Solomon is now looking carefully at life in the breath. He has considered that only God can bring beauty into the life because he has appointed every season and time for his purposes. Yet when Solomon looks carefully into the breath, he sees much that is not beautiful, in fact, much that is ugly. Solomon is a realist, it doesn’t do to ignore the harsh realities of life, but he knows the must be explored, discerned. He’s not running from the hard questions, but realizes that if he really wants to make full sense of life, he’s got to evaluate both the good and the bad.
This brings us to the problem of evil - for Solomon observes much that would be fittingly described as evil. If God is sovereign over all things - does this mean that he is also sovereign over evil? Solomon in this chapter pears into the problem of what we might call institutional or structural evil - evil that corrupts our social systems, specifically he considers our systems of justice and economics. What’s the problem with these two systems - we are. We made them and we use them and we are used by them.
Theses two chapters concern the story of Sodom and Gomorah. Its one of those parts of the Bible the maybe you’ve avoided, particularly because we who live in Canada don’t know what to do with justice and judgement and wrath. Maybe we’re too polite. But judgement is a recurring theme in Genesis, from the warning taht in the day we would eat of the fruit of the tree we would die, to God wiping the earth clean in the flood, to the little phrases in Genesis 15 that foretold that God giving the land of Canaan over to the Israelites was also an act of judgement upon the people living there. It is really important to study out these passages and hear what they have to say, so that God’s character is not maligned, and our faith might not fail. Abraham asks God a very important question in this text: Should not the Judge of all the earth do right? This gets at the heart of the challenged posed by the newer movement of athiests: the challenge used to be that God was not true, now we here more often that God is unjust, a moral monster. God is immoral, therefore he is not true. This is exactly what Abraham is suggesting.
The world needs a robust understanding injustice and suffering, otherwise we will inevitably prescribe the wrong cure for our pain. I remember that before I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, the doctor initially though that I needed to go on a high fibre diet. So I was eating tons of breads and grains, in other words, tons of gluten! It was making my condition worse. Jesus understood how discouraging this world could be, and in teaching us to pray did not evade or avoid this human reality, but taught us to pray in a way that faces injustice and suffering head on. This is of course the second petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom Come.”