How do we evaluate 2020? As I mentioned in the previous post, it could be very easy to just say it was so bad that there is nothing to learn. Instead, we should have the posture of learners, no matter the situation, and the next passage in Ecclesiastes is a wonderful guide to help us evaluate 2020. So let’s take a look at Ecclesiastes 11, starting in verse 1. Remember that this is an ancient book of wisdom, written by someone who calls himself The Teacher. It might have been the wise King Solomon of Israel. We don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Ecclesiastes is loaded with wisdom.
Here is my seminary Old Testament professor, David Dorsey’s translation of Ecclesiastes.
“11:1 Release your grain when the rainy season begins, because after many days you will get a good return from it. 2 Set aside seed-money for seven, even eight years, for you do not know what sort of disaster might befall the land. 3 When the clouds are full of water they will empty their rain upon the land; when the trees bend to the south or to the north, you know the wind is blowing them in that direction. 4 But whoever watches the wind too closely will never plant; and whoever watches the rain clouds too closely will never reap. 5 Just as you do not know how the life-breath enters the fetus in a mother’s womb, so you do not know what God will allow to happen; and he is responsible for everything that happens. 6 Therefore sow your seed in the morning, and in the evening do not let your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, the one or the other, or whether both will do equally well.”
Dorsey suggests that this section could be summarized like this: “Life is unpredictable; live wisely and do what is most likely to succeed.” Yeah. 2020 was unpredictable alright. Wow, that is the understatement to beat all understatements. Covid, and in particular the recommended or required response to Covid, was very unpredictable. My church leaders, for example, had to figure out, often with very little time to think or pray, how we were going to respond. I commend our leaders because we had numerous discussions in person, on Zoom, by email, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and yet we came together. I’m thankful for how our church family responded to all the changes and surprises.
The Teacher reminds us that life always brings surprises that will require us to change. So we face life with an active approach, trusting that God is there behind it all, even when it seems that he is gone. I appreciate the Teacher’s reminder in verse 5 that God is there. There are many ways to view God’s activity in the world. The Teacher wants us to remember that God is active. As the creator, he is ultimately responsible, but that doesn’t let us off the hook. God created a world, a universe in which we have free will, and I am glad for that. It means we have free agency; we get to choose a great many things in our lives. But that means there will be times when we humans choose very, very poorly. How much of 2020’s trauma was due to poor human choice? A lot of it.
The point the Teacher is trying to make is that life will have some surprises from nature, and it will have some surprises from human nature, because there is freedom in the world. So remember that God is there, he has not left us alone, despite the hardships, even in 2020, and he will not leave us alone in the years to come. Therefore, knowing God is with us, we should seek to make wise choices, measured choices, responsible choices, diligent choices. We should avoid laziness or addiction or self-indulgence. While it might be tempting to fret or to collapse in self-pity, especially as we face the many surprises life confronts us with, we can remain stable in the face of the seeming instability, because God is always with us.