Responsive Reading: Ecclesiastes 9:10-18
Key Verse(s): Ecclesiastes 9:11
Background Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15
There is a view of life that many have come to accept and believe that we will see in our key verse for this week’s message. This view of life, we will see, may ring true on some notes but it ends up being one that is quite out of tune. Have you ever heard it said or maybe you have even thought to yourself that life seems unfair?
Life Seems Unfair
Of course we have all thought at some point in our lives that life seems unfair. For example: when we have put all of our heart and efforts into something and it seems that our hard work was not rewarded, we will think to ourselves how unfair that is to us. If we were to turn around and see someone put very little effort into something and their little effort is rewarded, we will think to ourselves how unfair that is. So, we would be lying to ourselves if we were to say that we do not have moments where we think to ourselves that life seems unfair.
Time and chance
In our key verse for this week’s message, we will see Solomon take a look at this view of life – this doctrine – that boils down to life being all about time and chance; to be rewarded boils down to whether you are lucky or not.
In our key verse, we will see Solomon state that the race is not to the swift. If you ever watch runners run a race or cars in a race, then you know there is certainly some truth to this notion. The fastest runner does not always win a race nor does the fastest vehicle always win a race.
You see, there are times where the fastest runner may get disqualified before the race happens. There are times where the fastest runner may pull up lame during the race which could prevent them from winning. There are other times where the fastest runner may stumble out of the blocks which could hinder them from finishing the race first. So, there are no certain guarantees that the fastest or swiftest will always win a race.
Solomon, in that same verse, we will see stated that the battle is not always to the strong. This, again, is to say that there is no certainty to the strongest fighter always winning a fight. David and Goliath is the prime example of this being the case where a giant fell to a young man whose dad did not believe he had the stature to be a king (1 Sam. 16:1-13; 1 Sam. 17:4-51). So, giants, mighty people, can be toppled in battle by those who are perceived to be underdogs.
Lastly, in our key verse, we will see that Solomon would go on to say that the wise do not always get bread, nor do men of understanding always get riches, and that men of skill do not always find favor. As I just said a few moments ago, many people have made their way through school but sadly, they struggle mightily to end up landing a job in their career field of choice. There is a saying that says, ‘it’s not about what you know but who you know’ – time and chance; you have to be lucky.
If you choose to live by this doctrine of luck, it is one that, to me, is very bleak, hopeless, and quite frankly, is very depressing. Some would be left wondering what would be the purpose of the hard work if there is no reward in the end. Some would wonder what would be the purpose of training to be better if they could not win a prize. Others would simply be left viewing life as being completely pointless.
As fish caught up in a net
On this notion that life would be pointless, in the very next verse, we will see Solomon state that those who have this outlook on life would end up feeling like a fish caught up in a net – they would feel helpless (Eccl. 9:12). This notion, Solomon concluded, was an evil view of life. So, let’s consider why this notion of time and chance is evil.
The fish that is caught up in a net by time and chance is a fish that eventually gives up hope and surrenders to its fate. For us to be as a fish caught up in a net would be us giving up all hope in life; we surrender because things didn’t go our way which many do. Many end up suffering and grieving in their soul because life leaves them feeling powerless.
There is a certain philosophy – a doctrine of fatalism – which speaks to how some events are fixed in advance so that we are powerless to change them. This philosophy concludes that by time and chance, some things are inevitable and trying to find a solution in those times is futile. Are we truly powerless in life? Are we that helpless?
Personally, I cannot live with such a frame of mind because I am not powerless in this life! You see, though life seems unfair, I tell you that I have hope to be able to succeed! I am not like a fish that is caught up in a net! I am the fish that fights and can get out of it!
My encouragement for you today is this: you are not like a fish caught up in a net – you are not powerless, nor are you helpless, and you certainly are not hopeless in life. Life may seem unfair to you today but I tell you that there is a hope and a future! The reason why there is a hope and future for you is because the Lord says He knows what He is doing for you (Jer. 29:11). God is doing a work that will give to you peace, a future, and a hope!
