Tonight as we enter into chapter 4, let us not forget that Solomon is writing most of the time from the perspective without God being in the picture, but scattered throughout this book are also praise and love for the hope that God gives us. As we start our study tonight in Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon starts out with view of God not being in our lives.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 Then I
returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And
look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter -- On the side of
their oppressors there is power, But they have no comforter.† 2 Therefore I praised the dead who
were already dead, More than the living who are still alive.† 3 Yet, better than both is he who
has never existed, Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the
Solomon was no stranger to oppression because he had slaves and he was even hard on his own people. We can know that he was hard on his own people because when Solomon died and his son Rehoboam took over as king. Notice the request of the people:
1 Kings 12:4"Your
father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of
your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve
Solomon had also seen those who were oppressed by evil men whose power had corrupted them. There yoke on the people was so heavy that it caused them weep and they felt helpless. Without God, they have no one to provide them with comfort. Without being able to seek comfort from God and only being able to rely on yourself for comfort, Solomon says that the dead are better off simply because they are no longer having to experience the yoke of the oppressors. Better than that would be not to have ever been born that way, you would not ever have to experience the cruelty of men or to have to live a life where all is vanity without God in the picture.
However, in contrast to this, when we bring God back into the picture, it changes everything. Yes, Godís people can still be oppressed and beaten. Yes, we will still cry tears of sadness when bad things happen to us, but we will not remain in that state because with God in the picture we have hope. We can know that God cares and that He is always there for us. As Paul said:
Philippians 4:12 I know
how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have
learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer
need.† 13 I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me.
Like Asaph expressed in Psalm 73, it might seem that wicked are doing good and are suffering nothing from the oppression they inflict on others, but one way or another they will face the judgment of God. As Paul said:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for
it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the
While living a hard life
may at first might seem better than not living at all, we can rest assured that
life is worth living no matter how short or hard it might be when God is our comforter
and our strength. As Paul said:
2 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet
the inward man is being renewed day by day.† 17 For our light affliction, which
is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory,† 18 while we
do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are
not seen are eternal.†
You and I as faithful
Christians should embrace the life we have whether good or bad because we can
know that as long as we endure and remain faithful to God that we will have a
home in heaven, and those who chosen the evil way will receive justice by the
hand of God, and they will not be with you in heaven because God will not allow
such people into His glorious kingdom.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 Again,
I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his
neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.† 5 The fool folds his hands
And consumes his own flesh.† 6 Better
a handful with quietness Than both hands full, together with toil
and grasping for the wind.
This is the classic case
of one neighbor being jealous of the success of another. Instead of being happy
for his neighbor, his envy causes him to despise his neighbor and in some cases
do evil things to his neighbor.
For example, I think of King
Ahab who had more than most men would ever have, yet he wanted the vineyard
that belonged Naboth.
1 Kings 21:1 And it
came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a
vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of
Samaria.† 2 So Ahab spoke to
Naboth, saying, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable
garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it I will give you
a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you
its worth in money."† 3
But Naboth said to Ahab, "The LORD forbid that I should give the
inheritance of my fathers to you!"† 4
So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which
Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, "I will not give
you the inheritance of my fathers." And he lay down on his bed, and turned
away his face, and would eat no food.
This vineyard had been in
Nabothís family for a long time. Each of them had worked hard to maintain it
and passed it on to the next generation. King Ahab did not care about the
history of the vineyard and what work went into it, he just wanted it because
it was close to him. His envy caused this king to cry like and baby and throw a
royal temper tantrum. Of course, if you continue reading the story, you learn
that his wife Jezebel makes it to where Naboth is put to death so that king Ahab
can have his vineyard. While Ahab would have his neighbors vineyard, God did
not allow this envious act to pass because he has Elijah tell him that he too
will die for this murderous act.
From this example we can
see how it is vanity to be jealous of your neighbor and how will not work out
well for you especially if you do something evil like king Ahab did.
The second thing Solomon
talks about is the fool:
fool folds his hands And consumes his own flesh.
In others words, the lazy
man is a fool and will do nothing to help himself out. This saying is similar
to what he wrote in:
Proverbs 24:33 A little sleep, a little slumber, A
little folding of the hands to rest; 34 So shall your poverty come like
a prowler, And your need like an armed man.
The third thing Solomon
says has to do with achieving a middle ground:
6 Better a handful with quietness
Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.
Basically, I see him saying, donít be a lazy fool nor be a one that works all the time. Find a balance. This certainly something we need to learn today. Far to many Christians spread themselves to thin with worldly and social activities that they leave very little time for God and growing spiritually. We must never forget that God is our first priority and sometimes we have to learn to say no to getting involved in too many things, so we can make time for God and growing His kingdom.
Ecclesiastes 4:7 Then I
returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:†
8 There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son
nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, Nor is his eye
satisfied with riches. But he never asks, "For whom do I toil and
deprive myself of good?" This also is vanity and a grave
Here the workaholic is described.
This is a person that has no one in his life so he makes work his passion.
