Ecclesiastes 7 is a difficult chapter to outline. The first 14 verses contain proverbs about wisdom, folly, prosperity, and adversity. Some of the proverbs are very difficult to understand such as 7:1 “the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” Verses 15-29 contain more puzzling statements such as 7:16: “Do not be excessively righteous, and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?” How do we best understand Ecclesiastes 7? We recognize it as part of the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is used by God to show us that life in this world is vanity (fleeting and frustrating) unless it is lived in a right relationship with God. Chapter 7 shows us God’s good purpose in seasons of prosperity and adversity.
Seasons of Prosperity
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Not everyone’s season of prosperity is the same, but God brings seasons of prosperity upon everyone. Prosperity is a time of joy that God brings to remind us that He loves us and delights in giving us good gifts (Matt 7:11). It is most especially in these seasons that God shows us that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37) and we can depend on Him. Let us delight in God during prosperous times.
During seasons of prosperity, because of sin, we are inclined to desire the gift more than the Giver (God) and grow discontent. Calvin Coolide one said, “Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshiped.” In Proverbs 30:7-10, one of the things that Agar asks of God is to not be too rich “lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” There are numerous warnings in the Bible about greed. Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 15:12). It is also worth noting that prosperity is not an automatic sign of God’s blessing. God allows the wicked to be prosperous while setting them in “slippery places” (Ps 73:18).
If God were to leave us in endless prosperity we would be ruined. Thankfully, God rescues us by bringing us into times of adversity. Samuel Johnson wrote: “Prosperity is too apt to prevent us from examining our conduct, but adversity leads us to think properly of our state, and so is most beneficial to us.” This is why Solomon’s proverbs in Ecclesiastes 7 are important. It is in this context that we can see how death is better than birth (7:1), mourning is better than feasting (7:2), sorrow is better than laughter (7:3), and “it is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than for one to listen to the song of fools” (7:5).
Unbeliever, listen closely. God uses seasons of prosperity to draw you to Jesus. Paul told the Romans, “or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4). God is being kind to you and blessing your efforts and your time here on earth so that you will follow Him.
Seasons of Adversity
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Not everyone’s season of adversity is the same, but God brings seasons of adversity upon everyone. Adversity is a time of sorrow that God brings to remind us that His gifts make terrible idols and that He loves us and He alone is all we need (Ps 73:25). God shakes our lives in order to show what is unshakeable (Heb 12:25-29). Jesus told His followers: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt 7:24-25).
During seasons of adversity, because of sin, we are inclined to forget God’s goodness and despair. In Proverbs 30:7-10, the other thing that Agar asks of God is to not be too poor “lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Naomi, after losing her husband and two sons, told those around her, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Naomi means pleasant and Mara means bitter. Her adversity had left her bitter because she believed the Lord dealt bitterly with her.
If God were to leave us in endless adversity we would be ruined. Thankfully, God rescues us by bringing us into times of prosperity. Naomi was once again pleasant as the women said to her, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” (Ruth 4:14-15). James wrote: “as an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:10-11).
Unbeliever, once again I urge you to listen closely. God uses seasons of adversity to draw you to Jesus. Charles Spurgeon put it well:
This I am sure of, if the Lord takes the alternative not of giving you up, but of saving you, if he tries gentle means and they succeed not, he will turn to rougher methods; you shall be beaten with many stripes. The fire shall burn up your comforts, the moth and rust shall consume your treasures, the light of your eyes stall be taken from you at a stroke, your children shall die before your eyes; or, the partner of your bosom shall be laid in the grave, for by any means God will bring you in. He has determined to save you, and he will do it, let it cost what it may. He spared not his own Son to save you, and he will not spare yours.
Value of Constancy
In conclusion, Ecclesiastes 7, like the rest of the book, is a call for us to seek the Lord and find our contentment in Him alone. Seasons of prosperity and adversity are ordered by God to come upon you. In both, see the value of constancy. See God’s dependability and faithfulness on display and remain faithful throughout all the days of your life on earth.