Online Bible Commentary
God Works in Mysterious Ways
Ecclesiastes 8:10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God. 14 There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun. 16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it. (NKJV)
The book of Ecclesiastes is classified as wisdom literature. Wisdom literature is especially concerned with helping us to deal with the issues of life. It is believed that Solomon wrote this book late in his life.
When Solomon became the king of Israel in 970 B.C. the first thing he asked of God was to be wise. God answered his prayer and made him the wisest man ever to live, at the age of nineteen (1 Kings 3:12).
Solomon, in this passage, is musing about how life can be unfair. He remembers those who died after living a life of sin (v. 10a). They had been regular temple goers (v. 10b). There deeds in Jerusalem were now forgotten (v. 10c). Even though the people thought they were religious, God knew that their motives were not pure. Their works were not honored by God.
Their evil deeds were now meaningless, their sin had not been found out (v. 10d). Solomon complains that one’s “evil work” is not quickly known. Therefore, evil men continue to do evil (v. 11).
Evil men may seem to get away with sin for a long time (v. 12a). They may even be given a long life by God (v. 12b). Even so, those who shun evil and obey God will be blessed (v. 12c).
Evil men will not be blessed (v. 13a). Also, their days are like a “shadow” because they did not obey God (v. 13b). Their life has no lasting significance. It is like a shadow, lacking substance.
There is a certain meaninglessness to life on earth (v. 14a). Righteous men receive the fruits of the wicked, whereas the wicked receive the fruits of the righteous (v. 14b). Bad things happen to good people, while the wicked prosper.
So, Solomon suggests that it is better to enjoy life, to “eat, drink, and be merry”, for this will make our life on earth more enjoyable (v. 15). He is not saying to include sin in our partying, as he has already condemned sin and praised obedience in verses twelve and thirteen. Church members have really fun parties without getting drunk or committing other sins.
Solomon, the wisest man in the history of the world, applied all of his wisdom, day and night, in an attempt to understanding God’s work on earth (v. 16-17a). He concluded that no matter how hard a man, even a wise man, tries, he cannot know the ways of God (v. 17b).
So, God works in mysterious ways. Ours is not to question why, although God does permit that as long as we do not doubt Him. Rather, ours is to obey and know that He is God, and we are not. There is a reason for all that He does and allows. No matter the trouble or tragedy, we Christians should always remember that God loves us and that He is working all things together for our good.