The Uncertainties of Life – September 15, 2023

“These are uncertain times.” If you’re like me, then you were probably tired of hearing that phrase during the COVID-19 pandemic. It felt like every commercial and news channel used this phrase on a daily basis. The irony of this statement is that in a fallen world all time is uncertain. No moment of life is guaranteed. No one can tell you for certain what tomorrow will bring. It doesn’t matter if we are in World War 3 or a worldwide pandemic, all time is uncertain.

In Ecclesiastes 9-10, Solomon writes about the uncertainties of life. Although God controls all things, life under the sun is still full of puzzling realities. This world is unpredictable. Solomon is considering this fact to show us why we need to submit to God. Continuing the topic of last week, this section teaches us that we should submit to God because life is uncertain. Solomon explains this by describing two uncertainties in life:

First, we see that time is uncertain (Eccl. 9:11-12). The outcomes of life are unpredictable. The fastest don’t always win the race. The strongest don’t always win the battle. The wisest don’t always succeed. This is because we live in a world full of chance. Victory in life is never certain. That’s why sports are so fun. No matter how good or bad a team is, there’s always a chance to win. The Cinderella story only happens because victory is never guaranteed for anyone. Success is uncertain. The smartest people can lose it all with one wrong move. The fool can amass great riches and never lose a dime. Life can be random. One moment things are good, and the next they’re awful. Time and chance happen to all because these things are beyond our control. 

Furthermore, the time of death is uncertain. Solomon says, “For man does not know his time.” No one knows their time of death. Death happens suddenly. Solomon compares it to the fish that is caught in a net or a bird that is caught in a snare. One moment they’re happy and free, and the next they’re trapped and killed. This is how life works. Our time is limited, and that limit is unknowable.

Second, we learn that wisdom is uncertain (Eccl. 9:13-10:1). Solomon illustrates the uncertainty of wisdom with a story in verses 13-16. He describes a little city that is being attacked by a great king. It seems like all hope is lost for this city. But in a crazy turn of events the little city was delivered by a poor, wise man. Somehow this wise man knew how to defeat the enemy and save the city. This great victory should earn this man a hero’s honor, right? Solomon says in verse 15, “Yet no one remembered that poor man.” How outrageous is that? This man saved the city and yet everyone forgot him. The point is, wisdom gives strength, but its results are still uncertain.

Next, Solomon assures us that wisdom is valuable, but it can’t fix sin. The words of the wise are better than the shouting of fools. Wisdom is better than the weapons of war. As seen in the previous story, wisdom can earn victory even when the battle seems lost. However, as great and powerful as wisdom is, one sinner can destroy much good. Like dead flies that ruin an expensive perfume, a little foolishness can destroy the hard work of wisdom. The outcomes of wisdom are uncertain because we live in a sin-cursed world. One foolish act can destroy a lifetime of wisdom. Wisdom is like a house of cards. It takes careful skill and steadiness to build a house of cards. This structure is an impressive display of weight distribution and geometry. However, just one small gust of air can topple the whole thing. Likewise, wisdom can give success, but one small act of foolishness can take it all away. 

You can’t control the future, or time, or what happens with your life. When we consider all the uncertainties and dangers that we face every day, it can become crippling. But the truth is, although life is full of uncertainty, we can trust God because He is certain. God controls time, death, joy, and results. Life is too short and uncertain to depend on yourself, so submit to God. The most foolish lie of sin is the outlandish claim that you don’t need God. But the facts of life clearly prove that wrong. Thankfully, God wants you. He sent His Son to die for us on the cross to save us because He wants us. So don’t be foolish, submit to God and trust Christ as your Lord and Savior.