It so blows me away, and yet is oddly encouraging, that this book is in the Bible. We can put it under the category of no apologies for a fallen world. The “problem of evil” is not considered a problem. It is complained about, mourned over, it confuses, perplexes, frustrates, you name it. Scripture, and those writing it, evince every negative emotion you can think of in the face of sin’s ravages upon creation. Think about it, you don’t even get three chapters into God’s word to man before we see why this came about, before one brother kills another in cold blood. Here’s the deal. God’s revelation to us is not given to explain the unexplainable (to us), but to tell us how it must be, will be and was dealt with. The history of redemption shows us, graphically, the wages of sin, that they will be paid, were paid, and our ultimate victory over death. God’s kingdom lost, God’s kingdom restored, God’s kingdom triumphant. This is the drama of human existence.
The reason for the above paragraph is the first part of this chapter:
Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:
I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
2 And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.
I’m sure some Christians write this off because it’s in a strange book like Ecclesiastes, but it’s not exactly unique to this book. The Psalms are replete with references to what appears to us as the futility of life. And much of the OT appears the same way. The rest of the chapter describes other meaningless activities when man tries to make a go of it to stave off the apparent futility of it all. Of course Solomon declares it all meaningless. There is no doubt that life affords us moments of grace and beauty, kindnesses and mercy, love and joy, even fleeting moments of fulfillment, and we should appreciate and thank God for those. But at the end of the day, we are left with a gnawing sense that something just ain’t right, and never will be on this earth.
Without God’s revelation life will always be found wanting. All human beings start with one of two presuppositions, and there are only two. Either we interpret reality without God’s revelation to us, or we interpret it with his ultimate and perfect perspective. The former leads to the ultimate judgment of the senselessness of it all, death, while the latter to the ultimate victory over death. We either look to this earth as our home, and earth thrown on our face as our final destiny, or eternity and God’s kingdom, as conquerors over death to live forever with our God and Savior in a resurrected body in a new heavens and a new earth. Whatever one is our focus, whatever one we truly buy into will determine how we handle this confusing mess we call life.