In prosecuting the same subject, the Preacher in this Chapter lays down several very weighty observations for lessening the general and unavoidable vanities of life. Under the similitude of a poor man, that by wisdom saved a city, he sets forth the great blessedness of divine knowledge.
For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. (2) All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.
The preacher is here making a similar conclusion, to what holy melt of old, in all ages, have done, that let what will appear of worthlessness in some, or merit in others, and the common events which take place in all; yet the Lord is neither an inattentive, nor an inactive observer of either; or, to use Solomon's own words, Their works are in the hand of God. Reader! it is one of the most profitable of all studies, to have right conceptions of our gracious God in his providences. If we look at the state of things going on around us, we do indeed see what Solomon saith, that there is one event to the righteous, and to the sinner. But if we, as the prophet did, look beyond the mere surface of the wheels in God's government, we shall see as he did, One like the son of man, regulating, appointing, ordering all. Ezekiel 1:4-26. And although, as far as outward circumstances appear, all things come alike to all; yet a mighty distinction takes place, even in the events themselves, and in the effects induced by them. The sickness of the sinner, and the sickness of a child of God, differ in their operation and consequences as wide as any circumstances in life can differ. And, as in their effect, so in their design; in the instances of God's children, they are the marks of a fatherly love. They are messengers of sanctification and wisdom. They are angels in disguise. In the instances of the ungodly, they are tokens of displeasure, messengers of wrath, and the consequences of sin. Reader, it is blessed to be enabled to mark the difference; to hear the rod, (as the prophet speaks) and who hath appointed it. Micah 6:9.
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. (4) For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. (5) For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they anymore a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. (6) Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they anymore a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.
Scripture is strikingly solemn upon the state of the unregenerate when they die. They go to the dead, Solomon says. And a similar expression is made of Judas, that he went unto his own place. Acts 1:25. Then that awful conclusion becomes final: He that is filthy, let him be filthy still! Revelation 22:11. Reader, think of these things, and Solomon's observations will have their just effect, and be found true.
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
There is a great beauty in this verse; if explained upon gospel principles. If a soul be accepted in Jesus, he may well eat the bread both of body and soul, with a cheerful heart. In Jesus, everything is blessed: and Jesus blesses everything.
Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. (9) Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. (10) Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
How striking and conclusive are these reasonings of the preacher. And if construed with an eye to Christ, then are they doubly so. Oh! that souls convinced, that they are in Christ, would live up to their high privileges. Surely the soul that hath Jesus to live upon, hath a Benjamin's portion, and enough to live upon. Christ is his portion; and in him he hath all. Therefore, whatsoever he findeth to do in Christ, there should be no halving. In living upon him, in living to him, in proclaiming his praise, do all with your whole strength. The grave cannot praise thee, (said Hezekiah, when he thought his end approaching), death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. Isaiah 38:18.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (12) For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. (13) This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
The world is full of evidences to these truths, and the Church manifests the same. Not by might; nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord. Oh! how blessed is it to eye the hand of Jesus in the world, both of providence and of grace. Zechariah 4:6.
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: (15) Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
I am inclined to think that what the preacher here delivers as a parable; and if so, the spiritual sense of it is not far to fetch. If the city here besieged means the church of Christ, it may well be called a little city. Fear not, little flock, said Jesus, when comforting his church. It is small, comparatively considered, to the world's wide wilderness, Luke 12:32. How this city was besieged, needs not be told. Enemies without and within. The poor man can be no other than Jesus; for though he is in himself rich, yet, for our sakes, he became poor. 2 Corinthians 8:9. How Jesus manifested his wisdom, is also equally plain. Indeed grace, wisdom, love, mercy, favour, all, all were displayed by our Jesus, in his unequalled work of delivering us from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. And what the preacher saith of the ingratitude of the whole city delivered by him, is a most apt representation of the universal unworthiness and ingratitude of God's Israel. No man remembered that same poor man. Blessed Jesus! I take shame to myself in the recollection of my own personal forgetfulness, of thee, and of thine unequalled love to me this day! Oh! how have I forgotten thee times without number! And not only I, Lord, but all have forgotten thee. Precious Lord! hath thy love to us been so great? And are there none, no, not one of all our nature to love thee, as thou hast loved us? Oh! what a state must our nature have been in to all eternity, hadst thou not interposed to deliver us from it. Hail! thou wise Poor Man! thou hast by thy wisdom delivered the city, thy Church!
