Ecclesiastes 11:7, 8
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:…
The cloud of pessimism rises from the Preacher's mind as he thinks of the happiness which a well-ordered life may after all yield. God has placed some pleasures within our reach, and if we do not by our willfulness defeat his purpose, we may enjoy much innocent peace and happiness. And this assertion, coming so closely as it does upon the admonition to be diligent in carrying out the business that we have to do, implies that it is the well-earned reward of the worker, and not the ease and luxury of the idle sensualist, that wins the word of approval. "This joy of life, based upon fidelity to one's vocation, and sanctified by the fear of God, is the truest and highest enjoyment here below" (Delitzsch). Only those have a right to enjoy life who are zealous in the discharge of the duties that belong to their lot. The order of thought is the same as in Romans 12:11, 12, "In diligence not slothful... rejoicing in hope." The Revised Version (in ver. 8) brings out the full meaning more clearly than the Authorized Version: "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. Yea, if a man live many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity." The light here praised is the light of life; the existence passed in the world on which the sun shines, as contrasted with the darkness of the grave, the unseen world, which to the mind of the Preacher, unillumined by the full revelation in Christ, seemed a region of shadows, dreary and insubstantial. To our thoughts such a view of the world beyond the grave, if world it could be called, in which all was dark and without any order (Job 10:21, 22), would seem calculated to rob the present of all delights. But evidently our author did not regard it as necessarily doing so. Neither did those ancient Egyptians, who had the representation of a corpse in its cerements at their banquets. To grosser minds among them the sight probably suggested the thought, "Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die." But doubtless to graver minds it suggested something nobler - that pleasure, chastened and restrained by wise foresight, is pure and more lasting than any other. So, too, the enjoyment of life commended by the Preacher is not found by him incompatible with a contemplation of death. He does not say, "Let the young and thoughtless have out their time of frivolity and short-lived mirth; the sad thoughts by which the closing years of life are naturally darkened will only come to them too soon." He rather would have men to rejoice in all the years of their life, though they be many. "Days of evil may come; clouds may, during long hours of sorrow, obscure the glory of the sun; but even if a man live many days, he should endeavor to rejoice in them all: and all the more so, if a long night of darkness awaits him at the close of his earthly career" (Wright). By the days of darkness, which are many, he evidently means the condition after death; for he distinctly differentiates them from the days of life, in all of which there should be joy, in spite of passing trials and distresses. For all men days of darkness are in store; let all, therefore, make the most of the present, and by a wise guidance of their conduct, by a beneficent activity, let them acquire the right and the ability to enjoy the innocent joys with which God has been pleased to bless and enrich our lives, seeing that "all that cometh" after life is vanity. It is true that to us the world beyond the grave appears in a different light. We believe in the everlasting felicity of the righteous in the "many mansions" which remain for those who have during this life been faithful to God, and have qualified themselves for higher service and more perfect enjoyment of him in the world to come. But this belief need not, should not, lead us to despise the bounties we have in this world from the hand of God. A devout and grateful acceptance and use of all the blessings he has bestowed upon us, a joy in living and seeing the light of the sun, should be much easier to us if we are conscious of reconciliation to God, and regard death as the entrance to a higher life. - J.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: