Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them. – Ecclesiates 7:16-18 NASB
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. – 2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14-17 NASB
I have railed at Ecclesiastes 7:18, which the NIV translates “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
I was right to argue vigorously that the Holy Spirit here is not forbidding a faith that clings to obedience in the face of persecution, in the face of suffering. That the Holy Spirit is not proscribing obedience to death, even death on a cross. That we must be willing to be sawn in two if necessary for the glory of the gospel and the building up of His church, give up family, give up lands — lose everything for the sake of the gospel. The examples of the prophets and apostles and Jesus and all the holy men of old show us this.
But I was wrong to rail against the Word of God.
ALL Scripture is God-breathed — even Ecclesiastes — and the Holy Spirit does not err. And the Holy Spirit says,
Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?
I hate this. How can the Holy Spirit pour cold water on on the zeal He has encouraged everywhere else in Scripture?
Everywhere else there is a verse that offends me or makes me uncomfortable — that I wish weren’t there — I have learned to pay special attention to that verse, as it is generally a place where my views and God’s are out of sync. Ignoring such a verse misses an opportunity for my will to be conformed to God’s will; but what sweet fellowship when we humble ourselves and agree with God!
It is time that I apply this principle to these verses in Ecclesiastes. What kind of excessive righteousness and excessive wickedness is the Holy Spirit talking about here? I’m not sure yet, but now I’m prepared to humble myself under the Word of God and learn from Him whose wisdom is wiser than men.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. … but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. – 1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-29 NASB
Father, forgive me for despising Your Word. Teach me Your wisdom, that I may walk in it and teach the children You give me to walk in Your ways. You are patient and wise and good, righteous in all Your judgments. I love You, I trust You, and I worship You.
Praise the Lord!