Wisdom in the Midst of the Wicked

Under the Sun – Ecclesiastes 8 – Wisdom in the Midst of the Wicked
Ecclesiastes 8:1-8 (NKJV) 1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed. 2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3 Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him."

One of the sad realities of life is that no matter how old or how accomplished we are, all of us are at some point and in some way under authority of others. Even the president of the US has to answer to human authorities, or as they say, no one is above the law. Additionally, because man is a fallen being and inherently sinful, authority is most often abused. Bottom line is that we all will have to deal with abusive authorities at some point in life.

Solomon gives some wisdom on dealing with governing authorities and even some advice on how to deal with sinful leaders. He gives a list of do’s and don’t that are based in the ultimate Authority, God himself. If God places you in a position under an ungodly ruler, how then should you live?

After describing the wise man’s demeanor in verse 1 as bright and kind, he gives us three don’ts and one do.

1. Don’t Disobey

Disobedience is part of our rebellious nature and we often see ungodly leaders as a prime opportunity to employ this base element of our nature. Solomon says that we should "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. “ That it is wise to obey ungodly leaders, not for their sake, nor the sake of their ideas, but as a way of keeping our oath with God.

Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV) 17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

2. Don’t Desert

Ecclesiastes 8:2-3a  I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3  Do not be hasty to go from his presence.

This challenges our instinct of fight or flight in a peculiar way. We would think that it is noble to flee from ungodly rulers whether they be communists, slave owners, or prison camp guards. We hold as heroic those who escape tyranny to arrive at a place of freedom. Solomon’s advice is stated in an application of wisdom to how and when you take these drastic steps. He is not discussing the virtue of such an act, only that you must apply wisdom to it and that the wise thing is to not be too hasty to get away. Many escapees have worsened their situation or even been killed by being too hasty to escape. wThe examples of Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego give us good insight as to times when the wise thing to do is to abide and be used by God in our difficult circumstances.

3. Don’t Defy

Ecclesiastes 8:2-3  2 I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3 Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him."

The third “Don’t” is to not defy ungodly rulers when they are ungodly. Our Christian morals are challenged when we find ourselves living under ungodly leadership. It is our natural impulse to again, lift up those who stand in defiance against evil. Solomon tells us that this is not typically a wise approach as the ruler will likely do whatever pleases him anyway. Then, what has our defiance gained us other than the ire of the ungodly ruler. Solomon is not saying that there is never a time to stand against tyranny, only that it is not to be entered into without employing wisdom.

The Do!  - Discernment

Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 (NKJV) 5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment, 6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly.

Discernment calls on us to employ wisdom when we find ourselves dealing with authorities. Solomon brings two major components to the forefront; Time & Judgment.

“Timing is everything” they say. When dealing with an ungodly boss, or parent, the right words at the wrong time become the wrong words. We must discern the best time to state objections or attempt to sway our authority toward righteousness.

Secondly, Judgment is key to understanding that the clarity of right and wrong are often a matter of perspective, purpose and precedent. Our authority may have a different way of doing things based upon his experience or belief. We should not immediately make ourselves out to be morally superior based upon approach or desired outcome.

Ultimately, we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16) so that we can have the kind of influence that Daniel had over the kings of Persia. So that we can climb the ranks as in the case of Joseph in Egypt, and so that we can be more like our Savior who made himself of no reputation and took on the form of a servant and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:7)