June 30 – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

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Main Focus: Ecclesiastes has had a lot to say about our limitations, but hope in Jesus bridges the gap between our insufficiency and God’s sufficiency.

We’re in the home stretch of our Ecclesiastes series! This week and next week we’ll be wrapping up with some of the Teacher’s encouragement towards the end of the book. FYI, both weeks we’ll be looking at different passages than the sermon, but they should complement one another. This week we’ll build on what we saw in 7:1-18 by turning to 11:1-10 to talk about how to live wisely, after which we’ll jump to 1 Peter 5 to talk about humility.

And yes, those do feel like two separate thoughts. One challenge we’re up against is communicating a major movement of thought in the book of Ecclesiastes: the Teacher repeatedly deconstructs things we tend to hope in, like wisdom or work or sex, before building back up to the residual benefits of those things. For example, in Ecclesiastes 2:12-17, which we read the week of May 26, he decries the vanity of much wisdom and yet he contends that “there is more gain in wisdom than in folly”(2:13). Think of this like a failure on the macro level but a benefit on the micro level. The Teacher points out that human wisdom cannot liberate us from life “under the sun,” but it’s not totally useless.

We see this distinction pretty clearly in Ecclesiastes 11:1-10, which is why we’re reading it this week. There the Teacher repeatedly gives us commands because of things we “do not know” (v.2, 5, 6). As we’ll cover in discussion, this admits the macro limits of human wisdom while drawing our attention to its micro benefits. For example, the ancient farmer couldn’t know if plant seeds would do better when sowed at morning or in the evening, so the Teacher says do both. We can only properly exercise wisdom if we admit its limitations (the Teacher says the same thing about work in 3:12 and marriage/sex in 9:9).

But this text is important for more than practical farming advice. You’ll notice how the Teacher also gives exhortation for the limits of our mortality (v.7-8, 10) and morality (v.9). Note especially how God’s judgement of our life is such a weighty point in verse 9; we deal with all these limitations before his watchful gaze. All of this helps us see how Ecclesiastes doesn’t lead us to throw up our hands and say, “it’s all worthless!” Even within the futility and crookedness of life under the sun, the Teacher can still exhort us to observe our limitations and to live in light of them.

That thought leads us to humility before God, which is one of the primary things that the book of Ecclesiastes is driving us towards (we’ll really see it next week in 12:13). In discussion on 11:1-10 we’ll talk about how the passage admits our limitations and then counsels us to live within those limitations. We’ll then head to 1 Peter 5:5-11 to hear Peter’s exhortation for how to live before God’s gaze. There we see God’s provision not merely for our limited wisdom but also our mortal and moral needs; there we see how God saves us from the bondage of our sin and gives us an unshakeable inheritance in life above the sun.

The latter part of discussion will focus on what it looks like to live humbly before the Lord. In humility we admit all we don’t know, which is truly wise living, but we also admit our mortal needs—our anxiety (v.7), suffering (v.10), and mortality (v.10)—and our moral needs—our likelihood to give into sin (v.8-9). As we’ll see in our last question, the Teacher has done a lot to pick apart the failings of life on earth, but 1 Peter 5:-11 helps complete the thought, admitting the difficulty of human life but nevertheless declaring the hope we have in Christ, that however beat up this life leaves us, in Jesus we have the hope of completeness and life everlasting.

Compassion International

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Discussion questions

– Could someone read Ecclesiastes 11:1-10?

– One of the major themes in Ecclesiastes is our human limitations—what does this passage say about that?

– How does this passage encourage us to live within those limits?

– Could someone read 1 Peter 5:5-11 for us?

– When you read “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” what does that stir up in you?

– What do you think it looks like for you to “humble yourself…under the mighty hand of God”?

– Ecclesiastes has spoken a lot about the vanity of life on earth—how does this passage provide hope for life on earth?

Resources

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Who wrote Ecclesiastes?

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Vintage Church DNA

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