Category Archives: Cross of Christ

Ecclesiastes 9:7-10:4 – The poor man’s wisdom

Discussion question:

Do you know of any wise people who have gone unnoticed in this world?

Read Ecclesiastes 9:7-10:4


The book of Ecclesiastes seems repetitive because it is! The book begins and ends with the slogan: Meaningless! Meaningless! Along the way, the Teacher has given us wisdom to live by according to what he can test ‘under the sun’. He has examined wealth and wisdom. He has lamented that everybody seems to go to the same end. God is to be feared and it is better to live with regard to him than to live like a fool but the vision of the Teacher has its limit. We have noticed each time that Jesus is the better Teacher because he has a bigger vision.

Previously, we saw that our place in the universe is under all who sit above us in this world and even kings must submit to God. This section links closely with the previous. We’ll see the mention of kings again but there is an appreciation for the wise people who do not get noticed.



  • 9:7-10 Live good while it lasts
  • 9:11-12 Death comes despite your plans
  • 9:13-16 Poor man’s wisdom
  • 9:17-10:4 The blunt instrument of folly

9:7-10 Live good while it lasts

“Go, eat…drink…with a joyful heart…” The Teacher has brought us to this conclusion back in 2:24. All things come from God. If we are able to have them, best to enjoy them! Without a long explanation, access to wine is a sign of God’s blessing on the land. Having land, plus peace and rain to grow it are all signs that God is for Israel. See next point.

“…for God has already approved what you do.” The protestant within me stalls at this line. How can he say that God approves what we do when we’ve also recognised that all are unrighteous (Ecc 7:20). But specifically, he has mentioned eating and drinking. He is not making a salvation judgment but inviting us to enjoy life because life itself is a gift from God and the food and the drink is also a gift. So why not enjoy the gift? There are limits and wisdom to this and that is what follows…

“Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.” Being clothed in white is a symbol of purity but also wealth – the same symbol used by Jesus to reward the saints in heaven (Rev 4:4 and 3:5). Anointing your head is similar. It comes with blessings and riches and honour. Psalm 23:5 and Luke 7:46. The Teacher is giving us the language of the blessed people of God. This is our direction rather than the life of the fool.

“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life…” Enjoy the gift of life that God has brought to you. The Teacher has a very optimistic view of the quality of life before death comes here. It is brought down with the laborious use of ‘meaningless’ and ‘toilsome’ and ‘this is your lot’. But if there is joy in your lot, then embrace it, says the Teacher, because it will end one day.

“…do it with all your might…” We might look to the New Testament and see a vision beyond the Teacher. He says, enjoy it because it’s all you’ve got for now. God has blessed you right now and that’s all there is from him. But Jesus gives us hope for eternal life and he is now our new Master. See Colossians 3:23-24.

“…where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” His vision of the future ends at the grave.

9:11-12 Death comes despite your plans

“…but time and chance happen to them all.” The proverb of Verse 11 is straight forward. The bible teaches us that chance is really not the last word since God is sovereign over everything. But from observing the human race, it seems like pot luck as to where you are born, who gets the wealth, who was in the right spot at the right time. Strategy and skill is no sure means to get where you want to go. The Teacher is frustrated with ambition and instructs us to look at what we have and enjoy that.

“…no one knows when their hour will come…” The imagery in Verse 12 is also simple and clear. No fish aims to be stuck in a net nor a bird in a trap. People are described as trapped in calamity rather than being blamed for it. The evil times that we live in happen despite our ambition to lengthen the days of this earth. But knowledge that the end will come one day ought to shape the way we live today.

9:13-16 Poor man’s wisdom

“…a small city…a powerful king…built huge siege works against it.” The story places a little town with abundant over force used against it. What hope does it have?

“…a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.” The details are missing but the point is that wisdom can overcome an army. This little man had no obvious hope but he outwitted the king’s army.

“Wisdom is better than strength. But the poor man’s wisdom is despised…” To the Teacher’s story, wisdom wins actually but the glory will still go to the king who probably goes off and wins hundreds of other battles. The abrupt and overpowering king will go down in history but the poor wise man will be forgotten.

“…no longer heeded.” The final words of this story lead us to the final section.

9:17-10:4 The blunt instrument of folly

“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.” This line summarises the story of 9:13-16 perfectly. What follows is the opposing sides of the foolish and the wise.

“…a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” Wisdom seems quiet and a beautiful perfume while folly is loud and stupid like a zombie. People can’t help see the zombie but wisdom can go completely unnoticed.

“If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post, calmness can lay great offenses to rest.” The ruler’s anger bursts out of foolishness, rashness and short sightedness. The wise should stand their ground and wait patiently. There is advice here to choose wisdom with calm and you will find yourself on the right side in the end. But buckle to the anger of the king and folly wins.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. The Teacher doesn’t simply say, “eat and drink” but to do it with gladness and joy. What is he teaching in Verses 7-10?

