What the Bible says about
No One Can Find Out the Work God Does
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Among the mysteries that everybody must face is “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Another version of those questions is “Why was I born?” A partial but probably unsatisfying answer is that, unless God calls and reveals Himself to a person, he will never find the clear, detailed answer. Thus, Solomon states in verse 11, “No one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” So that the called, those to whom God has revealed Himself, are thoroughly convinced of the great gift God has given them, a fuller version of this declaration appears in Ecclesiastes 8:17:
Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
God undoubtedly planned much of this blindness. This does not mean that people will never hear the answer to “Why was I born?” in their lifetimes. But unless God is directly involved in calling them for His purposes, their hearing the simple and plain truth of it will not have the life-changing impact needed to change the direction of their lives. A person must be gifted by His calling (Matthew 13:10-17).
God has given everyone a spirit and a sense of eternity, enabling people to think both backward and forward in time. Men innately know that there is more to life than what they experience physically. However, they do not grasp the precise connection between their awareness of eternity and their present physical lives. They do, however, vaguely grasp that somehow the immortality they envision has some connection with what they are experiencing in the present. However, this is greatly botched, and misunderstanding is universal. The most common assumption is that we already possess it. But, if linked with revealed truth as God intended, it greatly aids people in thinking about the past concerning God's creative powers, His purpose, His sovereignty over all things, and how the individual fits into the present and future.
God has given gifts to all humanity, but only those called by Him are given more detailed and true explanations that will build their faith, enabling them to live by it. Unless God gives the details, we are all much like terribly near-sighted people who more or less feel their way along. Until they are called, the grand design that God is working out escapes their fuller comprehension, making the answer about who we are elusive.
The instruction in Ecclesiastes 3:10-15 encourages us to be content and patient. It is a reflection on and a reminder of the importance of what He already said about gifts in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. We should be thankful and rejoice in what we already have because what we have is wonderful. Without directly stating a clear “why,” Solomon gently implies that God will add understanding as we are able to make good use of it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Four): Other Gifts
The sense of this passage clarifies when we fit it into a sub-theme present throughout the book: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” As chapter 7 opens, Solomon presents several unusual and mystifying statements about some of life's experiences. He writes that the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth and that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.
These unusual statements are true within Solomon's theme, but reasons are not immediately available. Verse 15 and his ensuing explanation contain a parallel situation for which no easy answer exists. It, too, may be simply so much vanity. Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon is explaining matters that we vaguely grasp but need support to understand more completely.
Ultimately, God is the Author of Ecclesiastes, and He intends it should be understood this way. Supported by our faith in God, we must deal with our lack of complete knowledge and accept it. Some truths that God intends us to grasp we must dig out, requiring hard intellectual labor. He allows this sub-theme of not fully knowing what is going on in our lives to exist because it helps to create tests to fulfill His purpose, that we live by faith, trusting Him (Hebrews 10:38).
Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 confirms this sub-theme:
I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Solomon repeats a form of it in Ecclesiastes 7:23-25, 29:
All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise.” But it was far from me. As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out? I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness. Truly, this only I have found; that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
He is still searching for reasons for these confounding circumstances, but he admits a dissatisfying failure. In Ecclesiastes 8:16-17, he still has no personally satisfying answer to his search:
When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
In Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, he concludes the book:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.
Solomon admits to finding no fully satisfying answer to every paradox, conundrum, or irregularity in the life of even the faithful person in his relationship with God. The conclusion? By faith and without disrupting our obedience to God, we must accept and live with some events of life. The wise know that God will work things out.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Ten): Paradox
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