International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 9, 2011
Purpose: To discern the quiet voice of wisdom in a noisy world.
Scripture Text: Ecclesiastes 9:13-18
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 (NRSV)
(13)I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. (14)There was a little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. (15)Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. (16)So I said, “Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded.” (17)The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouting of a ruler among fools. (18)Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one bungler destroys much good.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Our lessons move from The Book of Proverbs to a lesser known book, The Book of Ecclesiastes. The Book of Ecclesiastes paints a different picture than most other “wisdom literature.” It seems to be searching for the meaning of life, but illustrates the importance of living a life obedient to God's order and understands His ultimate position as Judge of all creation. Ref. 3:16-17 (16)Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. (17)I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work.
The title for the book is taken from the Hebrew title Qoheleth, which means “one who convenes and speaks at an assembly” or an ecclesiastic or preacher. The Greek equivalent, ecclesiastes also means “preacher.”
Most present day scholars doubt that Solomon was the author, although that is claimed in the very first verse of the book. The style and linguistic evidence points to the 3rd century B.C. as the time frame, or sometime after the exile. However it could have been written about Solomon, since the writer or preacher/teacher reiterates that having it all does not guarantee happiness, wealth, women, power and wisdom still leave a void. Vs. 1:2 “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. Life, to the teacher is like a vapor or mist or the wind, it seems to exist, but hard to grasp.
In his book “Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes” Sidney Greidanus (Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) says Ecclesiastes is relevant especially for out culture because it tackles many of the temptations posed by secularism. The author quotes Leland Ryken (Professor of English, Wheaton College) as saying “Ecclesiastes is the most contemporary book in the Bible. Ecclesiastes is a satiric attack on an acquisitive, hedonistic and materialistic society. It exposes the mad quest to find satisfaction in knowledge, wealth, pleasure, work ,fame, and sex.”
Our lesson text seems to be parable/narrative; there are no names or evidences of any real historical facts. It seems to say, “Here is an example of some things I have observed.” The city seems to have very little importance, and why a king would want it is hard to figure. Is the king us, seeking things because we can, with no thought of the consequences? Or are we the poor wise man who delivers the city, or could have delivered the city but no one ask, and no one remembers?
It is easy to see the tensions that the “teacher” faces, being wise did nothing for the poor man’s wealth or status; while being wealthy and powerful gained little for the king. So what if he conquered a small defenseless city. How would that enhance his position in the world? In the end neither might nor wisdom won, a city was destroyed and wise man was ignored. So what is our lesson? Wisdom, even if it is not followed or sought is better than the destruction of war and greed. With wisdom we have a chance to recover and rebuild. “Better to be wise than a “bungler.”