Sunday, September 6, 2020 pm                                            Ecclesiastes Index                            MP3                    PP                PDF


Rulers, and those who follow them
Ecclesiastes 8:1-9


Tonight, we continue our study of the book of Ecclesiastes where we find Solomon’s question for the meaning of life.  Having determined that making the pursuit of anything worldly is vanity (and he looked everywhere), Solomon still has advice (wisdom) to impart.  The second half of the book (chs. 7-12) talk about his wisdom.  The past few lessons dealing with this addressed some principles associated with wisdom.

Our text this evening continues to address this wisdom, but it is directed toward leaders and their followers.   Here Solomon (by experience) gives advice to leaders, about leaders and their subjects.  Some of the advice can be apply to either one or both groups.   We will try to notice some of these lessons in this lesson.  Our text is Ecclesiastes 8:1-9

As we deal with our challenging times where our governing authorities are making rules that affect us as the Lord’s church, this passage serves as a good reminder of what our responsibilities are as citizens within our community.

 I.                     Who is like a wise man? (1)

a.       Godly leaders will be wise.   Proverbs 28:2, Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; But by a man of understanding and knowledge Right will be prolonged.

A leader devoid of wisdom is trouble and will bring about trouble – Recall Ecclesiastes 4:13, Better a poor and wise youth Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more.

b.       Subjects, in dealing with their leaders need to be wise – this is borne out in our context.

c.        NOTE: Who is a leader? Consider governing authorities, in the home, at work, and in the church.  Principles of wisdom apply everywhere.  AND most of us have some combination of being leaders (in the home, possibly at work, our Christian example, etc.) and subjects (we are ALL accountable to someone).

d.       Wisdom makes his face shine and can change the sternness of one’s face – it can give you reason to smile and rejoice.  It can give you peace, etc.  BUT also, wisdom can cause others to look upon you with approval. Proverbs 14:35, A king’s favor is toward a wise servant, But his wrath is against him who causes shame.

 II.                   Keep the king’s commandment (2-3)

a.       Consider Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.   Much of what is found in our text in Ecclesiastes is echoed to us in the gospel.

b.       I say, ‘Keep the king’s commandment 
Wisdom says you do what your governing authorities tell you to do.  This is just common sense.  When you submit to the laws of the land it will be well for you.
NOTE: What is tragic is a government that allows anarchy and lawlessness to rule.  It will NEVER make things better.  NOTE: Eccl. 8:11 deals with the failure to execute judgment swiftly. 

c.        For the sake of your oath to God – one thing we have emphasized is the need to submit to governing authorities.  Romans 13:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-14

d.       Do not be hasty to go from his presence – contextually, this could be descriptive of one who is quick to rebel against the king or reject his rulings.  Romans 13:3 – Do what is good and you will be unafraid.

e.       Do not take your stand for an evil thing – God commands us to submit as best we can, but obviously we cannot participate in evil (cf.  Acts 5:29 – which we need to be very careful and selective to invoke it). 
Remember that the NT was written during a time that was hostile to Christianity – yet we are still to respect our governing authorities.  We are to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and honor them  (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17)

f.         For he does what he pleases – a corrupt king, president, governor, mayor, congressman or judge will do what he wants to do anyways.  And often those in power will abuse that power to get their way.
BUT, so does a good ruler – he will do what is right and we can hope for that. 

g.       Where the word of a king is, there is power – people in positions of authority have AUTHORITY!  Respect that and TREAD LIGHTLY AND WISELY!  But also understand that in the days of kings – they were often sovereign and did whatever they wanted to do.  We read, both in history and in scripture of kings who acted wickedly – punishing or even killing those who dared to speak against them.

h.       And who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ – again, be careful in questioning the king.
AGAIN, there is a difference between wicked and good kings.  The wicked is not interested in truth, no matter who says it.  The wise will take to heart warnings and rebukes.
 Here is a thought: TODAY, are we pushing the line with the way we talk about our leaders today?
 I realize the constitution protects our speech, but IS IT BECOMING of a Christian?  Consider 1 Corinthians 10:23 – even lawful things may not be helpful or edify.
Titus 3:1-2, Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
Again – both Romans 13:7 and 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to honor our kings and leaders.

i.         Are we second guessing their decisions (NOTE I am not saying we have to agree with them)?  Do we read more into what is done than we ought to?   Especially in this politically divided society?  If someone is not on our side (e.g. our political party), does that mean we scrutinize and attack EVERYTHING they stand for and do?  DO NOT misunderstand me – sin is sin! Evil is evil!  I’m not talking about that which is clearly sinful and wicked.  I’m talking about everything else! 
BUT even then we continue to conduct ourselves honorably!

