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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Ecc 11; The Bread of Life

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Portraits of Christ in Ecclesiastes
“The Bread of Life” – Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

  • Today we don’t need more prognosticators of doom every time there are clouds in the sky. Instead, we desperately need generous faithful, caring men and women—who can build arks.
  • Evangelical Christianity seems to feed off of talk about dark difficult days.
  • Admittedly, there is no reason for optimism in human goodness or wisdom.
  • But much of our preoccupation with all the evil in the world comes from our lack of confidence in God’s providential care.
  • Does our God hold history in His hands?
  • Will He provide for His people in every generation?
  • And will He work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes? (Romans 8:28)
  • Solomon, writing in his journal of wisdom, has attempted to lift his reader’s perspective above the clouds that shroud the sun.
  • He has affirmed that God has an appointed season for every purpose.
  • His purposes are being accomplished in our lives according to His divine pleasure.
  • He has made everything beautiful in its time.
  • We are exhorted, “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.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14-15)
  • We are to count it all joy, when we encounter various trials, because we are to know God uses these things to increase and expand our trust and joy in Him. (James 1:2-3)
  • Some might misconstrue faith in God’s sovereignty to mean living in complacency.
  • Instead, Solomon exhorts us to be sensible yet bold. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  • He has previously told us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
  • Even though God holds history in His hands, His people are called to passionate living, enjoying every day they have breath and opportunity to glorify Him.
  • But Solomon, also cautions, “…Time and providence can overturn our finest plans.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
  • This might paralyze those who are preoccupied with watching weather broadcasts 24/7.
  • But the uncertainties of life are supposed to prompt God’s people to squeeze all the juice out of the lemon and make lemonade out of it.
  • If there are risks in everything, it is better to fail in launching an ark than to hug and horde one’s resources to oneself. (Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, page 97)
  • Gratitude and generosity should characterize those who take and eat from God’s hands.
  • Therefore, as Solomon prepared to complete his writing of the last chapter of his journal, was bully on life.
  • His exhortations have the spirit of New Testament living.
  • Our Lord called out, “He who loves his life loses it” and “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” (John 12:25; Matthew 7:2; Acts 20:35)
  • Therefore, those who pray to their heavenly Father for “daily bread” are to think of the daily needs of others.
  • They are to be ark builders in a generation living under ominous clouds of adversity.
  • Solomon exhorted God’s people to be bold by using harvest images.

He begins with the admonition to be generous with your bread, while you have it to give! (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

  1. His exhortation is: “Cast your bread upon the waters!”
    • By using the imagery of “bread,” Solomon likely had in mind the manna Israel received in the wilderness.
    • Bread was a symbol of God’s gracious provision for the basic staples of life.
    • Israel was not content with God’s provision from heaven.
    • But we are to eat our bread with joy.
    • Likewise, we are to see our surplus of bread, to be one of the ways God uses to provide for others in their time of famine. (Luke 6:30-31; Hebrews 13:1-2)
    • Hospitality is lovingly pursuing others by welcoming them into our homes and offering them the bounty of God’s benevolence.
    • It would be better to give away our extra bread today to those in need than to let the bread rot and turn to worms tomorrow in our already stocked and overflowing cupboards.
    • Jesus called His people to joyous generosity.
    • “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
    • “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
    • Solomon also said to “castaway” or “shove off” our bread upon the waters.
    • By this he may have had in mind a merchant who loaded his ship and set sail for foreign ports to sell his grain.
    • He had to shove his ship off from the dock and wait for it to return with a profit.
    • The use of the word “waters” may also have been a Biblical symbol to describe the faceless multitudes that cover the earth.
    • Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks of you.” (Luke 6:38)
    • And those who give away out of their already filled silos and cupboards will be blessed in return for their generosity.
  2. Solomon tells us why this is reasonable, “…for you will find it after many days.”
    • In joyfully giving away our bread, we will find blessings in return.
    • Listen to the Psalms and Proverbs reaffirm the blessing of generosity.
    • Psalm 41:1-2 says, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.”
    • Proverbs 19:17 and Proverbs 21:13 say, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
    • Jesus also promised blessings for charitable deeds done in secret, “…for your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:4)
    • In casting our surplus bread out upon the multitudes we will make life-long friends who will be there for us in our moment of need.
    • Jesus said, in Luke 16:9-13, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
    • Our passions never lie.
    • They expose what we treasure most in our hearts.
    • Those who generously give, will find unexpected blessings to follow.
    • Christ’s words echoed in the early church, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
    • And casting our bread upon the waters begins within the Church.
    • This was Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:9-10, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
    • The priority of giving and serving is to begin within the local Church.
    • Those who make the excuse that they can’t give or serve their local church because they are already involved in other good, benevolent ministries or Para-church organizations have misplaced priorities.
    • Local churches suffer unnecessarily when people give to heartfelt ministries and forsake their own church.
  • When we contribute to the local Church, we are giving to many different ministries.
  • This church’s budget includes the expense of staff, facility and programs, but also charity and missions, not to mention a pre-school that has ministered to thousands over thirty years.
  • I know of no better place to give than your church.
  • The congregation participates in establishing and approving the budget.
  • There are designated offerings to help send young people to catch a vision for God’s heart around the world.
  • Giving to the Church, in my estimation, is the best investment for the growth of Christ’s kingdom.
  • But here is the point being made by Solomon, those who aren’t casting their bread on the waters are missing out on the joy and blessings God intends.
  • We are to be motivated in giving not by guilt but by overwhelming gratitude for God’s providential care in giving us the daily staples of life.
  • But Solomon anticipated resistance to his exhortation from those who might argue that they don’t give because they may need this bread in the future.

