Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 11:1–11:10
Introduction | Farmers Market of Foolishness
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t “all of life is meaningless and nothing matters”; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! The Preacher has spent 10 chapters making the case for what life looks like under the sun, apart from God and how trying to find meaning and purpose in this life while being indifferent or opposed to God is a vain errand. So now he’s beginning to make his final pitch. Decision time. If he was an evangelist this would be the beginning of his altar call. The set up of the sermon leads up to his final exhortation. When a TV series is getting ready to wrap up it’s usually the second to last (penultimate) episode where most of the major action happens. Here he is giving some of his final call to action. Because there is a creator God we are going to be called to faith in Him. The urgency is going to be dialed up because the time of life is short. Last week’s exhortation was flee from foolishness, be diligent and sensible; this week is dive in and BE BOLD!
Verses 11:1-2 | GO! BE BOLD!!
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 | Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
“Cast your bread upon the waters?” What does that mean? Is it “stop and smell the roses?” Or simply toss pieces of bread out to ducks? No! It’s better translated “send” engage your life with a mission and purpose. Bread is talked about in the sense of your livelihood. This is actually an allusion to business and commerce. Solomon had many goods brought back from foreign lands by ships, they’d return every three years. If you wanted something of value it would take a long time for missions to start, go to where they were called, and then return with the prize. It’s wasn’t like Amazon prime where you’re 2 clicks and 2 days a way from whatever you want. To enjoy something good and valuable required a bit of an adventure. There’re storms at sea, you can get off course. You experience anticipation, disappointment, resolution, excitement and celebration. To cast (or send) is to fully commit, to go all in on life with the Creator. This takes a huge element of faith and trust in the character and purposes of the Creator. Your adventure might not be immediately successful, you might experience failure. In this case we have to be comfortable to “fail forward” Better to have actually tried something and failed, then to fail to try. What keeps us from this? Fear of failure. WE love our lives as they are too much, so we don’t risk them even for something better. Jesus says when you love your life so much to the point you never risk anything the very life you’re trying to protect you’ll lose. The preacher is telling us that faith in the Creator above the sun is going to be an adventure, where long periods of time will go by that seem risky without certainty, but it’s an adventure that will be ultimately and eternally rewarding! Dive in and look ahead to what God has for your life. Continue to be patient because the ultimate reward won’t be until “after many days”.
He goes on in verse 2 to talk about being all in, but in a diversity of areas. Be radically invested in what and where God has you. Be all in, but don’t put your eggs in one basket. Where are you currently investing? Is it all in one place, or one part of your life at the expense of other things that can and should bring you enjoyment? Are you so focused on your kids you’ve neglected your marriage, are you so consumed by your job you don’t engage with your family? Are you so enthralled by your hobbies you never have margin to serve? When we focus all our attention, affection, and energy in one place if it’s taken away or “fails” we can easily be devastated. God never wants us to be so one dimensional; even with good things that it leads to idolatry. The answer is not to dial down our passion and zeal; but to direct in diverse God honoring directions. Give yourself generously to the people and places God as called you. Be enthusiastic about life and diversity of opportunities there are. If you have energy, time, and giftings to engage with multiple “investments” then by all means do! Dive in and don’t hold back. Why? Because there is a reason to have some urgency. Not simply because life is short, but because it’s also unpredictable (on earth). When your tanks are full and you have opportunities you better take them and pursue them with vigor because you don’t know what might happen later in life that might dull your enthusiasm or keep your focus more limited. This applies to our ministry as a church, we pursue and attempt to engage people in a variety and diversity of ways. This is why we invest time in groups, services, studies, technology, etc.
Verses 3-4 | Don’t wait for a sunny day!
3 If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. 4 He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
Again, this sounds peacefully philosophical “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there does it make a sound.” But in fact this section is a little more intense than that. The world, because of sin is imperfect, difficult and dangerous. God is about redeeming His fallen creation. His will for the world is relentless. We can experience this world like a mounting storm that you can see building but are ultimately powerless to stop, but that doesn’t mean we give up on our lives, even when what comes is disruptive to our status quo. We are not in control of outcomes. Difficulties can come that quite frankly we cannot stop. We can anticipate some, while other things are completely unexpected. Disasters are not on our calendar. The best we can do is be prepared to what is revealed, and not dwell on what has been or what can’t be changed.
