When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it. (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17, NKJV)
“He would not have us undertake to give a reason for that which God does, for his way is in the sea and his path in the great waters, past finding out, and therefore we must be contentedly and piously ignorant of the meaning of God’s proceedings in the government of the world.” – Matthew Henry
The reasons for the unfolding of God’s providence, despite the best searching of the Preacher, are unknowable. Why does God bring wealth to one and poverty to another? Why has a child of Christian parents die of a disease at the young age of 3 or 4 and those who reject God live? The answer that wisdom gives is this:
It is not for you to know.
God, being the highest and greatest good, and being all-knowing in all things, has reasons for ordering our world that stretch beyond our knowing. What we know of the world is given to us by God in the first place. What he has given us is not a perfect and total wisdom like His. Yet, what he has given us is sufficient for our well-being as creatures made in his image. We can affirm with the Psalmist:
Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
– Psalm 131, NKJV
As we will learn in our study in Ecclesiastes progresses, why God has ordained events as they are is not always clear to us. What is clear to us, however, is that through union with His Son, we enjoy communion with Him no matter the circumstance. John Flavel comments thus:
It is certainly a highway of walking with God in this world, and a soul may enjoy as sweet communion with Him in His providences as in any of His ordinances. How often have the hearts of its observers been melted into tears of joy at the beholding of its wise and unexpected productions! How often has it convinced them, upon a sober recollection of the events of their lives, that if the Lord had left them to their own counsels they had as often been their own tormenters, if not executioners! Into what and how many fatal mischiefs had they precipitated themselves if Providence had been as short-sighted as they! They have given it their hearty thanks for considering their interest more than their importunity, and not allowing them to perish by their own desires. (The Mystery of Providence, Introduction)