The Folly of All

The Foolishness of All
Ecclesiastes 7:25-8:1
“Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”

Solomon now returns to his search for wisdom.  Throughout the book he has taken us on a journey to try and discover wisdom and meaning in a fallen world.  He examined all this life has to offer, and in his search, he only realized what is meaningless and lacks genuine substance.  He has placed everything we might consider necessary under the microscope and found only emptiness.  He has examined pleasure and possessions.  He has looked at our pursuit of success in our careers.  He has looked at riches and accomplishments.  Each time he examines something we consider essential and significant, he discovers that, in the end, it is nothing more than a vaporless cloud that lacks substance in life.  He has carefully tested everything in his pursuit to gain wisdom and understanding, but in the end, his pursuit proved futile as wisdom seemed to elude him.  Life, with all its facets, only reveals that wisdom is remote, exceedingly mysterious, and beyond our grasp (vs. 23-24). Now, he turns to the last stone to uncover and the last thing to examine.  He turns to humanity itself.  

Some have regarded his statements in verses 26-27 to be the muses of a misogynist. However, when we compare Solomon’s writings in Proverbs, we quickly discover that he has a very high view of women.  They are a gift from God (Prov 18:22). To exalt women further, he personifies wisdom in the form of a virtuous woman, and he ends the book of Proverbs by singing the praise of the virtuous wife as the model of one who lives a life within the realm of wisdom.  So, how do we understand his negative commentary on women in verses 26-27?   Solomon is writing from the context of one who has pursued gratification and pleasure in multiple wives. Since arranged marriages were often the outcome of political alliances, these women were a symbol of his power and influence. It is not a coincidence that he refers to a thousand women, for that was the number of wives and concubines he had.  Solomon is revealing the reality he discovered in his own life.  His pursuit of pleasure and political power sent him down the road of multiple wives, and yet, as he reflected upon this pursuit, in the end, it proved meaningless. Women came up short in his search for meaning, purpose, and wisdom.  Having examined women, he now turns to men.  They, too, proved to be faulty and to fare no better.   The statement, “one among a thousand,” is meant to be a hyperbole, equivalent to our saying, “There is one in a million chance.”  In other words, in the end, they fared no better than the women.

In any field, one does not become an expert until one realizes how much we do not know, while novices think they know everything.  The same is true for wisdom.  Fools are the one who thinks they are wise, while the wise are those who realize they are not.  In Solomon’s search for wisdom, instead of obtaining the scope of wisdom, he discovered how much wisdom was beyond his reach (7:23-24 and 8:1).  He found that even though God created humanity perfect and without sin, humanity rejected God and His wisdom and morality to devise their own. Thinking themselves wise, they became fools (vs. 29, see also Romans 1:22), for in their folly, they felt themselves to be wiser than God.  In our foolishness, we thought we were wiser than God. However, true wisdom comes when we realize how tainted we are in our thinking.  We become wise when we no longer rely upon the wisdom of men but instead, rest in God's wisdom.  When confronted with life's challenges and problems, we are to look to God instead of looking to man for answers.  The first step to wisdom is recognizing that we are not wise and we lack understanding. We know that we do not know what is wisdom. The second step is recognizing that God is the only one genuinely wise and has revealed His wisdom in His word. So, instead of listening to men, we listen to God.

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