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Following the Best Advice

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2021 12:00 am

Following the Best Advice

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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April 5, 2021 12:00 am

We don’t know what is going to happen the day after tomorrow. We don’t even know what’s going to happen an hour from now. God is in control of all of that: the day of our birth, the day of our death, and the winding crooked road with the ups and downs of life. So remember: God constructed the twists and turns of life to strengthen our spiritual confidence in Him. And God created the ups and downs of life to stabilize our dependence on Him.

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Teach us to number our days. Teach us to think about how fast it's flying along so that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90 verse 12. There's a connection between the brevity of life and the beauty of life. When you contemplate the brevity of your life, you're going to understand the beauty of life and ask God that you will be allowed to make the most of it for his glory. Thinking about death invites us to become people of depth. Because life is so brief in terms of eternity, we need to live wisely and make the most of life while we can. We don't know what's going to happen the day after tomorrow.

We don't even know what's going to happen an hour from now. But God is in control of all of that. The day of our birth, the day of our death, and all of the ups and downs of life in between. Today we're going to be reminded that God constructed the twists and turns of our lives to strengthen our spiritual confidence in him and to stabilize our dependence on him.

Here's Stephen Davey with a message called, Following the Best Advice. We arrive today at the halfway mark of Ecclesiastes. And at this point, Solomon transitions from asking for the most part a lot of cynical questions to giving sound, godly advice. And as we begin the second half now with chapter 7, you'll immediately notice if you just glance down the page that it looks a lot like the book of Proverbs. He's going to deliver in rapid fashion a series of contrasting statements, statements of comparison, completion.

He's going to show us a better way to live. If you want to pursue wisdom down here under the sun during a very brief life, here's something better. In fact, he's going to use that word better 11 times in this chapter. You might circle them when you encounter them as we study through here. Now, in order to navigate our way through these opening verses, we're going to cover 14.

This is going to be miraculous. I've organized his advice into four categories. I just couldn't find a way to break it up. So I'm going to deal with all of it. But I'm going to give it to you in four categories with four categorical statements. And I want you to think of it this way. God through Solomon is going to give us four pieces of very good advice.

Here's the first piece of advice. Contemplate your casket seriously. Look at verse 1. A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death implied is better than the day of birth. Now, you might think this isn't the best way to start giving advice for life, how to live.

But wisdom tells us that we are only prepared to live when we are truly prepared to die. So Solomon begins this proverb now by contrasting what matters most. And again, he uses the word better.

What's better? He contrasts a good name that is your reputation with your physical impression or appearance. You might have, he says, the best ointment. You could translate that into our culture, the best perfume or the best cologne. But it's not worth much without a good name.

What good is perfume or cologne if your reputation stinks? Basically, that's what he's saying. Solomon referred to himself back in chapter 1 as the preacher. Ecclesiastes literally means assembly, gathering.

We get our word ekklesia in the Greek language from Ecclesiastes. This is the gathering, and Solomon says, I'm the preacher. Now he sort of turns into a prophet. And he urges us to look down the path a little further to something that most people don't want to think about, most people don't want to talk about, most people don't want to contemplate.

They might even refuse to think about it. Death becomes this evangelist. It looks us in the eye and kind of grabs us by the lapels and asks us, are you ready to meet God? That baby crib will never preach a sermon quite like that casket. If you think Solomon doesn't want us to miss the point, he, in the next three verses, essentially takes us on a field trip to a funeral home. Look at verse 2. It is better, there it is again, to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting.

In this context, that feasting is a birthday party celebrating the day you were born. For this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face, the heart is made glad.

That is, you've contemplated the path at your feet, and now you have something to be glad about. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. Fools waste their lives on mirth. You could think of this as fun and games.

They never think beyond fun and games. In Solomon's mind, nothing is more instructive, nothing is more enlightening than going to the house of mourning, which to us in our culture is going to a funeral home. Maybe you've noticed, if you've been to one, funerals are a wake-up call to the living, aren't they? And everyone is a captive audience. In fact, I tell my students at Shepherd Seminary and, of course, I teach on pastoral theology that there is one event in their ministry life where, when they stand to preach, everyone will listen to every single word they say, and that's at a funeral.

It's as if the room is filled with placards and signs that people are forced to read. Death is inevitable. Life is brief. Walk wisely.

Relationships matter most. Live for Christ. Life is short, and on and on.

It's as if Solomon is saying here, let me give you a great piece of advice. Go to a funeral home. Maybe go out to a cemetery. Walk around. Sit out there for a while and contemplate your own life. Contemplate the direction of your life.

Think about the fact that one day it'll be your casket and people will gather to speak of you. Now, Solomon isn't telling us this because he wants us to have a morbid moment or become melancholy. No, he isn't against laughter.