Instead, Solomon urges us to be bold in giving our bread away in uncertain times! (Ecclesiastes 11:2-3)

  1. It is another exhortation to generosity: “Give a serving to seven and also to eight.”
    • The idea of giving seven slices of bread and also an eighth is another way of describing the attitude of giving.
    • We are to give above and beyond what might be expected when needs arise.
    • The same notion was challenged by the apostles when Jesus exhorted them to keep on forgiving one another.
    • They thought themselves gracious in forgiving someone seven times.
    • But Jesus expanded their self-imposed limitations on their forgiveness, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)
    • The same is being encouraged here by Solomon when it comes to giving.
    • We are not to give as if we were paying a tax or an association fee.
    • Rather, we are to give—and give generously because the future is so uncertain.
    • Uncertain times call for generosity—not hording.
  2. That is why Solomon urges generosity: “For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.”
    • Arks are built because of storm clouds.
    • No one knows for certain if God’s judgment will come today or tomorrow.
    • Like Noah, we must diligently serve and generously give while we have bread to give.
    • We don’t know when it will rain or which way trees will fall around us.
    • But these things shouldn’t keep us from serving and giving.
    • We can’t give God tomorrow because it isn’t ours to give.
    • We can only give Him ourselves today.
    • This is the day God has given us.
  3. We see examples of this kind of generosity in the early church.
    • When prophets from Jerusalem warned the church of Antioch of an impending famine throughout the world, the apostles urged everyone to give according to their ability.
    • A relief fund was established to help those in need. (Acts 11:27-30)
    • The Macedonian churches rallied to this call.
    • They were themselves in the midst of great difficulties and pressures but insisted on giving anyway.
    • Listen to Paul’s description of their generosity in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
    • “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”
    • It was in spite of their dire financial straights that they gave abundantly.
    • These early Christians gave gladly gave out of their deep poverty because they thought giving not be just a duty, but a blessing.
    • They gave seven, even eight slices of bread so that they could help those who were in greater need.
    • The same was true when God dumped manna on the ground for Israel in the wilderness.
    • Those who gathered much ended up with no leftovers because they gave to those who couldn’t gather at all. (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)
    • In this way there was enough for all God’s people.
    • So Solomon is urging his generation, and ours, to be diligent to give our bread away because we live in uncertain times.
    • Left over manna turned to worms.
    • Better to give generously today than not be around to spend it tomorrow.
    • Be bold! Make today count!

Solomon was not so naïve as to urge us to eat all our bread and live only for today. Instead he urges us to sow our seed for a future harvest, while we have time today! (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6)

  1. He does this with two related exhortations. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)
    • “Sow your seed in the morning!” (2 Corinthians 9:6-11; Galatians 6:7-10)
    • “Do not withhold your hand in the evening!”
    • In essence, he is calling God’s people to sow bountifully today for a harvest tomorrow.
    • The young in the early years of their life are to be sowing good seed for the future.
    • And those in their twilight of life under the sun, should keep on diligently sowing.
    • It is Solomon’s way of saying, “Don’t let any stage of life be an excuse for not generously sowing for a bountiful harvest.”
    • His words sound strangely similar to those of Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
    • “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ Now may He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”
    • Those who are rich in this present age should not trust in their riches.
    • Instead, they are to trust in the living God.
    • He has given us all things for our enjoyment because He’s not only interested in our joy but also committed to it.
    • But with these blessings—go responsibility. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
    • To get the full value of our wealth we must learn the joy of sharing it with others.
  2. But if we are preoccupied with all the reasons why this isn’t the time to sow or give, then we will never sow for the harvest. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)
    • There are always uncertain realities that could keep us from giving and sharing.
    • Solomon uses the analogy of a farmer.
    • If he “keeps observing the unpredictable wind currents, he may never sow.”
    • If he panics every time, “he regards the clouds in the sky, he will never reap.”
    • In other words, because life is so uncertain sow your seed while it is today!
  3. There are many uncertain realities that should motivate us to be generous. (Ecclesiastes 11:5-6)
    • We don’t know the way the wind blows anymore than we know the way the Holy Spirit works in our lives or others to accomplish His purposes. (John 3:8)
    • We don’t know how the bones of a fetus’ grow in the womb, but God wonderfully weaves them together for our good and His. (Psalm 139:13-16)
    • We don’t know the works of God but He sovereignly created all things.
    • We don’t know which seeds we sow today will prosper in the future—but God knows.
    • But we are called to redeem the time because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15)
    • “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6)
  • We don’t need more prognosticators of doom every time there are clouds in the sky. Instead, we desperately need generous, faithful caring men and women who can build arks.
  • It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.
  • “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
  • So let us arise and build an ark together for God’s glory!
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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