Summary: Unexpected Defeat
Ecclesiastes 9 v 11 & 12 Unexpected Defeat v.11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 1. The Plan 11a I returned, and saw under the sun This is another truth the Preacher had seen and experienced for himself. 2. The Pursuits 11b that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong Solomon lists five pursuits. In each case the outcome is not what we forecasted. (a) The first pursuit or arena is Competition: the race is not to the swift. The adjective swift describes a light, and therefore, speedy person. They’re light on their feet so they run fast. But the quickest doesn’t always cross the finish line first. (b) The second pursuit or arena is Combat or warfare: nor the battle to the strong. The strong is the mighty, valiant “warrior”; the man with power and skill. But victory in the fight isn’t guaranteed to the burly (big guy), just ask Goliath. (c) The third pursuit relates to Common daily provisions: neither yet bread to the wise. Bread represents the necessities of life, primarily food, and by extension the security it provides. But being wise doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be well fed. (d) The fourth pursuit concerns Comforts or possessions: nor yet riches to men of understanding, You may be brilliant, discerning, and insightful, but that doesn’t guarantee to make you wealthy or even to keep you out of the poor house. (e) The final pursuit concerns Character acceptance and then influence: nor yet favour to men of skill. Favour is a word that speaks of esteem, reputation, and opportunity. Being learned doesn’t mean people listen to you. 3. The Problem 11c but time and chance happeneth to them all. Solomon reveals the reason we should expect the unexpected. But the word chance The Hebrew word pega refers to an event that was not pre-arranged; an accidental occurrence. The question is, pre-arranged by who? “The event is not planned by us. As far as we’re concerned, anything can happen” Solomon already explained in Ecclesiastes that everything happens in its time and the times are determined by God. (3:14) He has made everything beautiful in its time. (8:17) Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it. Proverbs 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. From God’s perspective no event is arbitrary (based on random not reason), capricious (sudden or unaccountable), or whimsical (frivolous and insignificant). Everything happens for a reason, even if we don’t know the reason.
Unexpected Death v.12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. 1. The Problem 12 For man also knoweth not his time: It is a problem under the sun that time and chance happen to all (v.11). It is an additional problem that For man does not know his time. It’s possible that his time refers to “his death” or the time his life ends. That’s no surprise since we saw in 9:1-6 that death is certain; the same event happens to all; everyone will die. The uncertainty is when. 2. The Pictures 12 as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; Two pictures/illustrations demonstrate the sudden, unexpected timing of death. First, Like fish that are (caught) in an evil net. Everything is going along swimmingly, and all of a sudden you’re hauled out of the water, heaved onto the deck of the boat, sure to be dinner on someone’s plate by sundown. The second picture is similar, like birds that are (trapped) in a snare. They weren’t thinking about being trapped. weren’t preparing for it. Then it was too late. 3. The Point 12 so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. This is the universal condition; righteous and wicked are sure to die and neither know when. The whole verse emphasizes the abrupt and unanticipated end of life; eternity is never more than a heartbeat away. We have no influence on our entrance into the world or when we cross the finish line. We need reminding that joy isn’t necessarily in winning or wealth, in results and riches. The point is to fear God and enjoy the process.