Window of Mercy (Ecclesiastes 8)
God’s method of operation in the lives of His children differs from how He works in the lives of the unbelieving and unrepentant. Perhaps you can think of times when God dealt with you. If we are truly walking with Jesus, then you and I both know the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We have found ourselves corrected after doing or saying something that displeased the Lord. I, for one, am grateful for times when I have been corrected by Him. In this way, He acts as my loving heavenly Father. It must dawn on us that our own children, whom we love with a special love that is hard to even articulate, are also the recipients of our correction and discipline. I care much more about the behavior of my children than I do about the behavior of any other children in the world, because I am committed to being their loving father. I am invested in the outcome of their character, so I give positive and negative consequences. In the same way, the Lord is invested in the outcome of our character, because we are His children. He is investing in us even when he disciplines us. Thus, we see that God’s intervention when we disobey is a tool for teaching us, and it is also rooted in our relationship to Him as our loving Father, as the Potter who shapes the clay.
So why does God allow so many in this world to live in sin without any immediate consequence? Does God’s inaction suggest He has no love for them? Certainly not. After all, I may have a great deal of love for many children that are not my own, and I may have compassion on them, wanting to help with their needs and do good to them. But, when they misbehave, I will not start acting like their parent and giving consequences. It is not my place, because that is not my relationship to those children. If a person lacks the conviction of the Holy Spirit when they do wrong, it does not mean God loves them less; it means they are not His child.
In actuality, the mercy of God is the reason why “the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). When God withholds immediate reckoning, He is being patient with people. The window between now and the day we die, or when Christ returns, is a window of mercy. With His children, God mercifully corrects our wrongs and shapes our character. With the lost, God mercifully draws them “with gentle cords, with bands of love,” so that they will repent, believe on Jesus, and become children of God. In verse 11, the response to delayed consequences is a heart that is “given fully to do evil,” meaning the heart of someone who neither knows nor follows Jesus. Even in this state, God patiently holds back judgment and draws souls to come to Jesus. When the window of mercy comes to an end, we will all see that “it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly,” while those who had long life and prosperity but did not fear God will no longer be able to preserve themselves (8:12-13).
Princes In Disguise (Ecclesiastes 10)
It is striking to realize that Solomon set out to determine everything he could by observing only earthly things. He ruled out everything but the physical realm as the subject of his study. Yet, even in the physical realm, he found enough information to see that things like freedom, identity, and treasure are not determined by outward facts. We read that, “folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places” (Ecclesiastes 10:6). Solomon saw that a high status and exalted position could not fix the content of one’s character. If we are foolish, no matter how much power and status we attain to, our foolishness remains. Likewise, he noted that a lowly position or very little money did not necessitate ignorance or poor character. On the contrary, there are those who are spiritually rich and whose hearts are filled with good things, even though they outwardly lack fortune, status, or importance.
“I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land” (10:7). Are we masquerading as important, yet still a slave in God’s economy? Or, have we learned to become outwardly a slave and a servant, but in God’s invisible kingdom we are a prince or princess, a son or daughter of the King? As we grow more and more into our identity as a child of God, we will become more and more of a servant in our actions and daily lives. To the earthly eye, we are slaves of God, “bondservants of Christ” as the Apostles called themselves, and we prefer to serve others rather than be served. Yet, in going low like this, we are actually rising toward our royal calling in Christ. Yes, God’s princes learn to “walk like slaves,” in our daily life. But if we are still boasting that we are free to do what we please, walking in self-importance and propping ourselves up, in reality we are yet slaves to self and sin. Lord, we pray you would rid us of all of this. And teach us to walk as slaves in the land where you’ve planted us.
The Rock Church