Ecclesiastes 8:1-5
Discerning Time and Judgment
by Dr. Ken Matto
(Eccl 8:5 KJV) Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.
Ecclesiastes 8:1-5
{1}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.
(Eccl 7:25 KJV) I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: In Ecclesiastes 7:25. Solomon had set out to search out both foolishness and wisdom. In Chapter 8, he begins his search of the wise man by asking the question, “Who is as the wise man?” Then he asks “who knoweth the interpretation of a thing?” The Hebrew word for “interpretation” is “pêsher” which means “explanation.” It is from the Hebrew word “peshar” which means “to interpret.” It is found only in Daniel in reference to the dreams which he interpreted for the king. The setting for this verse is in the king’s court where there would always be wise men to aid in the decisions of the king.
(Exo 34:29 KJV) And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. When Moses descended Mount Sinai after being in the presence of the Lord, his face had shined because of the glory of the Lord. As believers, we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and our faces do not shine as the face of Moses, but we are endowed with wisdom and our shining comes from the inside and not from the outside. God has implanted His wisdom in us so we will be able to make proper interpretations. If a man’s face shines, then he can easily be picked out of a group of people because of the change of face. Those who have been given wisdom and use it properly will also be noticed by many. This we were able to see in Daniel. (Dan 1:17 KJV) As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. This verse is speaking about Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah whom the Lord gave much wisdom to.
{2} I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.
(Titus 3:1 KJV) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, One of the principles of Christian obedience is loyalty. We are to be loyal to the earthly monarchs but we are not to obey them if they are in defiance of the law of God. Going back to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, they would not bow down to the idol and they were subjected to the furnace as punishment for not obeying the king’s command and God saved them in the fire because they were obedient to God’s law against idolatry, even though they were in disobedience to the earthly king. God’s law will always supersede the law of man. If the king’s commandment aligns itself with law of God, then there would be no problem in keeping that commandment of the king.
{3} Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.
In the courts of kings, there were those who stood around all day such as the counselors. When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon, she called those who stood in his court happy because they were able to hear the wisdom of Solomon all day. (1 Ki 10:8 KJV) Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Standing was also a sign of readiness to come to the aid of the king. Just as the courtiers stood before the earthly king, the true believer is always standing in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the King of Kings. If we continually stay in the presence of the Lord, we will be able to increase in wisdom and obedience but if we tend to go out into the world, then it is like we are leaving the presence of the Lord and going to stand before the presence of Satan which means we will become involved in the evil ways of the world. If we do this then the Lord has the right to chastise us to bring us back to obedience. Just like the earthly king who has the authority to deal any way he wants with his disobedient staff, the Lord deals with His children in any way He sees fit to bring them back into line.
{4} Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?
The king has sovereign authority to rule his kingdom any way he sees fit, even if opposed to what his counselors may say. Questioning the king may result in the death penalty or it may result in removal from the court. (Isa 55:8-9 KJV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. {9} For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. In the same manner, God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and therefore the Christian must never question the ways of God but we are to be obedient to whatever His will is for us, even if we do not understand it at the time or ever.
{5} Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment.
Discerneth - Understand - It is something the subject is aware of without question.
Time - A point of time or a period of time
Judgment - Justice, Judgment, or ordinance (manner)
Now up to this point, is the context of these passages date setting or is it obedience unto the Lord? Now verse 5, relates directly back to verse 2. (Eccl 8:2 KJV) I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Those who are obedient to the King’s commandment will feel no evil thing, that is, they will not become involved in anything sinful nor will they suffer any consequences of an evil act if they remain obedient. The second half of this verse does not speak about date setting but it builds upon the first part of the verse which deals with keeping the king’s commandment. Now looking at the word “discerneth” it carries with it the understanding a person has without question. The true believer knows that they are to believe and obey God without question. They do not need to be told that they should be obedient. It is something which is inherent because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Now following a person’s discernment which comes without question, does not date setting cause one to question? The answer is yes and that means something else other than date setting is in view in the second half of this verse. When we read the Scriptures, we have specific commands and situations which must be understood and obeyed. It is called the King’s commandment both here in verse 5 and in verse 2. The King’s commandments for the believer are found in the Scriptures. We study the Scriptures for the purpose of being obedient and to fulfill our part in the Great commission.
First of all we must discern the time. (Psa 90:12 KJV) So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. In Psalm 90:12, we are told to number our days so we may apply our hearts to wisdom. That is, we are to realize that we have only a certain number of days on earth and if they are spent in frivolity, then we will have wasted our life but if we understand the time we have and the times we live in, then we apply ourselves to wisdom, that is, serving the Lord with all our strength. The principle in discerning the times we live in is found in Acts 13:36. (Acts 13:36 KJV) For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: David had served his own generation and we are all placed in certain periods of time in history for the purpose of serving our generation.
Martin Luther served his generation with the start of the Reformation. The Apostle Paul served his generation by starting many churches and bringing the Gospel to the Roman Empire which eventually spread throughout the entire empire. William Tyndale served his generation by making an English translation of the Bible which was the forerunner of the King James Bible. There could be many others we could name but we must discern the times that we live in and realize that people in this generation need to hear the true Gospel and it is our responsibility to get the Gospel out as we serve our generation by understanding the times and that the time being short. (Eccl 12:1 KJV) Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; Ecclesiastes 12:1 states that we are to remember our Creator in the days of our youth and that is to prevent us from getting involved in sin as we get older. It is called training the next generation which is part of discerning the times and as we train them in the ways of the Lord, then when temptation comes, they will know how to avoid it.
Secondly, we must discern judgment. Now in this verse, it is not speaking of the final judgment but in making of a proper decision. The idea that we are never to judge is foreign to the Bible. Christians must make judgments all the time concerning life itself but judgments are also made concerning obedience to the Lord. When a situation confronts us in which one path is sinful and the other is obedience to God, the Christian should make the right decision in obedience to God. Remember what meaning the word “discerneth” carries and that is the subject being aware of something without question. As Christians, obedience should be the normal lifestyle without question. We must never ponder whether it is proper to sin or not, for it is always wrong to sin. If we continue to keep the king’s commandment, we will never feel evil or a sense of guilt which can stop a Christian in their tracks. So basically we are seeing in this verse that as Christians we must discern the times we live in, the time we have, and the proper ways to engage in ministry so we may serve our generation.
Where does date setting fit into this verse or even the whole string of verses from 1-5? These five verses are dealing with the Christian who understands the time they are living in and the time they are given on earth by God to properly serve their generation for Christ. Verse 5 has nothing whatsoever to do with date setting or even judgment day, even though judgment day is always in view. Here is a prime example of a wise man’s heart discerning judgment by recognizing false teachings. That is what God is attempting to teach us that in our time we must discern the times, especially since it is the times of apostasy and we must make judgment and reject the apostate teachers.