Q2. Verses 10-12 consider the permanence and surety of death. How does this knowledge shape the way that we ought to live? How do these Verses direct us?

Q3. How does Verses 13-18 compare wisdom with strength?

Q4. What makes wisdom difficult according to 10:1-4?

Q5.  What is lacking or missing in the Teacher’s instructions?


While wisdom is way better, folly is loud and overruling. The good things in life come from God and ought to be enjoyed as they come. Life and death come to us outside of our power and it is best to live with wisdom than without. While this is the conclusion of the Teacher, the lesson falls short of what good it really does to choose wisdom.


Challenge#1 Blessed are the poor

The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:2-12 give us wisdom from the True Teacher of Israel. Jesus teaches us that it won’t be the strong and the powerful who win in the end but the poor in spirit, the meek and those who hunger for righteousness. He shares the same image as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes does with regard to the poor wise man who went unnoticed, or the wise person who stood calmly against the anger of the king. This world will insult, persecute and say all kinds of evil against Jesus’ followers, but stick with him, being calm and sure that He is the Wisdom of this world. He is the invisible strength who will conquer the foolishness of this world.

Challenge#2 Whatever you do

Colossians 3:23-24 is snapshot of instructions to those who know where their future is: in heaven. The whole chapter directs us to think in light of the hope that we have and then to do everything as though working for the Lord. We are not trying to please people. And we are not trying to conquer this world (since you don’t know when your time will come) but we live for today in the full knowledge that God has purchased our inheritance for eternity. As Colossians says, the Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (1:12). What we do today is not in pursuit of success because we already know that something greater than what we can achieve is already prepared for us. Enjoying the days of our life surely come from embracing our eternal life first.

Challenge#3 The wisdom of God

Paul reminded the church in Corinth of the days when he brought the gospel to them. He said that it was not filled with human wisdom but he kept his message to the cross of Christ which is the power of God. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes described a battle between a powerful king and a little town with one poor wise man in it. Paul is like that poor wise man. You can read his account in 1 Corinthians 2:1-9. We can be just like the poor wise man too if we remain calm against the shouting in this world and speak about the cross of Christ.

Study 3 – Faith Grants Eternal Life – Luke 23:32-43

Discuss this quote: 

“faith … is the hand of the soul, to lay hold of all the graces, excellencies, and high perfections of Christ.” (Richard Sibbes circa. 1600).


Our study on “faith” has, so far, taught us that faith is not about feelings but about a certain hope (Hebrews 11:1). That is, we don’t live on wishful thinking, rather, we live in the certain hope of the resurrection as proven by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Secondly, we learned that faith is something that we can observe in someone’s life. We act and speak in response to our faith. James 2:14-26 showed us that faith is not simply what we think, but what we do with that thinking.

This week, we turn to an account in the Gospel of Luke which reminds us of the importance and power of faith.

The context of this account, as you will quickly see, is the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Read Luke 23:32-43

Retell the story in your own words.

Reread Luke 23:32-43 (these three steps will help get the passage into our vision so we can see it clearer).



  • 32-33 With Jesus
    • 34 Jesus said…Forgive them.
      • 35 The people and rulers said…IF he is God’s Messiah
        • 36-37 The soldiers said…IF you are the king
          • 38 The public notice said…This is the king of the Jews.
        • 39 One criminal said…Aren’t you the Messiah?
      • 40-42 But the other said…This man is innocent…he is the King.
    • 43 Jesus said…Today you will be with me in paradise.
  • 43b With Jesus

Notes on the structure

A study of the structure above will show you the flow of the passage as well as the central theme – Jesus is the King, God’s chosen One, the Messiah, but who can see it? The account begins a birds eye view of Jesus nailed to his cross with two criminals on his right and his left. It is a mockery of a kingdom. The description sounds like a kingly position with those on his right and his left but they are criminals and the place of honour is a place of shame – the cross. Jesus, however, declares that they do not know what they are doing. The spectators then get numbered off as all questioning and/or mocking the point of Jesus as Messiah. The great irony is placed at the centre of the story: a sign with the plain statement that Jesus is the King of the Jews. The sign is of course there to mock either Jesus or the Jews or both, but the message does not come with a snarling voice or a mocking laughter – the sign is neutral, without emotion – it states what we know to be true. Everyone around the sign has their own opinion.

The punch line comes with the second criminal who, firstly, rebukes the mockers (namely the other criminal), secondly, declares Jesus’ innocence, and thirdly, puts his trust in Christ alone: by speaking of Jesus’ kingdom, he declares his own faith in Jesus as King. He is the only person in this account who sees Jesus for who He really is.

Some questions to work through the passage:

Question 1: How is the scene depicted in Verses 32-33? (Note the use of the words “with him” and “along with” and finally “one on his right, the other on his left” which highlight the obscenity of this scene – the King of Glory is pictured as the chief of thieves.

