Obstacles to Wisdom

23All this I tested by wisdom and I said, "I am determined to be wise"—but this was beyond me. 24Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound—who can discover it? 25So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.

26I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare.

27"Look," says the Teacher, "this is what I have discovered: Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things— 28while I was still searching but not finding—I found one [upright] man among a thousand, but not one [upright] woman among them all. 29This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes."

In the previous section, Solomon talked about the "crooked" things in life, things he did not understand. Solomon realized that God was in control even of the "crooked" things. He said: "Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what He has made crooked?" These "crooked" things in life that God has ordained made Solomon aware of the shortcomings of his own reasoning ability. Here he says: "All this I tested by wisdom and I said, ‘I am determined to be wise’—but this was beyond me. Whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound—who can discover it?" (vss. 23–24). But Solomon does not give up. For a philosopher to say that wisdom is "beyond" him is a grand admission of failure. So Solomon redoubles his effort to understand these things, to attain wisdom by his own reasonings: "So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly" (vs. 25). Solomon resolves to use every tool at his disposal: to "understand", to "investigate", to "search out".

In his renewed attempt to overcome the shortcomings of his wisdom, Solomon looks first at an obstacle to being wise: "I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare" (vs. 26). One of the biggest obstacles to wisdom is to fall into sexual sin. It blinds one’s heart and mind to truth. It turns one’s heart away from God, hardening it to the things of God. As Solomon points out, sexual sin is a "snare" and a "trap", not easily relinquishing its victim.

Now, in this area, Solomon would have done well to practice what he preached. Solomon stumbled into a state of sexual gluttony, of sorts, which led him away from the Lord and thus, away from true wisdom: "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done" (I Kings 11:1–6).

One of the best ways to avoid sexual sin is to cultivate a strong relationship with God, and to spend one’s time in service to God. Solomon intimates this: "The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare" (vs. 26).

Continuing in his redoubled effort to find true wisdom, Solomon deduces why men cannot by human endeavors achieve true wisdom: "‘Look,’ says the Teacher, ‘this is what I have discovered: Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things—while I was still searching but not finding—I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all. This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes’" (vss. 27–29). Solomon reflects on his search for wisdom, and the people he had personally met in his life. He remembers only "one upright man" among them, and no upright women. Note, Solomon is not here making a general statement concerning the morality of women. He is merely reflecting on his own life and the people he has met. Of them all, men and women, he remembers only one whom he could call "upright". In truth, there has been only one truly "upright man" in all of human history. This one upright man was also the most wise of all who walked the earth, because He perfectly put into practice the will of God. This man was, of course, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is a proof of the point that Solomon is trying to make here. Solomon has deduced that men cannot be truly wise because they have strayed from God and the righteousness of God. As Solomon notes: "This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes" (vs. 29). The woes of man, the troubles we face, the injustice we see day by day, can be traced to the fact that "men have gone in search of many schemes." They reject the righteousness and morality of God, and run from Him, though He "made mankind upright." The problems in the world, what is "crooked" in the world, are not due to "divine injustice", but to "human perverseness" [Hubbard, 178]. God has blessed men with the supreme reasoning abilities of all the creatures on earth, but rather than using this ability to glorify God, "men have gone in search of many schemes." "Created in the image of God, man has the ability to understand and harness the forces of God put into nature, but he doesn’t always use this ability in constructive ways" [Wiersbe, 93]. Unfortunately, men are very inventive in coming up with ways to sin, in figuring out ways to be destructive.

 

 

Home | Previous Article | Next Article | Back Issues | Contents | Complete Index | Mailing List

To contact us:

ssper@aol.com