Wisdom in the Little City – Ecclesiastes 9:13-18


I would like to use Solomon’s words in why in which he never intended. But I do knowing exactly what he meant, so it’s not out of ignorance I am headed in a different direction. What God’s prophet was pointing out is pretty obvious. Where sin controls people – most of our society – Where sin reigns wisdom, righteousness, kindness and many such good things are ignored. Not only ignored, but deliberately rejected and even scorned.

I remember a man coming to our house in Lethbridge looking for directions. I gave him the help he wanted and then a bit more, handing him a gospel tract, giving him directions towards heaven. When he left my porch, he wadded up the tract and tossed it onto the lawn. He didn’t just throw it away; he wanted me to know that he scoffed at it. How often have we showed kindness or befriended someone who later turned against us? We see nations, receiving billions of dollars in U.S. aid, turn against us when a better offer comes along. Parents who spoil their children, giving them what demand, often find themselves hated by their kids. An employee designs a great new product, but when the money starts rolling in, his employer forgets who had the original idea. We could probably think of illustration after illustration.

“Now there was found in (the little besieged city) it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man (when peace returned to the community.)” Solomon suggests, “This is cruel and inconsiderate, but typical of sinful hearts.” “This is one of the vanities which I have witnessed in the world.” “This sort of thing makes me want to throw up my hands in despair.” None of us should have any trouble recognizing the obvious in Solomon’s mind.

But this is not the idea I want to develop. Rather, I’d like to use that example as a simple gospel illustration. Let’s allegorize our text and assign some new meanings to the words we find here.

There was a little city in the universe called “earth.”

Listen to the word “earth” how much time did it take for me to say the word before you heard it? That is how small this planet is in comparison to the vast universe in which the Lord placed it. “Earth” The word is so short that only precise equipment can measure the time taken to speak and receive it. You heard me say “earth” immediately after I spoke, but that is not the same as instantaneously. There was the briefest of millseconds while the word left my lips before you received it. But, if you were WATCHING, you saw me mouth the word before you heard it, even though you didn’t know it. Light travels much faster than sound. Sound, under normal circumstances, travels about 750 miles an hour – really fast. But during that same second, light will travel about a million times faster 670 million mph. In a single second – light can travel around the earth seven times.

Because God’s universe is so vast, science often measures it in the distance light travels in a year. In a year without obstructions, light travels about 6 trillion miles. So how large is the Milky Way, the galaxy in which our little solar system resides? 100,000 light years. And how many galaxies are there in the universe? 100,000 and we are still finding more. A grain of sand on the largest beach you’ve ever visited, is larger in comparison to the earth as it stands in our own galaxy. And the Milky Way is rather small among a 100,000 other galaxies. “There once was a little city with very few inhabitants.”

Going back to our text, there was a great king who wanted to conquer and possess that little city.

In calling this king “great” Solomon didn’t mean that he was “noble” or “majestic.” The word speaks of “large” in the sense of size, importance or power. This man was already a king, and there were other cities, large and wealthy, already under his dominion. Using your imagination, what would entice this powerful monarch to want to conquer this LITTLE city? What little wealth it possessed wouldn’t increase the king’s treasury very much. There weren’t many strong men in this community to greatly enhance the royal army. Perhaps he would have liked to have the wise man of the community to help guide his kingdom, but that is unlikely.

Why did he want to subjugate this little city? Could it be that it hurt his pride to think there was still a little community which refused his “greatness?” Maybe his wife or some of his kingly friends laughed at him because of this “rebellious” little city. Or more likely this community pledged its allegiance to another King, and this king hated his rival. It might have been out of spite that he “besieged it and built great bulwarks against it.” He might have said, “I desire to be the king of the universe and the greatest king of all time. I want to depose all other kings, monarchs and emperors. I am determined to be greater than God Himself.”

Now let’s apply these things thus far. The Bible tells us that Jehovah chose to create the vast universe in which you and I exist. Apparently He did so for no other reason but His own glory and pleasure. Surprisingly, to further enhance His glory, He chose to permit wickedness and sin to enter His creation. A few of God’s angels were permitted to rebel against Him, and one of them, Lucifer, became their leader. A third of God’s heavenly army – His host – enlisted in this rebellion.

About that same time God created the first pair of human beings and placed them in His city garden. Almost immediately fallen Lucifer, whom we might call “Satan” or “the Devil,” attacked that earthly part of God’s vast universe. He tempted the man and his wife, enticing them into sin, and they agreed – unwittingly joining in Satan’s rebellion against the Creator. The residents of the little city chose to forget who was their true King.

The Word of God tells us why Lucifer chose to rebel against Jehovah. And from that we can understand why he began his attack on Adam and his wife. He said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” I suppose it was inevitable that this “great” evil king chose to besiege the little city of earth. It was the garden and property of the true King of kings – a much greater Monarch. That little city was a thorn in the demonic flesh of the Devil. He perceived it as a key part of the glory of the Creator, despite its diminutive size. He thought that successfully stealing it from Jehovah would catapult Satan onto a throne above the clouds. So the attack was launched in Genesis 3, and battles were fought throughout the Old Testament.

