The Powerlessness of the Flesh- Multiple Observations in Ecclesiastes 8

September 5, 2008

Reading through the book of Ecclesiastes one is constantly reminded of man’s utter inability to grasp God and what he is doing on the earth. This is a message of such severe importance to us today as we have grown to believe that given the availabilities of various technologies and scientific endeavors, there is no problem which modern (or postmodern) man is ill-equipped to handle. And yet, if we step back and look through the microscope which Solomon viewed his understanding of the world through, we will find that we are not any better off now than the king was some 3000 years ago. If anything, our eyes are even more darkened.

That being said, let us take a short look at God’s revealed word through the life and thoughts of David’s son, King Solomon, in chapter 8 of Ecclesiastes:

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” (v.8)

Here Solomon voices man’s helplessness. We are all “dead” and “children of wrath,” following after the ways of wickedness (Ephesians 2.1-3). We will all die, we cannot keep this from happening (Romans 6.23). And with this helplessness, our hope is exemplified, that being Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2.4-9, 1 Peter 1.3, 1 Corinthians 15.54-55).

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.11-13)

We see this arrogance both in Scripture, society, and ourselves. If God struck us dead for every lustful thought, surely we would think more purely. The same thing extends for all of the sins we commit so flippantly. And unless we think that this period of clemency means we should feel free to persist in whatever sin we desire, we would be wise to adhere to vv.12-13 (as well as 1 Peter 4.3).

There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. . . . When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.” (v.14, 16-17)

Good things happen to bad people, and vice versa. Even the wisest man on earth was unable to say anything of this but “vanity”! Some things are solely the mystery of God, not to be revealed until the end (Deuteronomy 29.29), and we must simply be satisfied to trust that his plan will work for the good of his elect (Romans 8.28).