From the third and final lecture in the audio seminar Abounding Emptiness, Abundant Living
Look with me at Proverbs 19:17: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord and the Lord will reward him for what he has done.” According to Biblical teaching, it is a duty to give to those in need. Not only is it a joy, it is a commandment. And in doing so, God is also attentive to your needs. In fact, it is out of that confidence - not necessarily out of your abundance - that you give. Confident in the one who is the Creator. If you only wait until you have more than enough to give, where is the faith involved? But if you give - out of faithfulness to God, who is faithful unto you - you have cast your bread upon the water. You have ventured out, you have sent the ships out and they shall return to supply your needs. In this image, venturing out is being charitable. Give to seven, but more than that, give to eight. In other words, be generous and then some, we might say in English. This is a typical Hebraic formation, by the way. X plus 1. Give to seven, give to eight. Above and beyond. Be liberal and then add some more, just for good measure.
Turning to Ecc. 11:4, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant. Whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." You see, we could take any one of these little things and build a whole sermon around them, couldn’t we. His wisdom is so cutting and incisive. A farmer who stands gazing all the time, wondering if it is going to rain or if the winds are going to blow, he’ll never cast his seed. He will never sow. Consequently, he will never reap.
There is a parallel that I personally have experienced in the church. I don't usually teach on prophecy. One of the reasons is because early in my Christian experience, I sat under a pastor–a wonderful man of God–totally consumed with prophecy that he preached it literally every Sunday. He was so convinced that the Rapture was imminent - and this was long before the “88 reasons” for rapture. This was back in the ‘70s. I remember one occasion in which this pastor encouraged everybody to call and write urgent letters to every relative because, "this is most certainly the last 4th of July we’ll ever celebrate together." Because the prophetic things he had studied seemed so overwhelmingly imminent, this becomes what I call rapture mania, which leads to rupture mania. You get so fixated on this that you are constantly standing and gazing and speculating and watching, wondering what’s happening? And because of this, you don’t sow. You don’t reap. Except the wind. You sow the wind and you reap the whirlwind. Many people reaped a whirlwind with this “88 reasons” for the rapture. You know, the man who wrote that contacted me and wanted me to publish the fall edition of his book. The “88 reasons” was just the last chapter of his book and he was trying to get me to disseminate this information because he was convinced that the end is nigh. But what Koheleth is encouraging us to do is to sow, even in tears, sow and reap. Get about the business of life. Work diligently. Work joyfully. Work wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord, because in Him everything does have meaning. Under the sun it is all vanity. But in Him, it is not.
Beginning again in verse 5, “As you do not know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning and in the evening, let not your hands be idle. For you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” I would summarize the point this way: The duty is ours to work, but the results of our work are his. It is our duty to do. It is his duty to prosper. It is his duty to make something of it. And he may make something of it in ways that are not immediately apparent to you and may seem inconsequential to you. I can assure you that when I was a young boy, growing up in my Baptist church in a small town in Oklahoma, I dare say that not a single one of my Sunday school teachers thought that their teaching would someday result in my being a teacher myself, traveling across the country teaching people. They didn’t know, but they were being faithful. They were sowing a seed. There were things that you’ve done that you don’t know what the result is and you don’t need to know. It is yours to do; it is his to prosper. So be about the business God has given you.
Koheleth now begins building towards the climatic conclusive of this massive argument that he has been making regarding God and culture, regarding man and meaning. Chapter 12, verse 1: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” If you would like to do an interesting word study, do one on the concept of remembering. It is a rich study. For example, in I Samuel 1:19, it says that the Lord “remembered” Hannah. What happened? The woman who was barren, Hannah, conceived Shmuel, Samuel, because the Lord “remembered” her. In other words, the implication of this word remember connotes action, decisive action that is based upon a recollection and acknowledgement. It is the action that is the active remembering. God decisively acted on behalf of Hannah and, as a result of his action, she bore a child. We are to remember our Creator, which is to say, we are to be actively involved on his behalf, with a continual conscious recognition of who he is and of what he has done and of our responsibilities. That is what it means to remember. It is to be done here and now. Now is the appointed time. Because, as he says, do this in your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach and you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” He goes on now to give one of the most remarkable allegories in all of scripture, an allegory on old age. He has these various images here, depicting perhaps himself in his old age. He is saying, look, now is the time. Work hard now while you have the energy and capacity to work hard because you are coming to a point where you will no longer have that energy or capacity.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.