4 Principles You Need to Interpret Difficult Scripture: Ecclesiastes 10
What does it look like to live wisely? When you don’t know what to do, go find a commandment of God, and say to yourself, “I can work on this in my life today.” We never outgrow God’s Word. At the end of the day, we are all to “fear God, and keep his commands.”
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WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
If you just read these words as they are, you’re going to read them literally or it’s all going to go over your head. So, in order to unlock meaning, we need context.
We need basic hermeneutic skills – that’s a fancy word that just means bible interpretation skills. Here are four basic interpretation principles for passages of scripture that are hard to interpret:
- Return to main themes – you can use the intro to the book of Ecclesiastes in your study notes to help with this.
- Look for repeating ideas – helps us to come back to the big picture
- Consider context & tone – if I don’t understand a passage, I might consider re-reading it in a different tone. (10:19 in this example – can be read ironically, with a wink)
- Zoom out – zoom way out to what you know is true, where else can I read to interpret the trickier passages.
In this passage, we’re thinking of authority structures in the world. The Teacher might be drawing his listeners back to the history of their government. “Eat, drink and be merry because money is the answer to everything” – that’s the way of the world. Yet, “Don’t revile the king” – you are going to have to live in the world, the way the world works. But you need to live uprightly amid that.
Cross Reference: Romans 13
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME?
I heard it said, “You should be known for what you are for.” When you look at suffering or problems or leadership in the world, yes we want to judge wisely, but we also want to ask the question, “How then should I live?” and “What does wise look like here?”
Wrapping Up the Book
As we wrap up Ecclesiastes, let’s head to the conclusion of the book - Chapter 12
(v 13): Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
Applying the Book of Ecclesiastes to Our Lives:
- Fear God. Live with a reverent sense of who God is. Worship him in his holiness.
- Keep His Commandments. When you don’t know what to do, go find a commandment of God and work on living it out.
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Nicole has spent twenty years serving the local church, first in student ministry (where she’s never lost her love of a great group game) and then leading start-ups of all kinds, from leadership development to capital campaigns. She now teaches and consults with churches and ministries to strengthen their stories and cut through confusion to discover the next right steps for success.