I’m still working my way through the incredible book of Ecclesiastes this week and we’re starting off with one of the most challenging ideas in the Bible. Why do the wicked sometimes prosper? Why does God allow bad things to happen, and why do sometimes those who do them get away with it? I think this concept is one of the key reasons some people struggle to come to an acceptance of the goodness of God. Because if God is good, how can He allow bad people to get away with their bad deeds sometimes?
Before we even look at the verse, I just had something hit me about this. If God enacted immediate and righteous justice on people when they did something wrong, how many of us would still be standing? What’s the sentence for a thief, a liar, an immoral person, someone who worships idols? Because I’d be serving the time. If God were to swoop down the moment a bad act was committed and take immediate justice, then the whole concept of grace and forgiveness wouldn’t even be necessary. We’d just have God’s immediate justice world where everyone did the right things not out of love but out of fear of getting smited the second they stepped out of line.
The most beautiful thing that exists to me is God’s grace and mercy. The fact that despite my past as a sinner, He still paid a massive price to cover my sins. Jesus died so that I could be forgiven, He paid my debt. And that opens the door to the beauty of repentance, the beauty of what God does as we come to Him and ask forgiveness, as we repent of our sins and work with Him to become a better person, more like Jesus, and to go out and spread love and goodness into the world instead of hate and badness.
I think one of the real issues with this comes when we start looking at sin in degrees of badness. I’ve struggled my whole life with exaggerating, adding a few things to a story so it sounds even better than it really was. That makes me a liar. But hey, I’ve never murdered anyone. So I deserve grace and a chance to come to repentance, but the murderer, nope, God needs to send a pillar of flame to torch him right away? And hey, let’s be real, if the murderer killed someone I loved, I’d probably be right there, looking up at the sky wondering where the flames of God were at.
Let’s look at the section of Ecclesiastes that deals with this and then talk a little more about it.
Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.12 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. 13 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.
Delayed justice isn’t a lack of justice, it’s a display of God’s incredible capacity to love and to forgive. And no, that’s not always going to be a comfort to victims of a crime, or the family of the victim. But it’s not our fight. We’re not the judge and the jury and the executioner. These verses show us what we are. We’re the ones who need to fear God, who need to stay with Him, to trust in Him. It tells us that it will be well with those who fear God. I like that.
This is one of those concepts that I imagine will be decisive until the day Jesus comes back. Truthfully, I don’t even have a full and absolute grasp on it. What I do have is trust in God, and a complete knowledge of His total and complete goodness. God’s delayed justice isn’t a sign of an uncaring God, it’s the opposite. It’s a sign that He’s there for not just the best of us, but for the worst of us, too. And when we’re doing good and we’re nice and comfortable with our own sins, it’s easy for us to point at others and say what about that and what about this, why isn’t God doing something about them?
Can we just be totally real here? There are things I wish were absolutely off limits. I wish that abuse against children was something that just couldn’t happen. I wish that in the seconds before it occurred, God would freeze time, appear, and completely and totally obliterate the person who was about to commit the abuse. That would be the boundary I would set up for God, that would be the point when He must act.
Probably one of the hardest things to accept is that God’s not who He is without free will, He’s just not. Forcing people to behave a certain way that you deem is in their best interest isn’t love. That’s control. And God doesn’t want to control us. He wants to guide us, to love us, to empower us, to spend eternity with us, but He doesn’t want to control us. He wants a relationship, and kidnapping someone and forcing them to do and say all that you want isn’t a relationship. Jesus is the greatest gift that’s ever been given, but it could probably be argued that the second greatest gift is the free will to either accept or reject Jesus. God won’t let evil deeds stand. We will answer for all that we’ve done, and my heart absolutely shatters for those who face that day without having accepted the redeeming gift of Christ’s forgiveness.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, today I just come before you and ask that you help us reach understanding and peace with this concept. It’s so tough, Lord, and we’re not questioning your ways but we are asking that you help us understand them. Help us know a deep peace and comfort even in dark times, and help us have a heart so full of love that we cry for the victims and perpetrators alike. Justice is in your hands, and your hands are always steady, so today I simply say that I trust in you. Thank you for being my guide through this life. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
Well, another Monday is underway my friends. I love you guys, I hope you all had a safe weekend, and I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow as we close out this look at Ecclesiastes.