Ecclesiastes 5-8
(Go Near to Listen)
July 11th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Everyone who lives ought to be wise; it is as good as receiving an inheritance.

- Ecclesiastes 7:11 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

In this group of chapters, Solomon finishes his observations of everything under the sun and he begins a new section that is more oriented towards providing advice on how to live. In the beginning of chapter 5, Solomon warns the readers to approach God’s house with humility, more prepared to listen than speak or sacrifice, and cautions the people not to make vows that they cannot fulfill. “Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools who do not know what they do wrong (Eccl 5:1 NIV).”

In the second part of this chapter Solomon observes how riches are meaningless because no one who gathers riches is ever satisfied. Worse yet, the rich person attracts people who consume his goods and then he can’t sleep because of worries over protecting his abundance. But Solomon balances this point of view by noting that God wants man to find satisfaction in his work and life as long as he accepts his situation as a gift from God:

    This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.

    - Ecclesiastes 5:18 (NIV)

Chapter 6 commences a new section called “Solomon’s Practical Counsel,” which begins with a reinforcement of the message that prosperity does not have any eternal benefit. Chapter 7 reviews some of the key points of wisdom, presented in a style similar to one of the styles used in the book of Proverbs. The set of verses address a variety of topics and situations, but two of them stand out as applicable to any given day:

    When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
    God has made the one
    as well as the other.
    Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

    - Ecclesiastes 7:14 (MSG)

    For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

    - Ecclesiastes 7:20 (KJV)

In Chapter 8 Solomon addresses obedience, crime, and punishment. Solomon tells the audience to obey the king but warns that the righteous are not always rewarded during their time on earth and the wicked may commit sins, yet live a very long life. He concludes the chapter and section by humbly acknowledging the mysteries of life and wisdom:

    When I applied my mind to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how one’s eyes see sleep neither day nor night, then I saw all the work of God, that no one can find out what is happening under the sun. However much they may toil in seeking, they will not find it out; even though those who are wise claim to know, they cannot find it out.

    - Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 (NRSV)

Reflection and Application

“Go near to listen” is the advice that Solomon gives us in preparation for worship. How often do we go to church prepared to tell God what’s on our mind, and perhaps rebuke him for letting us suffer or delaying our rewards. Instead, we would be on a good track to go and focus on listening to what God has to say to us – then respond.

The gathering of riches without reaching satisfaction is another one of those mysteries of life that perpetuates from one age to the next. In our age, this problem is exacerbated by easy credit, which if unchecked can destroy not only individual fortunes but can impact a global economy, as we saw in 2008-2009. The underpinnings of this crisis were the desire for bigger houses that could not be afforded and the willingness of lenders to make the loans so that they could have more money to buy the things they wanted.

Many studies have shown that the most affluent nations are not the happiest nations and people who make more money are not necessarily happier than those who don't. More things bring more trouble. An article in the New York Times on July 7, 2012 re-confirmed this notion. In this article the author noted that, "Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark." Nevertheless, explained the article, people continue to try to earn more, but don't experience proportional increases in happiness (1).

We can see many example of Solomon’s forecast that “as goods increase, so do those who consume them (Eccl 5:11 - NIV).” Some extreme examples are the entourages that follow a newly minted celebrity – new and old friends that suck the money from the one who earned it. But it doesn’t just happen to celebrities; it can happen to any of us. God wants us to be satisfied with what we have and take time to enjoy our lives and serve one another. A simple life can bring us more happiness than a busy complex one.

Verse 7:14 is one that we might want to print out and put on our wall or re-send to ourselves every day as an automated email or tweet or repeat it endlessly in our head so that it becomes ingrained in our constant attitude:

    When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one, as well as the other. - Eccl 7:14 (NIV)

In the New Testament Paul reminds us to pray to God in all circumstances. It’s easy to forget to pray when times are good and to be angry at God or even dismiss him when things are bad. Instead, we should trust that he is with us in both scenarios so that we can thank him and seek his guidance.

Why are there times of suffering? Perhaps this is one of the mysteries that Solomon confesses to not understand. We can seek to learn wisdom by studying the Bible and learning about our world, but if we seek total knowledge and domination, then we will never be satisfied. The main point of wisdom is fear of God, and therefore the recognition that we will never be one who “knows it all.”

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. What type of church service do you find to be most uplifting?
    2. How can we listen to God during a church service?
    3. How can we listen to God when we are not at church?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge you as the source of happiness. Help us to find happiness by hearing your word and serving each other.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Our Pets


    (1) "Don't Indulge. Be Happy," July 7, 2012

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Ecclesiastes 9-12 (Solomon’s Final Conclusion)

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