Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he has made crooked?…
The Book of Ecclesiastes raises questions which it very inadequately answers, and problems which it scarcely attempts to solve. Some of the difficulties observable in this world, in human society, and in individual experience appear to be insoluble by reason, though to some extent they may be overcome by faith. And certainly the fuller revelation which we enjoy as Christians is capable of assisting us in our endeavor not to be overborne by the forces of doubt and perplexity of which every thoughtful man is in some measure conscious.
I. A SPECULATIVE DIFFICULTY: THE COEXISTENCE OF CROOKED THINGS WITH STRAIGHT. The philosophical student encounters this difficulty in a more definite form than ordinary thinkers, and is best acquainted with the apparent anomalies of existence. It may suffice to refer to the coexistence of sense and spirit, nature and reason, law and freedom, good and evil, death and immortality.
II. A PRACTICAL DIFFICULTY; THE JUXTAPOSITION AND INTERCHANGE OF PROSPERITY AND ADVERSITY. "God hath even made the one side by side with the other." The inequality of the human lot has, from the time of Job, been the occasion of much questioning, dissatisfaction, and skepticism. Opinions differ as to the effect upon this inequality of the advance of civilization. Riches and poverty, splendor and squalor, refinement and brutishness, exist side by side. And the observation of every one has remarked the startling transitions in the condition and fortunes alike of the wealthy and the poor; these are exalted, and those depressed. At first sight all this seems inconsistent with the sway of a just and benignant Providence.
III. A MORAL DIFFICULTY: THE EVIDENT ABSENCE OF A JUST AND PERFECT RETRIBUTION N THIS LIFE. The righteous perish, and the wicked live on in their evil-doing unchecked and unpunished. There are those who would acquiesce in inequality of condition, were such inequality proportioned to disparities of moral character, but who are dismayed by the spectacle of prosperous crime and triumphant vice, side by side with integrity and benevolence doomed to want and suffering.
IV. THE DUTY OF CONSIDERATION AND PATIENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF SUCH PERPLEXING ANOMALIES. The first and most obvious attitude of the wise man, when encountering difficulties such as those described in this passage, is to avoid hasty conclusions and immature, unconsidered, and partial judgments. It is plain that we are confronted with what we cannot comprehend. Our observation is limited; our penetration is at fault; our reason is baffled. We are not, therefore, to shut our eyes to the facts of life, or to deny what our intelligence forces upon us. But we must think, and we must wait.
V. THE PURPOSE OF SUCH DIFFICULTIES, AS FAR AS WE ARE CONCERNED, IS TO TEST AND TO ELICIT FAITH IN GOD. There is sufficient reason for every thoughtful man to believe in the wisdom and righteousness of the eternal Ruler. And the Christian has special grounds for his assurance that all things are ordained by his Father and Redeemer, and that the Judge of all the earth will do right. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?