There Is Still Hope
Rather than dwelling on the bleak and negative view of life, we will see that Solomon chose to give hope by speaking of a doctrine that gives hope. I want to share this doctrine with you today because life, regardless of what you may think, is still a gift given to us by the Lord. Because life is a gift given to us by God, we must combat this form of acceptance and contentment that leads to a defeated, broken, and hopeless soul.
Let us know today that our soul is not meant to dwell in such a defeated and hopeless condition. Scripture is filled with exhortations to the believer so that we continue forward in faith and not lose heart when things may not be going our way.
In the book of Isaiah, through the prophet, we will recall that God encouraged us believers to not grow weary (tired) but to wait on Him so that our strength can be renewed and we not faint (Is. 40:31). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul encouraged believers not to grow weary while doing good because in due season we will reap the reward of everlasting life (Gal. 6:8-10). The writer of the book of Hebrews encouraged believers to look to Christ and how He persevered in facing hostility so that we, again, do not become weary and discouraged in our soul (Heb. 12:3).
Solomon’s Parable of the Little City
The truth of the matter is that all of us are going to go through some things in life that seem unfair to us. Yet, in all of those things, we must have the strength to endure, to push forward, and to persevere.
The little besieged city
We will now see Solomon begin to speak a parable in order to give the hopeless a new doctrine of hope to live by (Eccl. 9:14-18). Solomon, with his great wisdom, opened the parable by speaking of a little city that had been besieged (surrounded) by a great king (Eccl. 9:14). There are a few things we will see represented here in this parable that I want to share with you.
First, let’s start off with this little city, which, because it was little, did not have many people within it. I would suggest to you that the little city was filled with people that would be representative of all of us living in the world today. Now, on the outside of the city, there was a great king who was ready to conquer the little city. I would suggest to you that this great king and his army are representative of our enemies – Satan and his army; those enemies both of the spiritual and the physical.
With that in mind, let us take a moment to examine the circumstances that the people in the city were facing. The people of the city were surrounded by incredible danger; we would say that they were in a hopeless situation – like a fish caught up in a net. If the people tried to leave the city, they would have been killed and those remaining in the city would have likely been killed.
So, how unfair of a position were the people of this city in? Because this city was little, it was likely they did not have the kind of wealth that the great king had acquired. Since this city was little, it was also very likely that if they did have an army, it would have stood as no match for the great king’s army. Really, all the people truly had was themselves and their loved ones; having this isn’t enough for some people.
This great king, on the other hand, was most likely enjoying all of the great wealth that he had acquired through his conquests; that is what great kings did during the days of Solomon. You see, in those times, kings were never truly satisfied with their kingdom as they would always seek to expand their kingdoms and their reach as it stood as a sign of how powerful they were. So, this great king was being greedy in his desire to conquer this little city.
So, the people were certainly in an unfair position. In our world today, the unfair thing we often see is that it seems the rich only get richer and the poor seemingly only get poorer; those in need rarely get the help they need. Again, many people see this happening in our world and are disgusted at how unfair this is.
The one that had hope
As hopeless as things appeared in the city, Solomon speaks of one in the city that had hope – a poor wise man (Eccl. 9:15). Because this poor wise man held onto hope we will see that he became the hope for the city. I would liken this poor wise man to being representative of Christ. Jesus, I will remind you, by all means was a poor man according to worldly definitions; He came from parents that had little and He certainly did not acquire much wealth while in the world.
In this parable, Solomon tells us that this poor wise man, being led by wisdom, was able to deliver the city from the great king. Where others were hopeless because it seemed that time and chance had led to an inevitable defeat for them, this poor wise man said to them, ‘I have hope’. Wisdom then delivered not only him but all of those who dwelt in the city!
So, what was this wisdom that inspired hope and then delivered the city from the hands of the great king? What was this great wisdom that led him and others from being like fish caught up in a net? Let us understand that when Solomon spoke about wisdom, he always spoke of it coming from the Lord! So, what this means for the poor man was that it was God’s wisdom that inspired hope in him, and therefore, led to the city’s deliverance from the great king.
