Summary: 15th in a series from Ecclesiastes. How Christ followers respond to earthly authority reveals what they really believe about God’s sovereignty.
In a February 2005 sermon, Pastor David Fairchild of Kaleo Church in San Diego spoke these words:
Since political parties and governmental structures and systems are made up of people, and people are sinners, there is no ultimate comfort or hope that should be placed in them. We shouldn’t place our faith in a system that will save us, a government that will coddle us, or a political figure that will act as our messiah.
As profound as those words were over four years ago, they seem even more apropos now for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. In a world that increasingly looks to government to solve the problems of our time, we must realize that no government or political leader is capable of dealing with the really crucial issues of life.
And yet, at the same time, even though our permanent citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), we are currently residents here on earth where we are governed by government authorities of all kinds. So how do we maintain our faith in God and yet live our lives here on earth “under the sun.”? That’s the issue that the author, Qoheleth, addresses as we continue our journey through Ecclesiastes:
1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, And the sternness of his face is changed. 2 I say, "Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. 3 "Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him." 4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, "What are you doing?" 5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, 6 Because for every matter there is a time and judgment, Though the misery of man increases greatly. 7 For he does not know what will happen; So who can tell him when it will occur? 8 No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, And wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt. 10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God. 14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun. 16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 (NKJV)
This is quite a bit of material to cover this morning, so I’m not going to examine this passage verse-by-verse in great detail. I think it will be more profitable for me to make some broad observations about the passage and then take us to some other Bible passages that will help to illustrate and expound upon these principles.
1. Our response to authority reveals what we really believe about God’s sovereignty
In verse 2, Qoheleth very clearly links the subject of earthly authority to God with the phrase “for the sake of your oath to God.” To be real honest, it’s not exactly clear what Qoheleth is referring to here. There are at least three legitimate possibilities: