Things are in no such sort or degree an answer to God's government as to enable any one to draw from present events a just conclusion. Yet the Preacher lays down two axioms beyond dispute: the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; yet no man knows either love or hatred - the whole before them. Outwardly there is the one issue alike to all; one thing happens to bad and good.
"For all this I laid to my heart, even to explore all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: whether it be love or hatred, man knoweth it not; all is before them. All things [come] alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner,. he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in [their] heart while they live; and, after that, they go to the dead. For to him that is joined with all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. As well their love,. as their hatred and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God hath already accepted thy works. Let thy garments be always white, and let not thy head lack unguent. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in life, and in thy labour wherein thou labourest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol whither thou goest" (vers. 1-10).
Conformity to nature, the pride of pagan philosophy, utterly fails. Sin has ruined and confused all things here below. To look to One above the ruin, Who abides the same for ever, was the only wisdom and righteousness; and now that He has revealed Himself in His Son, this is incomparably plainer. Death is the end of all here below; but in Him is life, and those who believe have it in Christ. Before He came death could not but be dreadful: so dim even to the believer was the light beyond. A live dog is better than the lion when dead, he says. Now we can pronounce it gain, and very much better than the life of this world; for it, is to depart and be with Christ. But of old the present life was the sphere of knowledge and activity, which death closed in darkness. Hence the advice to accept and enjoy thankfully what God gave "all the days of the life of thy vanity." Heaven is quite out of sight, and awaited His coming down to make it known, Who is now gone up, even the Son of man Who is in heaven, as He could say on the earth. And hence too the call to earnestness in what lay before each
Then is pursued from ver. 11 another consideration, not merely an end so dark and imminent, but a course meanwhile so precarious that no advantages can secure." 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 knowledge; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 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, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them" (vers. 11, 12). The providential season may never come, without which the swift and the strong, the wise and the prudent and the instructed fail; and ruin ensues, instead of the prize. Is then wisdom useless? Far from it; and this he illustrates in vers. 13-15. "I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: 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: and 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."
The comment is two-fold. "Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise spoken in quiet are heard more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good" (vers. 16-18). Yet this age does not always appreciate. The poor are despised by the first man, not by the Second; and one sinner destroys much good, even though wisdom excels weapons of war.