Saturday, July 23, 2022

Flies and Ointment

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The old adage about a fly in the ointment probably has its source in our text today. Somethings just don’t mix, but this idea goes far beyond just not mixing. It takes us to the ruinous contamination of the ointment. A healing ointment is thoroughly compromised by a germ-laden insect, and no one would ever want to use it once it’s been contaminated. When mixing an ointment, even ancient apothecarists made sure their mixes of ointment ingredients were pure and uncompromised.

This is an extreme case of a fly being where it should never be. The ointment is ruined, and the whole idea becomes an example of an oxymoron. It just should never happen. This tenth chapter of Ecclesiastes continues with a number of opposites that simply don’t mix, and certainly should not be found together in the personality traits of a single individual. But it you do find such a person, God’s discernment in you raise a red flag, for this is a compromised person.

Some will claim that believers judge others. But to judge, one must be able to condemn, and that is not authorized for us. Even when we discern that a person is the enemy of Christ (or us), we are encouraged to love them, even giving them a drink if they’re thirsty, or to feed them if hungry. Allow God to do the judging and condemning, for He is fair and just. Let our witness to others be loving and civil, like the Semaritan who took care of someone who generally would not have anything to do with him.

“Discernment of spirits” is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If any lack discernment, it is a powerful gift, given to any who ask the Lord for it. In our dealings with others, discernment can reveal a person who is not good for us, OR a person who will strengthen us in our relationship with Jesus.

Discernment is a key element of wisdom, something for which Solomon was noted.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” ~ James 1:5

Today's Audio Message:
Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 - "Flies and Ointment"


In Ecclesiastes Chapter 10, Solomon records a number of short proverbs that are similar to those written in His Book of Proverbs. In the first verses (1-7), Solomon illustrates how a little folly can destroy the reputation of a good man.

Verse 1 - So, what’s the relation between dead flies in perfume and folly in a wise man?

Well, think about perfume. It smells nice. That’s why it exists. That’s why people make it and buy it. It smells good.

And then think about dead flies. Now, I don’t think I’ve ever smelled the smell of dead flies. But I’ve heard it’s a pretty awful smell. And yet, flies are so small. How could something so small invade something that smells so good and exists solely to smell good and turn it into something that smells awful? The flies utterly ruin the perfume!

That’s exactly what happens when foolishness enters into a man who’s known for his wisdom and honor. It only takes a little foolishness. His reputation may be impeccable. But just let a little foolishness enter him and be displayed by him – and all of a sudden, what he was renowned for is ruined.

Then in verse 2, Solomon describes the difference between the right and left hand, the difference between a wise man’s heart and a fool. Pastor Bob encourages us to do a word study on the “right hand” in scripture. You will find that the “right hand” symbolizes strength, rulership, authority, blessing and sovereignty. The Scripture has several words translated "right" and the usage of the term, "right hand" ranges from a direction, to the opposite of wrong, what is just or what conforms to an established standard, and to a place of honor or authority. In the case of division or appointment in the Bible, the right hand or right side came first, as when Israel (Jacob) divided the blessings to Joseph’s sons before he died (Genesis 48:13-14). There are many references to the strong and righteous right hand of the Lord. Also note that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.

Verse 3 speaks of a man who professes to be wise but, in the end, his wisdom fails him. Paul wrote in Romans 1:22, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”   A fool cannot hide his nature., at some point everyone will be able to see him for what he truly is.   He exposes himself by his manner, his speech, and his actions. It's kind of a humorous picture, a guy walking around telling everyone what a fool he is.  How many of them walk the halls of higher institutions of learning? They became fools, rejecting he light of God’s knowledge, contriving lies (see Romans 1:23).

In verse 4, the word “yielding” is commonly translated “remedy” or “healing.” Also, “pacifieth” means “let alone,” and “offences” is usually translated “sins.” Solomon’s advice here is not to run away after committing such an offense, but offer a reasonable explanation of the action. Respect those in authority over you. The scripture teaches us to obey the law of God, to be obedient to magistrates.

Verses 5-7 point to another situation which Solomon found to be evil. Wicked rulers have their own agendas, normalizing and giving high regard to what God has said is sin. Those parading in the streets celebrating that which is abominable to God.

Verses 8-9 illustrate those who plan evil may have come right back at them. A great example of this would be Haman of Persia, who ended up hanging on the gallows which he had constructed for his enemy Mordecai (Esther 5:14; 7:10).

Verse 10 - If you burn wood in winter, you are familiar with using an axe. A blunt axe will not chop wood, it will simply wear you out if you persist on trying. It is ineffective, a waste of time and energy. There is simply no benefit to this. You cannot complete your work, and in the end is pointless. This illustration is intended to show the foolishness of self-appointed teachers attempting to teach the Scriptures when they have neglected first to sharpen their own knowledge. (2 Timothy 2:15).

The next four verses (11-14) deal with the careless use of the tongue. Just as a venomous snake will bite unless a snake charmer controls it, so “a babbler is no better” (verse 11). Blah, blah, blah! An endless stream of talk is careless and can be as deadly as a serpent's bite. As James says, “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

A wise man will allow the Holy Spirit to tame his tongue, to measure his words carefully, to speak words of wisdom and truth. Christians are exhorted to “let your speech be always seasoned with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye out to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). 
Remember, Jesus said that “every idol word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).

The last few verses (15-20) deal with the foolish man. He is full of self-promoting words yet doesn’t know how “to go to the city” (vs. 15). In other words, who would want to listen to a fool? If the fool cannot even find the town to work, how can he expect to find God? Are you going to let such a one advise you on what’s to come in the future? All of his worldly ideology, his theories, his vain philosophies or religious repetitions does not make him a wise man.

In verse 16, the idea here is that the king is childish or naive, or unprepared for his duties and is therefore irresponsible. How evident is this today? When the leader of a nation spends their time and energy with self-indulgence, the nation is in great peril. (See also: Isaiah 3:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4; and Jeremiah 21:12).

Therefore (vs 17), it is good to have rulers who are ready for the job, those who are noble, self-controlled, mature, wise and balanced.

Verse 18 - this is another instance of the great detriment that foolish rulers bring upon their nation. The picture is one of a house, and sometimes in Scripture a nation is described as such. If your lazy, your house will decay, the roof will sag, and leak until it collapses. Laziness and idleness will weaken a nation. The very thing protecting from harm will weaken, break down, and leave everyone in harm's way. This is true of all those harmful elements allowed into society, to seem as normal and good, yet it is rotten and decays.

In vs 19, deals with the mindset of such rulers, they are self-indulgent. They are only concerned with lining their own pockets. Whatever the problem, just throw money at it, after all that will make everything better…NOT! Money will not solve the world’s problems! This is becoming a reality in a world today. With the rising cost of living, and in spite of the continuous printing of money, the problems continue to get worse.

Verse 20 - it is easy to be critical of our leaders, especially bad leaders. BUT be careful not to speak -or even think evil of your rulers. Romans 13:1 tells us they have been ordained of God. He sets up rulers, and He takes them down. More importantly, there is one King, above every king who is cursed by this world regularly. Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit, don’t blaspheme the name of the Lord, don’t use His name in vain…in so doing there are eternal consequences. Only the foolish are unaware of coming judgment.

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