This chapter contains many more pearls of wisdom, profound truths of God as given to the wise King Solomon.
1-12: Living dog > Dead lion
God is in control of it all. Even the outcome of the good and the wicked alike is under His control. When in verse 1 it says, “people know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them,” it means that people cannot tell God’s favor or rejection at the hands of men, good or evil. Sometimes God will bless the works of the wicked and make futile the works of the righteous – all of which contribute to His grand plan, the scope of which is usually unknowable by man. Hearing these truths leads us to the undeniable fact that God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.
- Omnipotent: Infinite in power
- Omnipresent: Present everywhere at the same time
- Omniscient: having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things
The statements that follow make the point that good and ill affect the righteous and the wicked alike. This same point was also made by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount: “. . . for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” Matthew 5:45
The phrase, “a living dog is better than a dead lion” shows that it is better to live humbly with hope than to die gallantly in great fashion without hope. The lion is one that has lived and not done the will of God. Although it was great, in its death it exists no more and its grandeur fades to nothing. But the dog, while still alive, has hope. If it has not yet obeyed God, it still can because it has time to do so while it lives. It is an encouragement that we need to do good for our Creator while we still can, because if we do not, one day our lives will run out and make our lives meaningless.
A similar statement is made in the New Testament by the apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
Once we have done the will of God, we are given the freedom to enjoy life as it will last. See verses 7-8: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil.” White garments and oil are symbols of joy and purity, so enjoying the blessings of God in a righteous manner is what is encouraged here; sinful carousing and revelry are not.
The final passage of this section tells us to be content with what we have, realizing that the life we live is in subject to God. The ebb and flow of our successes and failures will oftentimes be inexplicable to us as we live our lives according to God’s will and not our own. All men are subject to the effects of time and of chance, and are unable to know the time and manner of their own death. We only know that it is coming, and that is why it is so important to do the right thing now, without waiting.
13-18: Wisdom is better than strength. Humility is preferable to greatness.
The anecdote in 13-15 is merely a way to see that humility is better to have than great strength. God has fashioned reality in such a way: the strong are seen in the world as great and the humble are seen in world as weak. But in actuality, in the structure of reality that God has made and that each of us live in, things are often not what they seem. Humility equals great strength and great strength of pride leads to crippling weakness.
And although this is the reality that we live in, people are fooled generation after generation by the appearance of great strength rather than the actual presence of great strength. And the wise counsel of fools is what rules the day as sinners dismantle the good in the earth through the choices they make.
What sort of choices are you making tonight?