10Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12Though 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. 13But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. 14There 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.
(Ecclesiastes 8:10-14 ESV)
Over the past couple of days we’ve read King Solomon’s references to those who do evil and who oppress and harm others. He had seen such wicked people buried. They received honorable funerals, which didn’t seem to agree with what they deserved.
Furthermore, these people had fooled others into thinking they were righteous by going to Temple (holy place). The ESV states that these people were praised. Other translations say that they were forgotten. The Hebrew is difficult to translate here.
But the gist is that people who did evil and mistreated their fellow-man seemingly got away with it. They received praise and/or their actions were forgotten after they died. Solomon look upon this as vanity – something made one question the meaning of life.
Sometimes people do get away with their crimes. Just like today, justice in King Solomon’s day was not executed speedily. When justice is delayed people set their hearts to do evil. When people see the justice system moving slowly they are more apt to commit crimes thinking they can get away with it. This is precisely how many people view God.
Because God does not immediately punish every sin, many assume He doesn’t exist, or doesn’t care about sin, or is unable to stop it. So they are more emboldened to life a life of selfish pursuits without regard for the well-being of others. Such an assumption is dangerously incorrect.
Unfortunately there are people on this earth who seem to get away with doing evil over and over (i.e. a hundred times). One would think that if God truly existed and cared about justice He would not let evil people live so long.
But God is watching. He sees all. And in the end it will not be well with the wicked. And their days will not be prolonged (like a shadow that grows longer as the sun sets). An evil person’s day – as in “heyday” – will not last. Justice will come. Maybe in this life. Maybe not. But without question it will come in eternity.
Notice that fearing God is the key. It (eternity) will be well with those who do fear God. It will not be well with those who don’t. To fear God means to have a healthy respect for Him; to be concerned about displeasing Him and thereby carefully (i.e. wisely) choosing our actions.
What happens on this earth doesn’t always make sense. The wicked sometimes get what the righteous deserve while the righteous sometimes get what the wicked deserve. Aspah noticed this and wrote a Psalm to express his confusion [Psalm 73].
But God operates according to His own rules, not ours [Isaiah 55:8]. God has His reasons for dealing with people as He does.For example, He is patient with sinners (more patient than we are) and often allows them to live longer to give them more time repent and ask for His forgiveness, which He freely offers [2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 1:9].
But wisdom – the theme of Ecclesiastes – understands that it is useless (i.e. vanity) to try to figure all this out.
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