Yeah, I know that it’s a catchphrase bordering on a cliché, but I think it fairly summarizes today’s passage. And there’s a reason why clichés exist: They get repeated often because they’re true. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, the phrase is Latin for “seize the day,” or it could be paraphrased as “make the most of every opportunity.”
You might think that commending an adventurous spirit would seem out of place, considering the cynicism of the rest of the book. But this old man is not against pleasure. As we read yesterday, there are plenty of passages in the book where he extols it. But this is a little different. He’s urging us to not be stuck in the same old rut and to explore some hidden treasures in this big world that God created.
The first verse is a good overall summary of the next few verses. You could restate it this way: Take risks! Don’t always play it safe! "Ship your grain" out there, and you’ll be surprised in the ways that it comes back to you. He's using the metaphor of shipping out grain overseas as an investment that might entail some risk.
But in case you’re thinking that the Bible is rationalizing selfish behavior, keep in mind what the rest of Scripture says about investing in things that'll last forever as opposed to things which are "here today and gone tomorrow" like money. For example, our Savior said a few choice things to put things in perspective.
I love vss. 3-4, since it applies so well to my procrastinating nature. Stop waiting for opportunity to come to you. Don’t expect conditions to be perfect before you go forward. If you’re waiting for everything to be exactly right, you’ll never do this.
I had to think and do a little research about vs. 5, since it seems somewhat incongruous in the context here. But actually it isn’t. God is sovereign, and you’ll never fully understand his plan. We live in a wonderful world full of mystery, and you never know what’s around the corner. That’s a good thing! That’s supposed to excite you, because even though we don’t always know what’s going on, our loving Father does, and his plan is unfolding. The universe is not governed by chaos, so you can go forward in your adventure without fear.
I learned the principle of vs. 6 as a salesman. I made several hundred phone calls in an evening, and most of them never panned out. If I had a nickel for every “no” I got, I could retire right now. It’s the nature of the business that you get more “no” than “yes.” But the more widely you cast your “seed,” then the bigger harvest you’ll have. The one thing for sure is that you’ll never harvest where you’ve never planted.
After another couple of verses (7-8) which again advocate taking pleasure in life, then we have a great balancing verse to all this. A young person (to whom Solomon is talking) might be reading this and saying “Oh YEAH! I’ve got permission to go crazy in life! Take an opportunity? You bet I’ll take one! I’ll take lots of opportunities next Spring Break when I head down to South Padre with my buddies!” Not so fast, stud. Read vs. 9 again, slowly. Yes, take chances in life. Don’t miss that adventure. But keep in mind that God is watching, and there are really bad consequences if you indulge in rebellion. Nothing in today’s passage is a justification for not doing things God’s way. It might be a good idea to seek his guidance and wisdom before you go hog wild, don’t you think?
What’s the point in vs. 10? Keep in mind that the word for “meaningless” is based upon “breath,” which emphasizes the brevity of something as well as its futility. Youth is here today and gone tomorrow. Take the adventure while you can, because your youth will be gone seemingly overnight.
If you’re reading this and are thinking “That’s great for a 20 year old, but I’ve got a few more years than that under my belt,” then I have a last word for you. As long as you’re still breathing, your Father has adventures for you. Don’t let the remaining opportunities pass you by. Here’s my prayer for you:
“May you live all the days of your life.”—Jonathon Swift
So Father, what do you have for me today? Don’t let me miss it, please.
And here's the best song I've ever heard on this subject: "Seize The Day" by Carolyn Arends
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