to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice *
August 19, 2019 – Monday
Ecclesiastes 8:2-8 NIV
2 Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.
3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases.
4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.
7 Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?
8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
These eight verses contain the only two verses, two and five, with the word obey. Also in many versions these verses are set apart and have various titles or no title at all as seen here where the NIV has the title Obey the King, the CJB has no title but the verses are set apart (along with verse one), and the LEB with the title Wisdom is Valuable but only goes through verse six until a new title is inserted.
A quick point here, no titles for these sections were in the original. The translators have placed them there to ‘help’ us understand what has been written. Seeing the differences, I read a number of different versions ignoring the title help and let my desire for understanding lead me to grasp what is being said. Of course I often look to commentaries as well.
So let us look at verse five with the instruction to Obey the king’s command Solomon said because you took an oath before God. Why would The Preacher (translation of Ecclesiastes), Solomon say this? Perhaps because in times past Jewish royalty and leaders as well as the people would take oaths of loyalty to their kings. Examples are found at 2 Samuel 5:1-3, 2 Kings 11:17, and 1 Chronicles 29:24. Anyone who has served in the US military knows what it means to take such an oath. The Oath of Enlistment for Military Service states:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
The reference to the UCMJ states the orders must be lawful orders as discussed here.
What are we to do when commanded by those in authority to act contrary to scripture? Scripture provides an answer in Acts 4 when Peter and John were given an order by the Sanhedrin and the chief priests.
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Moving to verse five we read Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. Barne’s Notes on the Bible tells us
The meaning is, “He who obeys the commandment (i. e., the word of the king, Ecclesiastes 8:4), will not be an accomplice in any act of rebellion; and if he be a wise man he discerns (literally knows) that the king’s commandment or action is liable to correction, if it be wrong, in God’s time and by God’s judgment.”
Bottom line, we are instructed to obey the laws of those over us if they are lawful and are not contrary to God’s laws. We, in today’s modern times have to be careful not to become scofflaws when it comes to God’s laws or the laws of those over us. It is easy to begin with speed limit laws (my truly weak area) and expand from there. Even though Ecclesiastes is the sad story of a man in his old age who has flouted many of God’s laws, he wants us to know it is best to be obedient to both God and those over us.
May we learn to follow His laws and the laws of those over us as well as to be able to discern what is lawful and unlawful or contrary to God’s laws.
(to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)