Ecclesiastes 7:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? 14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.
For the last couple weeks we have meditated on the nature of time and the way in which we as Christians are called to be a people anchored in the past and expectant of the future. We are a people whose history stretches all the way back to Adam, centers in the Second Adam Christ, and will culminate when that same Lord Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. We look back and we look forward.
The wisdom of looking back and looking forward at one and the same time is a discipline that we must cultivate. The folly of constantly looking back is that we imagine the past holds all the solutions to our present problems. If only we still wore prairie dresses and could go out and live the doors unlocked. We become ensnared by sentimentality. But Solomon warns us, “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” A perusal of history reveals that many of the frustrations and struggles which we face in our own day have been faced many times before by our fathers. They were not ideal days – they were days of successes and failures, days from which we can learn but days to which we are not called by God to return. He has placed us where we are so that we might labor for the future.
The folly of constantly looking forward is that we naively expect that things will just work out. Of course the future will be better than the past – aren’t we Americans, isn’t this the land of opportunity, won’t the peace we enjoy now remain indefinitely? Well a quick glance at the history of humanity would reveal the absurdity of those questions. God rules in human history and allots times of prosperity and adversity in accordance with his will. He exalts one and brings another down. He kills and He makes alive. He prospers and He curses. He is the Lord; He does all these things.
What then is our calling at this point in our history? Listen to Solomon: In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him. Currently, we are in a time of prosperity – so what is Solomon’s word? Rejoice! Be joyful and thankful, praising God for His mercy. Does this mean that the future will go on indefinitely this way? No – for He is the Sovereign Lord and orders all things in accordance with his will. So what are we to do? Worship Him, honor Him, seek refuge in Him and know that He does all things well and shall protect His people in both prosperity and adversity. He wants to keep us humble.
So let us this morning humble ourselves in the sight of God and confess that we are often ignorant of the past and naïve in our expectations for the future. Let us entrust ourselves to Him and pray that come prosperity or adversity we would honor His Name. Let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.
We have forgotten that you are the Sovereign Lord and that both prosperity and adversity come from your hand. In times of prosperity we praise our own labor and become puffed up and forget you. In times of adversity we blame you and grumble at your providences ignoring our own sins and your many mercies toward us. Forgive us our pride and folly. Grant us grace to serve you in times of prosperity and adversity – to rejoice in the Lord always, knowing that in Christ you are for us. All praise and thanks to you O Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.