Part 9: Not His Father’s Son

By November 7, 2013 Meaningless No Comments

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A Sermon on Ecclesiastes 4

 

Preface:

We’re continuing our journey through the book of Ecclesiastes where we believe Solomon is writing a book of wisdom that David and I interpret differently.

David interprets Ecclesiastes in a positive light, in which Solomon teaches based upon life experiences, observations, and exhorts the reader to enjoy their life for the journey that it is in observation of God’s law.

I however have a different rendering of the text. I see Solomon frustrated with his perception of human life through his Old Testament lenses.

I also want to point out that this series through Ecclesiastes is an Expository series. We’re moving verse by verse through this book, so unlike a topical sermon where we start off with a point in mind this type of sermon series is focused on trying to reveal the true meaning of the book. Where David and I can we will definitely try to make application for you!

He states that mankind’s’ life is meaningless because man is temporal and dies in the same way animals do and knew nothing of an afterlife. He is perplexed because he perceives and understands man’s value and work as futile and insignificant because they are temporal and that God is eternal and is saddened and frustrated with this reality.

In Chapter 3 we read that there was a season in life for everything, to be born, to die, to plant, to uproot, to kill, to heal, to love, to hate, for war, for peace and that God appointed those different seasons of life and Solomon again pointed out that God put eternity in our hearts but as Solomon concludes man is destined to be temporal and his work, efforts, and deeds all come to nothing.

He then pointed out that God is the judge of all and that he Solomon saw little to no difference between mankind and animals. Solomon reveals his lack of knowledge about the afterlife when he asks “who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Solomon again was under the Old Covenant, which was silent on the afterlife and he didn’t have the full revelation of Christ coming to redeem the saints of old and take them into eternal life with God the Father.

Based upon that, Solomon goes back to his resounding conclusion that he states this entire book, that since the work of man is trivial and meaningless, and his days numbered, and since he had no idea of there was life beyond the grave, one should simply enjoy their work or toil because no one could tell them what would happen after their life.

I do want to remind you before reading the text that Solomon had limited revelation and we know that there is life after the grave for the believers in Jesus and that there is meaning in how God orchestrates uses our lives to unveil his plan.

Do not be deceived, just because I don’t interpret Solomon to be upbeat and cheery in this book I don’t want you to be downtrodden, I just want you to understand my take on the text.

 

Pray

Now, let’s read through our passage today which is Chapter 4,

 

Chapter 4, verse 1

1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors and they have no comforter.

And I declared that the dead, who had already died,
are happier than the living who are still alive.

But better than both is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves.

Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.
 There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

 

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.

The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.

I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.

There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ok, let’s go back through the text and I’ll make a few observations about what Solomon is saying. The passage that we’re moving through today are going to have a few brief sections where Solomon makes observations which I believe continue to paint his perspective on these subjects.

 

Starting in verse 1, “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:”…

 

In Solomon’s observation he points out… not just once but several times what he deems to be unfair circumstances in life and feels distraught by it.

So much so that he says…

1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
    and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
    and they have no comforter.

And I declared that the dead,
    who had already died,
are happier than the living,
    who are still alive.

But better than both
    is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.

Solomon believed that it is better not to have been born than to see the evil that is done during this life.

 

This to me is reminiscent of Job’s speech when he became introspective and self-centered in his suffering and said in Job 3:3 “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived!” He wished he’d never been born because of his great suffering and rued the day he was born.

 

At the end of the story of Job’s testing he and his lame farnabus friends were visited by God.

From this whirlwind where God manifested himself he questioned job about his understandings and power over elements and animals and the intricacies of life to which Job replied in Job 40:4

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth.”

 4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

In verse 4, He states that all “toil” or work or striving is rooted in envy, which seems to me to be directly connected to what we covered in chapter 2; where he listed all of his achievements in an attempt to find pleasure yet to no avail.

5

Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.

 

In v5, He points out how the fools give in to laziness and are the cause of their own ruin and lack.

 

This seems in the similar vein of Prov 6:6-11

Go to the ant, you sluggard;

consider its ways and be wise!

It has no commander,

no overseer or ruler,

yet it stores its provisions in summer

and gathers its food at harvest.

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?

When will you get up from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man.

Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.

In verse 6 he states that the wise work for the quantity they need, and those who pursue too much pay for it with distress and vanity.

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

In Solomon’s conclusion a man’s life since temporal and of no eternal significance should be enjoyed for what it is and in Solomon’s opinion should not be done alone.

Without someone to enjoy life, or share the work, or help you in Solomon’s eyes it is a bitter and miserable reality.

“What pleasure is there in your work if you can’t share the burden and spoil of it with anyone?”

 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.

 

The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom.

 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.

There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

 

In my opinion verse 13 sounds a bit personal as Solomon was a king who as we covered in chapter 2 had sinned against God’s law in his elder years that would ultimately cause the divide of the nation of Israel.

 

And further yet that his successor could not find favor in the eyes of the people which too would be hebel making this matter too, meaningless.

I will conclude with this week’s message with this exhortation with the main points of this passage in a way that is indeed applicable for us today.

Let us view the world with faith, trusting that God will work out the injustice in His sovereignty, and let us pray for the foolish and the wise to receive grace because we all need it.

Let us help those in need rather than judge them, always act justly, and ultimately live in such a way that when we leave this earth, it is left as a legacy for our family, not a blight in their history.

 

Let’s pray.