 III.                  When we keep the king’s commandment (5)

a.       We will experience nothing harmful – again see Romans 13:3-4 and 1 Peter 2:14 which both state governments punish evil doers and praise those who do good.
As a rule (sadly, we know there are exceptions), rulers protect those who obey the law.

b.       A wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment – recall Ecclesiastes 3:1 – there is a time for everything. 
The wise man thinks and weighs what has happened and his response.  Ephesians 5:15-16 calls for us to walk circumspectly (cautiously).  Matthew 10:16 - be wise as serpents, harmless as doves…
He considers WHEN and HOW to address his concerns. 
NOTE: A wise leader wants to be corrected when he is wrong!  But there is a right and wrong way to do that! 

 IV.                 For every matter there is a time and a judgment (6-8)

a.       In the last verse we talked about us being timely in our judgments and reactions.   
I believe in verse 6, the point is that all will work out eventually.  Crisis have a tendency to pass in time.  Evil (and good) rulers come and go.    BUT also consider that God weighs everything (Proverbs 21:2 – He “weighs the heart”).  Romans 12:19-20 – vengeance belongs to God – He will repay! 
Again, Israel is our history lesson – God dealt with corrupt and good leaders. 

b.       Though the misery of man increases greatly – God knows what we go through in this life.
A reading of the prophets finds ungodly leaders who oppressed and overly burdened their subjects and the wrath of God that awaited them.  
Even with very wicked leaders, know that God is in control. 1 John 4:4 – He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (NOTE: If God is greater than Satan, is He not also greater than his servants, even in positions of worldly power?)   And in time, even their rule will end!

c.        For he does not know what will happen, Who can tell him when it will occur? (7) – life has a way of being filled with twists – consider where we are today compared to January 2020.  Who would have thought?  But life happens and we have to adapt – and be prepared to adapt.
This also applies to God’s judgment against the ungodly (cf. 2 Peter 3:10)

d.       No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit (8) – the NASB says, “No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind…”  The NASB is likely the point and it observes that we CANNOT control the weather!  Man cannot stop the heat, or hurricanes or earthquakes, etc.  Even a rich and powerful king!

e.       No one has power in the day of death – how often Solomon has alluded to this – EVERYONE will die!  Hebrews 9:27. Man may try to prolong life – but even if he succeeds, he will still die.  NO amount of power or money will change that!

f.         There is no release from war – this could be the fact that in war, you stay till it is over and regardless of the outcome.   For some, war is their end.  OR think of one captive in war – you remain such until the war is over.  OR this could be the battle to stay alive – which you will lose eventually! 
Regardless, the point is the same – no matter how rich or powerful OR SMART you are, there are things you cannot ultimately control!  (NOTE: But heed everything we have said about wisdom as it can prolong your days and prevent SOME wars).

g.       Wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it – HEED this warning!  Powerful and wicked leaders may prosper in this life (cf. Psalm 2:1-3) but know that God “who sits in the heavens shall laugh” (Psa. 2:4).  You cannot resist God.  And wickedness does NOT buy peace.   Think of master criminals – leaders of cartels and terrorists.  They may have material prosperity, but they are always in hiding!  Is that a way to live.
Godly rulers can live with the peace of mind that they have done what is right and they have tried their best toward that end.  And no matter what happens, God knows! 


Solomon concludes with verse 9 with a common refrain.  He had seen these things and applied his heart to learn.  He had seen rulers who acted wickedly and noted how it 1) Hurt others – how often do the scriptures condemn corrupt leaders; and 2) Hurt himself – scriptures show that wicked leaders will face the wrath of God.

We cannot control who is in a position of leadership (at least completely), but we can act with wisdom as we deal with our rulers.  We do that by following God’s instructions as we have noted.  Have you submitted to God?