Ecclesiastes 10:5-20 “Irony”
- For Starters -getting us thinking
- If you could be king for a day what would you do?
- A Look at the Text
- What does it say?
- Rulers can turn the world upside down (v5-7)
V5: Kings are more than capable of erring and when they do, it has the effect of turning the world upside down. Normally, we would expect the fool to suffer misfortune, Proverbs teaches that life choices bring consequences but here we see the fool raised up and the rich laid low (v6-7). Notice that the preacher compares fools with the rich when normally we expect the contrast to be with the wise. This is perhaps partly because prosperity was associated with wisdom but also because the unusual pairing makes us sit up and think. It is a road bump in the text to alert us to the need to wrestle with it.
- Calamity may strike despite our best endeavours (v8-9)
V8: Warns that danger lurks, a man may dig a pit and the fall into it himself. He is caught in his own trap. (cf Proverbs 26:27). Working on brick work could be dangerous in the middle east as snakes might be lurking ready to strike. In some cases this is about people getting their own just comeuppance or suffering from their own negligence.
V9: However we also meet danger whilst quarrying stone and cutting wood. Sometimes unexpected tragedy strikes through no fault of the victm.
- All the same – it is best to live wisely (v 10-15)
V10: The risk of injury at work is mitigated by wise practices such as sharpening your axe!
V11: Question: “What do you call a bad snake charmer?” Answer: “dead.” Incompetence and carelessness will come back to bite you.
V12-14: As my dad always says: “Why let everyone know that you are a fool when you can start talking and prove it.”
V15: A fool is someone who is busy but without purpose and direction. I remember visiting Beijing with my parents. We hailed a taxi to take us from the airport to the hotel. However, the driver saw us and our money coming. Having seen the same building a few times, we realised we were being driven round in circles. Life is like that for a lot of people, they are busy but just going round in circles. Like our taxi ride, this usually works out costly.
- Who rules matters (v16-20)
V16-17 sets the choice between noble kings and lads. We are immediately reminded of two things, first of how Solomon’s heir Rehoboam choice to listen to his mates instead of his dad’s wise and experienced advisors. Secondly we remember that Solomon was himself a young king when he came to the throne and so knew at that stage to rely on God for wisdom.
In V18-19 we are shown the consequences of good and wise rule. The “lad’s” advisors will be getting drunk early in the mourning leading to chaos. The noble king ensures his noble men feed and drink properly so that all benefit and prosper.
“Money answers everything.” Says the preacher. Once again, there is one of those little sayings that doesn’t sit quite right. We know it doesn’t. The writer is signalling to us that we need to look beyond human wisdom.
V20: Who rules matters because rulers have power over our lives for good or bad. They have ways and means of finding out, of knowing what is going on. Therefore, if I am loyal to the king it is important I follow the right king
- What does it mean?
- Where is Christ in this?
Christ is the one who is faithful even in in suffering (Isaiah 53/1 Peter 2)
Christ is the one who turns the world upside down
Christ is the good King who not only demands but also wins our loyalty.
Christ is the king born a child (think Isaiah 7 and the promise of a child)
- Finding Hope
Whilst fools do not know where they are going so that they are without hope or purpose, we do know the way. We know where we are going. We look forward and set our eyes on Christ and our destination of the heavenly city.
- A Look at Ourselves
- In what ways has the Gospel turned the world upside down in your life? How has the good news brought dramatic change?
- What would Bearwood look like if we were people who “turned the world upside down”?
- Do you know where you are going in life? Do you know what will happen when you die?