Ecclesiastes 9:11-18

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 1, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Uncertainty is a feeling that many of us have dealt with lately. These last few months of the coronavirus pandemic have brought a lot of uncertainty into many people’s lives. Will that event actually happen? Will I be able to keep my job and provide for my family? Is my ill family member going to live through this? Uncertainty has definitely been a theme for many recently, and it is also one of the themes in today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 9:11-18.

Verses 11-12 say, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

Just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you’ll win the race. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you’ll win the battle. Just because you’re wise, wealthy, or learned doesn’t mean you’ll get all the good things. The world doesn’t work in black and white like that, but there is uncertainty in our lives. We never know what is going to happen. None of us could have predicted in January that by April, many aspects of our daily lives would be shut down or at least look significantly different. Even today, we cannot predict what life will look like a few months from now.

This is a time when it’s especially important to understand God’s character, especially how He never changes. Our lives and the things that happen to us in this world are not certain, but God is. His plans and purposes remain certain. He created us, He loves us, we messed that up, and He rescues and redeems us - that will never change, even when our immediate circumstances don’t feel so certain. In this world of changing times, we need to continually ask God how to respond to our changing circumstances to continue to glorify Him and live out His plan.

In verses 13-15, the Teacher gives us an interesting example. This may be something he personally experienced; we don’t know for sure. It’s a brief story of the underdog accomplishing what seemed to be impossible. A small city was threatened by a powerful king, and one man who was poor but wise saved the city through his wisdom. This sounds like a great plot for a movie, right? We don’t know any details of if this actually happened, and the Teacher does not provide much more detail, but he uses this example to prove his point from verses 11-12.

The small city likely felt secure in their position, as who would bother to attack them when they’re so tiny? But their certainty was shattered when they did get attacked. But, the battle was not won by the stronger forces, but by this one poor man from this tiny city. Wealth and material possessions were clearly not what made him victorious; it was his wisdom. This proves the Teacher’s point that wisdom is clearly of higher value than any material possessions.

But then the tables turn a bit, as we see that “nobody remembered that poor man” (verse 15). This may seem meaningless, right? The poor man was a triumphant underdog and defeated their enemies through his wisdom - just to be forgotten. Perhaps the king didn’t want to admit that he had been defeated by a “nobody.” Or perhaps this is just a fact of our self-centered world, that even amazing things are soon forgotten because we move on to the next best thing.

Either way, this example is summarized in verse 16: “So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.” While wisdom may be better and of more value than brute strength, even wisdom is lacking when others choose not to follow it. But, it’s important to use whatever gifts we have, especially when life becomes uncertain. It was right for the poor man to use his wisdom to save his city, rather than sit back and do nothing. Even if he had known he would be forgotten, it was still the right thing to do to use the wisdom he had been given.

Are we doing that in our own lives? What gifts have you been given by God that you should be using to help those around you? It may seem insignificant, like a poor man from a small town, but it can have great results. Maybe just one phone call or text message to a friend to see how they’re doing will brighten up their day and help them cope with life’s uncertainties. Maybe cooking a meal for a neighbor will bring them the hope and relationship that they need. When we have been given gifts by God, we should use them, no matter how insignificant they seem, because we never know what God has in store.

This chapter of Ecclesiastes ends in verses 17-18 with a couple of proverbs based on this story: “The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” The wisdom that comes from God is more important than anything a leader says out of his own strength, and that wisdom is greater than any possession or weapon we may have.

Where do you turn when you face uncertainties in this life? I encourage you to turn to God who is always certain and who can always be counted on. Ask Him for His wisdom, and be prepared to apply it when He gives it to you. You never know what big things God may work through you.

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