Ecclesiastes is perhaps the most puzzling book in the Bible. In many ways it is a book of disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It describes the difficulties and disappointments of life, and the emptiness of temporal things. There is no praise, or words of joy and peace in its pages. Its author and his purpose for writing is found in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” The author is Solomon, David’s son. This book is written from the perspective of a man who has looked for pleasures in this world, and come to realize that in this world, all is ‘vanity’, or uselessness. In fact, Solomon uses the word ‘vanity’ 33 times in this book. He writes in verse 13, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” Instead of looking for understanding of the world from the Lord, he looks for it from the perspective of a natural man living in the world. He uses the expression “under the sun” 29 times in this book.

So, realizing the perspective from which Solomon wrote this book, let’s read Ecclesiastes 9:11. That says, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Things don’t always go according to what is normal and natural. The fastest do not always win the race. The strong ones do not always win the battle (think of Goliath). The wise, the rich, and the skillful do not always have a productive livelihood that supplies all their needs. “Time and chance” are what control all outcomes. Or so says this man seeking happiness in a world of ‘vanity’. Oftentimes what we consider to be ‘chance’ is really the providence of God at work fulfilling His own perfect purposes. As we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that NO MAN CAN FIND OUT THE WORK THAT GOD MAKETH from the beginning to the end.” So often we do our best, we try real hard, but do not consider that God is at work behind the scenes to make sure His will is done.

So, what are we to do then? Verse 10 tells us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…” We might think, “What’s the use? If the providence of God controls everything, why should I even make any efforts?” That’s not the point. If we have some task to do, we should do it with all our might. We should not do things half-heartedly. We do our best, while at the same time, we ask the Lord to bless our efforts to accomplish His perfect will. We read in Romans 12:11, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” The Lord does not want us to be lazy. He wants us to be fervent in spirit, doing all things as unto Him. We should be very thankful that nothing is truly left to “time and chance”, but that the Lord is working, and He will use us to accomplish His purposes. (264.6)