Beating what’s unfair
Christ dwelt in this world and inspired hope in our world; this is the same hope that should inspire you in this world that we live in today. The doctrine of hope in the Lord is what will keep you encouraged to keep on pushing ahead regardless of how unfair life may seem to be.
Again, let us consider Solomon’s parable one more time. The great king and his army in this parable likely had far greater numbers, wealth, and therefore, far superior weaponry compared to those in the little city. The most fascinating part of Solomon’s parable is that he does not speak about how, or what the people did, in order to be delivered from the king. So, what this signifies to me is that the Lord must have stepped in and given the victory to the little city!
We say that life seems unfair to us but do you realize how often the Lord intercedes on your behalf to give you the victory against the “great king” and his army? When we talk about life being unfair, I want you to realize how “unfair” it is for our enemies because we have God on our side! You see, no matter what kind of army your enemies can muster up, it cannot stand against the Lord. Not only can no army of man stand against the Lord, but as shown in scripture, Satan and his army cannot stand against God as well (Rev. 12:7-9).
As the writer of Hebrews said, when we look to the Lord and the example shown to us in Christ, we can persevere in life even when we are outnumbered and outmatched! As the proverb says, the blessing of the Lord makes one rich (Prov. 10:22). Rich, we should understand, is not speaking to being rich in worldly riches but happy and content in our soul. You see, in the wealth of God, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13); we stand mightier than any man through our hope and wisdom in the Lord!
Solomon concluded his parable by showing us that true wisdom in God can beat whatever life throws at us even when life seems unfair. No, the race does not go to the swift, it goes to those whose hope is in the Lord. The battle is not to the strong but to those whose hope is in the Lord. Solomon said that wisdom from the Lord is better than strength and is better than weapons of war; it will lead to victory (Eccl. 9:16,18).
God Is Our Hope
We are nowhere close to being as outmatched or outnumbered as we think we are; the deck is not as stacked against us as we often believe. Our doubt and our blurred outlook on life can often lead us into being like a fish caught up in a net. However, the riches of God are many and those riches, should we choose to lean on them as those of the world lean on their riches, will not fail us as worldly riches does. No, when we steady ourselves and lean on our hope in the Lord, things will turn around us.
All things made good for us
When life seems unfair, we will see that Solomon encourages us by saying that God is our hope – the Lord will turn things around for us! When things are not going your way, God declared through the prophet Isaiah that He will make crooked places straight (Is. 42:16). When you feel like you are like a fish caught up in a net, again, Solomon said that you do not have to give up and surrender to that net as the Lord will break you free from that net!
Consider all of the negative things that you and I are surrounded by and can face in life: issues with our own personal health; the things that our loved ones go through; the loss of loved ones; the endless heartaches and burdens that continue to stack up one after another. We really do go through a lot in life and in all that we have gone through, look at what we have overcome! Yes, we are hard pressed on every side and yet, we are still not destroyed and will not be destroyed (2 Cor. 4:7-9).
You see, we are not destroyed because though life seems unfair, God is not going to let life destroy His children. Let us remember that old familiar scripture from Paul’s writing to the Romans that says, “all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28).”
Let us not not worry about how swiftly others may be running their race because they have their own race to run while we have our own race to run. God will bring you through your race but just be sure that you are running your race wisely. The blessing of the Lord makes you rich and so long as you depend on Him, you will be replenished during your race.
I want you to know that you are going to overcome and you will reach that blessing that has been promised to you by the Lord. If it is a battle that you will have to go through to reach that blessing, I want you to know today, that you are going to be victorious in your battle and you will reach that promised blessing. Let us remember another old familiar scripture that says to us, “No weapon formed against you will prosper … This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and our righteousness is from God, says the Lord (Is. 54:16-17).”
I want you to be encouraged today that when life seems unfair, you have the Lord — depend on the one that stands unshaken amidst a crashing world.