Does this mean that we should walk around with solemn and joyless faces, saying to everyone we meet, “woe is me”? Is that what Solomon is suggesting? No! Solomon is simply observing that there is a whole lot more reality when you stand before a coffin than when you stand before a crib. He is not suggesting that you should abandon the thought of ever having a birthday party again, or that you should stop laughing altogether, or that you should perhaps consider buying a house overlooking your local cemetery! If you came to such a conclusion you would miss the point of his observations altogether. You would be missing the fact that Solomon is frequently urging you to let joy break through in this life that you must live under the sun.
Now remember again that Solomon is observing life “under the sun”, life in this fallen world, into which people are born and where people die, and he is looking at the “in between”, in which this life we live is filled with joys as well as sorrows. How do you make sense of this life?
Many people choose
not to think too deeply about life , and if they must, they most often live by shallow
‘pop psychology’ with its
superficial counsels e.g. ”just learn to love yourself” or “just think
positively”. This really does not help when your child has died or when you
have lost your job.
Others think deeply,
but have no eternal perspective on life. They often become depressed and
cynical about life and a few end it with suicide, since they perceive this life
to be meaningless.
Others, by God’s
grace are enabled to see life with all its ups and downs through God’s
redemptive purpose and with an eternal perspective. It is such people that are truly wise. Remember,
that Chapter 7 frequently contrasts wisdom with foolishness. We see this in the
It is not that the wise have it all figured out, while fools blunder along. No! The wise may equally struggle with the oppressiveness of life’s madness (see v.7).
The wise are tempted in every way as the rest of mankind is tempted (v.7b “ a bribe corrupts the heart”).
However, the wise learn not to judge everything by ‘good beginnings’. They wait for the end result (v.8). The wise are patient in spirit, rather than proud in spirit (v.9).
The wise do not
glorify the past, saying it is better than the present (v.10).
The wise know how to
deal with an inheritance (v.11).
It is very
common for inheritances to be squandered.
The wise know how to work with money and with knowledge (v.12).
Solomon challenges us to think about these things from a God centered perspective (v.13): “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked ?“
So then, after he
has challenged us in the first 12 verses to think a little deeper about the
issues of life, he turns our attention back to God and says, “Consider the work of God”.
is it that we must consider? It
is this fact: “…who can make straight
what He has made crooked?“ What he
is saying is that God’s work cannot be changed by ourselves (see also 1:15; 3:14).
is it that cannot be changed or altered? It
is the fact that we are seriously affected (made crooked) by Adam’s fall into
sin (Genesis 3). Because Adam,
who is God’s choicest creature (made in His image) sinned, God
has handed him and all his offspring over
to futility (Rom. 8:20 ; see
also Rom. 1:24,26,28). This is ultimately the reason why life is so very
complex, and this is why Solomon sees the world as it is.
Sin mystifies us. It puzzles us. It
makes our world difficult to understand. We know that this is not the way our
world was designed. We, who have been
made straight, have become crooked. In v.29 Solomon puts it like this, “God made man upright, but they have sought
out many schemes”.
Even creation is affected by all this (Rom. 8:22), so that people talk about
global warming, and desertification and deforestation, and the killing of
rhino’s to near extinction. Our crooked hearts do this. Everything and everyone
is groaning and that is why we look forward to the redemption of our bodies,
and the recreation of the heavens and the earth, and the ushering in of the
kingdom of God, when Christ returns, and
when the earth shall be subdued, and the glory of the Lord shall cover it as the waters cover the sea.
The temptation is to think that God has abandoned this earth. Not at all! Solomon says that God is in control of this world. He has appointed both the good (the straight) and the bad (the crooked) circumstances in which we find ourselves. This is not mere fate or ‘karma’ -another modern pet phrase). The Bible teaches us that God controls all events (straight or crooked) in our lives and designs them for our good (Rom. 8:28).
