Image: Winter scene, North Garden, Virginia, January 2017
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.
Ecclesiastes 7: 4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
The great contrast in the wisdom literature is between the wise man and the foolish man. Jesus taught about the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built on the sand (Matthew 7). Here the wise man is the one whose heart (the seat of his affections) is in the house of mourning (seriousness, sobriety). And the fool is he whose heart is in the house of mirth (frivolity, superficiality).
Another, yet related, dimension is added in v. 5: “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”
This is also a stock teaching in the wisdom literature. Do not resist an admonition that comes from the wise. But receive it and profit from it.
Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
Proverbs 25:12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Think of David when Nathan the prophet confronted him and said, “Thou art the man!” (2 Sam 12:7). Did David run from Nathan? Did he accuse him of treachery? Did he order his execution? Did David call for his sycophants to soothe his conscience? Did he call for musicians and arrange a party? Did he call for comedians to lighten his mood? No, he acknowledged that Nathan had brought him the Word of God. And he repented of his sin (see Psalm 51).
The last verse calls to mind a vivid analogy. The “song of fools” (v. 5) or the foolish laughter of those who dull their meaningless life through partying and laughing are like crackling thorns under a pot on a fire (v. 6a).
His summary for it all? “This also is vanity” (v. 6b).
Here is a great irony: Unregenerate men are headed for eternal destruction, but while here, in this life, they most often ignore their plight by escaping to the house of mirth. Meanwhile, regenerate and godly men, who are headed for the New Jerusalem, while in this life, will frequently go to the house of mourning, in sorrow for their sins and habitual repentance.
May the Lord make us wise, sending us out of the house of mirth and into the house of mourning, so that we might dwell in his house forever.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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