“Thus, if man exists for a great number of years, in all of them he should rejoice. Yet, let him remember the days of darkness for they will be many — all that comes is vanity.”
Depending on how you read the word הָאָדָם (ha’adam) — literally, “the man” will determine how you understand the practical application of this proverb. For example, if you read this as most translations seem to render it — as “a man” — then this fits many of the themes we have seen throughout this book. No matter how many years you live — great or small — rejoice in all of them because there are many years of darkness and hardship that you will have to face. If life is just lived for the sake of living, then, everything is vanity.
If, however, you translate this more literally, as “the man,” meaning a reference to mankind, then the take away is a little different. Mankind’s days on the earth are limited; they began with Adam about 6,000 years ago and they will continue until the return of Jesus. And, as Solomon very accurately points out, the days of darkness are many. There are wars and plagues and disasters to face that affect not just the individuals, but cultures as a whole. So, what are we to do in light of this reality? We are to rejoice in that which is “rejoice-worthy.”
What or whom gives us reason to rejoice in the ultimate sense? Jesus. He is our hope beyond this world of dark days and vanity. We do not know how many more years or millennia he might tarry, but nevertheless, in Him is our only true and lasting hope. In Him we can rejoice in the dark years as well as in the years of peace. And, whether you take this as a reference to the individual or to the race, the application is still the same. Rejoice in Christ all of the years of your life knowing that there will be many difficult years ahead but even in them Christ will give you hope.