Central Baptist Church
Saturday, August 15, 2020

Morning Worship Sermon

   
 
WHEN JUSTICE ISN’T JUST
Ecclesiastes 3:17
 
 
 
Ecclesiastes 3:17 “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a  time there for every purpose and for every work.”
 
          A factory was experiencing a problem of theft in the factory.  To combat this problem the company hired a security firm who searched every employee as they left work each day.  Most of the workers went along with the having their pockets searched and their lunch boxes checked.
          One man went through the gate everyday with a wheel barrow full of trash.  Each day the frustrated security guard would have to spend up to 30 minutes digging through the trash to make sure the man was not taking out anything of value, while the other employees stood patiently in line.
 
          Finally one day the guard could no longer stand it, “Look,” he said to the man, “I know you're up to something, I just can’t figure out what you’re doing.  I’ll tell you what, you tell me what it is you’re doing and I promise I won’t report you.”  The man shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m stealing wheel barrows.”
 
          How often are we like the security guard, we miss the obvious because it’s surrounded by the unimportant.
 
          Sometimes in life we’re guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees, or we miss something that is a clear as the nose on our face.
 
          Solomon is not going to let us do that – he’s pointing out the obvious to us and he’s driving us to consider the important things in life.
 
          He tells us exactly how things are in the plainest of language.
 
          We’ve already learned that there is no real meaning in life apart from God.
          We’ve learned that there is a time and a season for everything.  That God’s plans are good and His purposes are clear, but His programs are sometimes mysterious.
 
          Today we will discover four aspects of life with which Solomon struggled.
          He plainly and honestly says four times, “I saw…”
 
Ecclesiastes 3:16 “I saw under the sun the place of judgment”
 
Ecclesiastes 4:4 “I considered (saw) all travail”
 
Ecclesiastes 4:7 “I saw vanity under the sun”
 
Ecclesiastes 4:15 “I considered (saw) all the living which walk under the sun”
 
 
          Solomon is making observations about life and he’s writing them down, calling them just as he sees them and he ponders what he sees.
 
 
Ecclesiastes 3:17 “I said in my heart…”
 
Ecclesiastes 3:22 “I perceive there is nothing better…”
 
Ecclesiastes 4:1 “I returned and considered…”
 
 
          His observations are an example of what is found in :
 
 
Ecclesiastes 12:11 “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.”
 
           “goad” -  A long, sharp, pointed instrument used by shepherds and ploughmen to keep sheep and oxen going in the right direction.
 
          Solomon’s questions and observations are like goads from God that He uses to move us along in life.
 
          The issues Solomon raised in this section are not easy ones, but they will force us out of our comfort zone into the way of God’s wisdom.
 
 
I.  THE PROBLEM OF FAULTY JUSTICE
 
 
 
Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 "And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17  I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. 18  I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21  Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? 22  Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?"
 
          Solomon’s first goad has to do with faulty justice – this was a problem in Solomon’s day just as it is in our day.
 
 
Ecclesiastes 3:16“And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.”
 
 
          Solomon saw the guilty going free and the innocent suffering unjustly.
          If God is good, where is His justice.
 
          Solomon makes three observations about this lack of justice :
 
 
1.  Justice Is Coming
 
Ecclesiastes 3:17 “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”
 
 
          Just because we don’t see justice now doesn’t mean it will never prevail.
 
 
Ecclesiastes 8:6 “Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.”
 
 
          The innocent will be recompensed and the guilty will be punished.
 
 
Ecclesiastes 8:11 “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
 
 
          The lack of judgment now encourages some to think they can get away with injustice, but the day is coming when God will balance the scales of justice.
          Then his second observation is that :
 
 
2.  Death Is Certain
 
Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.  21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”
 
 
          Folks, death is certain!
          Critics of the Bible would take this verse and teach that death is the last act – that there’s nothing after death.
          But that is not Solomon’s point.
          His point is that while it appears that the rich and powerful have the upper hand when it comes to justice – they will die just like the animals.  They can’t escape death or judgment.
 
 
Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
 
 
          Now Solomon is not talking about the spirit of man, but the body of man.
          The privileged in this life have no privileges or advantage when it comes to death – all end up in the grave.
 
 
Ecclesiastes 12:7 “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
 
 
          The spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the animal goes down to the earth.
          Though death is the constant for all, man returns to the God who made him.
 
 
          His third observation is that :
 
 
3.  Life Continues
 
Ecclesiastes 3:22 “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”
 
 
          Solomon drives home the fact that life goes on in spite of injustice.  We don’t stop living because we can’t fix the injustice we see.
          That’s what the hippie movement of the 60”s was all about.
 