It's good medicine, right? He isn't against fun. He isn't against birthday parties. But in this context, he's telling us something that is better because it will take us deeper. The Psalmist prayed it this way, teach us to number our days, teach us to think about how fast it's flying along so that we may present to thee a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90, verse 12. There's a connection between the brevity of life and the beauty of life. When you contemplate the brevity of your life, you're going to understand the beauty of life and ask God that you will be allowed to make the most of it for his glory. Thinking about death invites us to become people of depth. The shallow person, the foolish person, never gets beyond the party life. And because of that, the second piece of good advice is going to come into play for those who want to pursue wisdom down here under the sun.

Here's the second piece of good advice. Choose your companions carefully. Notice verse five. It is better, there it is, for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools.

This also is vanity. This is fleeting. The song of fools is fleeting. It's passing.

The top 40 on the billboard might be interesting or fun, but they're earthbound and shallow and fleeting. Now in Solomon's day, and he's referring to this, if you threw some branches of a thorn bush on a fire, it would flame up quickly. It would provide a short burst of heat. You might heat up some tea.

You'd never cook a meal. It's quick. It's fast.

It's short. He's making a play on words here and that the words for thorn and pot are similar in the Hebrew language. He's effectively saying that the crackling of a thorn bush fire is like the cackling of fools. Enjoying the company of shallow God deniers might be entertaining for the moment, but the show doesn't last very long. A world of foolish, shallow people happens to be our mission field, by the way, so we don't run from it, but we don't want to embrace it either.

Worse, we don't want to start acting like it and thinking like it. Solomon writes, it's vanity. It isn't going to last long, but you're surrounded by foolish people. Solomon hints here. Do you notice in verse four a reference to the heart of fools? You might circle that phrase as I have and then draw a line down to verse five where you have a reference to the song of fools, and then down to verse six where you have the laughter of fools, the heart of fools, the song of fools, and the laughter of fools.

In other words, you're surrounded. Solomon often refers in his book of Proverbs to the importance of friends, doesn't he? You challenge and strengthen one another.

You have the principle of iron sharpening iron. It's the idea of companions who are correcting and improving one another's character. Proverbs 27 verse 17, the truth is we become like those we allow to influence our lives. We can have friends who are unbelievers, but that close companion needs to be wise.

Why? Because whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13, 20. And again, you got to keep in mind that in Solomon's mind, a fool isn't related to intelligence, has nothing to do with how well you did in fifth grade. In the Bible, a fool is someone who denies and defies the authority and the reality of God. That kind of fool shows up in all kinds of contexts. In fact, the fool is described by Solomon in the book of Proverbs 71 different ways.

David sort of describes a fool categorically in Psalm 14 one, as someone who says in his heart, there is no who, there's no God. So if you want to pursue wisdom during this brief life under the sun, choose your companions, choose those whom you allow to influence your thinking and your heart and your life carefully. Now look at verse five again, he points out something better. It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

Here's what he's saying. Having someone challenge your life is more helpful than having them sing your praises. Don't be deceived by flattery.

Rebuke, wise rebuke is far better than empty, silly, short-lived accolades. A member of Congress was traveling through our area a couple of weeks ago and called my office to see if we could meet. I'd never met him. We arranged to meet, fascinating conversation for about an hour, 30 minutes or so plus, and that afternoon he was leaving, in fact, to meet with the president, and he shared with me his testimony, a committed believer.

After hearing his testimony, I plied him with questions about Washington, the state of affairs, and I promised him I wouldn't mention his name. He told me that over the years, he has been given the opportunity to deliver the gospel to many different individuals in the highest reaches of power. He said to me, there are occasions when I am giving the gospel to someone and it's pretty clear to me that they don't even hear me. There are so many voices drowning out the truth.

Can you imagine hearing from thousands of adoring people how great you were? Only to one day realize there was that one person or two or three who were messengers of truth. So Solomon is warning us. He's saying don't be like that. Listen to rebuke. Be the kind of believer that's open to the companions of wisdom who are willing to tell us truth, the wisdom of God for our lives.

Don't turn them off. They will do you more good than a roomful of people singing your praises. Contemplate your casket honestly. Choose your companions carefully. Here's a third piece of good advice. Cultivate your character wisely. Notice for 7 now, surely oppression drives the wise man into madness and the bribe corrupts the heart. Now let me put this proverb into the form of a question.

Here it is. How do I handle the temptation to cut corners? Do I have a price tag?

Can I be bought? Come on, you know. When the pressure is on, doing the right thing is driving you crazy.

Solomon writes into madness. Just relax and go with the flow. Why do you always have to take the high road? What are you trying to prove? Give in.

Everybody's doing it. Why not take a little something for yourself? That's the message of the fool. Solomon is warning all of us, especially his son to whom he hopes will read this journal and it seems from what we know from history is that his son ignored it. Don't chase the quick fix. Don't cut corners. Don't compromise in order to get it just a little more comfortable in life. With that, he reminds us in verse 8, notice there, better is the end of things than its beginning and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. In other words, keep on doing the right thing because in the end, that quick fix wasn't any better.

