Things You Cannot Do, Ecc 1:12-18

In Ecc 1:12-18 we read about three things things you cannot do under the sun.  Solomon discovered these by seeking and searching out “by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven”.  He gave his heart to know wisdom.  His heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.  He vexed his spirit with this exercise.  To wit, what he learned aggravated, exasperated, troubled, and distressed him.

After he had gotten more wisdom than all they that had been before him in Jerusalem, he communed with his own heart.  In other words, he talked these things over with himself.  And he wrote down his conclusions for us to read and know.

He observed that there are three things you cannot do down here.  Under heaven, you cannot make a crooked thing straight, you cannot number that which is wanting, and you cannot increase knowledge and wisdom without increasing sorrow.

You Cannot Make A Crooked Thing Straight

If God made it crooked, he is the only one who can straighten it, Ecc 7:13.  Mesquite trees have always grown crooked and they always will.  That’s the way God made them.  When you see rivers from the air, you see how crooked they run.  When Jesus returns, he will make the crooked things that need straightening straight, Is 40:4.  But then he is not under heaven; heaven is under him.

One preacher said that the reason the world is so crooked is that the god of this world is crooked, Is 27:1.  His influence was seen in Israel.  In Deut 32:5, in the song of Moses, God said, “they are a perverse and crooked generation”.  To this day, they haven’t straightened out.

Paul instructed us in Phil 2:15 to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world”.  No matter how bright the light of Christians has shone, the nations in which we have shined have continued to be crooked.

No matter how hard people try and how much money they spend, they will never straighten out this crooked world or any crooked nation in the world.  Solomon has helped us to realize that men cannot straighten out crooked under heaven.  Men will never succeed to make the world a better place.  If anything, this crooked world has made some Christians crooked.

Some people try to put a guilt trip on Christians around election time.  They say that if all Christians vote, then good conservative representatives will win.  I hope they do.  However, we’re expecting an awful lot from newly elected representatives if we expect them to fix what has never been fixed and what Solomon said cannot be made straight. The only one who can straighten out crooked is not under heaven right now.  He’s in heaven.  He’ll make the crooked straight when he returns.

In the meantime, we should preach and teach the Bible.  Like Jesus, it’s not from under heaven, either.  And so, it can make a crooked man straight, like nothing else in the entire world can do.

You Cannot Number That Which Is Wanting

There is this pervasive idea that men and countries cooperating together can eliminate hunger or poverty, for example.  But Jesus said, “ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good”, Mk 14:7.  The poor are still here and they will be here till Jesus comes.  Haven’t you read about the poor and needy Tribulation saints in Psalms?

Certain regions of the world open up to the gospel through humanitarian and medical missions.  That’s because there are still places without adequate water and medical care.  No matter how many teams are sent out by NGO’s, there will always be places wanting water and people wanting medical help.

The homeless still want for houses, starving children still want for food, orphans still want for fathers, countries still want for statesmen, the infirm still want for healing, the poor still want for money, and the lost still want for salvation.  There are more people in the world without Jesus than there are with Jesus.  And the world is still wanting for more missionaries.

You Cannot Increase Wisdom and Knowledge Without Grief and Sorrow

The wisest man that ever lived in Jerusalem was a pessimist.  The more he learned the more his spirit was vexed.  The wisest man ever to live on this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”, Is 53:3.

There are various reasons for grief and sorrow with the increase of earthly wisdom and knowledge.  Here are some:

  • The wise man dies as the fool, Ecc 2:15-16.  In other words, his wisdom does nothing, at all, to alleviate his problem with death.
  • The generation following us will forget the wisdom of the wise men, Ecc 2:16.  In other words, our wisdom doesn’t improve the state of the next generation.  For example, there are more books now than ever on how to have a happy marriage.  And the divorce rate is still rising.
  • The man who labors in wisdom and knowledge to accumulate wealth must one day leave what he has done to someone who has not labored to accumulate it, Ecc 2:17-21.

Imagine a “scientist” or philosopher spending his life working to prove the evolutionary theory.  He finishes his life’s work only to find that he has failed and been dead wrong his entire life.  Or how about a scholar investing years in the study of languages to better understand the Bible, only to find, at the end of his life, that God had given him his perfect word in English.

Then there is a person who gives himself to make the world a better place only to find that the world is worse at the end of his life than it was when he began. Or how about a peace corps worker dedicating himself to the goal of world peace, which the world has never had and never will have till Jesus comes.  All of this is vanity and vexation of spirit, Solomon said.

Conclusion: If you want wisdom that doesn’t vex your spirit, you’re going to have to look above your head.  The divine wisdom of God, about which Solomon wrote throughout Proverbs, which Paul preached in 1 Cor 1-3, and which James described in Jas 3:17-18 is what you need.  Invest your time in God’s wisdom.  It’s treasures are substantial and it’s riches are durable, Prov 8:17-21.  Wisdom’s fruit is better than gold.

To study the prior lesson in this series, see Life Lessons.  To study the next lesson in this series, see What Was That Good.