The Scriptorium

Live toward the Future

It's the only way to keep pressing on. Ecclesiastes 7.8-10

Ecclesiastes 7 (4)

Pray Psalm 49.12, 13.
Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain;
He is like the beasts that perish.
This is the way of those who are foolish,
And of their posterity who approve their sayings.

Read Ecclesiastes 7.8-10.

Prepare.
1. How would you describe Solomon’s outlook on life here?

2. To what does impatience lead?

Meditate.
Solomon continues trying to encourage his son to take the long view toward life, to work for a good ending to his life and not just a “big splash” beginning. The thrust of these verses is to encourage us to keep in the race, to press forward always, to increase and improve in all things, and never to be content with thinking that our best days are behind us. We must always strive to make our best day today, and tomorrow better still.

Impatience is the bane of rulers (v. 8), as of all people. Perhaps this is why the Scriptures so often counsel us to wait on the Lord and be content. The patient person waits for God to do what He has promised, and boasts in Him. The proud person wants everything now, to indulge or make a name for himself right now (v. 8).

The fool is the one who acts in haste and becomes angry when his desires are not instantly gratified (v. 9). This is not the way of wisdom. Nor is it the part of wisdom always to be longing for “the good old days” (v. 10). As Solomon has previously said, we must receive each day, and all it brings, as a gift from God and do the best we can to rejoice in His provision, looking toward the future realization of all the promises of God, and living as those who hope to gain the full blessing of God.

These three verses form another inclusio, a form of parallelism that begins and ends in the same place, though here more implicit than explicit, as in vv. 2-4. Here the beginning and ending are something like “live toward the future” (vv. 8, 10). The middle part connects impatience with anger and warns the reader against both, for they are both manifestations of pride. Indeed, pride and anger are the very antithesis of patience, since they carry the suggestion that, somehow, the world revolves – or should revolve – around me. Pride is the ruler’s downfall – recall Solomon’s many references to himself and his achievements in chapter 2. The wise man will avoid it at all costs.

Reflect.
1. What does it mean to “live toward the future”? What is in the future that Christians should be eager to realize?

2. Patience is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22, 23). What does this suggest about how we must nurture a patient outlook on life?  

3. It’s not the way of wisdom to hanker for “the good old days”, but we should try to learn from our past. What’s the difference? How should remembering our past help us in living toward the future?

When anyone lacks patience about being looked down upon in this world, he tries to display any hidden good qualities he may have, and so through impatience is drawn on to arrogance. While he cannot bear contempt, he boasts ostentatiously in self-display. Therefore Scripture says, “Better is the patient than the arrogant.” Gregory the Great (540-604), Pastoral Rule 3.9.10

Lord, help me to press on toward realizing Your promises today, especially as I…

Pray Psalm 49.10-14.
People everywhere are caught up in the materialism and narcissism of the day. Pray for lost people, who foolishly believe that things and self are the chief ends in life. Ask God to help you be ready today, should anyone ask a reason for the hope that is within you (1 Pet. 3.15).

Sing Psalm 49.10-14, 15.
Psalm 49.10-14, 15 (Sagina: And Can It Be, That I Should Gain)
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

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

Thus go the foolish on their way, and all who approve their deceitful words.
Meekly like sheep to death they go, and meet destruction afterwards.
See how the righteous overrules the fleeting forms of dying fools!
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.