Our most excellent adventure now moves into the second of the sections in chapter seven: Patience. Yes dear reader, I am going over this one carefully myself, since patience is really not my strongest suit! The topic is set clearly enough in verse 8:
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
This verse hearkens back to the discussion in the previous section about houses of mourning and the day of death being better than the day of birth; a matter is best concluded in life, rather than begun, for in its conclusion we know if we have concluded it properly and in a way pleasing in the eyes of God. Likewise, it is better to be patient than proud. If you stop and think about pride, it might not seem to line up well with patience, for all too often it leads a person to impatience, as a proud person seeks to have their way over someone else, while the patient person must deal with others in ways that respect their opinions, views and personhood.
Verse nine reinforces this thought:
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.
Allowing ourselves to be provoked would seem to trigger (in this context) rash actions of anger and impatience which reside in the “laps of fools.” This is set out further in verse 10:
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
How common this is; ah yes, the good old days were so much better than the here and now. Were they really? My father used to speak of those good old days, when people weren’t as crazy as they are “now”. Well, his “good old days” were the 1930’s and ‘40’s. The “now” was the 1960’s. If you stop and think about it, as crazy as the ‘60’s were in some ways, I doubt they were worse than the Great Depression and the Second World War! But from my father’s point of view, the ‘30’s and ‘40’s had been concluded; he knew how they ended, and things eventually worked out. Then in the ‘60’s the issues of the day seemed to have no end in sight; would we tear civilization apart?
How do I know why he thought what he thought? Because for me, the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are the good old days! Today? What is going on in this world, will we tear civilization apart? You see, I don’t know how this is all going to come out in the end, and I want to know right now.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
In verse 10, the Teacher tells us that it isn’t wise to ask the question about the good old days, and in 11-12 he goes on to tell us essentially that impatience isn’t compatible with wisdom; wisdom is better than impatience. Solomon wraps up this discussion in 13-14:
Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.
We can be just as impatient as we please. We can work ourselves into a tizzy if we want, we can become perfectly obnoxious in our impatience if we choose. Yet none of that will make the slightest difference… or if it does make any difference, it will end up being a difference that does us no good at all, for impatience is not compatible with wisdom. It is better to be wise and patient, than impatient and a fool… and you may quote me on that.