Ecclesiastes 11:5
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
Christian AgnosticismJ. H. Stowell, M. A.Ecclesiastes 11:5
Incentives to Christian WorkW. Clarkson Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, 6
Provision for the FutureJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 11:1-6
Fulfill Duty and Disregard ConsequencesD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6

These statements and admonitions respect both natural and spiritual toil. The husbandman who labors in the fields, and the pastor and the missionary who seek a harvest of souls, alike need such counsel. The natural and the supernatural alike are under the control and government of God; and they who would labor to good purpose in God's universe must have regard to Divine principles, and must confide in Divine faithfulness and goodness.

I. THE DUTY OF DILIGENCE. Good results do not come by chance; and although the blessing and the glory are alike God's, he honors men by permitting them to be his fellow-workers. There is no reason to expect reaping unless sowing has preceded; "What a man soweth that shall he also reap." Toil - thoughtful, patient, persevering toil - such is the condition of every harvest worth the ingathering.

II. DISSUASIVES FROM DILIGENCE. If the husbandman occupy himself in studying the weather, and in imagining and anticipating adverse seasons, the operations of agriculture will come to a standstill. There are possibilities and contingencies before every one of us, the consideration and exaggeration of which may well paralyze the powers, hinder effective labor, and cloud the prospect of the future, so as to prevent a proper use of present opportunities. This is a temptation which besets some temperaments more than others, from which, however, few are altogether free. If the Christian laborer fixes his attention upon the difficulties of his task, upon the obduracy or ignorance of the natures with which he has to deal, upon the slenderness of his resources, upon the failures of many of his companions and colleagues, leaving out of sight all counteracting influences, the likelihood is that his powers will be crippled, that his work will stand still, and that his whole life will be clouded by disappointment. The field looks barren, the weeds grow apace, the enemy is sowing tares, the showers of blessing are withheld: what, then, is the use of sowing the gospel seed? Such are the reflections and the questionings which take possession of many minds, to their discouragement and enfeeblement and distress.

III. INDUCEMENTS TO DILIGENCE. It is not questioned that the work is arduous, that the difficulties are real, that the foes are many and powerful, that circumstances may be adverse, that the prospect (to the eye of mere human reason) may be somber. But even granting all this, the Christian laborer has ample grounds for earnest and persevering effort. Of these, two come before us as we read these verses.

1. Our own ignorance of results. We have not to do with the consequences, and we certainly cannot foresee them. Certain it is that amazing blessings have sometimes rested upon toil in most unpromising conditions, in places and among people that have almost stricken the heart of the observer with despair. "Thou knowest not whether shall prosper, this or that;" "With God nothing is impossible."

2. The express command of our Divine Lord. Results we cannot foresee. But direct commands we can understand and obey. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand." Such is the voice, the behest, of him who has a right to order our actions - to control and inspire our life. Whilst we have this commission to execute, we are not at liberty to waste our time and cripple our activities by moodily questioning what is likely to follow from our efforts. Surely the Christian may have faith to leave this in the hand of God! - T.

Thou knowest not the work of God, who doeth all
(with James 1:5, 6): — The favourite intellectual mood of unbelief in recent times has been agnosticism. It declares that the greatest things we do not know, shall never know. Ecclesiastes is a very modern book in respect of this recognition of human ignorance. And it is more than modern in that while it fully states the puzzle, it gives the key.

I. WE KNOW NOTHING. There is a farmer observing the wind now, saying, "It is in the right quarter; I will put in my seed." He shall not. The seed is six miles away, and a cart-wheel is broken. To-morrow the land will be flooded. The next day his child will be dying, and he will postpone everything. Another was very anxious about the rainy harvest; he "regarded the clouds," he chose a good week and set the men on; but he fell from his horse and died; some one else saw the harvest home. "Thou knowest not what is the way of the wind." That is the kind of experience that makes Tennyson say, "Behold, we know not anything." Of course there is very much in the regularity of things to make us think we know. A shrewd and careful farmer usually gets on well. The wind is a sign, and the clouds are a sign, that any man of common sense must pay attention to. Say we do not know what God doeth, if you like. But lay upon Him all that is done. If a man sows wild oats it is God who makes them come up. Do not say it is nature; it is God. And then if they seem not to come up — one man does wrong and is punished, another does wrong and is not punished — you are not embarrassed with any irregularity hard to account for. God has them both in hand. And with Him is no variableness or shadow that is cast by turning.

II. WE KNOW GOD. The unbelieving agnostic says we can know everything earthly, but nothing heavenly; we cannot know God. The Christian agnostic says, "We are not certain of anything earthly; but we are certain of God. We know whom we have believed." God shines into all the world with the pure light of goodness; and all iniquity, greed, violence, and so on, of which we say the earth is so full, is really a vision, too, of God by contrast. The earth is full of the glory of God, and that is why the bad things about us show up so. Christ has come — a human character up against which every one begins to feel ashamed by sheer contrast. He dares to say, "I am the light of the world," and men have to recognize it, because they all show up dark against it. The character of God is there, plain enough, in touch with us.

III. IF WE KNOW GOD WE ARE IN THE WAY TO KNOW EVERYTHING — AND THE ONLY WAY. Do not imagine there is some long, toilsome path, as the Deists used to say, "through nature up to nature's God." It is not far to get through nature. It is as thin as paper. Put the two texts together — "Thou knowest not the work of God, who doeth all." "If any lack, let him ask of God, in faith, nothing doubting." By faith all things are yours, ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

(J. H. Stowell, M. A.)

