A Study of Ecclesiastes 8:3
“Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.”
The Wise Man (Ecclesiastes 8:1-7, Romans 9:16, Jeremiah 6:14, Jeremiah 8:11, Genesis 22:17-18)
If we have to discuss the negative side of “not standing in the evil thing”, then it stands to reason that we must also discuss the positive side “The good thing in which we have to take a stand”.
To begin our study, let us read the first seven verses of Ecclesiastes 8 so that we can review the context of Ecclesiastes 8:3.
The beginning of Ecclesiastes 8 tells us about “The Wise Man”, which refers to any person who has been saved. God gives His wisdom to everyone who has been saved, so that we can discern between good and evil, and so that we can remain faithful by His grace. But we need to remember that it is God who does the saving, and thus it is God who decides to whom He will give this wisdom to. God states this very clearly in Romans 9:16, where He says, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
His salvation and His wisdom are gifts of God’s grace. These are free gifts. We can ask for these gifts, but God will not give it to everyone who asks, for there are some who worship other gods, and God will not give them the precious pearls of the Gospel for He says so in Matthew 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 8:1-7.
Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?
Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.
Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?
What is this passage leading us into?
From the words, “the king’s commandment”, and “the oath of God”, and “he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him”, and “who may say unto him, What doest thou?”, and “the misery of man is great upon him” we sense that this passage speaks to us about the sovereignty of God, and that God does what He will in the kingdom of men. This is not a popular topic for sermons these days, for we are living near the end of time which means that most people have already fallen away and are not willing to listen to sermons about the true God of the Bible. They would rather listen to teachers that preach to them “peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14, Jeremiah 8:11).
But the true God of the Bible is sovereign, which means that God does in this world whatever He pleases, which may not be the things that we want from Him. God says in Daniel 4:35, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
We have seen that the wise man refers to someone who is saved, and the wise man knows the interpretation of the Word of God because God has given him wisdom. This man’s wisdom makes his face to shine, so that the presence of God in his heart, and the love of God that is shed abroad in his heart are visible to all the saints. The boldness of his face, or better the strength of his face, shall be changed from that of an enemy of God, like Saul of Tarsus, to that of a friend of God, like the apostle Paul. This change refers to the change that God the Holy Spirit works in our heart to make us born again. But this change not only involves the washing of our sins, but also the application of the process that Christ already paid for, namely that we were crucified with Him, and that we died with Him, and that we were raised with Him, so that we now can be His Bride, the Bride of Christ, and that He lives within our soul. Just imagine, the mighty power of God caused this great miracle in our soul of becoming Born Again. We have nothing to do with God’s decision whom He wants to save. We can pray for it, but our prayer will only be heard if He knows us, and if it was God’s plan to save us.
In Ecclesiastes 8:2 the King refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. The King’s commandment is literally the King’s Word, or better, the King’s Mouth. The oath of God refers to the oath God made in Genesis 22:17-18, where God made an oath to Abraham after Abraham tried to offer his son Isaac, the son whom he loved. We read in Genesis 22:17-18,
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy Seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
God vowed an oath here to Abraham that Christ, who is the Seed of Abraham, and all those who are in Christ, shall receive the grace and love of God and shall be a blessing throughout the earth through their evangelism.
Worshipping Idols (Ecclesiastes 8:3, 2 Peter 1:21, Romans 9:11-13)
Let us now focus on Ecclesiastes 8:3, and see what God is telling us here.
Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
The literal translation from the Hebrew text renders it a little differently. Literally: “Do not be hasty to go from His presence. Do not take a stand in an evil thing; for He does all that He pleases.”
Who is in view here?
Obviously it is God in Christ that this verse is referring to. Paraphrased the first half of Ecclesiastes 8:3 says, “Do not be hasty to go from His presence into the world and into the things of the world. Do not stubbornly take a stand in an evil matter, even if you do not understand it, for God does whatever He pleases.”
You are never out of His sight. Your sin is never hidden from God, and the righteousness of God requires that for every sin must be paid the penalty that was determined for it. No one gets away with anything. Therefore, do not be hasty to go from His presence. Before we go any further, let us watch out for the subtle connections in this sentence, for this is God’s Word. In the second half of Ecclesiastes 8:3 we see the word “for”.
What is the word “for” there for?
What is the connection?
