For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works…
It was said by a famous man of the world, "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel." The epigram is more sparkling than true; reflecting men in every age have been oppressed by the solemnity of life's facts, and the insolubility of life's problems. Some men are roused to inquiry and are beset by perplexities when trouble and adversity befall themselves; and others experience doubts and distress at the contemplation of the broad and obvious facts of human life as it unfolds before their observation. Few men who both think and feel have escaped the probation of doubt; most have striven, and many have striven in vain, to vindicate eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God to men.
I. THE FACT THAT IN THIS EARTHLY STATE THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF COMPLETE RETRIBUTION. "All things come alike to all;" "There is one event unto all." The righteous, the good, and the wise do not seem to meet with more prosperity and greater happiness than the wicked and the foolish. The man who offers due religious observance, and who reveres his oath, is subject to misfortune and calamity equally with the negligent, the impious, the false swearer. No thunderbolt of vengeance smites the sinner, no miraculous protection is round about the upright and obedient. Nay, the righteous is sometimes cut off in the prime of his manhood; the sinner's days are sometimes lengthened, and he dies in a delusive peace.
II. THE DIFFICULTY, DOUBT, AND PERPLEXITY OCCASIONED BY THE OBSERVATION OF THIS FACT. The writer of Ecclesiastes laid to heart and explored the mysteries of Providence; and in this he was not peculiar. Every observant and thoughtful person is sometimes compelled to ask himself whether or not there is a meaning in the events of life, and, if there be a meaning, what it is. Can our reason reconcile these events, as a whole, with belief in the existence, in the government, of a God at once almighty and benevolent? Are there considerations which can pacify the perturbed breast? Beneath the laws of nature is there a Divine heart? or is man alone sensitive to the inequalities of human fate, to the moral contradictions which seem to thrust themselves upon the attention?
III. THE TRUE SOLUTION OF THESE DOUBTS TO BE FOUND IN THE CONVICTION THAT ALL ARE IN THE HAND OF GOD. It is to be observed that faith in God can do what the human understanding cannot effect. Men and their affairs are not in the hand of chance or in the hand of fate, but in the hand of God. And by God is meant not merely the supreme Power of the universe, but the personal Power which is characterized by the attributes Holy Scripture assigns to the Eternal. Wisdom, righteousness, and benevolence belong to God. And by benevolence we are not to understand an intention to secure the enjoyment of men, to ward off from them every pain, all weakness, want, and woe. The purpose of the Divine mind is far higher than this - even the promotion of men's spiritual well-being, the discipline of human character, and especially the perfecting of obedience and submission. Sorrow and disappointment may be, and in the case of the pious will be, the means of bringing men into harmony with the will and character of God himself. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.
WEB: For all this I laid to my heart, even to explore all this: that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hatred, man doesn't know it; all is before them.