Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/pm/pm20031001.htm
ECCLESIASTES: PROVIDING A CORRECT WORLD VIEW FOR A LIFE OF MEANING
Part VII: Advice On Living This Life In View Of Man's Limitations To Find Meaning In It
B. Living With This Life's Seeming Exceptions To God's Punishment For Sin
(Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 with 12:13-14)
Lesson Application: In facing SEEMING exceptions to God's law of retribution, that of punishing the wicked or rewarding the upright, (1) we must learn our ESTIMATION of WHAT is good or evil can be FLAWED (cf. Heb. 5:11-14), and (2) God may DELAY His response to man's acts due to His hidden plans. (3) Thus, we are left having (a) to respect God (b) and heed Him as BEST we UNDERSTAND, for DOING so keeps our MOTIVES GOOD in view of our ETERNAL accountability to the Lord!
- We human believers in God expect God always to punish sin and reward righteousness.
- However, this earthly life seems to contain notable exceptions to such a "law of divine retribution."
- Solomon revealed how we are to live wisely in this life in view of this apparent problem as follows:
- Living With This Life's Seeming Exceptions To God's Punishment For Sin, Eccles. 7:15-18; 12:13-14.
- Solomon lived under the Mosaic Law that provided for God's earthly blessings for heeding that Law (cf. Deut. 28:1-2 with 28:3-14) and His earthly judgment for disobeying it (Deut. 28:15 with 28:16-68).
- Yet, Solomon noted a reality that could disillusion us, the fact that even under the Law, the seeming just man could perish in a tragic, short life while the seeming wicked man could have a long life, Eccles. 7:15.
- To address the need to live WISELY in view of this reality, Solomon offered the following suggestions:
- Suggestion One On Living In View Of The Seeming Exceptions To Divine Retribution: Man can not always correctly evaluate human behavior, be it his or that of another, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; thus, it is fruitless for him to presume God will either bless or discipline a given party in a certain situation:
- Ecclesiastes 7:16 warns us not to live overly righteous lives, a fact that has led many commentators to think Solomon critiqued legalism, an errant devotion to rules, cf. Bib. Know. Com., O.T ., p. 994.
- However, Solomon also warns in verse 16 against being overly wise, and as one can not actually do that, Solomon must allude to one who thinks he is very upright and wise when his evaluation errs!
- Then, the word, tissomem in its form in Eccles. 7:16b that the KJV and NIV render "destroy'" NEVER elsewhere means "destroy,'" but "appalled, astounded,'" Bib. Know. Com., O.T., p. 994.
- Thus, Eccles. 7:16 warns we may evaluate our morality errantly, so we must not rely on our view of our goodness or sinfulness to avoid being astounded if God does not treat us as we think He will.
- Also, we might presume that since wicked people sometimes seem to escape God's judgment that it is safe to live wickedly, Eccles. 7:17a. In reality, God can readily judge a wicked man as soon as he sins, making intentional rebellion against Him foolish, Eccles. 7:17b.
- Suggestion Two On Living In View Of The Seeming Exceptions To Divine Retribution: As God may delay alternately rewarding or punishing people (cf. Job), one should always heed God, Eccles. 7:18.
- Solomon expressed awareness that God may delay rewarding or punishing men for purposes known to Him, something man must consider seriously before choosing to live in sin, Eccles. 7:18, Ibid.
- Hence, man's ignorance of God's timing left him no room to take a chance to live foolishly in sin!
- Solomon's final conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 incorporates his two main suggestions on living this earthly life in view of seeming discrepancies to the law of divine retribution, and it does so as follows:
- In the final analysis, man's whole duty is to fear God and keep His commands, for God will bring every act and thought of man performed in his earthly life into judgment after his life is over, 12:13-14.
- Thus, when there appear to be exceptions to God's law of retribution where He blesses the righteous and punishes the sinner, we must recall (1) our evaluations of what is right and wrong can be flawed in a given case, or (2) God's timing of responding to righteousness and sin may be different than we might expect. This means our own judgment can be erroneous so that we must not JUDGE in the place of God, but focus on fearing and obeying God as best we understand!
- [Now, we are to make judgments of others in places of oversight when Scripture makes it clear that we take such judgments, cf. Mtt. 7:5 or Heb. 13:17; however, outside of such Biblically directed roles, we must avoid being "judgmental" toward others (Mtt. 7:1-4) or even toward ourselves (1 Cor. 4:3-5).]