Why the warning, “Do not take a stand in an evil thing” if it is connected with the warning, “for He does whatever He pleases”?
And then we realize that God is warning us for this particular sin that is connected to His sovereignty.
What is that sin, for it is a very evil thing?
It is the sin of not giving God all the honor and the glory in everything He does; it is the sin of neglecting the sovereignty of God; it is the sin of not willing to believe that “He doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him.”
In fact, look at the beginning of Ecclesiastes 8:3, where God says, “Do not be hasty to go from His presence,” for if you stand in the evil thing of not believing His sovereignty you have in fact left His presence, and you have in fact gone to worship idols which are not the God of the Bible.
For many this is a hard concept to swallow. I have said many times that modern man does not make idols of wood and stone any more, but the idols modern man makes are the false gods he creates in his mind, and the idols that he cherishes in his heart.
God says in 2 Peter 1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Therefore all the words in the Bible were put down by holy men of God who were moved by God the Holy Spirit. Here is the principle: God dictated these words that we find in the Bible to the holy men of God. Therefore it would not be possible for anyone to find contradictions in the Bible, for if we do find contradictions we would in fact declare that God is a liar in one of the two places in the Bible. And so, if we now turn to one of the most hated passages of the Bible, Romans 9, we have to declare that these words are true and trustworthy, for God dictated these words to the prophets of old. God tells us in Romans 9:11-13,
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;
It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
These words are hated by most of mankind, for here God declares that we do not have a free will to choose or to reject Christ. We do not make this decision. But this is what God delights to do with His salvation plan. This shows us the bare bones of the sovereignty of God. This is God’s plan how He intends to save only a fraction of mankind. This is the Gospel of the Bible; this is the Good News of the Bible. This is what brings all the honor and glory to God, for He alone is the king-maker. God tells us here in Ecclesiastes 8:3 that it is a very evil thing to doubt the sovereignty of God, “for He does whatever He pleases.” Even if we do not understand the sovereignty of God we should believe it with all our heart, for God declares it to be so.
“Do not take a stand in an evil thing.”
And what is the evil thing?
People who do not believe God’s words in Romans 9 are setting themselves up to deny that God hated Esau, but that God loved Esau less than He loved Jacob. But that is not what the Greek text says. And if we change the words of the Greek text we are really saying that we prefer another bible, and we prefer a god who is described therein as a more loving god who does not hate anyone. But then we have set ourselves to worship a god of our own making, but he is not the God of the Bible.
Can you see that today there are many who worship other gods, but they are not worshipping the true God who is described here as the God of the Bible?
More Idolatry (Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 1:4, Matthew 1:21, John 6:44, Philippians 1:6, Revelation 19:13, Revelation 22:18-19)
There are hundreds of verses which support the fact that salvation is by God’s free, sovereign, elective grace in Christ Jesus. This is exactly how God arranged His salvation plan, for this is how He receives the honor and the glory for all that He does. But the heresy of the free will gospel lives on because by nature people are drawn to evil rather than good.
When we look at Ecclesiastes 8:3, and many more verses in Ecclesiastes, we see that this verse has been written especially for our times when so many of the mainline denominations have fallen away into the free-will gospel.
Their first argument is to declare that Christ has suffered for the sins of everyone in the whole world, including the sins of people in ancient times who could not have known Christ or the God of the Bible, for they lived and died in a Christ-less universe. Then their second argument is that only those who accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour will receive the forgiveness of sins that Christ paid for on the cross. All others will go to Hell for their unbelief. These deceived people make themselves the king-maker. The problem is that then Hell would be filled with people for whom Christ died, and this would make Christ a frustrated and very unsuccessful Saviour.
But Christ is God, and God will not do anything that is unsuccessful. And for this reason the entire scheme of universal atonement falls apart at the seams because these people will not have this God of the Bible rule over them. They show their rebellion in concocting another god and another gospel that brings glory to man, and that keeps man’s free will intact. But when we apply Revelation 19:13 and Revelation 22:18-19 God declares that they are worshipping another god, who is not the God of the Bible. What they are doing is just as abominable as worshipping a graven image. And please note: idolatry is the sin which God hates most.
An Evil Thing and a Good Thing (Ecclesiastes 8:3, Romans 9:15-18, Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 9:20-21)
Do not be hasty to go from His presence. Do not take a stand in an evil thing; for He does all that He pleases.