What weapons are there in Satan’s arsenal? They are many. He has been using false religions, diverting the men of city from worshiping and serving the true King. He has successfully used bad governments like that of Jereboam and Ahab, King Charles and Queen Mary. He has been throwing various forms of pleasure over the bulwarks into the city, once again turning the hearts and minds of the citizens. He plays with men’s pride and their greed, their fears, their lusts and their anger. He creates doubts and despair until foolish citizens begin to take their own lives. And he stirs up animosity between the citizens, driving them to kill each other. He feels that he has plenty of time to accomplish his will, so just maintains his bulwarks and continues to feed the sinful nature of the little city’s inhabitants.

But there was found in that little city a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city.

Over time, citizens come and go. Babies are born, some of which become wise, while others do not. Those babies become adults and then perhaps octogenarians, but eventually they pass away. Hopefully the wiser of them are able to pass some of their wisdom on to their children and students.

But in the case of his allegory, in the midst of the assault against the city, there was only ONE wise man. And I am going to declare him to be the wisest of all who preceded him – wiser than God’s prophets, God’s poets, and all of God’s ministers. When the citizens were near despair, when they were fighting among themselves, seizing one more advantage over their neighbor, in stepped God’s wise man. “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you”

Since this comes from the pen of Solomon we should have no difficulty in identifying this wise man. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them” who were under attack, that the people of the little city might be delivered. For months this wise man explained to His neighbors exactly what was needed for deliverance from the evil king and for restoration with their true Monarch. He preached repentance among the citizens – humility before, not the great king, but the greater King. He even explained that He Himself would give His life as a ransom for the their freedom. And in fact, He did give His life.

“Yet no man remembered that same poor (wise) man. Wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.” “He came unto His own and His own heard and received Him not.” “He was despised and rejected (by the citizens), a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; (they) hid as it were (their) faces from him; he was despised and (they) esteemed him not.”


Solomon reminds us “Wisdom is better than strength” and “Wisdom is better than weapons of war.” When we apply the word “wisdom” as Solomon does, we see it as a gift of God – grace – salvation. And when we compare the gifts of God to human strength of man in this battle against immorality and sin, man in all his learning and strength hasn’t come within an inch to defeating the attack of the great king. Our prisons haven’t stopped crime; our Mothers Against Drunk Driving haven’t stopped the liquor trade. Legalizing drugs hasn’t and will never take away the devastating effects of addiction. The problems of child and spousal abuse haven’t gone away through education and a few pious statements from football players and congressmen. There are no social programs, educational programs, political programs which are making the world any more Edenic than things were in the days of wicked Ahab. Our little city isn’t safer or more righteous today than it was when the great evil king first attacked.

There is only one solution to the problems of the city – we need to hear, and trust, and surrender to the wisest of all men – the God/man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only has He told us the truth – He is the truth. Not only has He pointed to a way out – He is the way and even the life we desperately need.

And He gave His life a ransom. Here I will twist my little allegory just a bit, without contradicting Solomon in the least. To which king did the wisdom of this wise man apply? I want you to understand that it was not to the great evil king, but rather to the King of Kings. The death which Christ suffered on the cross of Calvary was not a ransom given to Satan. Ultimately it defeated Satan and, for the present, it shut him up. It dulled his attack and gave the people of the little city the opportunity to escape him. But the ransom was offered to God who is the true King. The only reason why the fiery darts of Satan have any effect on our city is because Jehovah is not being given the honor due unto His name. He has chosen not to defend us because in reality humanity leans toward allegiance with the new evil king.

But God’s supreme wise man – Christ Jesus – has willingly taken upon himself the sins and rebellion of many in the little city. He shed His blood on the Cross as a satisfaction before the eyes and law of God – a propitiation. With His death He purchased life for those who prove that life through repentance and faith in him. But for the most part how is being received today? Forgotten – ignored.

Consider Solomon’s conclusion: “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” Notice that he has moved from the ONE wise man capable of saving the city, to multiple wise men. Now we are talking about the Saviour’s evangelists.

What is the nature of their work? Quietly sharing the message which the Saviour gave to them – the gospel about His sacrifice. Shouting it from the housetops hasn’t been very effective. Shouting is the business of the fools and of the enemy. More effective are the words of wise men spoken in quiet. I am one of those wise men not because of any native intelligence that I have.

I am one of those wise men, because to me has been given the opportunity to remind you of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done. None of us have to be slaves to sin and Satan,; but we need to live surrendered to God. You need the Saviour and what He did on the cross in giving His life a ransom for many. Wisdom says “Repent before God and trust what Jesus Christ has done to deliver us from our sins.” The alternative is to die as a rebel to be judged for eternity by the King of kings and Lord of Lords.