Ecclesiastes 8:17— “Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.”
The logic and wisdom of Ecclesiastes are at times hard to follow and understand. The book is a contrast of the benefits and the limitations of wisdom. Those who read Proverbs could come away with a tidy worldview in which righteous people prosper and wicked people perish. But the world we live in often does not work that way, and that’s where Job and Ecclesiastes come in.
Job and Ecclesiastes teach us that wise people understand the rule and the exceptions to the rule. There are times the world does not work the way it should and times that God works in ways we can’t understand. And wise people understand that no matter how wise they become there are things they simply will not be able to completely understand. The conclusion then is to trust the all-knowing God and to enjoy the measure of life He gives.
Notice how this works in Ecclesiastes 8:
- vss.1-9 describe the benefits of wisdom. The wise man knows how to avoid the king’s wrath (v.2-4) because he has discernment of what to do and when to do it (v.5-9). As a result, he can alleviate much of man’s misery that will certainly come upon those who don’t have such wisdom.
- vss.10-14, on the other hand, describe some things that even wisdom cannot explain. For example, a wicked man doing evil a hundred times, yet living a long life and his evil being forgotten. Or, a righteous man, who fears God and will ultimately be rewarded by God, but receiving in this life the punishment that a wicked man should receive.
- In vss.16-17, Solomon says, “No matter how hard I tried to understand why God allows such things, I could not figure it out.” Furthermore, he said that no one will be able to fully understand it.
So what is the solution or the conclusion? Should we despair and give up? Should we stop fearing God? Absolutely not! There will be a final judgment in which all will receive what they deserve. But it may not happen immediately and it may not happen in this life.
What we should do is trust the all-knowing, all-wise God who is in control, knowing that He knows far more than we do. And we should receive every day as a gift from God and enjoy it. v.15 is not condoning a man-centred hedonism but is encouraging a God-fearing stewardship.
We should live eat day to the full, with God’s help, working hard, and making the most of whatever God gives us. Stop robbing each day of its joy by getting angry with the injustice around you. Stop criticising God or trying to tell Him what to do. Focus on what He has for you to do today. Make the most of it, and trust Him with what You don’t understand.