Monday, May 15, 2017

Ecclesiastes: Does Anything Really Matter? Day 18, Injustice In The World

Today Solomon talks about injustice he has witnessed in the world. Those of you who studied the book of Job with us may see some similarities between Solomon's words and Job's words. Job too had witnessed that sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes good things happen to bad people.

The king begins by talking about something we can't change (the temporariness of life) and then moves on into something we can change if we want (our behavior in the world). "Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come? As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it." (Ecclesiastes 8:7-8) Life is short even if we live to be a hundred or more. With that in mind, should we spend our years doing good or doing evil? The Apostle Peter spoke not only of the temporariness of life but also of the temporariness of this world as we know it. He said, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." (2 Peter 3:10-12a) Both Peter and Solomon urge us to use our days on this earth by doing good, not by becoming ensnared in wickedness.

"All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt. Then too, I saw the wicked buried---those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 8:9-10) He says, "I've known some wicked men, men who thought they were better than others and liked to make big deals out of themselves. Even though they lived ungodly lives outside of the temple, they liked to be seen in the temple every time the doors were open. They gave large donations to the Lord's work and they were as popular as celebrities in the community. Their deaths were mourned as if they had been good men and their tombs were honored by visitors. What's the point of such a thing? What kind of world is this where an evil person is praised by his fellow man?"

"When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people's hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before Him. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow." (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13) Solomon observes, "Punishment doesn't always come right away. When a man sins against God, God doesn't necessarily act against him immediately. The wicked person believes judgment is never going to come, so he keeps on sinning. He thinks, 'I've gotten away with it for this long; I'm going to keep on getting away with it.' Though he may live long on the earth, someday he will face the holy Judge. It's better to do right even if we don't receive our reward in this world. Those who fear God will fare much better in His courtroom than the wicked."

"There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 8:14-15) Thinking on this subject has depressed Solomon. From a worldly standpoint it seems meaningless that good things would happen to bad people or that bad things would happen to good people. He can't solve this puzzle and he's not alone, for none of the men and women of the Bible fully understood such a thing. You and I can't completely explain it either. We know there must be a purpose for it, and that if a person does not receive what they deserve in this world they will receive it when they stand before God. But like Solomon we can become so caught up in puzzling over such a thing that it makes us sad and discouraged. He is weary of thinking about it. As he has done several times already in the book of Ecclesiastes, he throws his hands in the air and says, "I give up! I'm tired of trying to figure this out. Maybe all there is to life is to enjoy what we can when we can. No matter how long God lets me live I will never figure out why bad things sometimes happen to good people or why good things sometimes happen to bad people. All I can advise is to enjoy whatever good comes your way."

"When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth---people getting no sleep day or night---then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it." (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17) Solomon lived many centuries before the Apostle Paul, but he would have agreed with this statement, "Oh, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33) The king says, "I can observe with my eyes all the things God has done, but I can't understand them. His mind is not like my mind. His wisdom is much greater than mine. There's no use walking the floor at night trying to solve this puzzle. It makes no sense for me to lose sleep worrying about it. God has made me the wisest man on the earth, but even I can't understand all the things He does. You should be wary of any man or woman who claims they do understand why God sometimes allows trouble to come into the lives of the godly or why He sometimes allows blessings to come into the lives of the wicked."

Suffering is something no human being can truly understand or explain. As Solomon says, be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers. Things happen that make no sense to us from a worldly perspective. Some have even renounced their faith in God because bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Because they can't understand this with the limited knowledge humans are given, they conclude God must be unfair and unrighteous. But we don't have to understand God to trust God. Job never understood why his grievous circumstances came upon him, but he never turned his back on the Lord. Solomon never understood why injustice wasn't punished immediately or why godliness wasn't rewarded immediately, but he never decided this must mean God doesn't exist. I've never understood some of the things that have happened in my life or in the lives of my loved ones, but a God who was willing to do anything to save our souls must have a purpose for the things that happen to us. We may not know the reasons for our problems, but we know our God is good. We know His nature is to care about us and to be invested in our spiritual growth. In times when we don't understand, we have to concentrate on what we do understand. Our God loves us.

Today's worship song link is below. It talks about holding onto God even when we don't understand what He's doing. It's one of my current favorite songs and I hope it blesses you.
Even If

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