Question 2: List the various characters in the passage from Verse 35 to 39 and comment on what they said to Jesus or about Jesus. What do these statements tell us about the theme of this account? (Make sure to include the sign in Verse 38. The theme could be stated as: do you believe Jesus is the Messiah?)

Question 3: Focus on the statements of the 2nd criminal in Verses 40-42. What does he believe? (about God, judgment, himself, and Jesus?)

Question 4: What does Jesus believe? (see Verses 43 and 34)

Question 5: Do you believe that this man was saved? Why?


Luke believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Chosen One of God and that forgiveness comes to those who hear this good news and repent (see also Luke 24:46-48). The 2nd criminal put his faith in Jesus and, with no good works of his own, was promised a place in paradise by the King who can make that promise. His faith was not blind, although it was present despite the present reality. That is, most people saw a sad and pathetic fool but he saw the saving work of God.


Application A: Seeing what’s really there. The mockers on that day were blind to the reality of who Jesus is and therefore rejected him. Jesus demonstrated no strength (apart from patience, kindness, love and self-control) and yet the 2nd criminal saw a king. What the 2nd criminal also saw was the unfairness and shallow mindedness of the people of this world. In the same way, it is easy for us to overlook the reality of Jesus as King when we live in a world where he is invisible. Our happiness seems not to come from faith but from money, sex and power (it would be great to do a short sermon series on those!) What we can see and feel is real. But, as Romans 1 reminds us, God’s eternal qualities and power are clearly seen from what he has made and done. Romans 1 also tells us that the gospel is the power of God that saves. We are being asked today, “do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah/King of paradise?” Or would you rather believe that paradise is only what you make of yourself in this world?

Application B: Which criminal are you? The first criminal comes across quite angry with Jesus (at least that’s the emotion I hear in the text). He almost blames Jesus for the state that he is in! Have you ever prayed like, “God, if you are there and real, what are you doing?! If you were real, my life would not be like this!” His position is: My Messiah would do x, y and z. If you are not doing these things, then you must not be the Messiah! On the other hand, the other criminal accepts where he is in life, and turns to Jesus for deliverance. He doesn’t try to change Jesus or rebuke Jesus – he turns to Jesus for help. Note that his act of repentance is subtle – not really stated bluntly but his declaration that Jesus is King is fairly clear. His repentance looks simply like a declaration that he is in the wrong – getting what he deserves. And his confession of Jesus as LORD comes in the form of, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Do you wish Jesus to be what you want him to be? Or do you wish Jesus to include you in His kingdom?

Application C: Living like a criminal. The righteous criminal turned to Christ (literally) and was saved. But his earthly life came to an end that day. We who have turned to Christ continue to live out our faith as changed people. We will look more into what this looks like in the coming weeks but it is true that the only difference between us and that criminal is time. He was guaranteed a place with Jesus that day (refrain from questions about the time-frame between death and the resurrection – good question but it is a sidetrack to our point). We are guaranteed a place with Jesus at a later date – but our guarantee is not changed. Read Ephesians 1:13-14 and see who will see to it (guarantee) that we make it to eternity. Hint: He is named in the passage.


As we come to the end of the series on the Book of Revelation it is helpful to recall the historical perspective that lies behind this wonderful book. This is summed up by Paul Barnett in his commentary Revelation: Apocalypse Now and Then at page 153:

Revelation leaves us in no doubt: the great end-time battle of God does not lie in the future but in the past. By his death and resurrection Christ has conquered the twin evils of guilt and death. As a consequence, God’s kingdom is now, a present reality. These are perhaps the most important keys to the mysteries of this book.

As for the evils that the original Christians (and Christians ever since) were facing, Barnett reminds us:

The book repeatedly portrays God as not the source of evil. In his mercy he limits the extent of satanic destruction to provide rebellious humanity with the opportunity to repent of the worship of demons and idols, and their breaking of his commandments (9:2). In the face of this evil, Christians are continually called on to display patience and faithfulness to Jesus. And it is by endurance and faith that believers share in the completed conquest of the Lamb who was slain.

So what is there left for us before we become fully glorified in the presence of the Lord as depicted under the imagery of the new Jerusalem and the bride adorned for her husband?

The answer of course is the second coming of Jesus to bring this age to a close and to bring about the fulfillment of his ultimate plan for his people.

That is what chapter 22:6 is all about.

QUESTION ONE: Rev. 22:7 quotes Jesus as saying, ‘Behold, I am coming soon’. Given that 2,000 years have passed, how would you explain the meaning of the word ‘soon’?

QUESTION TWO: From your knowledge of the New Testament, what do you know about its teaching about the return of Jesus?

QUESTION THREE: How are we meant to prepare for his coming?

QUESTION FOUR: The book of the Revelation ends with a prayer, ‘… Amen, come Lord Jesus.’ It is rare for such a prayer to be heard in worship services today and it is probably rare for it to be uttered in the private prayers of most believers. Why is this so and how can we change our thinking to follow the example of this verse in beseeching Jesus to come quickly?