Read Ecclesiastes 4
Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
4 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.
2 And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
3 But better than both
is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.
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.
5 Fools fold their hands
and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 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!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 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.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Advancement Is Meaningless
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 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.
King Solomon continues to explore the meaning of life. We’ve seen so far that searching for meaning in wealth, success, power, or education, will fail us. And Ecclesiastes 4 uncovers a few more places that yield no meaning: oppression, achievement, isolation, and advancement. Nothing under the sun has any ability to ever satisfy us.
Isolation and loneliness are probably not places we’re trying to get to, but sometimes they are the places in which we find ourselves. This is right where the enemy wants us – alone, isolated, and vulnerable to believing his lies. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, puts it this way, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more attractive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.”
One of the best ways to beat the devil’s schemes is by surrounding yourself with other believers – people who know God and love you and love God and know you. Christian community can remind us of truth when it’s hardest for us to believe. That is a gift. And though it takes effort – community is forged, not found – there are many real and practical benefits to living in community with others. Let’s look at some that Solomon outlines for us:
- Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor (v. 9)
- If either of them falls down, one can help the other up (v. 10)
- If two lie down together, they will keep warm (v. 11)
- Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves (v. 12)
God declares, in the midst of creation, that it is not good for man to be alone. In His infinite wisdom, God created us with a need for connection. There is a safety that comes with being in community. Throughout the Proverbs, we see this idea repeated. Proverbs 11:14 (ESV) says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Solomon got it: Isolation is a danger and community is a safety, both physically and spiritually.
- Do you have community around you? Pray for them. Are you feeling isolated? Pray that God would provide godly people to surround you.
- How has your community surrounded, supported, and encouraged you in difficult times?
- Who is someone in your life that could use some encouragement today? Take a moment to reach out to them.
“But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself, he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”
Harris Creek Sermon
Here is the fourth sermon of Harris Creek’s Ecclesiastes series “The Search for Meaning: Better Together & Awful Alone”.
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