by Frans Bakker
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? —Ecclesiastes 7:16, 17
What a blessed experience it is not to be righteous over much and not to be foolish! That is the case when you learn to bow before God in the midst of our afflictions. Then you experience that adversity with God is better than prosperity without Him, and you do not even want to be without the crooked ways. You would not want to exchange your way with anyone. Then, even if you could, you would not wish to shake off your cross
Yes, we still feel sorrow in our afflictions. There still remains sadness and tears. We mourn when a loved one dies. We feel the weight of daily burdens. We can be aware of the thorns of life in our flesh. The Lord does not make His people indifferent to sorrow. Yet the tears become different. They become tears that are shed before God. They are tears that can be left with God. And in our sorrow, there is still joy. We still have God’s strength and love in our lives. Therefore the apostle could say: “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” That is a blessed experience.
Someone may ask how we can rejoice in sorrow. God’s strength gives us joy. We are sustained, not by ourselves, but by being broken before God. We are led to acknowledge God’s righteousness and holiness in all His ways, and to confess that our sin and guilt are the cause of all crooked ways. We have made all our ways crooked by our sins. And then in that acknowledgement we are humbly silent. No one dares to open his mouth and ask God, “What doest Thou?” The sinner can only say, “The Lord is just in all His works.” Asaph came to see himself as a beast before God when he suspected that there was injustice and faithlessness in God. Job abhorred himself in dust and ashes when God asked him a question that he could not answer.
Our guilt brings us to the right place before God. We lose ourselves. We lose all our wisdom and righteousness. We lose all our conceit and our greatness. We confess, “Lord, I am righteous over much and therefore I am over much wicked. I am over wise and therefore foolish.” Those who are led to bow before God desire to lose themselves before God. No longer do they want to resist Him. They want to humble themselves, for they delight in God’s honor. They confess that God has the right to do with them as He pleases, even if He were to cast them away forever. Even then they would acknowledge God to be just. Oh, the blessedness of submitting ourselves before God!
From The Everlasting Word by Frans Bakker, compiled and translated by Gerald R. Procee. Reformation Heritage Books and Free Reformed Publications, 2007. Used by permission. For further information, click here.