I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
It seems that for every gain there is an unequal, disproportionate loss. We gain the freedom to speak and lose the freedom to think. We gain the knowledge to cure diseases and use it to destroy our health and minds and spirits. We invent the means for unprecedented wealth and luxury by mortgaging generations to come.
It is a sorrowful pastime indeed to search God’s words for meaning and purpose in this bleak morass. There are so many things beyond our control. God told us that “the poor shall never cease out of the land,” that there will be war, disease, and famine. Why would God do such things?
It is an invalid question.
Thus says YHVH: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away. Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer? Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”
God didn’t do this to us. If God wanted us to suffer, do you think he couldn’t do better than government oppression, runaway inflation, or a little coastal storm damage? We haven’t seen God’s wrath yet. There will be no mistaking it when it comes. Yet even then our problems will be of our own design. We sold ourselves into debt. We stopped up our own ears. We murdered our own children. He didn’t make us do any of that.
Blaming feminists or liberals or Jews or Muslims is intellectual sloth and emotional cowardice. God-fearing believers in Jesus–admittedly imperfect–were once the dominant economic and political force in America and in many other countries. Our laws and institutions were ours to give away, and give them away we did, without even a fight.
There is a solution, however. Though the rain will fall on the righteous and wicked alike, and there are certain to be hard times, we still have a shelter.
The Lord YHVH has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord YHVH has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord YHVH helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord YHVH helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears YHVH and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of YHVH and rely on his God.
When the Messiah returns the nations will be required to celebrate Sukkot in his honor. Those who listen and obey will be blessed with health, fertility, and abundance. Those who do not, will not. It might be a Hobson’s choice, but we were given three thousand years to contemplate our answer. Have we heard the question?