by the Rev. Martin Emmrich
23All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, "I will be wise," but it was far from me. 24That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things— 28which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
Many people do not know what they are looking for. They just have not found "it." This is not true for Qoheleth. He knew what he was searching for. His aim was to understand the scheme of things and to know wisdom. He finds it to be "far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?" (7:24). Wisdom, though it can be found, is also elusive. What is the true meaning of things, the reality behind all changing phenomena, and how can we distill any kind of knowledge we might possess into a consistent walk of wisdom untouched by the ravages of sin and corruption?
In the latter part of ch.7, this quest leads him to consider the nature of sin and depravity. It is fair to say that the main predicament to man's drive of finding out the scheme of things is sin. Sin has clouded our perception, distorts the thought process and has corrupted our affections. The Preacher describes the situation by alluding to the sin fall in the concluding verse. He says, "I know that God has made man upright, and we once lived in harmony with him and his creation. We are responsible for having introduced confusion, error and malfeasance. We are responsible for our own perversion and lack of wisdom, for we have opened Pandora's box of sin, and since then we do not even know ourselves anymore apart from God’s help." So, wisdom is far off and exceedingly deep.
This sentiment is as relevant today as it ever has been. In our postmodern world, the Cartesian optimism in regard of human reason has evaporated. Truth is being deconstructed in order to be reinvented either for the individual or the interpretive community. Absolute truth is a notion that is being treated with more than a healthy dose of skepticism. It has now become "deep, very deep, who can find it out?"
Fortunately, God has not left us to our own devices in the search for wisdom. But as you grow in understanding and humility, you realize just how dark your heart really is, and how far we are straying from the truth. The more we know, the more we see the complexity of the situation and that we need to learn so much more.
This is why it is paramount that we center our claims of wisdom in none other than Jesus Christ, "whom God made for us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). He is the answer to all our longings and all our insufficiencies. With him we can contemplate what is far off and exceedingly deep. Wisdom is accessible, because he is near. Wisdom is found in him. In him we also see a righteous man who never sins. Like Adam, God made him upright, but he never strayed from the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:2). He mastered every temptation and did not seek out his own "schemes," to use Qoheleth's words. But, and this is our song, he bore our schemes in his body to the cross. Henceforth, if you seek for wisdom, seek first and foremost of all Christ, for "in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3).
The author of these devotionals, the Rev. Martin Emmrich, is an ordained OPC minister (Westminster OPC, Corvallis, Oregon) as well as the author of Pneumatological Concepts in the Epistle to the Hebrews, a book on the teaching of Hebrews on the Holy Spirit. We are happy to make these devotionals on Ecclesiastes and other passages of Scripture available to you.