer in our lives, and we grow in our ability to discern things according to God’s revealed truth. We come to know the Lord primarily through the prayerful reading, preaching, and teaching of His Word. If you want to be wise, you must know the God of Scripture.
Second: Remember that All that Glitters is Not Gold
The second advice Solomon would give us today is to remember that all that glitters is not gold. Solomon would remind us that not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so. Throughout the course of our study in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon kept reminding us that there are lots of things in life that would promise joy, satisfaction, and contentment, but at the end of the day, they fail us. Let’s not be deceived by the lies of the world.
Gaining the heart of wisdom is a challenging process and it’s also a life-long journey. In Ecclesiastes 7:23-24 Solomon said, “I am determined to be wise”— but this was beyond me. Whatever exists is far off and most profound—who can discover it?” In Ecclesiastes 8:17, he also said, “Much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.” Fortunately, the apostle James tells us in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,”
Friends, the Lord offers wisdom freely; however, most don’t bother to ask and, therefore, receive. Let’s ask God this heart of wisdom. Let’s “look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure” as Proverbs 2:4 says. Let’s remember the words of Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” To get wisdom we must fear God, study His Word and prayerfully desire to understand life from God’s perspective. Amen.
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