11 ¶ 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. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
Solomon speaks here of what we all have seen, the uncertainty of events, and that in spite of all of our talents and preparations things do not always go as planned. From our point of view, in this life, randomness tends to look like it is in charge of things. However, when we study the book of Job we see clearly that nothing, not even the minutest process of nature, happens without God’s direct intervention. By this, the idea that your will can produce any desired consequence without God’s permission or direction is laughable.
Job 38:38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? 39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, 40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
And Isaiah relates to us the very words of God in an advanced understanding of what is. Some people, brainwashed by the popular culture and a dualism from Asia, think that evil is the absence of God. But, they are wrong. In the context of the verse following we have evil or violence and disaster in opposition to peace, as light is in opposition to darkness, but all by the hand of God’s permissive or directive will.
Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Some foolish preachers have even declared that Hell, mankind’s natural destination without Christ, is the absence of God. However;
Psalm 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
According to the Bible, randomness is an illusion. Solomon, looking at things strictly from our perspective, sees randomness in control, although it appears to be part of the overall point he will make at the end.
Man and woman do not know when they will die anymore than an animal knows when it will be caught in a net or a snare. Death and destruction can and often do fall on human beings when they least expect it or had other plans.
Deuteronomy 32:35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
Don’t be surprised to learn that the study of history is the study of unintended consequences. Learn that nothing can happen without God’s permission or His direction.
13 ¶ This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: 14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. 16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. 17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
Solomon remarks about how the wisdom of a poor man often goes unnoticed. One of the striking things about our system of government is the fable told in school that anyone can be the president. Of course, a factory worker has no chance to be president unless he has made his way through the ranks of politics and become tarnished by a worldly philosophy. If he is not corrupted over time he will be marginalized as a crackpot and a loon. Common sense, justice, and decency are not respected in the political world. Access to powerful backers and an ability to manipulate the media are.
Solomon repeats a much used thought of his that wisdom is better than strength. Here it is better than weapons of war. But, while wisdom is more certain than might it is rarely heard and it only takes one idiot in power to ruin a good work. We have the privilege of knowing what happened with Solomon’s son who, in his stupidity and arrogance, lost a substantial part of the kingdom his father and grandfather had made. As in verses 11 &12 Rehoboam did not realize the consequences of his foolishness. See 1Kings 12 to see how this happened.
We, as human beings, don’t know when our end will be and often, in spite of all of our best preparations, don’t achieve the success we view should be ours. Some people appear very lucky and in spite of equal talent and ability others appear to be losers. You do your best and live right before God and pray for success and that God will use you in some way but the outcome and what He has planned for you or what He will allow to happen to you are beyond your control. When you get to the end of your life you might think what a great person you are and how you’ve been the captain of your fate and the master of your destiny as in the pagan poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley. But, God will laugh at your, “unconquerable soul,” in the end. The Bible shows that God, not you, is the master of your fate, and you would do well to consider that.
For every ten thousand ambitious, money-hungry people who were taught and believed that the world was their oyster and they were a pearl of great value there are nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine who finished their lives in frustration and unrealized dreams. The seemingly, limitless opportunities of youth whether it be in sports, business, entertainment, academia, or politics often become the bitter memories of a life that got away.
The king who authorized the translation of this Bible wrote a pamphlet of advice to the son he thought would reign after him. That son died prematurely and the son who did reign was a fool who eventually was beheaded in a revolt. For all of our best intentions we cannot know what will come after us.