When six-year-old Calvin (of the Calvin and Hobbes comic) protests the injustice that he has to go to bed earlier than his parents, his father comments that the world is unfair. “I know,” says Calvin, “but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?” Not only is life unfair, but we all are born with an authority problem. We don’t like to be told what to do. It doesn’t help that we have a fallen, twisted authority. Everyone in authority is flawed. So, we need discernment, wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 6:12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? God knows. And Solomon has been addressing the question for a couple of chapters.
Proposition: Sometimes, rebellious people are in authority. How can I remain poised under this kind of pressure? How can I know what is good? This entire passage is an appeal for discernment because the world is broken and fallen. And Satan is at work in it, filling it with moral anarchy. And there’s truckloads of information (much of it bad) to sift through and decisions that are made in light of it. Chapter summary: Honor the King. Fear God. Enjoy your life.
Definition: Discernment is not just the ability to judge motives. Discernment is not just knowing the difference between right and wrong; it’s knowing the difference between right and almost right. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best (Sinclair Ferguson). The goal is “not to simply avoid the evil in this life” but “to learn what is good so that we might embrace and enjoy it.” Find the good that’s often hidden within the world’s brokenness.
Conclusion: With all this, you can end up simmering at life more than savoring the gifts of life. We live in an imperfect world, we are imperfect people, we have an imperfect government -- everybody does -- but, there is a perfect God. Who works out His strange but inscrutable will behind the scenes. And though things aren't perfect, God is working. Be assured of that. Savor more, simmer less.
Quotation: In 1 Kings 3, when the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him to name whatever he desired, Solomon pleased God by asking for the spirit of discernment. Solomon’s words were “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong…” (1 Kings 3:9). How should the wise person respond to the inequities and injustices in this world? Wisdom helps us understand people and situations. It helps us to figure out the right thing to do at the right time. Solomon says that we need to think things through. Government touches all of our lives. Another Ism. Nationalism. Government can’t fix hevel - futility. Government is hevel. That’s where he begins but he touches a number of scenarios where discernment is needed.
Discernment in life’s authority structures (2-4).
Discernment in intimidating circumstances (5-7)
Discernment when the unjust triumph (9-13)
Discernement dealing with unfair consequences (14)
Discernment in life’s joys (15—17)
Invitation: So, realize we live in an imperfect world, imperfect government, make the best with what you have and realize God is working behind the scenes. All the while I hope it causes you to yearn for another kingdom. Is Jesus Christ your King? Are you part of His kingdom? Does He rule and reign your life? Does He call the shots? Then, if so, realize this is just temporary. There is something far better that is eternal. If Jesus Christ is not governing your life, it's time to give Him permission to do that. Is He your king? Are you His servant? The value of a learned submission!
“What are you doing?” (v.4) Are you facing something right now that requires discernment? How does this decision fit with the overall direction and calling of God on your life? Does it bring inner peace and freedom? Does Scripture address your decision? Would Jesus partner with you in it? Will this grow you spiritually? Does this choice reflect what is eternal and permanent? How does it fit with the community you’re in?
Verse 12: I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him.