Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Words of the Wise

Some scriptural thoughts arrived in the last few days in an email from Sojourners. These thoughts often propel me toward the scriptures for a few moments. It’s not a bad thing! And, sometimes, it can be quite relaxing on a Sunday morning before the world begins to awaken.

“The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” [Ecclesiastes 9:17-18]

The Book of Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes, the extraordinary book of the Old Testament of the Bible is something very, very special. I count it as my favorite book of scripture – indeed, my very favorite of the Old Testament!

When I want to read scripture (which, frankly, isn’t too often) I find myself turning to Ecclesiastes more than any other of the sections of Bible. There are such memorable quotations that come from Ecclesiastes, perhaps none more famous than the following.

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
       a time to be born, and a time to die;
       a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
       a time to kill, and a time to heal;
       a time to break down, and a time to build up;
       a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
       a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
       a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
       a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
       a time to seek, and a time to lose;
       a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
       a time to rend, and a time to sew;
       a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
       a time to love, and a time to hate;
       a time for war, and a time for peace. [3:1-8]

Though, there are plenty of others…

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” [1:2-4]

“…and there is nothing new under the sun!” [1:9]

“There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil.” [2:24]

“…God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. [3-17]

“They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again.” [3:19-20]

“A good name is better than precious ointment;…” [7:1]

“Be not quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” [7:9]

“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”

“Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” [12:13]

For me, reading scripture has nothing to do with magic or miracle. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a spiritual experience. I should probably tend more to scripture; for when I read there I never come away empty.

Scholars don’t know much about the author of Ecclesiastes. He takes upon himself the character of the great King Solomon, though he is clearly not Solomon in a literal sense. It is difficult to date the book; however, scholars are certain it was prior to the Maccabean struggles and, therefore, prior to 165 B.C.. But, we are not so concerned here about scholarly opinions as we are about the way we can be touched and inspired by such writing.

The opening quotation in this blog, from Ecclesiastes, is what inspired me to write these thoughts on a Sunday morning. I was thinking we should, perhaps, send them to the members of Congress and to the shouters who are out campaigning in these current days. To repeat them for you, they are…

“The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” [Ecclesiastes 9:17-18]

Good Sunday morning to you!

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