“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding…; but time and chance happens to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11
“Now therefore let Pharaoh seek out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt… And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Since God has showed you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are… And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Gen 41
Here is Solomon telling us that men of understanding don’t necessarily end up with riches. He wants you and I to know there is a game changer that dramatically alter the outcomes in life: Time and chance.
Consider Joseph. The first time in the bible the word “biyn” (translated as “understanding” in Ecclesiastes 9:11) is used is in Gen 41 where it is translated as “discreet” when describing the wisdom Joseph had. Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s understanding of his dreams and wisdom to know what to do, that he promoted Joseph and put him over all the land of Egypt.
But it wasn’t his understanding or wisdom that got him the job. While he wouldn’t have gotten the promotion without having great wisdom and understanding, it was “time and chance” that put him in position to be brought before Pharaoh. Time and chance were the big game changers here. And by the way, not all the “chance” occurrences leading up to that moment were particularly delightful.
Joseph was sold to a band of Ishmaelites who happened to be passing by when he was but a teenager. Chance. He was sold to Potipher. Chance. Potipher’s wife got him alone when her husband was gone. Bad timing. He resisted and ended up in jail. Bad break. Coincidently, his cell mates were some guy who was a baker for the king and the other was the king’s butler. Chance. The butler and baker both have dreams that Joseph rightly interprets and what they portended came to pass. What are the chances?
Finally after the butler is restored to his position with the king and promises to remember Joseph, he forgets. Ingrate! Finally, Pharaoh has a disturbing dream which no one can interpret. That chance event triggers the butler’s memory and Joseph is sent for to interpret the dream. He does. Great timing!
So get this, while Joseph was definitely a man of understanding who came into power and great wealth, was it his understanding or time and chance that made that happen? And before you answer that, consider what Joseph said several years later when reunited with his traitorous brothers who originally sold him to those slave traders who happened by that fateful day many years earlier. He said, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Please share your thoughts on this and for those of you who feel so inclined, please check out yesterday’s blog comments. There is a 52 year old woman named Stacey just out of prison. She needs a little encouragement. Care to respond to her? Thanks!