Paraphrased we can say, “Do not be hasty to leave the presence of this God of the Bible who shows Himself as the sovereign God of the universe. Do not be hasty to abandon the things which the Bible declares as truth, and accept even those things that you do not like, for these words are directly from God. Therefore, do not take a stand in a gospel that is in conflict with the Bible, for that is taking a stand in an evil thing. Instead, take a stand in a Gospel that agrees 100% with what the Bible declares, for this is a good thing, for God does all that He pleases to do.”
God will save whom He wants to save. We have no say in this matter. For example, while we are here in Romans 9, let also read Romans 9:15-18, where God says,
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
These are harsh words to Pharaoh. But God clearly shows us here who is in charge. Man is not in charge, but God is in charge, for He doeth all that He pleases to do. And all those whom God passes by, who are like Esau having a wicked and unrepentant heart, to all them God says, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Romans 9:17).
What then is God’s purpose for raising them up?
We do not have all the answers to this question. All we can say is, “I believe You, Lord, for You have written it in the Bible, and Your Word will stand forever.”
Then we have taken a stand in a good thing, for it is a good thing to hold high the honor of our God; it is a good thing to hold high the truth of the Bible; it is a good thing to give God all the glory of saving us; it is a good thing to believe that He will do all that He pleases to do. Let us cross out ourselves, for we cannot understand everything that God does. God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
But the unsaved of this world are not satisfied with this answer. They continue to question God about His motives. But in the words of Romans 9:20-21 God warns them,
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Therefore, “Do not take a stand in an evil thing; for He does whatever He pleases” (Ecclesiastes 8:3).
Do not stubbornly hold on to your idea of the sovereignty of man, for that is a very evil thing. God will not share His glory with another. God will take all the credit for saving His remnant chosen by grace, and no one else is allowed to share this credit with God, for He does whatever He pleases.
More of a Good Thing (Isaiah 40:15-17, Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 43:3-4, Isaiah 44:6-7, Isaiah 45:4-7, Isaiah 46:9-11, Isaiah 48:8-11, Isaiah 49:15-16)
Please turn now to the prophecy of Isaiah, the prince of the Old Testament prophets, for Isaiah understood very well the things that we are now talking about. Let us begin with Isaiah 40:15-17. All the clamor and the objections of those who do not like the God of the Bible, and who have made themselves other gods in their mind by eliminating from the Bible those passages they do not like, they all have to be silent when they read this. God tells them here that totally depraved man is unworthy in His sight.
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
Can you see that Satan is not the victor in the end of time?
Satan shall hold a bag of worthless trinkets. The unsaved nations of the world are in rebellion against God, but God shall have the last word. And when God shall cast them into Hell to Him it shall be as if He blows the small dust off a balance.
Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
Jehovah God has called the generations from the beginning. When mankind increased in sinfulness through unequally yoked marriages, God was in control, for it was God’s plan that Noah and his household should begin a new generation and repopulate the earth. Move on to the next chapter. We read in Isaiah 42:8,
I am Jehovah: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
God declares that He holds His glory high, and He does not share His glory with someone else. No one should claim that he has been saved because he made such a good decision to follow Jesus. God declares in Ephesians 2:9, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
We read in Isaiah 43:3-4 of His great love for His elect:
For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
It is amazing to me that God will go to the extent of giving up unsaved people for the purpose of saving the remnant chosen by grace. But that is how much He loves us. Do not stop there, for God declares in Isaiah 44:6-7 His sovereignty even for those days in which He was unknown to most people on this earth.
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
God declares whom He shall call into life and whom He shall call unto salvation. He appointed the ancient people who lived and died before Christ came, even those before God appeared unto Abraham. God declared the things that are coming and shall come, for He causes them to occur. We read in Isaiah 45:4-7,
For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
God states here His sovereignty and His providence by declaring that He has called each one of us by name before we have known Him, and He declares that He is the cause of both light and darkness, and He is the cause of both peace and war; He does all these things that we see in the history of man. And when we see the word “evil” we must remember that this does not refer to sin, but to calamities like war, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and typhoons. We read in Isaiah 46:9-11,
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
Here again God tells us that He declares the end from the beginning. He knows the end from the beginning, not only because He is omniscient, but because He will do it; He will do all His pleasure. And notice the words of verse 11, “yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” God even calls the heathen king Cyrus to execute the counsel of God. Do not stop there, for we read in Isaiah 48:8-11,
Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.
