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[Kohelet 7 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 A good name [shem tov] is better than precious ointment; and the day of death [yom hamavet] than the day of one's birth.
The Name Christadelphian.-
It is not the name you may take, but the belief you entertain, and the things you say, and the actions you perform, that will determine the Divine estimate of you.
At the same time, names define things; things are known by their names, and wrong names would lead to the confusion of things. You would not like to be called a Mahometan, for example: nor a Roman Catholic: nor a Wesleyan: nor a Theosophist. Why? Because you object to the things signified by these titles.
You naturally wish to be known by a name that will identify you with that which you actually are and own to. In our day, the original apostolic faith is known as "Christadelphian," and the word itself expresses the relation which Christ declared arose out of obedient subjection to the faith. I cannot understand a man objecting to be known by that name unless he do not hold the apostolic faith, or unless he thinks the common run of "Christians" hold it, who do not; or unless he dislikes to be distinguished from his neighbours in the profession of the Apostolic faith, because of its practical inconvenience.
While the acceptance of a particular name is not a condition of fellowship, it might be that the reasons for objecting to it would be a bar to fellowship. No doubt the divisions among those professing to be Christadelphians interfere a little with its expressiveness. We have to put up with this as a temporary inconvenience, which will shortly be swallowed up, with a good many other evil things, by the revelation of the august Possessor of the name above every name.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1896.
Precious ointment was very pleasing and refreshing. It stands for all that is pleasant and enjoyable and luxurious. It speaks of comfort and honour and wealth.
But a good name -- a good character -- is much better. A good character, purified through trial and patience, is the sweet smelling savour of a costly sacrifice unto God.
"The day of death is better than the day of birth."
What a reversal of the world's views! But how irresistibly true when viewed in the light of the Scriptures! One is the beginning of trouble, trial, struggle, effort, warfare -- the other is the end of all these, the accomplishment, the deliverance, the victory. *
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning [bais evel], than to go to the house of feasting [bais mishteh]: for that is the end [sof] of all men [kol haAdam]; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow [Ka'as] is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart [lev] is made better.
How contrary to all our natural inclinations, but how clearly true when we have the wisdom and courage to face the real facts.
Are we not constantly exhorted to rejoice, and rejoice, and rejoice?
The strange and marvelous thing is that these two apparent opposites are both beautifully true, and it is the sorrow that engenders the rejoicing.
Paul, writing to the Romans of the wonderful workings of God's wisdom, speaks of the same deep truths, and borrows the very wording of Ecclesiastes when he says (8:20):
"The creation was made subject to VANITY, by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope."
We suffer with Christ (he says -- v. 17) that -- in order that -- we may be also glorified together.
And he says that the suffering -- the sorrow -- the light affliction which is but for a moment -- worketh for us an eternal weight of glory.
Paul uses the same strange and beautiful paradox to describe his own condition and course through this evil world (2 Cor. 6: 10):
"As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
Here is how the sorrow is related to the rejoicing. Here is why in this present dispensation of probation, sorrow is better than laughter.
It is more wholesome. It is more sound. It is more constructive -- more purifying -- infinitely more powerful for the development of calmness and peace and kindness and sympathy and love. So the Koheleth continues:
"By the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better."
-- and out of the heart are all the issues of life.
Can we not, even now, even in our own limited experience of the reality of life -- can we not of ourselves perceive the deep truth of the principle that "Sorrow is better than laughter?"
Therefore, the heart of the wise chooses to dwell in the sobering influence of the house of mourning, but the heart of thoughtless fools is in the emptiness and shallowness and giddiness of the house of mirth. *
4 The heart of the wise [lev of chachamim] is in the house of mourning [bais evel]; but the heart of fools [lev of kesilim] is in the house of mirth [bais simchah].
There was no humour in the life of our Great Example, and his life was perfect in the sight of God. He was a man of sorrows and deep, intimate acquaintance with grief. With the knowledge and discernment and spiritual depth of sympathy and fellowfeeling that he possessed, it would be impossible to be otherwise than sorrowful in a world like this.
Nothing would have been more jarringly out of place, or more destructive of the power of his influence for good, than shallow, jangling humour. His mission was to those who had bitterly experienced the sorrow and tragedy of life. With them he had a fellowfeeling born of the same experiences. And to them he said-
"Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."
"Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."
A mutual sorrow is a far stronger bond of affection than a mutual pleasure, and the consolation of the mutual communion that is born of sorrow is often adequate compensation for it-
"By the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better" (Ecc. 7:3).
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psa. 30:5).
Bro Growcott - Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter
6 For as is the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the kesil [fool]; this also is hevel [vanity].
Paul gives us much to think about when he speaks of foolish talking and jesting as incompatible with holiness. Not because such things are purposely sinful, but they are fleshly and animal, outside the narrow and exalted scope of the sanctification of holiness, and therefore corrupt and unclean. He couples them in equal condemnation with what natural man considers much graver sins (Eph. 5:3-4)-
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you";
"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting."
It is prostitution of the mind to the panderings of the flesh, and the mind is more important than the body.
It has been pointed out that the one great and remarkable omission from the Bible as the portrayal of humanity is the complete absence of humour. It has no place there. There is joy, and laughter, and happiness, and rejoicing, and merriness (in its true sense), and lightheartedness (in its true sense), and good fellowship. But no humour-
"As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool"
-no warmth, no lasting light: a brief flash, a harsh, grating sound, then cold black ashes.