In 2008-9 I could see the storm clouds of economic recession. I knew it was going to rain hard and the wind was going to blow with intensity. Our company was having challenges and my in-laws company was as well. We moved in together for a season in 2009-10 to weather the storm in case one of the 3 of us lost our job. What I anticipated was economic difficulty, what I didn’t was that I would lose my job instead of them.
So pay attention to the circumstances of our lives under the sun but don’t fall to “paralysis of analysis”. If you’re constantly watching the world and waiting for the perfect circumstances before you engage in anything difficult or profitable you’ll never produce or enjoy anything. We are so risk averse; we fail to act at all. This happens often when people consider big life changes. “ I want to make sure I finish school or get a promotion, or we can’t have a baby until we have x amount of money in savings” It happens in ministry too. “Well I can’t plug in until… I feel called to do this great thing down the road, but I’m not going to do any small things until then.” Procrastination will never be profitable. Not knowing what is next is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing. You will not find joy in endless deliberation, you’ll find it in getting to work in the here and now while keeping an eye out on what’s to come.
Verses 5-6 | Unsolved Miracles
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. 6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
There are simple yet profound miracles that happen all the time, which we have no understanding about. Pregnancy Resource Center has their “expecting miracles” class for new moms. Life itself is a miracle, but one that is filled with mystery. There are things about the way God works that we do not, will not, understand and cannot explain. If we’re going to have a faithful and faith fueled life we’ll need to be comfortable with a certain level of mystery. Mystery doesn’t cause us to throw our hands up or plug our ears but mystery that leads us to trust God more and seek His purposes in the midst of our lives.
Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Faith in God does not prevent difficulty in life. The call to dive in and experience the adventure of life with God shouldn’t lead to a sunshiny blind optimism that believes nothing challenging will happen or that we will immediately have all the answers to life’s questions. We can proceed boldly without running recklessly or pridefully. Following God doesn’t mean we’re still not ignorant of much of life. However, it does empower us to continue living in it. Our trust and faith should grow in the mystery of God who “makes” (not made He is active) everything. Our faith doesn’t solve the mystery, it trusts the author. Have you ever watched a mystery move/book and after it’s resolved thought now I want to keep watching for hours knowing everything… Of course not it would be boring! Be prepared for tension and resolve to keep moving in it.
Knowing there are mysteries in life and that we don’t know exactly what various pursuits will be found to be profitable; what should we do?! What we’ve been called to do where we are called to do it today! God has placed us all in a time, place, with other people, for a purpose. The call to adventure with God is to fully engaging with your responsibilities today. You don’t know what they’re going to produce! Colossians 3:23-24 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. When you see a “slack hand” it’s talking about inactivity. That means don’t settle for a life of merely doing the bare minimum to “get by” but know you’ve been called to but press on and ahead. God is the overseer of all work so keep going and don’t be discouraged. You don’t have all the details “for you do not know” but work having trust in the one who does.
Verses 7-10 | Bridled Joy
7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. 8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
Ok have faith, press on, head down, work harder, good things will come! This sounds less like a gospel sermon and more like a Pete Carroll half time speech. Every day is a championship opportunity. Why? God doesn’t just want us to have faith in him, “because He’s God and we’re not.” He deeply desires to show us His glory and His goodness by being our source of joy!! Not just when we die, but in our life today. Most of this book has talked about the hardness and harshness of life “under the sun”. Calls or commands to experience simple pleasures have sometimes felt like “hey life is terrible so eat something good, have a stiff drink and go to bed.” Good things in life are not to be seen as meds to dull the pain of life, but a gift from God to enable us to enjoy life more fully even in the midst of suffering.
Verse 7 speaks of light. Because of sin our world is filled with darkness. Light in the Bible is used to convey joy, blessing, comfort, warmth, in contract to pain, sorrow, trial, cold of darkness. (don’t fall to the dark side). Living with light is a joy filled life. Life is not being fully lived unless it is enjoyed. To see the sun is to know and experience the source of all joy, blessing, comfort, enjoyable life. It’s not merely living but living joyfully. This means even in the trials, unpredictability, of life under the sun, because you have eyes to see the sun you can experience life that is pleasant (generally good) and sweet (word means like honey) it’s the opposite of bitter. Having life itself is a good thing, but it should also be tasted and savored like a good meal rather than grumbling like you’re eating top ramen.
