“Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.” (11:5)
The context of this passage is somewhat unclear to me. The Preacher begins with the command to “cast your bread upon the water…” (v.1) and “sow seed” (v.6) as perhaps an allusion to the cycle of sowing and reaping which is realized ultimately through God’s activity as the sovereign over all creation. This is the wonder of life which is designed not accidental, it’s purposeful not meaningless because God is there. This activity is as much marvelous as it is mysterious, like the formation of a child in the womb or the course of the wind.
It seems that somehow the Preacher commands us to walk in wisdom by trusting in God’s power to multiply our efforts even if we don’t understand all the details. He continues:
“9 Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. 10 So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.”
In America, there seems to be little rejoicing in today’s youth. Instead there’s much anger, confusion and despair in a culture given over to self-indulgence, leisure and entertainment. A life lived for others is increasingly not the norm, the pied pipers of sex, drugs and rock n roll have not helped but rather aided this cauldron of foolishness and we are not the better for it. Included here are professing followers of Jesus who neither know his book nor his pleasure.
The point the preacher is making is that your Creator is going to personally judge your fleeting life so what are you living for? The same applies to adults and the old who often refuse to think again in light of eternity. Throughout this book the Preacher has emphasized the futility of life…if God does not exist. He concludes chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes with sobering words:
“9 In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. 11 The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. 13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
In the midst of his nihilism, the Preacher comes to the conclusion that God really does exist, therefore the way we live really matters for every act whether hidden or not will be judged by Him.
The way we live does truly matter, the motives of our hearts are actually laid bare before the Creator and all is therefore not vain for God as the author of all life and existence gives these meaning.
The words of this book come from Solomon, noted for being the wisest man to have lived apart from Jesus of Nazareth. Life without God is meaningless, but because God is there, it is absolutely meaningful even though we don’t understand many things in it.
For the believer in Christ Jesus, this is a wake-up call to follow the Master even when life becomes difficult and pain starts drowning out the truth of God’s revelation in scripture.
For the nonbeliever, this too is an alarm to bend the knee to Christ who will judge the living and the dead. Understand that the love, comfort, justice and peace you deeply long for can only be found in the Righteous One who perfectly executes justice and mercy and that…righteously!
So LORD, help your people live in light of your existence. Tenderize our hearts to your promptings, open our minds to your thoughts, empower our lives with your strength, so that we may live this short life apportioned to us with passion, ardor and increasing resolve for the kingdom of God and your righteousness, so that it may truly be said of us when our time is done here on earth that we were people who loved God and neighbor.