The Great Overseer of the Universe

“If you see the oppression of the poor and theft of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be astonished about the situation; for a high one is over the high one who watches and higher ones yet over them.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:7 {5:8 in English Bibles})

I am reminded of Jesus’ words that we will always have the poor in our presence (Matthew 26:11); it seems that such is the condition of this fallen world in which we live. Solomon has already addressed this matter at least from a human perspective, now he points out that there is a hierarchy in place…the foreman answers to one higher up than he and that man answers to others that are even higher up. In Solomon’s day, this pattern followed its way all of the way up to the King. In Jesus’ day, this tended to go up to the Sanhedrin. Yet, in any event, the highest judge of all is God himself who holds both King and Council accountable for that which goes on under their watch.

And so, Solomon writes, do not be surprised at this. Sinners abuse their power and rob people of justice and righteous consequences for their work (the workman deserves his wages — 1 Timothy 5:18). In principle, God establishes checks and balances to guard against this, but once again, where the checks and balances fail, God will bring judgment and recompense (Deuteronomy 32:35).

There is one observation and one application that ought to be made here. The observation is simply that were humans “basically good” as so many people in our society seem to think, we would not need all of these layers of oversight. Yet, we are sinners and corrupt to the core (Romans 3:10ff). And thus, there must be judges and courts both in the civil arena of life as well as in the spiritual realm. The first is established in the magistrate and the second in the church. It is no irony that Elders in the church are also called ἐπισκόποι (episkopoi): “overseers.”

The application is directed more toward the church than toward the civil magistrate. While it would be nice were all the magistrates God-fearers, we should make no assumption that will be the case. We can, though, make the assumption that all leaders — in particular, Elders — in the Christian church are born-again believers in Jesus Christ who have a healthy fear of God and a reverence for His Word. Yet, this often does not happen. Understand something. A judge is not a law unto himself. The civil judge must submit to the authority of civil law and the Overseer in the church must submit to the Law of God. We may not call something right unless God’s word pronounces it so and we may not call something wrong unless God’s Word does the same. All things must be in submission to the Word of God. 

I grant, it is true that sometimes people “talk a good talk” and work their way into positions of oversight and have no fear before God or reverence for his Word. How great a judgment will befall such people as this. Indeed, as Solomon affirms, there is a God who is the great overseer of all and he will punish the wicked for their wicked actions. Again, we ought not be surprised at this — only recognize that we live in a fallen world and God will make an end of the wicked.

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