Verse 8 reminds us about why we enjoy our life on earth now; because it can’t be experienced in the rearview mirror. Death will come and our life here will be over. The focus here isn’t on our life after death; just an urgent call to work, live, and enjoy this world; not just holding up waiting for the next. I see this as call to purposeful mission and meaningful accomplishment in this world now. This is the time we’ve been given to have an impact on the world (specifically the little slice we’re in ) because in terms of our life on this earth; our days apart from it will be many and there will be no more opportunity to engage here. Life of a disciple cannot be a passive one. We are called to live remembering the shadow of death. This does not discourage us (because we know the next life is with God) but motivates us even when “all that comes” is wildly unpredictable. We have to strive and pursue joy even in the midst of all this. This pursuit of Joy is a life-long one. We are to “let our hearts cheer you” This requires a heart capable of true joy.
This is a problem. We have hard hearts of stone that will not allow for lasting joy. The Gospel says God in His goodness preforms heart surgery in us and gives us new hearts of flesh capable of beating for Him with joy. Joy comes with life and faith in Jesus Christ. Our hearts are the center of our life, where thought, feelings, and character flow through and out of. Our inward joy in knowing the Son should lead to a life of action where we are walking out our joy in the Son. Our Eyes are our hearts window out to the world and influence how we respond to it. What are you pursuing? What lenses are you looking at the world around you? Where are your eyes focused on? This will have an impact on your heart.
We are to pursue our hearts desires. (Wow that sounds like do whatever you want) It’s not we are to pursue our hearts desires as long as they line up with God’s desires. There is freedom with God, within the parameters he’s created us and the world to function properly. True Joy is found it what is good and right.
Philippians 4:9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
There is a loving warning to those who think life with God means total freedom without any accountability. Life with God means a “perfect freedom” that comes when we are consistently aware we are accountably to Him for all we do. It is perfect freedom because it means our actions and movements are done under God’s will won’t fall into destruction and death. God’s joy, love, mercy, and goodness are all tied to his perfect justice. We don’t live “unbridled” lives like wild horses. We live “bridled” lives that recognize our role in God’s will is not that of star/hero but of servant and adopted son. We also don’t have to press in to difficulty unnecessarily. Life will have enough trial, pain and difficulty there is no premium or bonus God points for not attempting to “put pain away from your body”. You don’t need to take the harder road.
God’s Judgement has to be resolved. In light of sin, injustice and evil in this world and our hearts God must take decisive action. God examines and judges each of our lives exhaustively. All our actions? Yes. All our pursuits? Yes. All our hearts affections and attitudes? Yes! What is his judgement? We’ve all fallen short.
We’ve all sinned. We’ve all earned death and condemnation. So how are we supposed to pursue joy, and experience sweet life knowing the sun that warms and comforts in life, can scorch and burn in death. The preacher of Ecclesiastes can give a true and lasting comfort because his sermon doesn’t include the fullness of God’s answer for us to have joy in the midst of His judgement. The answer is Jesus. Jesus is our substitute for those who have faith in him when they see God’s judgement they know Jesus endured it on the cross in their place. That means every time you’re reminded of God’s judgement and his just wrath for your sin it is another opportunity to praise His mercy towards you in Jesus. And then it’s another call to continuing walking and working because he has been so gracious to give you a purposeful live you don’t deserve.
Jesus became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief so we could have our bitterness removed.
Jesus endured excruciating pain on the cross in our place so when we face pain and trial knowing it is temporary and we don’t fall into disillusionment or vexation. The mystery of the Gospel that God would send His son to die for undeserving people doesn’t lead us “rejoice” in life and remove cynicism We worship Jesus because we know our life with him is never meaningless.
In Jesus resurrection, because the Son of God has risen we see our lives with him as a new dawn full of eternal joy and purpose when we Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 13, 2015Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20
December 6, 2015Die One Day, Live All Others | Ecclesiastes 9:1-18