Ecclesiastes 8:1,16-17: Wisdom and Its Limits

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:1,16-17

The Preacher’s accolade to the wise is poetic without a doubt. There are none like the wise because the wise have ways of explaining things and bringing light to situations that no one else can. The purpose of wisdom is outlined in Proverbs 1:1-6. It describes wisdom has being useful for knowing what is right and fair, giving guidance, and for understanding parables and proverbs. In short, wisdom is useful for knowing how to live skillfully in accordance with the ways of God. The Preacher recognizes this, saying the wisdom illuminates a man’s face and makes a hard face not so hard.

But at the same time, the Preacher recognizes the limits of wisdom too. He says that the works of God are unknowable and when the wise claim to understand the works of God, they really do not. There are some things that are simply not knowable. Job recognized this when God laid his case before Job. Job confesses that he spoke of things he cannot understand. He heard and “saw” God – that is he understands that he cannot understand God and all that God does (Job 42:1-6). The ones who search God out will only go so far. There does come a point when one basically has to admit that there are some workings of God that are simply, as Job put it, to wonderful to know.

Even though not everything of God is comprehensible, this is no excuse to be slack in getting to know God better and trying to ascertain wisdom for the purpose of living one’s life according to God’s standards, because the purpose of wisdom is just that. Paul considered all a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus (Philippians 3:7-11). Knowing Jesus takes time. Christians should, however, realize that there is a limit to what one can ascertain about God. Not all of life’s questions are necessarily answered when one believes in Jesus, but what can be sure is that the one who knows Jesus knows the one who knows the answers. Rather that speculate about the unknown, one would do well to understand and apply what has been given in God’s word so that one can live skillfully!

Lord, I want to know you!