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Ecclesiastes 9:712; 11:12, 46 comment (0)

August 10, 2006

By Doug Wilson

Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 9:712; 11:12, 46

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

How Can I Handle Life’s Uncertainties?
Ecclesiastes 9:7–12; 11:1–2, 4–6

We live in uncertain times. Uncertainties in our church, work, family and personal lives are just as devastating to us as what we see on television. Just as buildings are crumbling from bombs and mortar fire in Haifa and Beirut, explosive issues descend on us that change the entire landscape of our lives.

The opening verses of Ecclesiastes 9 paint a word picture of every person. In essence, we do not know what lies ahead of us but God does. No matter how our lives can be characterized, God knows the end from the beginning. We can have hope in Him as long as we are alive. For the person looking only from a physical perspective (“under the sun”), death robs him of love, hate, envy and inheritance.

Fulfill Your Responsibilities (9:7–10)
You might think an Epicurean wrote verse seven. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” But is this what the Teacher is saying? Is this a call to licentious living? No, it is more likely that he is giving the same instruction that the apostle Paul did in 1 Corinthians 10:31 — “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.”

Gene Edward Veith in his book “God at Work” examines Martin Luther’s understanding of our vocation, or our calling, which is into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This relationship affects everything else in our life. Our focal verses in this passage teach us the same truth.

We are to enjoy life while we have it. Enjoy your food and drink. Wash your clothes. Groom yourself. Spend precious time with your loving wife. Find work to do and do it with every ounce of energy.

Death comes upon all of us. The time will come when we will no longer toil or plan and when knowledge and wisdom will not matter. The grave (Sheol) is the physical destination of us all. We need to complete our tasks while we still have time.

Face Your Difficulties (9:11–12)
From the observations of a material-minded person (“under the sun”), almost everything is a matter of time, chance or luck. Life seems to be unfair, and this leads many people to take a fatalistic approach to life — that life is not worth living. The Teacher writes of the race and the battle and bread and riches and favor as if those things are supposed to happen a certain way. We are living in evil times, and we feel like fish in a net or a bird in a trap.

What a contrast this is to the instruction from the apostle Paul. He affirmed that Christians were living in evil times but that they were to redeem the time (Eph. 5:18). When writing to the church at Corinth, Paul pointed out that there were not many high-powered, highborn or highly educated among the believers (1 Cor. 1:26–28). God had chosen the foolish things to confound the wise, the weak things to confound the strong and the simple to confound the noble.

We are to expect difficulties (Matt. 5:11–12). We are to face our problems head-on. We are also to keep our eyes on Jesus when facing those difficulties (Heb. 12:1–3).

Be Faithful in Your Opportunities (11:1–2, 4–6)
Sharing with others is an investment in living and a blessing from God. With the rise in earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years, verse two is particularly appropriate. Diligence in our work is essential for any hope of success. We work outside the home in our field of service, and we work at home after our labors, remaining diligent.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). These are the words of Jesus. And who could forget the description of the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25?

We invest in others and in Jesus Himself when we share food and drink, comfort and encouragement, our presence and our listening ear.

In addition, we have the privilege of diligently sharing the truth that brings others into an eternal relationship with God. Steve Green’s song expresses it well: “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

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