In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. — Ecclesiastes 7:14
For most of my life I have been blessed with good health, but there was a period of time when I had what seemed to be a serious internal disorder. One night when sleep was elusive, I remember standing in our darkened hallway, looking out at the lights of the city. Occasionally an airplane could be seen passing overhead. As I stood there, my thoughts turned to all those across our land (and around the world, for that matter) who were suffering from an incurable or terminal illness. Although God allowed my sickness to linger for a time before sending healing, during that period I found new appreciation for my usual good health, and a deeper compassion for those who suffered.
A number of years later, I was blindsided by the sudden loss of my job. I was at an age and in a specialized field where finding a new position would be difficult. In times like that, it is natural to experience a range of emotions: a feeling of failure, financial worries, or a temptation to be upset at the management who orchestrated the situation. However, I did not want to be angry or vindictive toward my former employer. I realized that God had allowed the circumstances that we were facing, and the godly response would be to leave the whole matter in His hands. The Lord helped me do that. I was able to say in my heart — and mean it — that nothing mattered, so long as one day I made Heaven my home. The Lord took good care of us. We came through that trial, and I grew spiritually through the experience.
Those two incidents were challenges for me, but they have been interspersed in periods of good health and stable employment. The fact is, sooner or later everyone goes through adversity — Christian and non-Christian alike. Our focus verse indicates that God allows challenges to be interwoven with times of joy in our lives so that we do not rely on our own wisdom or abilities to carry us through. Events occur that are beyond our control to alter or alleviate, and through them we learn the importance of relying on God and trusting in His divine plan for our lives.
Let us purpose in our hearts to accept the good and not-so-good in life as coming from God, and lean on Him to carry us through.
The proverbs and observations in this chapter seem to be a response to the question posed at the end of the preceding chapter, “What is good for man in this life?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12). A series of comparisons in the first twenty-two verses of this chapter, frequently employing the word “better,” offer practical wisdom for those living in a sinful world. The remainder of the chapter is an exhortation against self-righteousness, also emphasizing that while wisdom is a worthy attribute, it is limited, and insufficient to allow man to fully understand life.
In verses 1-4, Solomon made the observation that everyone eventually dies, so how one lives should be taken seriously. In verse 1, he stated that a person’s birthdate matters less than his day of death, and a good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume, which at that time was used at banquets to scent one’s head and garments. The reference to going to a “house of mourning” (funeral home) was a reminder to take occasion to reflect on life’s brevity and consider lifestyle choices. Verse 3 is not a condemnation of laughter, but rather conveys that taking life seriously is more beneficial than living for amusement.
In verses 5-6, Solomon pointed out that it is better to heed the rebuke of the wise than to be swayed by the flattery of the foolish. The “crackling of thorns” symbolized the noisome chatter of a person who has much to say but little of it has value.
Verses 7-10 are a warning against allowing judgment to be biased by personal circumstances, such as oppression. Caution is better than rashness, for anger hinders clear thinking and sound judgment. It is best to submit to God’s timing and will.
Verses 11-12 bring out that wisdom and an inheritance are both good, and both bring benefit to the recipient. However, wisdom is preferable because it can lead one to life.
Verses 13-14 address the thought that acceptance of the sovereignty of God is better than indignation at His works. God allows both prosperity and adversity for man’s benefit — prosperity causes rejoicing, while adversity prompts reflection and persuades man to trust in God.
Verses 15-22 point out that integrity is better than pretentiousness. Solomon stated that since the righteous sometimes die young while the wicked live long, judgment is not always evident in this life. He cautioned that self-righteousness could destroy one’s integrity and influence, and wickedness could hasten one’s death. Verse 20 speaks to the depravity of humanity. In the original Hebrew, it does not imply that it is impossible to live without sinning; rather, it states that no individual is born sinless, or just.
In verses 23-29, Solomon reflected on his quest to attain wisdom. He found that it was out of his reach, and he reasoned that the depth of wisdom was impossible for man to know. He also pointed out that a righteous man would be able to escape a provocative woman, but the sinner would be ensnared. The author’s assumption was that only one man in a thousand was truly wise, while the number of wise women was even less. This sentiment aligns with 1 Kings 11:4, which states that in his latter years, Solomon’s many wives influenced him to turn away from God.
This chapter concludes with an inference that God had originally created man upright, but sin caused man to flagrantly defy God’s will and go astray.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The theme applied
A. Advice concerning one’s life
1. The statement of better things (7:1-14)
2. The need for moderation (7:15-22)
3. The futile desire for wisdom and women (7:23-29)
True wisdom will cause us to consider behavior options and choose those that will ultimately lead to eternal profit.