Is life a gamble or perhaps a game of chance? Or are events set by God’s will, decreed before the foundation of time? Those bookends can create some theological debate, but Solomon makes an interesting comment about life in Ecclesiastes: “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIV) This is a good reflection to have around Super Bowl week. Solomon had seen it all, and he understood that not everything happened the way the odds-makers might predict.
Life’s outcomes are not predetermined, and we are not automatons living in fatalistic patterns. To quote Solomon: “time and chance happen to them all.” I believe in God’s sovereignty and even in some degree of direct divine intervention. I just don’t know how often He visibly intervenes, or to what degree.
Certainly, God’s presence exists in creation and in the order of the universe, and gravity comes from somewhere. God’s influence is woven into the fabric of the universe, and His character is reflected in the order of things. But we don’t’ see obvious occurrences of God’s direct actions too often (like parting the Red Sea, or walking on water), so it’s easy to question just how involved God is in our world.
Skeptics ask for a sign, and cynics reject God because they say that if He was loving and kind, He would fix all of the ills in this world; since He hasn’t made things perfect, then He must not exist. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who think that if you stay in God’s will, then nothing bad will ever happen to you, or you will be given prosperity and comfort. Still others say that God’s will or foreknowledge pre-determines our choices and actions.
I think that while these different approaches are all based on some kind of logic, all of those hypotheses are limited and flawed. God’s sovereignty and will are bigger than any of those rational, logical positions. This quote from Ecclesiastes teaches us that underneath the larger umbrella of God’s sovereignty, there is cause and effect, there are choices and consequences such that outcomes aren’t always inevitable and things don’t always turn out the way we think they will. To borrow the old sports adage, “That’s why they play the games.”
One verse is not enough to build a doctrine upon, but it does provide an important principle: God’s sovereignty is comprehensive enough to allow for human choice. If you just follow the story of the patriarchs, you see men deceiving and cheating to obtain God’s favor; and yet the Lord works around and through even their sinfulness to accomplish His perfect will no matter how their choices twist and turn…
God’s will is so far-seeing and perfect that it allows for time and chance, and includes every possibility for every choice we make. You and I are not robots locked into a fatalistic pattern. We have the freedom and the power to make choices, to be independent, and even to reject God if we want to. We can initiate cause and effect, and we can choose to navigate the currents of time and chance either with God’s help or without it. In spite of the exponential number of possibilities that creates, God maintains His sovereignty over everything. According to the writer of Ecclesiastes, life (and our relationship with God!) is dynamic, and you have a lot of decisions to make. Choose wisely!
Do we humans have a will? Are we truly free?
Or are we just automatons within God’s sovereignty?
Do our choices matter? Is it even realistic
To feel like we can choose, or is the world just fatalistic?
We cannot know how things will go before the race is run;
And Solomon said that Time and Chance will impact everyone.
So does God’s will determine things before they ever start,
Or does He make allowance for the wayward human heart?
Is He in control? Or do we humans have a voice?
Does God determine things, or do we really have a choice?
Solomon said there was an answer. You don’t have to guess:
Those questions can be answered, “yes”. And yes, and yes, and yes…
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