“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.
In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
A righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.
Do not be over-righteous, neither be over wise – why destroy yourself?
Do not be over wicked, and do not be a fool – why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city.
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
King Solomon reigned at the high point in Israel’s history when wealth was abundant. Yet he realised, as many do today, that wealth can be fleeting. His advice was that if you have it, make the most of it while you have it, because you never know how things will turn out.
In Old Testament times wealth (often seen in the size of one’s flocks and herds) was seen as a sign of God’s blessing. This raises some interesting thoughts for us…..
Prosperity opens up possibilities. Of course, it could mean living irresponsibly without considering the future, or the needs of people around. On the other hand, it could give opportunities for some innocent fun, or perhaps to improve one’s home, or buy a car with better performance. It could also mean living generously and giving money away to benefit people less fortunate.
When hard times come possibilities become more limited and can lead to anxiety, obsessive thinking about how to make ends meet, sleepless nights, bitterness, resentment and a temptation to steal. It is time then to learn to depend on God for one’s daily needs.
In spite of the claims of insurance companies to give us “peace of mind” – no-one can accurately predict the future. In wealth or poverty we should realise that everything we have ultimately comes from God. The overall lesson is both to thank Him for His provision and trust Him for our future needs. The Christian virtue of humility faces us with who we really are as people. We are not what we own.
As we cannot foresee how our future will pan out materially, neither can we predict how long or short a time we will live. When a young person, who has lived a good life dies we are sad, especially in comparison with some rogues who may appear to have outlived their usefulness but live a long life. We are left with perplexing questions. It doesn’t seem fair or logical. Living recklessly may lead to an early death, but we cannot earn extra years by being good! There are no guarantees.
Probably, we all struggle at times with the apparent randomness of life. We may think we have got things mapped out and know where we are going. Then something happens that knocks us for six and it feels as if the ground beneath our feet has shifted and we no longer feel secure.
Since the beginning of time, mankind has wanted to be in control of things, but however clever we are, life is unpredictable. As we have seen before, the only sure and safe ground is to walk hand in hand with God because He is the One who knows the end from the beginning. He created the world we live in, and though we are doing our best to wreck it, He is still the answer to our deepest needs. He is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer. There is nothing that will happen to us that He does not already know about and has gone before us to prepare the way. Our Christian journey takes us from trying to have life under our control, to a place where we trust God to work things out for us in the way that works for our ultimate good. He may in the process take us through some unexpected pathways, but He will always be with us.
King Solomon who was known “as the wisest person who ever lived”, observed that “wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city” v.19) which is quite a statement! The ability to think issues through carefully, use resources well, tread carefully and recognise one’s own limitations, while trusting the God of the Universe to lead us through, is the wisest way to live. It will reap great rewards.
However, even Solomon observed that no-one gets it right all the time. He certainly didn’t! The late Alec Motyer once shrewdly commented “imagine having all those mothers-in-law to cope with!”
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “Wise” as “having experience and knowledge and judiciously applying them”. That leaves us with something to think about!
“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar,
You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways
Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.
(Verses – 13 – 16)
“You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”