Capacity and Credibility
Mighty One, You are the God of this and every world, of this and every time. I glorify Your name.
Consider: "Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise... But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom" (Charles Spurgeon, 1834-1892).
The second part of The Teacher's introduction is about capacity. Ecclesiastes is written at a time of limited literacy. Education is only available to the wealthy--those with access to learning or the scope to pursue it. Most people are too busy staying alive--fighting poverty, disease and misfortune--to have time for book learning. The writer provides an alternative. Here is a man who has the time, the money and the opportunity to look at life. Solomon has access to all kinds of learning. He has traveled. The world's best and brightest have come to visit him. He has the capacity to devote himself to learning (13). He is well-placed to share with us his reflections on life.
Not only that but he is also committed to it. He has dedicated his wealth and freedoms to the quest for wisdom (13,17). Where other kings might indulge in wearisome wars and pointless parties, this king is determined to gain wisdom. This reflects the prayer on which Solomon's throne was founded (1 Kings 3:9) and represents a leap forward in human civilization. Solomon aspires to move away from a warrior culture in which might alone is right to a peaceful society governed by the rule of law. His is a civilized approach to kingship.
All of this helps to establish the credibility of The Teacher. He is trustworthy because, like his reader, he is determined to find wisdom--but, unlike his reader, he has had the opportunity to do so. This makes his initial, very negative conclusion easier to bear (18). Increased knowledge brings increased sorrow. Why? Because we need something more. Wisdom is not simply knowledge multiplied. It is knowledge lived out in righteousness. "Trust me," Solomon says, "I've studied all the knowledge in the world. I know it's not enough."
What do you make of verses 16-18? How can a better education (greater wisdom) lead to more pain and difficulty?
All-Knowing God, although I do not always understand what is going on around me, as Your child I am determined to trust You.
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