Ecclesiastes 9:11-18: Certainty in Uncertainty

Read: Ecclesiastes 9:11-18

The Preacher in the latter half of chapter 9 reflects on the nature of the would-be rewards to a particular pursuit. It seems logical that one who is swift would win a race, one who is strong will win a battle, and one who is wise will have bread, and so on. What the Preacher concludes on the matter is that not everything is guaranteed and certain as one might think. He says that within a swift moment – like a fish caught in a net or a bird in a snare – things can change all of a sudden for men. The Preacher then says he observed this in a battle between a great king and a small town. The small town had but a few people and the great king had a mighty army. It would seem logical that the great king could with his mighty army capture the small city with no problem. But the small city had a wise, but poor man. The wisdom of the poor man thwarted the attempts of the mighty king, yet the poor man was no rewarded, rather scorned and forgotten primarily because he was poor. In two cases, the mighty king did not win the battle and the wise man did not receive his due respect. Instead, quite the opposite happened to both the mighty king and the poor wise man. At the end of all this though, the Preacher is right in saying that wisdom is better than strength and the whispers of the wise are better than shouting of rulers, but there is certainly no guarantee that even wisdom will be rewarded.

In an uncertain world where things can change rapidly and calamity strike at any moment. The most certain thing that man can find is found only in God. God is unchanging, constant, and eternal (James 1:17, 1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 102:12,25-28, Malachi 3:6). Trusting in God gives one the surety of eternal life and a hope (1 Peter 1:3-5), but even in spite of this there is still uncertainty. Pertaining to God, the uncertainty not knowing when he will do what he has promised. The time of Jesus’ return is uncertain. Jesus himself said said that he would return like a thief in the night – that is his return will come unexpectedly and quickly without much warning if any at all. Rather than speculate as to when Jesus will return, Christians should do well to be watchful and ready for his return (Matthew 24:43-51). In other words, Christians should not be caught off guard when Jesus does return.

The Bible does say that one should prepare for the future or make plans, rather the Bible encourages men to do so to mitigate uncertain calamity (Proverbs 6:6-15, Proverbs 16:1-4). But at the same time tells people to not “worry” about the future, that is “μεριμνησητε” which means to be anxious and consumed with planning of about the future (Matthew 6:25-34). For this matter it is better to trust in God concerning the future and not be caught off guard when the Jesus returns. The Proverbs and Matthew encourage their readers to commit themselves to the Lord and seek his purposes. The one thing that is guaranteed and certain is that God will accomplish what he has set out to do and thing can thwart that!

Lord, help me to commit my ways to do and trust you for the outcome!