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July 21, 2023

When You Doubt God’s Sovereignty

I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.

–Ecclesiastes 3:17

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon made three arguments for understanding life from God’s point of view. First, God has a divine plan for everything. Second, the key to trusting God’s plan is a right relationship with Him. But sometimes when catastrophe hits us, we still wonder, “Is God asleep at the wheel? Does He not know what is going on in my life?” So Solomon made a third point: God is sovereign in spite of evidence to the contrary.

There were some specific issues that caused Solomon to doubt the sovereignty of God. In verse 16, he said, “I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.” He was talking about government. He was saying, “If God is in control, why is government wicked?”

We might ask the same thing today. Why does God allow wickedness in high places? Look at Solomon’s answer in verse 17: “I said to myself, ‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.” In other words, there is a coming judgment. We are piling up sin upon sin that is ultimately going to be judged by God.

Another reason Solomon doubted the sovereignty of God is found in verses 19-20: “There is no advantage for man over beast. . . . All came from the dust and all return to the dust.” If God is sovereign, how do you explain the fact that we are no different than animals–that we all die?

I am reminded of Martha’s words to Jesus in John 11. After her brother Lazarus died, she said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). You might have struggled with the same question after the death of someone close to you. If God is really there, if He is really in control, why did He allow that to happen? Why does He allow people to die?

The answer Solomon came to is in Ecclesiastes 3:21: “Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?” There is a strong argument from Hebrew lexicographers that this verse is not a question but an exclamation: we know the breath of man ascends. That is in keeping with Ecclesiastes 12:7: “Dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Solomon was saying there is life after death. But it is a double-edged sword because we are all going to face God and receive His judgment. That is why we desperately need forgiveness–forgiveness that can come only from Jesus Christ.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Is God Really in Control?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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