For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
Can you see that God values His glory very high?
We started this series of quotations from Isaiah with the words, “my glory will I not give to another” and now we have come full circle with the words of Isaiah 48:11, “I will not give my glory unto another.”
But listen now to the Good News, the blessed promise of Isaiah 49:15-16,
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
“I will not forget thee; thy walls of protection are continually before Me. On the cross I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands.” We are continually amazed of the loving kindness of the Lord for His elect children, and for the care and protection with which He surrounds us. Almighty God has surrounded us with His power. And when we believe this “we have taken a stand in a good thing.”
Take a Stand in a Good Thing (Daniel 4:34-35, Philippians 2:10-11, James 5:16, Ecclesiastes 8:3)
It is not only in the prophecy of Isaiah that we read about the amazing sovereignty of God and of the amazing providence that God displays before men, but we find these truths all throughout the Bible. It is amazing to me that there are people who will doubt that all this can be true and trustworthy. These facts are so abundant throughout the Bible that you cannot miss them. And yet, during the last days just before the end of time most people will be spiritually blind; they are not willing to recognize the almighty power and grace of God who saves people alone by His omnipotent will. But God squeezed even out of wicked king Nebuchadnezzar a confession of the greatness of our God.
And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation:
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?
Can you see that God requires this confession from everyone of mankind?
Even Nebuchadnezzar, who is a figure of Satan and of Antichrist had to confess the sovereignty of God.
If God required from Satan that he humbles himself and makes him admit that Almighty God rules according to His own will in the army of heaven and in the kingdom of men, then does it not follow that even the people on earth would also be required to honor God to that extent?
Therefore God says in Philippians 2:10-11,
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And when shall this be that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess?
This shall come to pass on the last day when the wicked are resurrected and are arraigned before the Judgment Throne of Christ.
But what about this life?
Shall we not honor Christ before we come to the last day?
Shall we not take a stand in a good thing after we have known what Christ has done for us?
And indeed, when we witness for Christ, when we function as His ambassadors, when we proclaim the Gospel, when we tell them of the wonderful things the Lord Has done for us, we should not hold back anything by which the Lord is lifted up and glorified.
If we do not desire to preach the Gospel then we are most likely not saved, for if we do not bring the Gospel to those who are in need of it, the love of God has not been shed abroad in our hearts, for we do not love the people where we must bring the Gospel.
And we should take a stand on the sovereignty of God and tell whosoever wants to hear that the Father chose us from before the foundation of the world that we must be the Bride of Christ. Before the foundation of the world the Father chose a Bride for His Son, and that is where it all started, that is when all these wonderful things began to take place that we read about in the Bible, that is when the Lord Jesus Christ took it upon Himself to pay for our sins the equivalent of an eternity in Hell to satisfy the righteousness of God, and that is when God the Holy Spirit came into the action to make us “Born Again” according to the providence of God. What a glorious thing God has done for us.
How could it be that anyone would desire to go from His presence?
How could it be that anyone would deny the glorious things that Christ has done for us?
If God so loved us that He gave us His only begotten Son and made Him bear the penalty that in all fairness is our penalty, how can we forget such a great gift?
And indeed, if we truly belong to God’s elect we cannot forget such a great gift, and we will forever honor Him, and love Him, and glorify Him, and serve Him all the days of our life. This we will do, for He has already given us all things, literally all things. There is nothing left for us to ask, except ask for the salvation of others. Therefore in all our prayers we ask for the salvation of others. And listen to the Lord’s promise concerning those prayers. God says in James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And the Lord will listen to our prayers, for it pleases Him if we love the brethren, and if we pray for them without ceasing.
And so, let us hear the conclusion of the matter, Ecclesiastes 8:3, “Do not be hasty to go from His presence. Do not take a stand in an evil thing; for He does all that He pleases.”
Do not take a stand in an evil thing, by denying His sovereign will, but take a stand in a good thing by acknowledging His sovereign will, for He does all that He pleases. We are not the king-makers, God is. To God be all the honor and the glory.
By Alfred J. Chompff