Activity, Body, Bones, Child, Conception, Formed, Full, Grow, Growth, Maker, Makes, Maketh, Mother's, Path, Pregnant, Spirit, Structure, Understand, Wind, Womb, Works
1. directions for charity
7. death in life and the day of judgment
9. in the days of youth

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Ecclesiastes 11:5

     1215   God, feminine descriptions
     4006   creation, origin
     4287   universe
     5136   body
     5199   womb
     5802   care
     8355   understanding

Ecclesiastes 11:3-5

     4854   weather, God's sovereignty

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

     6182   ignorance, human situation

A New Years Sermon to the Young
'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.... Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.'--ECCLES. xi. 9; xii. 1. This strange, and in some places perplexing Book of Ecclesiastes, is intended to
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Sowing in the Wind, Reaping under Clouds
"He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap."--Ecclesiastes 11:4. SOW when the time comes, whatever wind blows. Reap when the times comes, whatever clouds are in the sky. There are, however, qualifying proverbs, which must influence our actions. We are not to discard prudence in the choice of the time for our work. "To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." It is well to sow when the weather is propitious. It is wise
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 38: 1892

Of Confession and Self-Examination
Of Confession and Self-examination Self-examination should always precede Confession, and in the nature and manner of it should be conformable to the state of the soul: the business of those that are advanced to the degree of which we now treat, is to lay their whole souls open before God, who will not fail to enlighten them, and enable them to see the peculiar nature of their faults. This examination, however, should be peaceful and tranquil, and we should depend on God for the discovery and knowledge
Madame Guyon—A Short and Easy Method of Prayer

Curiosity a Temptation to Sin.
"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."--Proverbs iv. 14, 15. The chief cause of the wickedness which is every where seen in the world, and in which, alas! each of us has more or less his share, is our curiosity to have some fellowship with darkness, some experience of sin, to know what the pleasures of sin are like. I believe it is even thought unmanly by many persons (though they may not like to say
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VIII

1872-1874. Letter from Rev. A. M. W. Christopher --Letter from Gulf of St. Lawrence-Mrs. Birt's Sheltering Home, Liverpool --Letter to Mrs. Merry --Letter from Canada --Miss
Letter from Rev. A. M. W. Christopher--Letter from Gulf of St. Lawrence-Mrs. Birt's Sheltering Home, Liverpool--Letter to Mrs. Merry--Letter from Canada--Miss Macpherson's return to England-- Letter of cheer for Dr. Barnardo--Removal to Hackney Home. Though human praise is not sought, we cannot but feel peculiar pleasure in giving the following testimony from a servant of the Lord so much revered as the Rev, A. M. W. Christopher of Oxford:-- "Of all the works of Christian benevolence which the great
Clara M. S. Lowe—God's Answers

How the Slothful and the Hasty are to be Admonished.
(Admonition 16.) Differently to be admonished are the slothful and the hasty. For the former are to be persuaded not to lose, by putting it off, the good they have to do; but the latter are to be admonished lest, while they forestall the time of good deeds by inconsiderate haste, they change their meritorious character. To the slothful therefore it is to be intimated, that often, when we will not do at the right time what we can, before long, when we will, we cannot. For the very indolence of
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

Jesus Attends the First Passover of his Ministry.
(Jerusalem, April 9, a.d. 27.) Subdivision A. Jesus Cleanses the Temple. ^D John II. 13-25. ^d 13 And the passover of the Jews was at hand [We get our information as to the length of our Lord's ministry from John's Gospel. He groups his narrative around six Jewish festivals: 1, He here mentions the first passover; 2, another feast, which we take to have been also a passover (v. 1); 3, another passover (vi. 4); 4, the feast of tabernacles (vii. 2); 5, dedication (x. 22); 6, passover (xi. 55). This
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

How those are to be Admonished who Decline the Office of Preaching Out of Too Great Humility, and those who Seize on it with Precipitate Haste.
(Admonition 26.) Differently to be admonished are those who, though able to preach worthily, are afraid by reason of excessive humility, and those whom imperfection or age forbids to preach, and yet precipitancy impells. For those who, though able to preach with profit, still shrink back through excessive humility are to be admonished to gather from consideration of a lesser matter how faulty they are in a greater one. For, if they were to hide from their indigent neighbours money which they possessed
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

Jeremiah, a Lesson for the Disappointed.
"Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord."--Jeremiah i. 8. The Prophets were ever ungratefully treated by the Israelites, they were resisted, their warnings neglected, their good services forgotten. But there was this difference between the earlier and the later Prophets; the earlier lived and died in honour among their people,--in outward honour; though hated and thwarted by the wicked, they were exalted to high places, and ruled in the congregation.
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VIII

The Wrath of God
What does every sin deserve? God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.' Matt 25: 41. Man having sinned, is like a favourite turned out of the king's favour, and deserves the wrath and curse of God. He deserves God's curse. Gal 3: 10. As when Christ cursed the fig-tree, it withered; so, when God curses any, he withers in his soul. Matt 21: 19. God's curse blasts wherever it comes. He deserves also God's wrath, which is
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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