Summary: Christians can endure the injustices of life because we know the end of the story—in the end there will be justice.
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In Ecclesiastes chapter 8, we find the word “vanity” three times (vv. 10, 14). The Hebrew word for “vanity” literally means “vapor.” Vapor is something that cannot be grasped with our hands. Many things that happen “under the sun” cannot be grasped with our minds. Life is full of mysteries. One big mystery: Why is life unfair?
Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed (v. 1).
True wisdom comes from God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
“Wisdom lights up a person’s face” (NLT). How can our faces “shine” when we know that this world is filled with injustice? “There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing” (7:15).
I’m a big fan of the Boston Red Sox. Back in 2004, the Red Sox were trailing the New York Yankees 3-0 in the American League Championship Series. It looked like Boston would once again lose to New York. Red Sox fans were depressed. No team had ever come back to win a seven-game series after losing the first three.
Amazingly, the Red Sox went on to win games 4, 5, 6, and 7 to beat the Yankees. They then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, which was Boston’s first World Series title since 1918.
Recalling the dramatic comeback in that series always brings a smile to my face. I have always wanted to re-watch that series because now I could really enjoy it. When I watched game 6, I was so tense that I couldn’t even watch the game while the Yankees were batting. I had to change the channel. Since I now know the end of the story, I could watch with joy, not stress.
The wise person SMILES because he/she knows the end of the story.
BE WISE ABOUT GOVERNMENT
Verses 2-9 deal with the need for wisdom when interacting with the king. In ancient Israel, the king had absolute power over the people. There was no democracy. “He does whatever he pleases” (v. 3).
Even though “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), we have been commanded by God to obey our government. When asked about paying taxes to the Roman government, Jesus answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2; cf. vv. 3-7). Our obedience to government is part of our obedience to God.
But there are limits to our obedience to government. If obedience to government causes us to disobey God, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
THE END OF THE STORY
When life is unfair, remember these three truths:
1. Justice DELAYED is not justice DENIED.
Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God (vv. 10-13).
Delayed justice leads people to think there are no CONSEQUENCES to sin.
When MLB didn’t have testing and suspensions for steroid use, players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens thought they were getting away with their cheating. But now that most fans believe Bonds and Clemens took steroids during their careers, their accomplishments have become tainted. There are always consequences to unrepented sin—in not in the life, then in the afterlife.
Delayed justice is caused by the PATIENCE and KINDNESS of God.
Many people scoff at the promise of future judgment, but, as Peter wrote (concerning the prophecy of the second coming), “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9; cf. vv. 3-8). The Bible says that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6).