ECCLESIASTES-SERIES NR 6
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 7
Theme: Fruit of the Spirit
I wonder what you were thinking while we were reading Ecclesiastes 7? It feels as if one cannot understand one iota of what is going on here! It sounds like a lot of unconnected proverbs that have nothing to do with each other. Instinctively one wonders: What exactly is it that king Solomon wants to say here?
Ecclesiastes 7 is indeed (mainly) a number of unconnected proverbs. But it is not true that they have nothing to do with each other! The writer (Solomon) wants to make a statement. Remember, he is busy with an investigation. In the first 6 chapters he tried to establish what the meaning/sense of life is, and what it is that we, as humans, are on earth for. He wants to find out how one can make the most of life. “Wisdom” as he calls it. Seeing that life is a gift from Above and is insignificant, how can one – who knows the Lord – make the most of it? What are we as humans actually doing here? Because, if you look close enough at our lives, it looks very meaningless. We sleep, rise, eat, work, sleep. The years rush by. After your death you are not really remembered. Very few of us have lived such a phenomenal life that we would leave something behind that would benefit mankind. The author (Solomon) is trying to unravel the secret of how to live a meaningful life. Which is true wisdom.
And his conclusion is that everything is rather insignificant, unless you live it as a gift from the Lord and experience it as from His hand.
It is significant that Solomon’s style totally changes from chapter 7. Suddenly he is bombarding us with a number of unconnected proverbs, by which he wants to teach us knowledge about life. Wisdom about how to approach life in the best possible way. They are actually a couple of wisdom-proverbs that were very familiar in his day, but that he is placing one-by-one under the magnifying glass in order to unravel the secret of how to live wisely. However, remember that Solomon is writing under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This book Ecclesiastes is also God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16) and that is why each of these proverbs – in the mouth of Solomon – is the Word of God.
The way that we should look at it – if we look at it from NT perspective – is that it is drawing a picture of the practical fruit of the Holy Spirit brought forth in the life of every true believer. When you have come to faith in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills your life and incessantly produces His FRUIT in/through your life. And that fruit gives sense and meaning to your life. Yes, if the Spirit dwells in you, He works a lot of things in your life. You become more and more an obedient person. But what does it look like in practical terms? That is what the Holy Spirit – through Solomon’s pen – wishes to show through these number of proverbs.
1 – The fruit of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, that you realise that your good name – as follower of Christ Jesus – is very important (v 1). Better than fine perfume. The Spirit keeps you from doing and saying irresponsible things. You realise that your good name is a testimony to others. A testimony of the Lord’s grace.
2 – It is important to keep in mind that you too will die (verses 2-4). It does not mean that you should think about death all day long. It means that you should keep in mind that you too shall die. To take the fact of your finiteness to heart. And, that you therefore take your refuge in Christ Jesus (in NT language).
That is the meaning of the strange sounding verses 1b-4 : it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. Sounds terribly depressing and dejected, but the fact remains: it is foolish to think that you understand the art of life, without carefully taking into account your own mortality and living life fully devoted to the Lord Jesus. Doing so, is fruit of the Spirit.
3 – Do not try to hide or avoid death. We are inclined to push death aside to the outer edge of society. Avoiding funerals. Looking away when we drive past a graveyard. Sometimes chooses cremation just to avoid having to stand next to an open grave. We try to push the reality of death to the outside of our lives. NO, says the Spirit. Do not avoid going to a house where there is mourning. Look the reality straight in the eye. Then you can testify along with Paul: For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Doing so, is fruit of the Spirit!
4 – Accepting rebuke (v 5). Accepting it when you are corrected. Do not always wish to hear how good you are. That is rather difficult, is it not. Being reprimanded hurts. We do not want to hear that we are wrong. But, says the Holy Spirit, dealing with censure is a sign of spiritual maturity. Then you have learnt something of the art of life. Gentle and broken spirit is very precious in God’s eyes.
5 – Another fruit of the Spirit is patience (v8). Patience is better than pride, says the verse. Pride and patience stand opposite to each other. If there is one school of life the Lord puts us through over and over again, it is the school of patience. Our pride wants quick results. But the Spirit frequently disciplines us to put ourselves aside. The 6th proverb connects with this:
6 – A further fruit of the Spirit is the resistance we put up against anger and vexation (v 9). Because anger also originates out of pride. And if it is not curbed, it just gets worse. It gets a foothold in your soul. Therefore, if you have wisdom, and when the Spirit deploys His fruit in your life, one resists anger and vexation.
