Longing for the good old days?

Ecclesiastes 7:10 Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise. (NLT)

Chapter 7 in Ecclesiastes is pretty long. It reads a lot like a chapter in the book of proverbs; filled with practical and eternal wisdom. I'm afraid that I could get really mired in a total summary of the chapter so I'm going to choose some select passages to apply today. The beginning of the chapter sets the tone for the rest of it. A "good name" is more valuable than anything else in life (vs 1). The following verses contrast the man with eternity on his mind and the man with partying on his mind. There is a time for celebration. Solomon had already said in chapter 3 that there is a time and a season for everything- including dancing and celebration. But here, he describes the man whose chief aim is to make life a big party. His waking hours are spent looking forward to the next one. The man with eternity on his mind however is likened to the man "in the house of mourning"(vs.4). Solomon doesn't mean that wise men just love to go to funerals. But the lesson here is that wise men are thinking about their mortality and where they will go in the days when life is over. We all have an appointment with death (Heb 9:27).

Solomon then gives some good advice about friendship and attitudes. Don't hang around with people who simply flatter you all the time. It's good to have some friends with wisdom who will tell you the truth even when it hurts. And don't be consumed with anger, because anger "lodges in the bosom of fools" (vs 9). The book of Proverbs also warns us not to choose people with angry dispositions as friends (Prov 22:24). Yes, we are all guilty of losing our tempers on occasion, but the point here is that some people are constantly angry (thus the phrase "lodges" in the bosom of fools- anger doesn't simply visit this man- it LIVES with him).

Then the Preacher instructs us not to long for the "good old days". I've already mentioned the "Egyptian Fever" that plagued the Israelites that God delivered from Pharaoh, so I won't revisit that story here. But many of us cannot embrace what God is doing in our lives in the present, because we are so preoccupied with the way things used to be. In verse 13, Solomon says "consider the work of God". We can't be obsessed with the past because God is doing something in our lives in the present- even if we can't appreciate it. Someone once told me (and they were probably quoting some other great theologian) "God is always at work redemptively in our lives- especially when we don't feel it". Lives are riddled with frustration because we are trying to "make straight what God has made crooked" (vs 13b). Sometimes (not always of course) the source of our frustration can be traced back to the fact that we do not consider or appreciate what God is doing. This is a lesson much easier for us to discuss than do though isn't it? Agreed.

Eccl 7:14
14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. (NIV)

I think we ought to celebrate our victories. I love to acknowledge when good things happen. And I love to hear when someone else receives a breakthrough. One of the reasons I believe we should celebrate these times is because they don't last forever (despite what some false teachers would have you believe). In fact, God has ordained that we also have times that are not so pleasant. If your theology is such that you believe God is only at work in your life when everything is going great, you will become disillusioned when trouble arises. The LORD meant what He said when He promised to never leave us nor forsake us. That includes even the most difficult of times and circumstances.

Now I want to take a moment and appreciate some of the humor in the bible. I do find humor there- whether it's intentional or completely unintentional- look at Solomon's advice:

Eccl 7:21-22
21 Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you--22 for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others. (NIV)

Someone once told me- the person who will gossip to you will also gossip about you. But perhaps the focus of Solomon here is not to pay too much attention to what people are saying about you. Regardless of how good you are (whether in theory or in actuality), you are going to have some critics. And rest assured, if you are really striving to accomplish something- someone is either going to envy you or criticize you....it's just part of the human experience. But Solomon gives us what I think is a humorous dose of reality- there have been times when every one of us have been critical of someone else.

Ecc 7:29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (KJV)

It's unfortunate but the Creator receives much blame for things that He had nothing to do with. The Garden of Eden is a picture of God's design and desire for humanity. The suffering, injustice, and tragedy that is all too common to the human experience actually has its origins with mankind- not God.

Rom 5:12
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- (NIV)

Sin entered the world through man. And death (and all of things that accompany death- sorrow, sickness, tragedy, violence, malevolence, etc.) came on the heels of sin. Paul reminds us not to be too hard on Adam because "all sinned"- yes that means you and me!

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