Day 21: What we don’t know (9:1)
“For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them” (9:1).
The Preacher returns, yet again, to ideas he has already considered – we don’t know what life has in store for us (how can we?). The good guys (the wise and righteous) don’t always come out best and sometimes the bad guys (the foolish and wicked) do. But both share a common fate – death and that is it – and we have no idea when that happens. We are all in God’s hands though and it worth our pondering that, despite all, God is in full control: “All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (9:2-6).
Yet there is a positive side to this rather gloomy commentary on life, and it relates to how we should live in the light of it. Firstly: enjoy life, recognising God is favourably inclined toward what we do: “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works” (9:7). Then how we dress (white garments), so be happy and cheerful: “Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment” (9:8). Then something really practical (to those of us so blessed) – enjoy life with the wife: “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (9:9). Then there is work, whether for a living, or to pursue some interest etc. While, from an under the sun perspective, there is no work once we die, it is still something worth doing well: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (9:10).
Prayer: We thank you Lord that your word tells us what we need to know even if the raw truth may hurt. We thank you for the good things you give us to enjoy and for the activities in life. May these be productive ones we do as best we can.