Summary: Since life is short and unpredictable, enjoy your life, but don't waste it.
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TIME AND CHANCE
What if you knew you were going to die in 30 days? How would your life change? Probably you would try to make the most of each of your last 30 days. The truth is that each day could be our last, so we should live life to the full.
But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him (v. 1).
We don’t know how long we will live, but God knows. Our lives are “in the hand of God.”
Remember that the Preacher is making observations about “life under the sun.” From the human perspective, we can’t tell if God loves us or hates us based on our circumstances since bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Of course, when we read the New Testament, we discover that God proved His love for the world by sending Christ to die on the cross and will accept all who put their faith in Him.
The Preacher makes two observations about life:
• Life is SHORT.
It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all (vv. 2-3a).
Over and over again in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher says that life is “vanity.” The Hebrew word for “vanity” (hebel) literally means “vapor.” In this passage, “vanity” means “brief” (v. 9). Vapor rising from a tea kettle appears and vanishes quickly. Life is like that. James writes, “What is your life? For you are a mist [vapor] that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). According to one death clock website, I will die on Tuesday, May 16th, 2051. Of course, I could die before that date or after. No one knows, but God. One bumper sticker says, “Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.”
• Life is UNPREDICTABLE.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and life birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them (vv. 11-12).
Human ability is not a guarantee of success in life. For example, the winner of the race is not always the most “swift.” We see this in the Olympics. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the gold medal. Sometimes he pulls a muscle or falls down or is disqualified.
Disaster and death often arrive unexpectantly. Here is an example. Bob Cartwright was disappointed when he was unable to accept an invitation to fly to New York with his friend Tyler Stanger and MLB pitcher Cory Lidle for a playoff game between the Yankees and the Tigers. He felt differently when he saw the news that Stanger and Lidle had crashed into an apartment building and died. “I was supposed to be on that plane,” Cartwright said. Yet just one month later Cartwright died in another plane crash, near his mountain home in California (Philip Ryken, Why Everything Matters, pp. 221-222).