Ecclesiastes 8:10-13 Justice delayed is…
At my first glance of verse 11, I was sure this reflection was to be a reminder that justice delayed is justice denied. Very much in the news at the moment with the acquitting of the sub-postmasters; Northern Island retrials and the Windrush generation. However, reading the words of today’s passage carefully shows me that the text is much closer to home.
10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried – those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.12 Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
Our God is just and merciful. I’m guessing that you, like me, take great comfort from God’s mercy. But I am faced with the truth of the verses today, which remind me that God is also a god of Justice. The area where these two concepts of justice and mercy meet, is brought to our attention in verse 11. It warns that because God does not mete out judgement and pass sentence straight away, people are likely to keep on sinning even more!
I was greatly blessed over Lent by the book ‘Gentle and Lowly’, which we studied in our mid-week virtual church meetings. The overwhelming treasure I found from the book was grasping just how lavish Jesus’ generosity is to us in mercy and salvation. His capacity for forgiveness knows no limits. It made me realise that such an unwarranted gift of forgiveness by God, with no requirement on us (except accepting it), encourages a desire to rid ourselves of sin, with humble gratitude.
We are doubly blessed that God not only spares us instant punishment, but at the final judgement (spoiler alert for the last verse in the book of Ecclesiastes) Jesus will step forward with evidence – the scars of crucifixion – to show that the price was paid in full. Verse 11 warns that the delayed punishment, and the apparent observation that we ‘got away with it’, may tempt our hearts to do wrong and not correct our ways.
However, we are not left alone to wander in our sin, or return to it. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit to provide that still small voice of guidance,
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13). Let us keep our ears open and our hearts full of the joy that we are forgiven. I wonder how the ‘sinful’ woman responded to Jesus’ words and gaze when he told her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV.
We thank you for your mercy and that you have paid the price for our sin. Help us to be attentive to the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Remind us in our times of weakness of your promises to help us. Let us remember with gratitude, your saving work in our lives. Hallelujah.