So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny. … As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. ECCLESIASTES 9:1-3
Solomon is certainly never one to shy away from a hard question. Why is it, he asks, that whether we are wicked or righteous, we still don’t know if life will treat us poorly or well? Why is it that whether we’re righteous or wicked, we all share the same destiny—death? What kind of sense does that make? More significant, what are we supposed to do about those obvious inequities?
No matter how hard we try, it will be impossible to completely solve all the puzzles of life. Why does it seem as if life looks much the same for bad people as it does for good people? How can it be fair that people who arrange their lives in a godly way seem to suffer the same end as those folks who are authentically evil? Great question. Only God knows. Literally.
If we have a philosophic bent or a reflective mind-set, such questions can stop us in our tracks. Some of us may find it necessary to know the answers before we can proceed with a productive relationship with the God of heaven Who is supposed to be in control of all of those things.
But Ecclesiastes does not encourage us to spend very much time figuring out the ultimate answers to those tough questions. Some questions, Solomon says, simply cannot and will not be solved this side of heaven. He raises the questions because he knows that we ask them. But his answer is not a long philosophic treatise; it is simply to acknowledge that there are many mysteries in life that we won’t ever solve.
Life is not like an Agatha Christie novel or a detective story that we read to the end to figure out what happened and why. It is much more complex than that, and it involves a transcendent God Who doesn’t always tell us what He’s thinking. It must be enough that we know the God Who does the thinking, rather the substance of all of His infinite thought.