In fact, it was worse. So develop then the characteristics of perseverance and patience. Even when life is maddening, even when that project is taking longer than you thought, even when living with integrity and purity is much more taxing and much more exhausting than you ever imagined, stay at it. Develop that kind of character that refuses the shortcut in life. Now verse 9, be not quick in your spirit to become angry for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Anger, you could translate it, is constantly lurking in the heart. That isn't just for people who deny God. He's telling us not to be like them because we can be like them. Don't be quick to become angry. Let's turn this proverb into a principle, convicting as it might be. Here's what Solomon is saying. An angry spirit is a reality check. I might not be as distinctive from the world as I thought I was or think I am. Where does anger show up? Where's that fuse?

It's real short. Well, he isn't telling us, now that you follow God, that's all been taken care of. You never have to worry about that again.

No, you have that issue to deal with. Let's move on to verse 10. Say not, why were the former days better than these?

For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. Why were the former days better than these? Is that a verse for today or what? Let's talk about the good old days that used to be back then. Were they ever good days back then? Why can't we get the good old days back again? When are we ever going to get those good days back again? Think about it for a moment though.

Think about this. Solomon is writing this about his generation in 970 B.C. When are we going to get the good old days back? Every generation has this problem. Every generation has the natural inclination toward a discontented heart about today and yesterday was so much better. Really?

Oh, for the leeks and onions of Egypt. Can you believe they actually said that? Everything was better back then. Love the way one author wrote in his commentaries and here's what the good old days really are.

The good old days are a combination of a good imagination and a bad memory. But here's the larger issue. Why is it not wise?

Why does he say, you talk like that you're not wise? Let me put it into a principle. Pining for the past doesn't solve any problems in the present. It just makes you complain about the present. And furthermore, it overlooks the fact, which isn't glorifying to God, that God was just as involved back there in 970 B.C.

as he was in 1950 A.D. or 2020 for that matter. The bigger issue is that we tend to pine for the past and we airbrush the past. We glorify the past, which is unbelief. We mist in the opportunity to bring glory to God in the present. What do you want to do today, Lord? This is the day the Lord has made. We will complain about what it used to be. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

It's a little convicting. Let's go to verse 11. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Solomon is delivering a warning here that receiving an inheritance is a good thing, but without wisdom, that inheritance is more than likely going to destroy your life. And you just think about how many lives you've read of who received some immense inheritance, a child or a grandchild, and the truck backed up and unloaded. You've read about their lives essentially disintegrating.

Why? Because suddenly they had wealth, but they did not have wisdom. You cannot manage it. It isn't wrong to have it, but with it comes the great need for wisdom. Solomon, in fact, doesn't say here that an inheritance is a bad thing, but your life isn't going to be protected or preserved and a life worth living without wisdom. A wealthy multimillionaire once told me that in confidence a few years before he died that he was going to leave his millions to ministry causes because he said, if I left it all to my children, he said, I know it will ruin their lives. Let's cultivate the characteristics of integrity and patience and trust in God.

Now Solomon has delivered some life changing counsel here. First, contemplate your casket seriously. Second, choose your companions carefully. Third, cultivate your character wisely.

Now here's the final category of good advice. Number four, consider your creator humbly. Look at verse 13. Consider the work of God.

Who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity, be joyful. And in the day of adversity, consider God has made. God has created the one as well as the other so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Let me put this text into the form of two statements. First, God constructed the twists and turns of life to strengthen our spiritual confidence in him. Come back to verse 13 again. Consider the work of God. Who can make straight what he has made crooked?

Get the implication. God has created your winding crooked path. The reason you can't see very far ahead down that path is because you can't see around the corner and God has created all kinds of corners in your life. He designed your race with one turn after another. Your walk with God is not a straight line from earth to heaven.

You all want it to be, but it isn't. God did that. God created that winding path for reasons he may never explain this side of heaven. And so with humility, we bow at his throne and we develop confidence, not that it's going to smooth out or straighten out, but confidence in our creator who made it that way.

Second, here's the second principle. God created the ups and downs of life to stabilize our dependence on him. Look at verse 14 again. In the day of prosperity, be joyful. In the day of adversity, consider God has made the one as well as the other. He has created the ups and downs of life.

It isn't always uphill and it isn't always downhill. And the truth is, as Solomon adds here, we don't know what's going to happen the day after tomorrow. We don't know what's going to happen an hour from now. God is in control of that. From the day of your birth to the day of your death, that winding crooked road and all the ups and downs of life, the creator designed that path just for you and for me.

So what are we going to do about it? Solomon says, let me give you a piece of really good advice. Consider your creator. Trust your creator with all humility. We all want good advice. We want to make good decisions and follow the advice of wise people who can guide us. And today we've received advice from the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. And his advice to you?

No matter what happens, trust and follow your creator, God. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. With this lesson, Stephen Davey began a new series from Ecclesiastes called Pursuing Wisdom Under the Sun. We're going to be looking at what it means to live wisely in the days ahead. Today's message is called Following the Best Advice. I invite you to learn more about our ministry and access all of our resources by visiting us online at wisdomonline.org. Thanks again for listening today. Join us next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-06 07:39:20 / 2023-12-06 07:48:22 / 9

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