Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 10:1-15.
Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour (Ecclesiastes 10:1).
The opening line here is among the best known in this book in that it is the source for a popular idiom: “the fly in the ointment.”
The verse’s main point: A little folly sullies even the man who is wise and godly.
That reliable source Wikipedia says “the fly in the ointment” is “an idiomatic expression,” drawn from the KJV, “for a drawback, especially one that is not immediately apparent.” It adds that it refers to “a small defect that spoils something valuable or is a source of annoyance.”
The image is of a container of sweet smelling ointment, mixed by the druggist or apothecary. But the top is left open and some flies discover it, get stuck in the sticky ointment, die and begin to decay. And the ointment sends forth “a stinking savour.”
The image is of something small ruining the effect of the whole.
Think of a white suit with one ink stain, a sports car with one dent or scratch, a beautiful face with one scar.
Think of how the sight of a single fly landing on a mouth-watering dish on the table can spoil your appetite.
What is the spiritual point? There is a warning here to the godly man that he must be ever vigilant. If he wants to live a godly life today, he cannot rest on the laurels of the godly life he lived yesterday. He must be every striving to do what is right in God’s sight.
But perhaps there is also in this a reminder that he cannot really ever attain a spotless life, a fly-less ointment. Even the best of men are men at best. Consider the question posed in Psalm 130:3: “If thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand?” He must look to the grace of God in Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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