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. (17) The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. (18) Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
Oh! how true are the words of the preacher. Though all must confess Jesus to be the wisdom of God, for salvation to everyone that believeth; yet, how are we constrained to take up the prophet's lamentation, and cry out, Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? Isaiah 53:1. Blessed Lord! give me to know thee, to love thee, to remember thee; nor let the baseness of forgetfulness of Jesus be added to all my numberless transgressions.
READER! amidst many blessed meditations, which this chapter leads to, let us seek for grace from God the Spirit to derive improvements from the sweet view here opened to our souls concerning the Person, worth, wisdom, love, and salvation of the Lord Jesus.
The church of God is, indeed, like the little city here spoken of; for though beautiful, like Mount Zion, and the joy of the whole earth, yet compared to the world's wide wilderness it is but little, and as this scripture saith, hath few men in it. Oh! how may the people of God in the present hour mourn over the languishing state of Zion! Oh! how doth the enemy now scoff, saying, Is this Zion whom no man looketh after! And this is not all: for even Zion, though small, and her citizens few in number, yet a great king is come up against her. Jehovah, King of kings, and Lord of lords, hath a controversy with Zion, by reason of her rebellion and sin. And He hath besieged Zion with his law and justice He hath thrown up bulwarks against Zion, so that she is dreadfully beset with the arrows of his broken law, and the curses which must ultimately fall upon everyone that sinneth. And, as if this was not sufficiently alarming, the great enemy of souls, as the accuser of the brethren, throws in his fiery darts, and threatens instant destruction.
Reader! in this representation, (for it ceaseth to be a parable being really and literally the case) whither shall we look, or to whom shall we come, for help? Who can deliver the sinners in Zion from the wrath to come? There is one, indeed, mighty to save; but he is a poor man, though a wise one. Shall we look to him? Yes, precious Jesus! let every eye be directed to thee. Thou wert rich, indeed, Lord, yet we know, for our sakes thou becamest poor, that we through thy poverty might be made rich. And thou art wise, also; for in thee are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Here, Lord, I behold thee in this two-fold character. Poor thou art, indeed, for poverty suited thee when the Godhead condescended to become man. And wise thou must be, for in the moment thou didst assume the manhood, thou wert and still art the only wise God. Such a Redeemer became suited, and thou wert found altogether formed for the purpose. Hence, blessed Jesus, it is thou, and thou alone, who wert equal, by thy wisdom, to deliver the city - And thou hast delivered it, and redeemed us to God by thy blood. Hail! holy, glorious, triumphant Lord! let every knee bow before thee, and every tongue confess that thou art Christ, to the glory of God the Father.
One humble boon I present before thee, Lord, this day! Oh! grant that both he that writes, and he that reads, may rejoice in the blessing granted forever! Grant, Lord, that we may not be among the ungrateful number of them that forget thee! Lord Jesus, forbid it. Shall we ever forget thee? Shall not the remembrance of thee be the first, and last, and everlasting object of remembrance, in our whole souls? Forget thee! Let every thought be done away in eternal oblivion, before that Jesus be forgotten. As long as memory can hold a place in our poor mind, let the name of Jesus, never, never be worn out. Let us, gracious Lord, at thy board, and table, continually celebrate, in the memorials of bread and wine, thy blessed memory. And, when at the last, the heart strings of these dying bodies give way, still may the name and blessedness of Jesus remain, and the last words of our trembling lips be in concord with the first of our eternal song; to Jesus, the Lamb slain, as the Redeemer of his people, his beloved city, be praise, love, and thanksgiving forevermore.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Easter