This fact (the absence of humour), with Paul's and other inspired writers' remarks upon the same subject, is matter for deep thought for those who aspire to the holy reverence of sainthood.
...Life isn't funny. We realize this when we face its realities - when we consider its hospitals and asylums; its lonely, cheerless homes for the cast-off aged, sitting around waiting to die; its unnumbered hosts of blind and crippled and suffering and bereaved; its multitude of pitiful, frightened, malformed unwanted children, twisted in mind and body; its endless, hopeless, plodding, stumbling parade toward the inevitable last common receptacle of all mortal flesh.
Who can joke and jest if they keep a full and sober realization of these things before their minds?
Life is no joke: it is grimly tragic. But still even amid its tragedy it can be happy and joyful with the quiet happiness of the assurance of the goodness of God, and the knowledge that all this will pass away and be forgotten when it has at last served its divine purpose, and the tried and perfected family of God is complete.
Bro Growcott - Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days [yamim harishonim] were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
Solomon deprecates another illusion which has its roots in the general disease from which we suffer... It seems it is an old habit to consider past times the best. The cause of it is obvious on reflection. It does not lie in the nature of the times; for in this there is no change. There is the same sky all the time, the same shining sun, the beneficent sequence of the seasons, the same beautiful earth with all its bounteous store for man and beast. Yet as a matter of experience, it does seem after a while with every one as if things were not quite so nice as they used to be. Why is this? There is a change somewhere. Where is it? Not in the things around us, but in ourselves.
In the youthful days there is greater vigour of faculty, greater intensity of feeling, greater clearness of physical perception of all kinds; therefore greater susceptibility to joy or sorrow. As we get older, ardour dulls down, and nothing has the zest it had to our young faculties. The times seem to change; the former days begin to look in the retrospect as if they were better than the present. But it is a mere appearance.
To take the appearance for the reality is not a wise conclusion. To enquire wisely concerning this is to direct attention to ourselves: look within: note the fact that we are as the flowers: we have a seed time, a budding time, a blooming time, a withering time, ending in decay and death.
Exhortation by Brother Roberts - 'life in its true perspective'.
16 Be not righteous over much [ Do not be over much the tzaddik] ; neither make thyself over wise [chacham]: why shouldest thou destroy thyself [why cause thyself desolation]?
Now, there is a place for the advice of Solomon: - Be not righteous overmuch." It is not a large place but still it is there. Where we are earnestly exhorted hundreds of times to follow after righteousness, we are only once told to - be not righteous overmuch." This shows the danger of being righteous overmuch is not great, while the danger of neglecting righteousness is very great. Still, the danger of being righteous overmuch does exist for some, and, therefore, there is a time to look at it.
I have known cases - not many - where this danger has shown itself. I have known of too much reading and not enough walking; too much praying and not enough living; too much faith and not enough works; too much Bible and not enough of the other works of God; too much mortifying of the flesh and not enough personal cleanliness, and personal health and personal joy and thanksgiving to Him who has made all things - to be received with thankfulness of them that believe and know the Truth."
The liability to these extremes is distinctly due to the necessity that exists for pushing hard in right directions; but wisdom will enable us to do this hard pushing without carrying things right over the top of the hill There is an equilibrium with all things that is beautiful. It is hard to get at, but it is possible.
Extremes are to be avoided in everything. They tend to destruction. All giving and no getting, all waking and no sleeping; all working and no resting. All study and no eating; all talk and no doing; will tend to emptiness and death, though all of them are right and healthful in their own place. Wisdom is a nice balance of many things; and children of wisdom will aim at this balance. The world is all out of balance one way, there is a possibility of being out of balance in the other. If we obey all the commandments God has given us, we will never be out of balance, but for everything find a time and a place - except for disobedience of God. There is never a time for this. The disobedience of God is wickedness.
Some people think that when Solomon said, -Be not overmuch wicked," he implied that the children of God might be wicked a little. Never. He is not speaking to the righteous in that saying, but to the wicked. You will see that, if you turn to the verse before. He introduces the case of the righteous and the wicked, and he has a word of advice to each. His advice to the righteous is not to carry it too far, because even righteousness carried too far will tend to destruction. His advice to the wicked is a little the same but in a different line of things.
The wicked have to die, but Solomon says they may die 'before their time' if they don't take things in moderation. If it be asked, what had he to do in giving advice to the wicked, we have to remember that he was 'King in Jerusalem,' and wrote for the instruction of the whole nation, of whom the greater part were wicked. That there should be a word for them as an actual element in the situation was according to wisdom.
Bro Roberts - THEMES OF BIBLE PROVE GOD-INSPIRED
19 Wisdom [Chochmah] strengtheneth the wise [chacham] more than ten mighty men [ asarah shalitim (ten rulers)] which are in the city.
We must not worry about criticism, or be deterred by it, or be afraid of it. But we must be deeply concerned about it, and consider it all very carefully. Our critics are often our best friends: there is always SOME truth in every criticism, however distorted or unfair.
We must thankfully extract the truth, and benefit by it, and discard the residue with compassion and without bitterness. If we are wise, the criticisms of our adversaries can be stepping-stones to the Kingdom, and God's way of opening our eyes to many blindnesses our friends hesitate to mention.