7 – Do not compare today with yesterday, says the Spirit (v10). Do not say the old days were better than today. Why not? Why does a believer not say such things? Because it is the language of pessimism. While the Lord never discourages His children. Pessimism comes from the enemy.
The church of Christ, the people of the living God, always have a future because Jesus rose from the grave. The Lord did not live only yesterday, He is alive today also. Therefore, we do not have to look back to yesterday. The Spirit leads us to banish all forms of pessimism out of our lives and vocabulary.
8 – Do not accuse the Lord of injustice (verses 13 and further). A foolish person does that. Whoever knows the meaning of life, does not blame the Lord for being unjust. In the same way that we accept a beautiful day out of the hand of God, we may also receive a day of adversity from His hand. A day of adversity is not from the devil. In the same way we should also not become envious when we see an unbeliever prosper. It sometimes feels as if a believer, who has a heart for God, has a lot more problems than a person who is living in unbelief and obduration. Sometimes it seems as if the Lord’s work is crooked (v13). You live a life of devotion to the Lord but things do not work out in your life. Then we can easily point a finger to the LORD. Yet the Spirit works so powerfully in our lives that we do not want to accuse the Lord of injustice.
9 – Take into account the imperfect reality of life. Verses 19-22. This life we are in is very far from perfect. Sinful perfection does not exist. Of course it is not an excuse to sin, but you will never understand the meaning of life unless you make peace with the brokenness of life. The Spirit helps you to do that. That is wisdom.
Once, years ago, after I had been broadcasting a series of reflections on the radio, a lady called me on the phone. She was absolutely embittered towards the Lord over the death of her son. For 6 years already at that stage. She herself was falling to pieces. In some way she had to make peace with the imperfection and brokenness of life – otherwise she could never live in the Lord’s victory. Have you already made peace with that? Doing so, is fruit of the Spirit.
10 – The powerful fruit of the Spirit helps a man not to fall into the snare of a woman (v 26). Take note: Man in a woman’s snare. Not the other way around. Why? What does the Spirit mean here? Take note: Not the snares of certain woman, but ALL women.
The Spirit is speaking here about the sexual power that women (all women) have over a man, that if dealt with wrongly, it becomes a snare. And, the Spirit is also pointing out the man’s weakness to walk into the trap. The woman’s power is the man’s weakness. Media suggests that THIS is the meaning of life. That it is wisdom. We are constantly bombarded with this. Many believers are so foolish to expose themselves willingly to that. A Spirit-filled man and woman will avoid these lies and brain-washing. A Spirit-filled woman will know and realise what power she possesses and will not take advantage of it. And, a Spirit-filled man will know and realise where his weakness is, and will be very watchful and will not boast of his supposed power. Doing so, is a manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit’s.
In these 10 points one receives insight into the 10 fruits that the Holy Spirit works in a Christ-believer’s life. One would do good to mark it clearly in your Bible and read it regularly.
And yet the writer of Ecclesiastes says: I have examined all this, and still I am not satisfied (verses 23-25).
Behind all these things is hidden something deeper. These 10 fruits are merely the beneficial SYMPTOMS of a deeper source/fountain/root. If you should cut off this source, the 10 fruits will disappear and you shall live as any unsaved person lives.
The source of everything is located in a relationship with a man. It lies in a certain connection with a man. Verses 27-29. Not just any man. “Among all people, I found one upright man” says the writer. This person is not a woman, but a male person.
And then nothing further. He does not say who this mysterious male person could be. We must wait until the NT to see who it is. It is Jesus Christ.
In verses 27-29 the Spirit suddenly changes Solomon into a prophet who is looking into the future and sees Jesus’s coming. The meaning of life is not at best found in a couple of proverbs. It is found in a Person. It is found in the connection with a Person. A MALE Person. The only Person who truly possesses wisdom.
We always say so easily that we are living with this Man. That we are connected to Him. That the Spirit reveals the 10-fold fruit in our life. That we know the meaning of life.
But, do we KNOW it? Do you know it? Do you KNOW the Man above all men: Jesus, whose coming the writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon) is looking ahead to in chapter 7:28?
Translated by Marthie Wilson