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Living with Joy under the Common Providence of God

Ecclesiastes  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:29
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Scripture Reading

Ecclesiastes 8:14–9:6 NIV84
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. 16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth—his eyes not seeing sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. 1 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. 3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.

Introduction

Common Grace of God
Theological term
Distinguishes "Special Grace"
A few different dimensions
1. God's Favorable Attitude towards his creatures
Matthew 5:43-48 - Christ teaching... "love your enemies"
v.45 - He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous
Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
2. Restraint of sin in a person / societies life
Genesis 20 - Abimelech restrained from touching / lying with Sarah
Genesis 20:6... Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
God protected Israel from evil... men needed to go and appear before Him. (Ex. 34:23-24)
Exodus 34:24... I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.
3. Righteousness by the unregenerate
God gives grace to unregenerate to live righteously...
Romans 2:14–15 ... (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
We know this well...
We live under the common grace of God
This mornings sermon title : Living with joy under common providence...
Providence goes beyond just grace... also the bad things that happen...
As we go into this - remember God's Common Grace.
Somewhat morbid topic
Very negative sentiments...

1. God's Providential Working is Universal (vv.14-15)

Observation (v.14)

Ecclesiastes 8:14 NIV84
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.
Something else meaningless
Not new - considered before
Different perspectives / adds to what he's already said.
Obs: Good happens to wicked, bad happens to righteous
The wicked person...
Selfish
Living life of wanton impurity
Spurning God.
Living according to the ways of the world.
The righteous person...
General terms... living unselfish life.
Specifically - lives for God.
Striving after the Lord.
Seeking to know God and pursue God
Seeking to grow in holiness and purity.
Note: Righteous vs. Wicked
Not saying "righteous" is entirely righteous
Romans 3:10 - no one is righteous, not one.
We must apply context of Scripture.
Same with us today... can often criticize a person for saying certain things without understanding what they're truly saying, and that contextually what they're saying is right and true
Righteous get what wicked deserve
Wicked get what righteous deserve.
As Solomon observes, there is a great reversal of what ought to be
Not ALWAYS... but there are those cases
In our lives? Ever seen?
As you look - think evil people do so well.
You look at your own life, lives of saints... seem to suffer.
How does this affect you?
This may lead us to become weary...
Psalm 73:13 - Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
Righteous should expect suffering
Godly leaders in OT - faced persecution
David under Saul
Prophets in OT
NT - Jesus Christ - ultimate example.
Christ said to His disciples - you will suffer
You, YOU... will suffer!
Remember... observation. there are times (not always) where good happens to wicked, bad happens to the righteous.
We need to accept this from the hand of God if we are going to live out Solomon's commendation... (next verse)

Commendation (v.15)

Ecclesiastes 8:15 NIV84
15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.
"I commend the enjoyment of Life"
This is what Solomon says we should do
How is it that Solomon can commend this when bad happens to the righteous?
Because when we accept the reality of God's sovereignty, much of our problem is solved.
We struggle to accept...
spend our time worrying / being anxious / fussing over / grumbling and complaining about... etc. etc.
God has made a beautiful world, with countless opportunities for delighting both in God and what He has created.
"Nothing is better ... than to eat, drink and be glad..."
"Joy will accompany him in all His work"
Psalm 128...
V.1 - joy in the fear of the Lord
v.2 - Vocational Joy
v.3 - Domestic joy - in the family
vv.4-5 - worshipful joy
Jerusalem was the city of worship
People would go up to worship God
The city would prosper.
v.6 - future joy
Covenantal faithfulness of God
For us - hope in a future glory

2. God's Providential Working is Incomprehensible (vv.16-17)

Read verses...
Birds eye-view of life... what does he see?
Worldview...
Through the ages, man has pursued this understanding.
Think of philosophers at the Areopagus in Greece... Paul
In our own day, the rise of Darwinian Evolution.... driven by an attempt to understand and make sense of life.
Why do things happen in life as they do?
Why do we see what we see.
NB!!! - our worldview is important!! What is shaping ours?
No one can understand...
"Though the wise man may say "I know", he cannot discover... (NASB)
As people... Christians... we need to allow for our reference points to accept the incomprehensibility of God
Psalm 73:16 - When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
Romans 11:33 - Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

3. God's Providential Working is Unknowable (vv.1)

Read v.1
Solomon does an examination...
"In the hands of God..."
Notice the focus on the righteous..
The lives of the righteous are in God's hands.
We are not the creators of our own futures.
We are not the ones determining the course of our lives.
Yes of course - we make decisions...
God allows us incredible freedom... and ability to make choices.
Ultimately - our lives are in his hands.
We cannot manipulate God.
Can't bargain with God by our good works.
For good only?? NO!
"...whether love or hate awaits him..."
Meaning here? Different perspectives...
Human emotions...?
Unlikely... context of the verses...
More likely - God's acceptance or rejection
Some suggest - God choosing to save or not save... we can't know.
God's working in our lives... does it LOOK like an expression of love or hate?
Charles Bridges: "The righteous and the wise are in the hand of God. Where could they be safer? Here is rest indeed. What more do we desire as the ground of our confidence than this truth sealed and witnessed on the conscience. All his saints are in thy hand? (Deut 33:3). We are spared no trials however severe - no conflict however painful - no furnace however heated. But nothing touches our foundation. We are in his hand. We are 'a crown and diadem.' Gladly would the great enemy secure the prize. But we are in the hand of the Lord (Isaiah 62:3) We are in the fold - exposed to peril. But the security is "None shall pluck them out of my hand (John 10:23).
The reality is, we cannot know what the future holds. But we can rest in the one who does.

4. God's Providential Working Leads to the fate of all (vv.2-6)

The Same Fate Happens to All (vv.2-3)
Read vv.2-3
Solomon returns to the idea of destiny... - end of life
All go to the same place.
Pause and consider Job...Job 9
v.2 - Job takes his evaluation of man and puts it against God
vv.4-13 - examples of the power and greatness of God
vv.14-20 - he cannot dispute with God about things
vv.21-22 - all are destroyed by God
Job was in a place of despair... this was his experience.
Ultimately, we cannot question the state of affairs...
Because the heart of man is indeed evil
Better Alive than Dead (vv.4-6)
Living dog vs. Dead Lion v.4
Interesting - previously Solomon found it better to be dead (4:2-3)... now he's considering a different perspective.
Lion was revered.
Proverbs 30:30 .., a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing;
Eblem of the Messiah - the Lion of Judah
Dog - terrible animal... despised.
Rather be alive and a dog, than be a lion, and yet be dead.
v. 5 - Reasons... Dead know nothing.
Dead know nothing... living know they will die.
Living can make preparation...
We would do well to consider.
We have opportunity now to fix our eyes upwards
Make our goal - godliness, heavenward bound...
Live our lives so that to die would be gain...
v. 6 - Never a part in anything
Once death has knocked on our doors, there is no longer opportunity in this life.
Nothing to expect...
Nothing to labour for.
No reward received in life... at least in this life.
Every opportunity for action or achievement is a thing of the past.
NOTE:!!! First, he is only depicting the state of the dead in relation to this world.
Second, he is expressing the opinion that one would be forced to hold “under the sun” if he viewed the entire issue without the benefit of divine revelation on the subject.
The emphasis... While he is on earth, the human being participates in the scene around him; he is an actor upon the stage of life. With death, the curtain falls, his role here ends.

Application / Conclusion

Trust in the Lord
Are you anxious in life?
Do you stress about life?
There is little point... our lives are indeed in God's hands.
Yes we have responsibility.
But our responsibility is not to be anxious.
Prepare for eternity.
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