Ecclesiastes 7-9

His Ways Are Not Our Ways.

“I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun. Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover ; and though the wise man should say, ‘I know,’ he cannot discover.” ­– Ecclesiastes 8:17 NASB

There was a limit to Solomon’s wisdom. He was extremely wise, but he didn’t know everything. Solomon was still a man who found himself limited in his understanding. He could not understand the inner workings of God’s divine plan. He couldn’t comprehend the confusing nature of life on this world. Why do the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous seem to suffer? We don’t know. We can’t answer those kinds of questions. But in his pursuit to know Solomon asks. He wants answers. And because he can’t find them, it can lead to the conclusion that life is futile, meaningless and like chasing the wind. Solomon asks rhetorically and with a hint of frustration, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7 NASB). We are limited. We don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know when we are going to die. We don’t know how relationships are going to turn out. We don’t know if adversity or prosperity is our lot. A life of righteousness can’t guarantee one or prevent the other. Only God knows. And His ways are inscrutable, unknowable, unsearchable. There are things going on here “under the sun” that we will never understand this side of eternity. We have a limited perspective. We have limited knowledge. We are finite creatures. But our God is infinite in power, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. He is in control. He has a plan. And He doesn’t always let us in on it.

Paul understood this. “Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36 NLT).  God reminded the prophet Isaiah of the same thing. “‘My thoughts are completely different from yours,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts'” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT).

So what should be our reaction to the fact that God’s ways are greater than we can ever understand? How do we respond when we finally realize that not everything on this earth is cut and dried, with the wicked always losing and the righteous always winning? Well, on the one hand, we could resign ourselves to a life of futility and determine to make the most out of this mess. That seems to be what Solomon did. He adopted the “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy – a life of hedonism. We could take a more restrained approach and simply tell ourselves to enjoy what you’ve got and not worry about the rest. “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun ; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9 NLT). Or we could learn to rest in the fact that God’s ways, while impossible for us to know or understand, are always trustworthy and right. He knows what He is doing. We can learn to accept adversity or prosperity as both potential options in God’s divine plan for our lives.

In his “Notes on Ecclesiastes,” Dr. Thomas L. Constable says, “We cannot understand why God uses adversity and prosperity as He does. A man or woman of faith trusts God nonetheless (Romans 8:28). Therefore we should enjoy the times of prosperity and remember in the times of adversity that God is in control.” Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “God balances our lives by giving us enough blessings to keep us happy and enough burdens to keep us humble.” In the end, we need to trust that He knows what He is doing. Life “under the sun” can be confusing, frustrating, and at times, demotivating. It doesn’t always make sense. It isn’t always fun. There are things that happen that we can’t understand or make sense of. But if we maintain a God-focused perspective and remember to keep Him as part of our equation, it can help us understand that trust sometimes has to take precedence over knowing. Faith has to stand in the place of understanding.

Father, what a life this can be at times. So many things happen even in a given day that confuse and confound us. And if we maintain a purely horizontal perspective it can become debilitating and frustrating. But Your ways are greater than my ways. Your knowledge is beyond anything I can begin to understand. Help me learn to trust You, even when things don’t seem to be going the way I think they should. Don’t let me try and measure Your goodness based solely on circumstances. Don’t let me measure reality based solely on what I see going on around me. You have a greater plan. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org