16Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? 4:1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
In this week's sermon passage, Solomon wrestles with the unjust state of the world. Everywhere he looked, he found wickedness and oppression. We too have reason to lament when we see "evil [...] prosper in the land" (Fret Not Yourself—Psalm 37), when we encounter "change and decay" (Abide With Me), when we must confront the sin we find in our own hearts and acknowledge that "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6). It is tempting to conclude that "the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive" (Ecclesiastes 4:2). But we are not left alone in our despair. We hear from Psalm 50 that "Our God comes; He does not keep silence." We sing that "there's a wideness in God's mercy," and a "kindness in His justice" (There's A Wideness). We are assured that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And so we can pray with David in Psalm 51 for God to "wash us thoroughly from our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin" (Psalm 51:2), and know with certainty that He will. Is there still evil in this world? Do we still sin week after week? Yes. But we also serve a God who calls us here every week, who delivers all who take refuge in Him, whose "grace, all-sufficient, shall be [our] supply" (How Firm A Foundation). So "come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel," and know that "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal" (Come Ye Disconsolate). —Elizabeth Dowdell
Key Words: Sun, Justice, Wickedness, Righteousness, Beasts, Dust, Oppression
Keystone Verse: God will judge the righteous and the wicked. (Ecclesiastes 3:17)