The Scriptorium

The Rebuke of the Wise

It can sting, but it's better than the words of the fool. Ecclesiastes 7.5-7

Ecclesiastes 7 (3)

Pray Psalm 49.5.
Why should I fear in the days of evil,
When the iniquity at my heels surrounds me?

Read Ecclesiastes 7.5-7.

1. Why is the counsel of fools like a song?

2. What can corrupt our mind and heart? How can we guard against this?

Solomon surely was aware of Rehoboam’s friends, the young men whose counsel he would heed in turning away from the course of wisdom to folly (2 Chron. 10). It may be hard to listen to a wise man as he lays bare the motives of our hearts and tells us things we don’t want to hear. But, in the end, it is far better to hear the wise man’s rebuke than to heed the advice of fools.

The words of fools are often agreeable to us – like a pleasant song – but they are also fleeting and insubstantial – like a thorn bush in the fire. A fool’s ideas may flare up brilliantly, but they won’t provide enough sustained “heat” to cook whatever’s in the pot – or to carry out any righteous plan or purpose.

The word “oppression” in verse 7 is perhaps better translated “fraud”. The wise man who lives a lie becomes a fool (“destroys a wise man’s reason”), as surely as a bribe corrupts the heart of an honest man. We can imagine that Rehoboam must have bristled somewhat in hearing these words from his father.

An advantage of proverbs as a literary device is that they allow us to say difficult things indirectly, and so leave room for people to interpret those words for their own situations, as each case may allow (if the shoe fits, etc.).

Proverbs cause the mind to become active and engaged; stories, songs, and poetry have a similar ability. The skillful communicator of truth will explore every means of engaging, penetrating, and illuminating the minds of those whose outlook has been darkened by self-interest, and who seem impervious to rational argumentation.

Everyone we try to reach with the Gospel has his own counsel of fools. We’ll need to be very skillful and patient in trying to get through or over the hedge of folly each unbeliever has built around his heart and mind. But we must always remember that the Word of God is living and powerful. Keep it always in the conversation.

1. Why are rebukes harder to receive than songs? Why do we need some of both in our lives?

2. Thorns – the counsel of fools – don’t provide enough sustained heat to cook up a meal. What does? If we want our plans and purposes to come to fruition for the Lord, what kind of fire should we seek?  

3. The fool is the person who does not consult the Lord about his life (Ps. 53.1). He believes he can figure things out on his own. In his daily life, how does the fool differ from the righteous person?

For most people it seems to be right to avoid the critique of a wise man, especially if they like to sin. Whoever desires amusement and sin avoids the person who wants to hinder it. Whoever has no insight is pleased with flatterers, preferring flattery to critique. It is the characteristic of the wise man that he criticizes the one he loves. Didymus the Blind (313-398), Commentary on Ecclesiastes 202.2

Keep my mind and heart pure, Lord, and let Your Word rebuke and direct me, so that I may…

Pray Psalm 49.7-12.
Lost people you know are trying to “cook up” some scheme so that they can live a full and happy life, if possible, forever. Pray for them, that they might realize they’re going to die, and all their schemes will come to naught. Pray that the Lord will open their hearts to hear the Gospel.

Sing Psalm 49.7-12, 15.
Psalm 49.7-12, 15 (Sagina: And Can It Be, That I Should Gain)
No man his brother can redeem, or give a ransom for his soul.
Let him leave off the vain attempt to gather redemption’s priceless toll.
Vainly he longs for eternal day, that he may not endure decay.
Refrain v. 15

My God redeems my soul from hell!
His grace and mercy let me tell!

See how the wise and senseless die, and leave to others all their gold.
Vainly forever they longed and hoped to have their names and glories told.
Man in his pomp will not endure; like any beast his end is sure.
Refrain v. 15

T. M. Moore 

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore