Daily Update #275

Today’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 10:5-11

5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of error that arises from a ruler: 6 Fools

   are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. 7 I have seen slaves on 

   horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves. 8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever

   breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. 9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured

   by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them. 10 If the axe is dull and its edge

   unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success. 11 If a snake bites before

   it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.

As we dig deeper into Ecclesiastes we keep unearthing helpful truths which are still pertinent to our topsy turvy and often incomprehensible existence ‘under the sun’. So it is today. There is a fair bit of visual humour in this reading as the Teacher continues to look at human folly and divine wisdom. He now challenges us to walk in God’s wisdom and not to live carelessly in this sometimes dangerous world. The 1982 film ‘Evil Under The Sun’ (see v5 above) in which Peter Ustinov starred as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a ‘locked room mystery’ based on Agatha Christie’s famous 1941 novel of the same name. Similarly, today’s world can feel like a puzzle which is very hard to unravel. Too often we seem to end up with (and even to vote for) inept or morally dubious people in leadership positions. However, history shows us that this is nothing new in both democracies and dictatorships alike, and at all levels of society. We can see all around the world that foolish, corrupt and ill-suited leaders are still causing untold human suffering. When governments are uncaring and leaders are reckless, it is the poor and the powerless who usually suffer the most. In the lists of kings in Judah and Israel, we can find only a few who, like King David, cared properly for their people and about God. None of them were perfect and even King David had to confess to God his own appalling and immoral behaviour (see Psalm 51).

Amidst the vivid examples here of fools in high places, the digging of pits, the risk of snake bites and of injuries whilst quarrying or splitting logs, a theme emerges. The Teacher is telling us to take care in our daily lives and not to be foolish in the way we behave. To be honest, if I can get through a day without some silly mishap, both Barbara and I are rather relieved! As Elvis Costello sang in 1979, ‘Accidents Will Happen’. So they will, but spiritual accidents and disasters will be avoided if we take care to obey God and remember to seek His wisdom day by day. As an advocate of temperance, the Baptist minister Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), once said of this passage that “trembling hands, broken constitutions, ruined reputations, vanished ambitions, wasted lives, poverty, shame, and enfeebled will, death – these are the serpents that bite, in many cases, the transgressor.” This is no laughing matter at all. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) was another famous Baptist pastor, author and international evangelist. On his death, he was described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘The Archbishop of the Free Churches’. He said of the axe analogy in verse 10 “There are times with all who work for God, when they are blunt, through much usage…At all such times let us turn to God and say ‘Put in more strength. Let your power be magnified in my weakness. Give more grace, so that your work shall not suffer’…Surely more work is done by a blunt edge and divine power, than by a sharp edge and little power!”

Today’s Prayer: Father, please make me wiser and more discerning in all aspects of my life. Help me to see things as you do and then to act in accordance with your will. May I grow daily in your grace, in your love and in your power. Amen.