This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Throughout the Scriptures, we see many promises that God will watch over and protect his people. We see more promises that sin and wickedness will result in judgment. Yet, as we go through life, many times things don’t seem to work out that way. Good people, people who follow God wholeheartedly, still suffer. Many people get away with evil deeds, and people who live immoral lives often prosper. What are we to make of this? Are situations like these cause to throw in the towel on our faith and concede that God doesn’t exist? In Ecclesiastes 8:10-17, Solomon examines this reality, and as we studied that passage Wednesday night we saw that he emerges from that lifelong examination with a strong faith in God still intact.
Despite circumstances that seem to say otherwise, Solomon points out in verses 10-13 that God is just. He talks about watching the lives of wicked people, how they hypocritically played by the rules when everyone was watching, even devoutly entering the temple to sacrifice to God, but then lived lives characterized by wickedness. Not only does he say that they didn’t receive any sort of judgment in their life, but he says that they were well respected and honored by those around them. At this point, we might be tempted to say that this is evidence that God doesn’t exist. Where is the fire from heaven? Why aren’t these people struck down? Where is the justice? In fact, I’ve had atheists with whom I’ve debated justify blasphemous comments with the defense, “If God has a problem with what I’m saying, he can always strike me down, but that hasn’t happened yet. We take God’s grace (which is the reason why all sin doesn’t come with an immediate and terrible punishment) and flip it on its head, mocking God with it. Notice, though, what Solomon says in verse 12 as he reflects on what he’s seen – “Yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God…but it will not be well with the wicked.” In the face of injustice, Solomon asserts with certainty that God is just! He trusts that, whether in this life or the next, God will set all things right.
“But that doesn’t make sense!” the atheist might say. “You offer no evidence – in fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction!” At the end of the day, the issue is trust in God. Solomon says that he is sure that God is in control and will make all things right. How does he explain what he sees? In essence, he says he can’t. In verses 14-17, he begins by saying that sometimes justice is perverted and ignored, and he then goes on to say that God’s purpose and plan is beyond finding out. We believe in the God who is revealed to us through the Bible – the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, good, wise, and just. He is beyond human comprehension, eternal in nature, and he created all things – us included – by the word of his mouth. Solomon recognizes God’s greatness and admits that he is beyond figuring out. So, when we realize how far above us he is, we will trust his wisdom above our own. Wasn’t that the case with Job? Job never got an answer to his question, just a vision of God that was glorious and awe-inspiring enough to make him quit asking it. After seeing the grandeur of what God has done, Job no longer felt the need to have him answer to his questions. Solomon’s reaction is much the same. What about yours? When confronted with things you don’t understand, how do you react? Do you demand answers and become angry at God, or do you deepen your trust in him, knowing that he’s working all things for his glory and your good?