Life is full of enigmas. The author of Ecclesiastes could empathize with us as he made his observations of “the day of my vanity” (Eccl. 7:15). Here he gives us an example of life’s enigma and tells us that sometimes life seems unfair. It is a simple fact that the righteous may, like Naboth (1Kgs. 21:13) perish in his righteousness, whereas the wicked, like Jezebel may live on to perpetrate more wickedness (1Kgs. 18, 19 & 21). This kind of anomaly often perplexed the devout Israelite too (see Job, Ps. 37, 73; Hab. 1:13-17).
Here Solomon considers its implications for piety. If retribution is unreliable and righteous behaviour makes no difference in the quality of one’s life, how then should a person live? He evaluates two alternatives: strive all the more for righteousness in the hope that more may secure a good life (Eccl. 7:16); or forgo such impossible attempts altogether and indulge in wickedness (Eccl. 7:17). Solomon refuses to settle for either of these extreme options. Instead he proposes another way: “It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.” (Eccl. 7:18).
This verse is difficult to understand, but when Solomon tells us to ‘take hold of this’ and not to withhold our hand ‘from that,’ he is looking back to the advice that he gave in verses 16-17. He is saying something like, “The right life walks the path between two extremes, shunning self- righteousness, but not allowing one’s innate wickedness to run its own course.” When we do this, we will avoid the destruction that will surely hit us if we live sinfully and self-righteously. To say more simply, the right way for us to live is in the fear of God.
Whenever we are having trouble believing that God knows what He is doing, the first thing we should do is consider the work of our Savior. Jesus, our Good Shepherd once had a crook in his lot – a crook that came in the shape of a cross. He suffered the crooked cross and trusted His Father, waiting for Him to straighten things out when the time was right.
If God could straighten out something as crooked as the cross, then He can surely be trusted to straighten the crooked places in our lives.
Would you trust God for all the crooked things in life and wait for Him to make them straight, just like Jesus did when He died for you on the cross?
Rev. Mark Tay