Summary: 16th in a series from Ecclesiastes. The fact that we are going to die ought ot impact the way that we live.
Last Saturday, a 50-1 long shot named Mine That Bird won the 135th Kentucky Derby, surging all the way from last place to first on the final turn and the home stretch. This was an improbable victory for a horse that was purchased last year for only $9,500, a real bargain compared to the millions paid for some of the other competitors in the race. In his previous race Mine That Bird had finished out of the money in 4th place at a race at Sunland Park in New Mexico and his trainer Chip Woolley, Jr. had to load him in his trailer and pull him to Churchill Downs with his pickup truck in order to compete.
It is just this kind of unpredictability that Qoheleth has in mind as he continues writing in Ecclesiastes chapter 9:
1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. 2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. 7 Go, eat your bread with joy, And drink your wine with a merry heart; For God has already accepted your works. 8 Let your garments always be white, And let your head lack no oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. 11 I returned and saw under the sun that - The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.
Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 (NKJV)
Much of what we find in this passage seems quite familiar to all of us who have been here throughout our journey through Ecclesiastes. So perhaps the three principles that I’m going to share with you this morning are not necessarily new. But I think it will be helpful for us to be reminded of them again in a slightly different way. So let’s look at the three broad principles that we find here in this passage.
1. My life is in God’s hand
• Even when life doesn’t make sense
Once again, Qoheleth laments the fact that from his perspective “under the sun” life doesn’t always make sense. As he has done before, he describes how the righteous often suffer and the wicked sometimes prosper.
And then in verse 11, one of those familiar passages in Ecclesiastes that is often taken out of context, he describes last week’s Kentucky Derby. The race does not always go to the fastest, the battle is not always won by the strongest, the wise man does not always prosper, the most skillful person does not always get the job. And from our perspective here on earth this all seems to be due purely to chance.
But Qoheleth recognizes that is not the case. As he makes clear in verse 1, the works of man are firmly in God’s hand. And the logical conclusion that we must make from that fact is that…
• God has a purpose in all that He does