Daily Update #273
Pause: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.” Psalm 119 : 105; 108
Reading: Ecclesiastes 9 : 11 – 16 “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: there once was a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are no long heeded.”
As Sarah said yesterday, these words from the Teacher have at times been quite sobering and challenging; they have also been realistic, as we see in today’s reading.
Here we see some very wise words, “the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong.” Anyone who has taken part in sport, or who has enjoyed watching it on TV, knows that the outcome of a contest is never a certainty. Someone may be a firm favourite to win, but a stumble, or an exceptional effort from another competitor, can often bring about an unexpected result. One classic example remains firmly etched in the memory of anyone who witnessed it. I’m referring to the 1984 Olympics, held in Los Angeles, when an American athlete, Mary Decker, was an absolute odds-on favourite to win the 3000 metres. Sadly, about half way through the race Mary Decker and Zola Budd collided, and Decker fell to the side of the track; the Olympic Gold was not to be hers. The Teacher goes on to say that time and chance happen to all, and that is of course true; no one can predict what is going to happen to them in the future, however carefully they may plan! However, once we place our lives in the hands of our heavenly Father we can be assured that whatever happens he has our best interests at heart, and is able and willing to bring good out of every situation.
We then have what might be a parable about wisdom, rather than a real incident. The Teacher writes of a poor but wise man who, through his wisdom, saves his city when it comes under siege. Sadly, according to the story, because the wise man is poor he is soon forgotten, and his wisdom ends up being despised by those he saved. No doubt if he had been wealthy, or if he had been one of the elite in the city, he would have been feted, maybe even had a statue erected in his honour to celebrate his wisdom!
For me, the point of the story is that every one of us has value, and we should therefore value each other. Our heavenly Father loves each one of us equally, and nothing can change that love. As Sarah said yesterday, the joy (and of course, the peace and love) that God gives us is not dependent upon our circumstances, but only in knowing Jesus. Jesus died for each one of us, regardless of status or wealth; his salvation is a free gift offered to all. I am writing this on Ascension Day, when we remember that Jesus has returned to heaven, to his Father, where he is preparing to receive us when our time comes. In a few days’ time we will be celebrating Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first disciples, transforming their work and witness for the Lord. That same Holy Spirit is a gift given to each one of us as we seek to serve the God who has given us so much.
A prayer: O Lord our God, thank you for your amazing love for each one of us. You have a purpose for us; open our ears to your call, open our hearts to your love, open our minds to your purpose, that we may know you and give ourselves fully in your service, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.