Time, Chance, and Wisdom, Ecc 9:11-17

In Ecc 9:11-17, Solomon recorded some observations he had about time, chance, and wisdom.  These are profound nuggets of truth.

Time and Chance Happeneth to Them All

In Ecc 9:11, time and chance happeneth to all people.  That is, we can’t always attribute bad circumstances, that change the expected outcome of events, to the devil.

Sometimes, the race is not to the swift.  Cliff Young, a potato farmer in Australia, ran in the 1983 Sydney to Melbourne 544-mile Ultramarathon at the age of 61.  He wore a t-shirt, long pants, and unusual running shoes, while he shuffled along the route far behind the pack on the first day.  But on the morning of the second day, he was in the lead.  And he continued to lead the rest of the race all the way to the finish line.  He won the race in 5 days,15 hours and 4 minutes, setting a new record.  His secret, for most of the race, he didn’t take “time” to stop and sleep.

Bragg Comer, a senior in high school when I was a sophomore, had an insurmountable lead against all other runners on the track, when he tore a muscle in his hamstring in the final turn and had to crawl to the finish line to complete the race.  He came in last place. Chance can happen.

No doubt, God can intervene and the swift won’t win.  In Amos 2:13-16, the day comes when the Lord has had enough and “the flight shall perish from the swift…”.

Sometimes, the battle is not to the strong.  God can certainly intervene and give victory to the weak.  Ahab’s two victories over the Syrian armies, 1 Ki 20, are perfect examples.  He had 7,000 men in the first war, 1 Ki 20:15.  And his army was like two flocks of kids against an army that filled the country, in the second war, 1 Ki 20:27.

But in 1 Ki 22:34 chance got him.  “A certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel”.  It was his time.  It happens to all of us.

Sometimes, neither yet bread to the wise.  God intervened in the feeding of the 5,000 and providing manna in the wilderness.  His provision exceeded their wisdom.

However, In 1540, a drought in Italy spread to Germany, Switzerland, France, Poland, and Czechia.  Rainfall was down by as much as 80%, and it didn’t rain for over 200 days, In Italy.  The Rhine, Elbe, and Seine rivers were so low people could wade across them and the sea flowed inland on the Thames.  An estimated 500,000 people died from drinking the water.  Cattle died from the lack of pasture.  Bread prices rose dramatically because there was no water to power the mills.  Many structures burned down.  This drought was absolutely unpredictable.  Time and chance happened.

Sometimes, riches are not to men of understanding.  The Lord intervened and gave Solomon riches in abundance.  Whereas, he destroyed the riches of Egypt during the Exodus.  This was not time or chance.

In Feb of 1899, The Big Freeze in Texas killed 40,000 cattle.  At that time, many rich men had their money invested in cattle and they lost their fortunes.  Those who had invested in land survived the economic disaster caused by the freeze.  Chance happened at a very inopportune time.

Sometimes, nor yet favour to men of skill.  In 2 Ki 24:14, no favor was shown to the men of skill when Nebuchadnezzar attacked.  They were all carried away.  “None remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land”.  For the men of skill, time got ‘em.

Snared in An Evil Time

In Ecc 9:12, man also knoweth not his time.  Fish are taken in an evil net.  Birds are caught in the snare.  The sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

Approximately 230,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.  The Peshtigo fire in WI in 1871 claimed over 1,500 lives. The Great Hinckley fire in Minnesota killed 418 people and burned 400 square miles in one afternoon.  The Black Death in Europe in 1347 – 1351 killed at least 75 million people, that’s at least 30% of the population in Europe.  In the 1918 flu pandemic, just under 40 million people died, 675,000 of whom died in the US.  There were 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  6,000,000 Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust.  About 10,000,000 civilians died in WWI, and there were over 38,000,000 civilian deaths in WWII.  Talk about an evil time.

The Poor Man’s Wisdom

In Ecc 9:13-16, Solomon wrote about a poor man who, by his wisdom, delivered his little city from the siege of a great king.  “Yet no man remembered that same poor wise man”.  Of course, Solomon remembered him because he wrote about him.  There was no way that little city would have survived the attack of that great king.  In similar fashion, in 2 Sam 20:16-22, a woman in Abel spared her city from Joab’s attack by her wisdom.  Thus, Solomon concluded that “wisdom is better than strength”, to which he alluded before in Ecc 7:19.

Then Solomon wrote, “nevertheless, the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.”.  Never was this truer than in the case of Jesus Christ.  In Mk 6:2-3, the people who heard Jesus were offended at him because he was just a carpenter.

Had the Lord not given Solomon riches in addition to his wisdom, no doubt, the queen of Sheba would have never made the trip to see him, 1 Ki 10:1-10.  Naaman, for example, was furious when Elisha’s poor servant told him how to be healed of his leprosy, 2 Ki 5:10-12.  Ahab certainly despised and ignored the wise words of the poor prophet Micaiah just before he died in a battle he should have never fought, 1 Ki 22:8, 18.

The Words of Wise Men are Heard in Quiet

In Ecc 9:17, Solomon wrote, “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools”.  For one thing, wise men don’t cry to be heard among fools, Prov 14:33, Prov 23:9.  When wisdom crieth among fools, scorners, and simple ones, they generally refuse to hear her, Prov 1:20-30.

The words of wise men are heard in quiet, as in Lk 10:23-24.  When there is a cry among fools, the more part have no idea what they’re even yelling about or hearing, Acts 19:32.

The prophets of Baal cried to no avail among the fools over which Ahab ruled, 1 Ki 18:27-29.  When that crowd had finally quieted down, then Elijah spoke to the Lord, 1 Ki 18:36-39.  He was the wise one.

Wisdom is Better Than Weapons of War

We see this in Ecc 9:18.  Some of the most notable of these cases are Gideon and 300 men against 135,000 Midianites, David against Goliath, and Jehoshaphat and Judah against the children of Moab, Ammon, and Mount Seir, 2 Chr 20.  In every case, these men exercised wisdom in seeking the Lord’s help.  They were out numbered and under equipped to fight their enemies.  Yet, through wisdom and the Lord’s intervention they won the victory.

But one sinner destroyeth much good.  Achan’s sin at Jericho is a prime example, Jos 7:1-12.  So is Jeroboam’s sin of making the two golden calves, 1 Ki 12:28-33.  This sin was a curse to the ten northern tribes throughout the entire reign of the kings of Israel.

Conclusion: These little nuggets of wisdom are worth our careful consideration.

To study the previous lesson, see The Hand of God. To study the previous lesson, see Folly.