Since he has no one to share his life with, he continues to work and tries to
feel his life with riches, but the problem is that the riches will never
satisfy because they only bring temporary pleasure. Solomon certainly
When people continue to
make their riches their priority they are missing out on enjoying life and
being able to share their time they have with others. They are missing out on
opportunities to serve God. It is kind of like the rich farmer we read about
Luke 12:16 Then He
spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded
plentifully.† 17 "And he
thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store
my crops?'† 18 "So he
said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I
will store all my crops and my goods.† 19
'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many
years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." '† 20 "But God said to him,
'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those
things be which you have provided?'† 21
"So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward
Solomon said it best when
This also is vanity and a grave
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are
better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.† 10 For if they fall, one will lift
up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he
has no one to help him up.† 11
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?† 12 Though one may be overpowered
by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Here we learn the
benefits of companionship. Two are better than one in many ways. When two
people labor together, they can get a whole lot more accomplished in shorter
amount of time. Also, each person can encourage and motivate the other to get
the work done. When two work together, it will make it to where there is more
time to enjoy the life God has blessed us with.
As Solomon said if one
person falls the other can lift him up. When there is work to be done and one
of them is sick the work can still be done by the other, but the person who is
alone does not have that benefit. They must allow the work to go undone,and
they have no one to help them or motivate them. This is sad condition to be in.
From verse 11 we can see
the benefit of how a companion can help keep you warm. This could include
having a spouse to sleep next to, but it also has in mind of those who traveled
together would sleep close to each other to help each other stay warm. The
person who is alone cannot share body heat with anyone.
Then we have the idea of
strength in numbers in verse 12. Yes one man has a good chance of overpowering
another, but if you have a friend or two, then it would be very difficult for
someone to overpower you.
Now think about this from
the perspective of Christianity. When two Christians work together for the
Lord, they will be able to accomplish a lot more than what they could do alone.
For example, when it comes to doing door knocking, one person might get
discouraged, but when your companion is there pushing you forward it help
motivate you to press on. Most of the time in the Bible, we see that the
disciples worked in pairs.
Mark 6:7 And He
called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by
two, and gave them power over unclean spirits.††
When Paul went on his
missionary journeys he almost always had one or more companions. The more
Christian friends we have and the more we work together, the stronger we will
be. When one of us gets weak, our fellow Christian can be there to encourage us
to get stronger. While the weak are recovering, the work for the Lord can
continue through our companions.
While the world man be
able to consume one person and bring them down, if that person has one or two
good Christian friends to help back him up, then the world will have a very
difficult time taking them over. So, let us always strive to be there for each
other so that we can be as spiritual strong as we can be. When we work together
in unity, the ole devil will have hard time making one us fall. Even if he
makes us fall it will be easier for us to stand back up and back on the
One last thought. Even if
we find ourselves alone with no fellow Christians to help us or work with us,
we are never really alone because God is with us and nothing can separate Him
from His love.
As Paul said:
Romans 8:38 †For I am persuaded that neither death nor
life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things
to come,† 39 nor height nor
depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love
of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ecclesiastes 4:13 Better
a poor and wise youth Than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no
more.† 14 For he comes out of
prison to be king, Although he was born poor in his kingdom.†
Regarding verse 13, Solomon also said:
Proverbs 19:1 Better is the poor who walks
in his integrity Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Proverbs 28:6 Better is the poor who walks
in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
It does not matter if you are poor and do not have
the influence of a king, if you are using wisdom and allowing yourself to grow
from the instructions of others, you are far better off than some rich king who
things he knows it all and refuses to learn from those around him.
No matter how old we get or how much education we
have, we should never get to the point in our life where we think we know it
all and that no one can teach something new. When we get to that point, we
become unteachable and we will start to wither away. So, let us never stop
growing until the day we die.
Verse 14 tells us that
young poor man who is wise has all the potential in world to be successful.
This young man was able to eventually become king because he was willing to
listen to others and add to his wisdom. So, do not ever underestimate what you
might be able to accomplish in this life for you and for God regardless of
whether you have money or not. Wisdom is the key.
Proverbs 8:11 For
wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot
be compared with her.†
Finally Solomon writes:
Ecclesiastes 4:15 I saw
all the living who walk under the sun; They were with the second youth who
stands in his place.† 16 There
was no end of all the people over whom he was made king; Yet those who come
afterward will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and
grasping for the wind.
It is not clear, but most believe that this second
youth mentioned here is referring to that same poor youth that became king. It
does not really matter if it is referring to him or to another, the basic
thought is that the people were with this young king and they were proud of
him, but when the next generation came along, they were dissatisfied with him. Whether
this means the new generation has a different way of looking at things or if
the king became like the last one, we do not know, but in either case, Solomon
says it is vanity and grasping for the wind.
Based on Solomonís reasoning from what we have
read so far since we began this study, it seems to me that Solomon is once
again focus on how things repeat themselves such one king falling and another
king rising. With God out of the picture, the cycle of life we live would be
vanity, but thankfully God is not out the picture and the normal things we go
through that other generations have went through are not meaningless when we
remain faithful to God. So, let never forget to enjoy our lives knowing that
God is with us and that we have the hope of eternal life.