Ecclesiastes 9:1–6 teaches that your life is in the hands of God.
Obviously, in a general sense, everyone’s life is in God’s hands. He is the Creator of “the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and therefore everything in them belongs to him (Psalm 24:1). He is the Provider of the needs of all people. As Jesus said, “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). God also is the Savior, who offers divine forgiveness to all, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And finally, he is the Judge of all, for we “will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).
And yet, the Preacher is not speaking in a general sense when he says that your life is in God’s hands. He is speaking instead of the specific providence God exercises on behalf of the godly when he works all things together for their good (Romans 8:28). It is only “the righteous and the wise and their deeds” who are in God’s hands in this specific sense. Only the children of the Heavenly Father can know God’s special care for them, even though God desires good to come to all people.
Now, the truth that your life is in God’s hand should provide great comfort to you for several reasons. First, it should comfort you because in this life, you will experience “love and hate” from other people. Whether others treat you good or bad, with affection or antagonism, God is working for your good.
Second, it should comfort you because death is a universal human constant. Notice that the Preacher emphasizes this common fate through repetition of contrasting characteristics. Death comes to righteous and wicked, good and evil, clean and unclean, religious and irreligious, oath-takers and oath breakers. “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all.” Looking upon his fate, the wicked man determines to fill his heart with evil. “If death befalls both good and bad, why be good?” he asks. The wise person knows better. There is more to life than just what happens “under the sun.” God will reward in eternity those who do what is right in this life, and punish those who do wrong without repentance (Romans 2:6–11).
Third, God’s special providence for the godly should strengthen you to live well in the present. As the Preacher whimsically states the matter, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” The word comfort derives from Latin, where it originally meant “with strength.” God’s comfort of the godly is not a mere palliative, something to lessen your pain. It is a stimulant, which awakens you to God’s care for you and energizes your good deeds on his behalf. Precisely because death is so tragic—rendering your actions in this life moot, to a certain degree—you ought to live your life with divine purpose and energy.
You live life “under the sun,” where death prevails. But your life is in the hands of One who lives “above the sun.” So, knowing that God cares for you, live well!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.