If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them (Ecclesiastes 5:8, NKJV).
It grieves us when we witness oppression and violence, but it should not surprise and astonish us. Justice and righteousness continue to be perverted in this country and around the world. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). While acknowledging these wrongs, Solomon instructs us to remember that those in authority are also under higher power. This reality ought to be a check against harassment and injustice, but even that is not always the case. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2). What are we to do? (1) Remember that God is sovereign and holds the unrighteous accountable for their sins (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus called out the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who “devour widows’ houses” while pretending to be pious with long prayers (Matt. 23:14). God will bring justice to bear on His day of judgment (Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 2:4-11). (2) Keep our faith in God instead of putting it in human beings (Jer. 17:5). God will not fail the righteous (Heb. 13:5-6). (3) We can go about our daily business (Eccl. 5:18-20). Honest labor is God’s gift that prevents us from being overburdened with anxiety over life’s troubles (Eccl. 5:20). Daily labor to provide for ourselves and our families brings joy and contentment in the face of life’s injustices. (4) Remember to pray (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:1-2). (5) We can aid those harmed by others (Luke 10:29-37). Be neighborly and help one another instead of being suspicious and divisive.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:2–4, NKJV)
This striking contrast between martyred Stephen and persecutor Saul paints a picture of the faithfulness of the early church and the forces of opposition faced by the disciples (Acts 7:54-8:1). Saul would eventually be converted and learn about suffering for the Lord (Acts 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12). When we start to focus on the advances of evil around us and the pressures of its influences and actions upon our lives and those we love, remember these faithful brethren (as well as those presently suffering for their faith). When they were pressed, they pressed onward and upward. When threatened in an effort to silence them, they remained vocal, going “everywhere preaching the word.” When pursued by enemies of the faith, they pursued peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Let us take to heart the apostle’s exhortation, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17). May we follow their worthy examples and remain true to the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. (Ecclesiastes 5:8, NKJV)
Social and judicial oppression, and miscarriages of justice are not surprising by those in power. Solomon saw it in his day, and we see it today. Bureaucracy often frustrates justice, especially when officials with corrupt hearts protect their comrades as they oppress the innocent. In such a system of oversight, the oppressor is himself often oppressed by his superior. Hence, Solomon observed the systemic corruption of unrighteous rulers. In the context of Ecclesiastes, this is but another reason not to set one’s hope upon earthly position and power. With it comes its own set of temptations, troubles and trials. Pursuing it is vanity and “grasping for the wind.” Therefore Christian, set your hope upon things eternal, not upon the shifting sands of human greed and power over others.