          Folks, death and the judgment to follow will remedy what we can’t change in this life.
          Between now and the judgment, we are to rejoice in our work and continue on in life.
 
 
II.  THE PROBLEM OF FIERCE OPPRESSION
 
 
Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.  2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.  3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.”
 
 
          Next Solomon sees the weak and helpless of the world who are victimized by society.
 
 
          He sees their tears and the lack of comfort.
          Where is God in the lives of the oppressed?
 
          Ill. -  Simon Wiesenthal, a holocaust survivor, wrote how after his experience he stopped believing in                     God.
                -   At one time a Nazi guard tied two Jews back to back.  He put a pistol in the mouth of one and                     pulled the trigger.
                -   The bullet killed both Jews.
                -   “You see, I told you we don’t have to waste bullets, you can kill two with one.”
 
 
          From a human perspective, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion Wiesenthal came to.
 
           Solomon says, from a human perspective, the oppressed would be better off having never been born than to suffer the evil and oppression in this world.
          Job expressed the same sentiment in the midst of his suffering :
 
 
Job 3:3,11 “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. 11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?”
 
 
          David wrestled with the world’s iniquities and found answers only after :
 
 
Psalm 73:17 “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.”
 
 
          Folks, we will never understand the events of this world and the purposes of God with our own wisdom.
          So we take our real questions to the real God and we leave them with Him.
 
 
III.  THE PROBLEM OF FINANCIAL RIVALRY
 
 
Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour.   This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.  5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.  6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”
 
          Solomon’s third goad deals with envy and the grasping for material advantage that goes with this world.
          How common is greed and pride men working, not to meet needs but to get something bigger and better than their neighbor – so they will be envied.
 
          Dropping out or giving up is not the answer either – there is a better way :
 
 
Ecclesiastes 4:6 “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.”
 
 
          Solomon is talking about balance.
 
 
          You don’t have to have it all, but you do need some in order to live.
          So, get “a handful” and leave the scratching, clawing, or the dropping out to those on the extremes.
 
 
Proverbs 15:16 “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.”
 
 
Proverbs 30:7-9 “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: 8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither  poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”
 

1 Timothy 6:6“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
 
 
 
IV.  THE PROBLEM OF FRACTURED RELATIONSHIPS
 
 
 
Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 " Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. 8  There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. 9  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11  Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."                                                 
 
 
          Solomon’s fourth goad has to do with fractured relationships – he sees many who are alone in the world.
 
 
1.  Riches Over Relationships
 
Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 “Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. 8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath   neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour;  neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.”
 
           People working themselves to death to get.  They are like Ebenezer Scrooge – Having no friends or relatives to share their wealth with.
 
 
2.  Relationships Over Riches
 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
 
 
          Relationships are important.
          Now we aren’t to use people to get things, we are to use things to encourage and to minister to people.
          Money and materials are a means to an end, not the end in themselves.
 
          Why is having friends better than not having friends :
 
 
1.  Two Are Better Than One For Working
 
Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.”
 
 
          Ill. – Bo and me hanging sheetrock
 
 
 
2.  Two Are Better Than One For Walking
 
Ecclesiastes 4:10 “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
 
 
          Friends provide help in times of trouble.
          Friends can encourage us to continue on in the face of obstacles.
 
 
3.  Two Are Better Than One For Warmth
 
Ecclesiastes 4:11 “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?”
 
 
          A lifelong companion provides warmth in body, soul, and spirit.
 
          Ill. -  “Three Dog Night”
                -   Aborigine expression .  Cold enough that you need three dogs sleeping with you in order to keep warm.
 
 
4.  Two Are Better Than One For Safety
 
Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
 
 
          There is safety in numbers.
          Folks, we need protection spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
 
 
 
          Solomon is telling us, “Don’t destroy your relationships and the benefits of them for the sake of pursuing riches.  You’ll regret it down the road when you find yourself all alone.”
 

          With all these issues faulty justice, fierce oppression, financial rivalry, and fractured relationships, Solomon is trying to turn us toward God.
 
          He is speaking with the wisdom of hindsight. 
 
          He succumbed to the futility of dealing with some of these issues in his life, but he doesn’t want us to do the same thing. 
 
 
          God is the only certainty in life. 
 
          He knows the answers to all these issues even when we don’t.  To allow our lives to get derailed over issues we cannot fix or even understand is “vanity and grasping for the wind.”