Have you ever felt like you were living in a backwards world, a world where things seemed upside down and opposite from the way that they ought to be? In Ecclesiastes, I imagine that Solomon felt this way when he talked about life under the sun. In spite of all his wisdom and knowledge, he still couldn’t figure out why things happened the way that they did. In the first half of chapter 9, Solomon has considered the inevitability of death. Now in the last half, he considers the unpredictability of life. It’s his way of saying that life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get! We have a general idea of what is in store, but none of us can predict what is just around the bend.
In verse 11, Solomon describes the unpredictable nature of life under the sun. First, he noticed that the race is not always to the swift. You can be the best athlete on the field, and still come in second or third place. Next, he says that the battle wasn’t always to the strong. The one with the biggest arsenal or the most troops doesn’t always come out on top. Then, he points out that bread doesn’t always go to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge. The very ones that you would expect to be winners sometimes turn out to be losers.
Solomon takes all of this into consideration and says, “Time and chance happen to them all.” The word ‘time’ there refers to the seasons of life. ‘Chance’ refers to something unforeseen on the path of life. It is his way of confronting us with the frustration of life in a fallen world. Ordinarily, we would expect things to go well for the one who has strong ability. But the Preacher tells us here that having speed, strength, or smarts is no real guarantee of success because time is always working against us. Those who place their confidence in their speed, strength, or smarts will always come up disappointed.
That’s why we must always place our trust in the Lord. Our time is in His hands. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Even though life is unpredictable, God is always good. His promises are for our good. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise. Place all of your confidence in Him!
For more, read Ecclesiastes 9:11-18; James 4:13-15