Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.
One thing that is more clear in the Japanese than the English here is that Solomon seems to be talking about understanding what God does in the earth, not simply natural phenomena. That actually might have been one of the reasons for Solomon’s idolatry late in life: if he couldn’t understand what Yahweh was doing, then why be true to Him? It that was the case, then it was perhaps the ultimate example of Solomon’s hubris. He allowed himself to be snared by the intellect that God had intended for good. Actually, that’s not so unusual. People who insist on understanding everything often have great difficulty with faith, because there are simply many things that we will never have the “mental horsepower” to understand, however much we don’t want to concede that. Coming to that realization and admitting it was a major breakthrough for Bill Whittle, a commentator whom I follow. He certainly isn’t what might be called a “conventional Christian,” but at this point he collaborates beautifully with Alfonzo Rachel, who is as much of a “fire-breathing Christian” as you could hope to find. The desire to know, to investigate, is a marvelous gift to mankind, but even logic should tell us that finite man will never be able to grasp all of infinite God. It is only when we are rid of these “tents of flesh” that we will be able to grasp all that we would like to. As Paul said, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) As the Southern Gospel song puts it, “We will understand it better by and by.”
This is something I have had to be reminded of. Thankfully I was raised in a household of great intellectual accomplishment and great faith. My father received his PhD degree when he was still shy of his 24th birthday, but not long after that birthday he arrived in Japan as a missionary. When I was in the Army I was stationed on Oahu, and someone in personnel heard about my test scores and investigated, and told me that at that point (1970) I had the highest GT score of anyone in the Army on the whole island, including general staff. That sort of thing inflated my head remarkably, and less than a year after I got out of the Army (1972) the Lord tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, He had a mirror to show me the blackness of my pride, for just a moment. I have to be at peace with NOT knowing or understanding everything. I have to operate by something my father said frequently: “Give all you know of yourself to all you know of Christ.” That was generally understood as an invitation to become a Christian, but I have come to realize that it needs to be applied to the daily life of every believer. Otherwise we tend to wander off, with whole areas of our lives not submitted to Christ. I don’t want to be that way! I still enjoy learning stuff and knowing stuff, but I have to keep all that stuff in the context of my being a created child of a loving, holy God who always knows better than I do.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me keep everything You have placed in me fully submitted to You so that it may accomplish that which You intend, drawing others to You as well, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!