What the Bible says aboutWhat Goes Around Comes Around(From Forerunner Commentary)Ecclesiastes 4:13-16The story flow is translated in a choppy manner, but it goes like this: A young man born without wealth, who even spent time in prison, unexpectedly rises to power. As a young king, he listens well and rules well, but in old age, he becomes proud, losing his throne to a younger man. By this time, the kingdom was large and powerful, but Solomon forecasts that the new king's fame will not last long. He, too, can expect to lose his office, and the people who formerly cheered for him will cease appreciating him.
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Solomon does not dwell on why the original king became hardened to his counselors' advice. Nevertheless, he closed his ears to their advice, and his rule ended in some degree of disgrace. Solomon gives the impression that he thought the original king foolish because he lost the support of those who originally helped him to power and the nation to prosperity.
The overall subjects of these four verses are a subtle warning about pride, and more obviously, the instability of political power and the fickleness of popularity. He makes the point in the last part of verse 16 that the younger man who replaced the original king will in turn discover history repeating itself, and his career will run much the same course as the man who preceded him. He will find that the time will come when the citizens no longer accept him either, and he will be removed from his leadership position and replaced by another.
Therefore, one must understand that public life contains a significant downside that can render life turbulent. Fame is fleeting, and everybody is expendable. A second, related lesson shows a cause of the instability: The public is fickle. Because of the self-centeredness of human nature, most people operate toward their leaders on the principle that “I believe you were good in the past, but what have you done for me lately?”
One of the items Solomon describes here touches to some degree on the frequent changes of leadership that our election system produces. Each administration begins with the citizens hopeful for its success, but by the time the next election occurs, those hopes are largely forgotten. Each election gives the citizenry an opportunity to express their accusations, creating, at times, significant emotional, social, and economic disturbances in the culture, as people vent their dissatisfaction with the current administration. During the next election, the nation endures the same process, but rarely does anything change for the better in its quality of life. Instead, history overwhelmingly shows that matters of quality of life, which involve morality to a significant degree, grow worse. The public quickly forgets that previous elections changed little or nothing.
Solomon may have had Joseph, son of Jacob, and his experiences in Egypt in mind as his illustration. One can draw parallels from elements of Joseph's life in Egypt, during which he spent time in prison (Genesis 41). At Pharaoh's command, he was released from prison and placed in authority over the entire nation (Genesis 41:37-46). He received great acclaim because of his leadership during the difficult circumstances of the famine. However, the final note of his story is what Solomon writes, “Yet those who come afterward will not rejoice in him.” Moses states in Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” We know this affected the plight of the Israelites, or God would not have acknowledged it.
John W. RitenbaughEcclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Five): Comparisons
Related Topics: Comparison| Comparisons| Comparisons in Ecclesiastes| Ecclesiastes and Christian Living| Fame is Fleeting| History Repeats Itself| Pride| What Goes Around Comes Around
Ecclesiastes 7:21-22Solomon deals with what might be a lingering effect of the paradoxical trial found in verse 15. While the individual endures what transpires, it attracts the attention of others, usually close friends and family members—and they talk. This kind of talk has a tendency to intensify the trial's discomfort.
The talking might be better called “gossip,” but that is not an absolute because it may be sincere, well-intentioned conversation. Even if it is sincere, well-intended, and in no way malicious, the one experiencing the paradox may take it very hard, making overcoming more difficult.
Human nature is prone to take advantage of another's hard times, pointing out and passing on what it thinks are his or her mistakes or outright character weaknesses. But for that other person, it is like taking a punch to the gut. Every one of us will be on the receiving end of gossip, maybe even frequently.
Why is it so difficult to deal with? It damages our pride, our opinion of ourselves. The best defense against it is a clear conscience, that is, to be innocent of what the gossiper supposes of us and to be consistent in goodness, a fruit of God's Spirit. Such a person can patiently weather the passing of the gossipy storm clouds.
Though He was perfectly innocent, Jesus had to endure the taunts of others. Should we expect to escape the same? Thus, verse 22 follows with the reminder that we are in all likelihood guilty of practicing the same against others. What goes around comes around. What one sows, one also reaps (Galatians 6:7). It is a character weakness to give in to the hurt feelings, forgetting that none of us is infallible, and we might have given cause for the grief now coming back on us.
Can we remember the times we lost our tempers and called somebody a “stupid idiot”? Can we remember when we cut somebody off on the highway and given others grief? How many times have we forgotten, been late, or been outright careless in our self-centeredness? Since we have not been absolutely pure in character ourselves, we cannot claim the high ground above others, maintaining we do not deserve the gossip.
God's counsel through Solomon is that it is best just to take our licks, repent, and do better in the future without feeling we have the right to complain.
John W. RitenbaughEcclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions
Jeremiah 37:4-5Jerusalem enjoys a brief respite from siege while the Babylonians engage an Egyptian army hired by Judah. Jeremiah may have sought to use this occasion to escape, for verse 12 tells us that he "went out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin to claim his property there among the people." He could hide in anonymity among the general populace.
God, however, acts to keep him in Jerusalem, the center of the action. The authorities arrest him as he leaves the city, accusing him of "defecting to the Chaldeans" (verse 13). Since the Babylonians have already left the area, the accusation of defection is clearly a ruse, an excuse to imprison him (verse 15). After "many days" in a dungeon (verse 16), Zedekiah, solicitous of one empowered to tell the future, orders him transferred to the "court of the prison" (verse 21)—a real upgrade.
Charles WhitakerServant of God, Act One: Going Around, Coming Around
Jeremiah 39:17-18God recognizes that Ebed-Melech is no superman, but like everyone, is fearful in the face of mortality. He overcomes his fear, subordinating it to his conviction that Jeremiah is God"s spokesman. It is his trust in God that empowers him to show mercy by speaking up for—and then by acting on behalf of—Jeremiah.
God, who "shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11), answers in kind, characteristically granting mercy to the merciful, more specifically in this instance, granting mercy to him who "receives a prophet in the name of a prophet." Christ makes it plain that God is resolute in His promise of reciprocity (Matthew 10:41-42).
Using a different image, Solomon says the same: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days" (Ecclesiastes 11:1).
God is adamant: What goes around, comes around.
Charles WhitakerServant of God, Act One: Going Around, Coming Around
Matthew 7:1-5God will often see to it that we are treated the same way we treat others.
Jacob was a talented young man with great ability, but he had a serious fault: As a young man, he would lie, connive, and scheme to get his own way, without a thought for other people"s feelings. He deceived his father Isaac into blessing him, instead of his brother Esau, with the birthright, an incident that split the family and caused much suffering and ill will, as Genesis 27 records.
God, of course, fully intended Jacob to have the birthright and could have worked it out in a way in which nobody got hurt. But this was not the first time that Jacob had used shrewdness to get his own way. Earlier, when Esau was about to collapse from lack of nourishment, Jacob gave Esau bread, a stew of lentils, and a drink in exchange for his birthright. Jacob had a secret sin and needed to be taught a lesson. He could not look at himself and see that he had this sin. He probably looked at himself as many today in business look at themselves; he probably thought he was being clever and wise.
During the next few years, Jacob reaped what he had sowed. His employer and future father-in-law, Laban, tricked him out of his wages and the wife for whom he had labored seven years. In addition, toward the end of his life, Jacob was also deceived by the use of a dead goat, just as he had deceived his father Isaac. Jacob"s sons dipped Joseph"s coat of many colors in the blood of a goat to convince their father that his favorite son, whom they had sold, was dead. Jacob spent many years in grief, deceived as he had deceived others.
Martin G. CollinsThe Law"s Purpose and Intent
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