The Theology of Joy (v.14)
It is this fact which leads Solomon to declare in 7:14, “In the day of prosperity (lit. in the day of good) be joyful (lit.be in good spirit) and in the day of adversity (lit. evil) consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”
I trust that you see the logic here. If
God is the God of all your circumstances then it does not matter whether
things go well (prosperity) or not well (adversity) in this life. Your Father
in heaven knows… (Matt. 6:25-34).
Solomon’s doctrine of God helps us to
find joy in prosperity and in adversity. Therefore do not be amazed that
Solomon does not lack a perspective of joy in the midst of his realistic
reflections on this life’s vanities. Consider 3:12; 5:19-20; 8:15; 9:7-9; 11:8-9. Here is joy in the midst of
And it is not only Solomon who has this perspective.
· Paul says to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:18), “Rejoice always !” He says this right after he has said, “see to it that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone…”.
· Paul had joy even when he was imprisoned (see the letter to the Philippians).
· To the Corinthians he writes, “In all our afflictions, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4b).
· Concerning the Macedonians Christians he says, “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Cor. 8:2)
· “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” (Jas. 1:2).
· “ In this (salvation) you rejoice , though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…” (1 Peter 1:6).
· Jesus…, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebr. 12:2).
So, this is what the Holy Spirit is teaching us through Solomon’s sermon. God is in charge of your prosperity and adversity! Thank God that you are in His hands!
So then, enjoy the good times and remember them while they last. Treasure them and build memories to sustain hope during the more difficult times of life. An old friend of mine, Errol Hulse, exemplified this spirit. In a message he wrote, “It is (my wife’s) 80th Birthday on Thursday, and we are all together to celebrate God's goodness to her. Although the last 10 years have been a trial (she had Alzheimer’s), we are very grateful for a wonderful life, well lived“.
“In the day of adversity remember, God has made the one as well as the other." And while you do not rejoice in your wife’s Alzheimer disease, you rejoice in the sustaining grace of God and you are very grateful for a life well lived under this sun, and you look forward to that eternal day when Jesus will make all things new, including our broken bodies.
In the day of adversity you must learn to trust God, because He alone knows the purpose of
such adversities. “What appears on the surface as adversity, may in truth be a severe mercy
of the sovereign God that leads to a more profound and substantial blessing”
Whether these adversities are economic, physical, social, spiritual,
emotional, political - we must find
our peace and confidence in knowing that God is in control.
CONCLUSION: Why Is This Joy So Important ? 
Joy is at the heart of satisfied living.
the heart of real and credible Christianity, that Christianity which glorifies God and shakes the world. C.S. Lewis says, “Joy is the serious business of heaven”,and so it must be
our serious business on earth.
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating
and drinking, but of righteousness ,
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” says Romans 14:17.
Christianity is a poor exhibition of our
faith, whereas joyful Christianity is a wonderful advertisement for the
transforming power of the gospel.
do well to study the art of joy. There
are people who think that this exhibition of joy is artificial, but often it is that they
think this because they are themselves trapped by feelings
of bitterness and anger.
is that freedom in Christ brings freedom to the heart and therefore freedom to
are not victims and prisoners of either the past or the present. The powers of forgiveness and of Christ’s new
creation are at work in their lives. Before us lies a sure and certain hope of
deliverance, transformation and glory. Joy will someday be ours in the fullest
have larger souls than other people. Grief
and joy, desolation and hope, pain and peace, can co –exist in our lives
in a way that non- Christians know nothing about.
not mean that for Christians, grief and desolation and pain no longer exist. It means
that Jesus has
come alongside our dark experiences. It is because of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), that it becomes
possible for Christians today, like Paul
long ago, to be “sorrowful , yet always
rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10)
And the difference is found in the fact that God is in charge of all our human experiences. And in Christ He makes straight again that which was crooked (often a very painful process), so that in this life we do not live as men and women without hope.
us makes the difference. He helps us to live with joy in this often vain and
meaningless life, while we wait for His
Barrick : Ecclesisastes p.128 ; see for instance Isa 57:1–2.
section is inspired by J.I. Packer’s
book , entitled “Great Joy” , p. 112f