Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 36 : Judgment & Wickedness
Eccles 3:16,17 And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment–wickedness was there, in the place of justice–wickedness was there. I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.”
We don’t like talking about Sin but a lot of the Bible is about that subject. Solomon moves on to speak about ‘wickedness’ which is Sin by another name, purposeful wrong doing that rejects God and rebels against Him. There’s something else, he says, that I’ve seen as I’ve watched and studied what goes on here on this earth. I have looked for goodness, but even in the place that should be dedicated to bringing it to the world, it was absent. In the place of judgement – the courts – I found only wickedness. In the place of justice – the courts again – I found only wickedness.
Now there is something interesting to note here. I have often said that when you take God out of the equation you have nothing on which to base absolutes, nothing on which to fix what is right or wrong, and when that happens the very fabric of society starts disintegrating, as in the West at the present time. Push God out and you are only left with what each person thinks is right or, as it very often works out, what each person can get away with.
At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, in Britain, we have seen incredible examples of bankers and Members of Parliament feathering their own nests, people who used to be pillars of society in the eyes of many at least. Yet they are merely clear examples of what is a prevailing attitude in godless people. The truth is that as we, as a society, have rejected God, we did not realise this truth, that we had also lost our ethical foundation and so anything goes – or at least anything that anyone can get away with.
Now Solomon had lost contact with God as he had turned to the idolatry of his foreign wives and in those days, what the king did, the rest of the nation followed, and so in fact the same thing had been happening as I referred to in our own times. So in one sense it is not at all surprising that Solomon acknowledges that even in the places of judgment and justice there was only wickedness. There was nothing to stop that moral drift!
But there is still an echo of the knowledge of God in Solomon’s heart and so, deep down at least, he knows that the Lord will not let this go on indefinitely: “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked.” He knows that God will have to come and deal with the nation and that means that both righteous and unrighteous will feel the weight of God’s judgement. In our own times, those of us who are righteous are feeling the same pressures being put upon us as the world around us as God brings judgment on the land in the way Paul spoke off (see Romans 1:24-28). Unless we live righteously and receive the grace of God to cope, we too will suffer in the same way as the rest of the world, but that should not be.
Yes, God does not just sit back and let the world go to hell. He moves behind the scenes bringing a form of judgment that will shake people and bring them to their senses, for His desire is to bring them back to Him, not destroy them (see Ezek 18:32 and 2 Pet 3:9b). That is always His objective and He only brings destruction and death when He sees that nothing else will get people’s attention so change can come. The Bible is quite explicit about that and history clearly testifies to it. This is how God works.
So, concludes Solomon, “there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.” i.e. there is going to come a time of accounting for everything that is done, for every (wrong) activity and every (wrong) deed. God may appear slow in dealing with these things (and Ezekiel and Peter told us the reason why) but He DOES eventually act and deal with Sin.
There is a sense of negative gloom about Solomon’s comments but of course, we need to remind ourselves again and again, he was writing from a place of absence of relationship with the Lord and while he could see all the bad things of ungodly life, he couldn’t see any hope. The positives that are always there are that salvation IS there for those who will turn to the Lord, despite what the majority who are godless may be doing, and God’s grace IS there for the godly, even in the midst of the judgment that the land may be experiencing. There may be Sin and there may be unrighteousness and ungodliness prevailing in the land, but that does not mean that God is not there for those who will seek Him. Don’t be put off by the gloom and doom of a society in crisis; it is just the Lord bringing it to its senses. He is there for His children who He still wants to shine as light and to purify as salt. Nothing has changed!