The wisdom of God is beyond us, yet there are some great truths that we can understand now. We observe and we consider. We weigh facts that are before us, sometimes seeing them rightly, but too often distorting them to fit our preconceived opinions. We also learn from hearing the voice of God directly. We can misinterpret that too, but the Word itself is a perfect gift to us from heaven’s King, presenting many answers that can only be known to us if God chooses to reveal them through speaking to us. So many of the Preacher’s observations in the book of Ecclesiastes can come to any wise person who carefully and honestly considers the facts of nature and life. Yet included, as they are, in the inspired Word of God, we receive them now as the Lord’s own perfect teaching regarding life in this world.
The Preacher’s insights are not mere probabilities. If we read them rightly, we should take them into our hearts as God’s certainties. The Preacher is perfectly right when he says that the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man cannot know perfectly whether his experiences are an expression of the Lord’s merciful love or his excellent justice. When a person suffers tragedy, who can know the meaning of that trial? We do know this: Death comes to all people, whether they are good or evil, loved by God or hated by Him. The Lord says in Malachi, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Yet both the Israelites and the Edomites faced death. Can that be right?
We cannot charge the Lord with any wrongdoing here. All are sons of Adam. All the children of man are full of evil. God warned Adam concerning death. Adam sinned for us, and we have surely sinned for ourselves, so there is nothing out of order in the fact that all go to the place of the dead. But we look for something more than that. There is no hope in death alone. We are not looking for death after death, but life after life. A man may rule like a lion in this life, and his servant may serve him like a dog. But if that servant can find life beyond the grave, and the lion of a man only finds death, then the living dog is far better off than the dead lion. Even now, in terms of life in this world, there is nothing left for the dead, only for the living, so enjoy life while you can. There is no sin in the righteous enjoyment of God’s gifts, and there may be sin in missing opportunities to thank God for His daily blessings. The Preacher says, “God has already approved what we do.” We need to resist, then, the idea that we can win His favor by refusing to celebrate His goodness or by turning away from His gracious provision. Do you have food, wine, friends, a spouse, honest labor, a measure of health, and even some knowledge and wisdom? Be thankful and seize this good day, because the hour of your death is swiftly approaching.
This day may be your last on this earth. What is observed as time and chance among men is the appointed decree of God in the heavens. Unexpected things happen to people all the time. When we are caught in death’s net, we will not be able to argue our way back to life under the sun. There is no fairness formula that enables us to accurately predict who will prosper and who will die in his prime. A wise young man may deliver a city from an evil oppressor, but he himself may die before the sun sets, and his name will soon be forgotten. This is the way things can happen in life. Why not enjoy the peace of your life right now by living consciously in the moment that you have?
Have you been given wisdom? Enjoy that today, even if no one is looking, and even if there is no crowd to applaud your words and your actions. Though no one may notice, your wise advice is still good. Though others may approve of the shouting of a famous person more that your quiet statement of profound truth, you can still enjoy the blessings of insight and courage. You can know that the Lord loves wisdom and has given you the pleasure of making good use of something that He created, something that is more powerful on this earth than the mightiest weapons that men invent. You can enjoy wisdom, even in a world where one sinner can destroy much good in a moment.
Yes, there are aspects of this life that are very frustrating. We feel the vanity of it all, the fleeting nature of every good thing that we think we have here. There is nothing you can do to reverse the course of time. You do not get the opportunity to script the events of the coming hour. You may make your plans, but it is only God who can ordain your steps.
The God who determined the number of days that you would live before you experienced even one of them knows very well that all people die. He knows and has recorded in His sacred Scriptures that “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” But in the same sacred Scriptures, He has assured us that His visit to this world of futility in the life of His Son Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of death for all who believe. Though we may not understand all of what this means, we know that the One who died for our sins and who rose again from the dead has assured us of a new life that cannot be taken away from us. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, what can we search out and find through observation and reason? We examine the world that You have created. We consider the ways that You rule over the affairs of all Your creatures. We continually run into the wall of death. What a stubborn fact death is in this age! Yet we will enjoy the life that You have given to us even now. This is our portion today, though our present bodies are mortal. Teach us to love wisdom. There is something beyond the power of a man’s hands and the strength of his voice. There is the heart and the mind. There is the life of the soul. Though our wisdom may be forgotten under the sun, it is a beautiful gift from You to be used for the benefit of a city. Your Son has used His perfect wisdom to secure for us a city beyond this age of death. What a blessing has come to us! What a great God we serve!