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. — Ecclesiastes 9:10
In today’s focus verse, Solomon challenged his hearers to work industriously because once a person passes from this earth there will be no more opportunity to do so. My father was one who modeled the counsel of that Scripture.
For as far back as I can remember, Dad was always busy with whatever tasks came his way — both in the work of the Lord, and in helping individuals who had problems that a good mechanic could assist with. Did your furnace go out? My dad was the man to call. Your car not running right? Ask him to take a look at it; he’d probably be able to figure out the problem. Water heater leaking? Need input on an air-conditioning system? Need duct work installed or some electrical work done in your branch church? It seemed there were always needs, but I never remember Dad showing the slightest hesitation in undertaking a task for someone else.
For years, we joked about Dad’s “job jar.” It was kind of a byword around our house that if we had something that needed fixing or a project that was awaiting his attention, we should put a note in his “job jar.” If such a jar had actually existed, I am certain it always would have been full! While there was no jar, he did carry a little notebook around in his front shirt pocket, so as needs were brought to his attention, he could make a note of them.
Dad’s “work” was not limited to mechanical challenges. He and my mom carried on a ministry among the seafaring men who visited our city. They invited the men to church, to our home, on picnics, and on countless outings around our area. Dad kept meticulous records of the men he met, and took literally thousands of photographs which he later mailed to the seafaring men’s homes as memories of their visits. He also faithfully shared a portion of his testimony with people whose lives intersected with his. Even in his final months, in a bedridden condition, he often would think of individuals he had known years before and would ask me to mail them a printed account telling of a time in his life when God had worked miraculously in his behalf.
Solomon’s words in our focus verse make me think of Annie Coghill’s old hymn, “Work for the night is coming…when man’s work is o’er.” Dad was one who lived by that perspective, and it can be our way of living as well. Let’s make sure that we apply ourselves wholeheartedly to every task God gives us. We want to live and work with eternity in view!
Chapters 8 and 9 of Ecclesiastes continue Solomon’s practical applications on the theme of ultimate profit.
Chapter 8 addresses submission to authority, and conveys the thought that although the wicked appear to prosper, judgment comes to all, and in the end it will be well with those who fear God. In verses 1-6, the author advised obedience when serving under an autocratic ruler. Verse 1 may have been a familiar proverb at that time, implying that a man’s wisdom would light up his face and change his countenance. The “oath of God” in verse 2 possibly alludes to the oath of loyalty to the king. Verses 3-4 advise against rashness in one’s dealings with the king, stating that it is unwise to question his authority. Verses 5-6 indicate that submission will keep one from being chastised, and the wise will consider that, in the course of time, judgment will be rendered to everyone.
In verses 7-9, Solomon pointed out that life sometimes does not offer options. Man does not possess the ability to predict the future or the day of his death. Just as it is not feasible for a soldier to be discharged in time of war, it is not possible for one to avoid wickedness if his heart is evil. The author’s observation was that rulers at times govern in a way that warrants God’s judgment against them. The implication in verse 10 is that although wicked rulers are allowed to govern in spite of their abuse of power, they eventually die and are soon forgotten.
Verses 11-13 point out that when judgment is delayed, wicked individuals continue to sin without fear of punishment. The author reasoned that those who fear God and reject evil will be the benefactors of God’s favor. On the other hand, the days of the wicked are as a shadow, and it will not be well with them in the end.
In verses 14-15, the author wrestled with the concept that the righteous sometimes suffer, while the wicked appear to prosper. He concluded that the best one can do is to live and enjoy life to the fullest during the time God gives on earth.
In verses 16-17, Solomon surmised that even if one searched day and night, man’s earthly wisdom can never comprehend the purposes of God.
The text in chapter 9 indicates that since death happens to everyone, whether righteous or wicked, a person should make the best of the life he has. Verse 1 of chapter 9 indicates that the righteous and wise are in God’s hands, and outward manifestation of a person’s works is not indicative of how that one will be received by God when he dies. Verses 2-3 state that death comes to all, regardless of whether they are righteous or evil.
In verses 4-6, the author emphasized that life is better than death because there is hope. The living know that their day of death is coming, and can adjust their choices accordingly. However, the dead are soon forgotten, and can no longer experience either life’s rewards or adversities.
In verses 7-10, Solomon gave his philosophy of life: enjoy life while you can. Bread and wine were common elements of a meal at that time, and the implication was that God approved of man’s enjoyment of life. Wearing white garments for feasts and pouring oil on men’s heads during celebratory events were customary symbols of pleasure. The author also urged man to live happily with his wife for the duration of his fleeting life, because that is the reward for his labor. His conclusion was that one should give his best to every endeavor during his lifetime, before death destroys all opportunity for achievement.
The inference in verses 11-12 is that man’s fate is not determined by his strength, wisdom, or wealth, since the passage of time and misfortune comes to all. Just as fish and birds are caught unaware at the time of their entrapment, man is unable to foresee when adversity might come his way.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The theme applied
A. Advice concerning one’s life
4. The necessity of subjection to authority (8:1-9)
5. The inability of man to solve all problems (8:10-17)
6. The invitation to make the best use of this life (9:1-12)
Our opportunities for service to God and others will end at the grave, so let us purpose to give our very best efforts to whatever we have opportunity and ability to do.