4th Study: Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:16
Well, I must admit I didn’t think I would be able to put this study together in time. It seems like life always gets in the way of something you look forward to doing.
Okay, now that I vented…let’s get on with it.
Ecclesiastes 3 ends with a sobering look at two of the most toughest things we deal with in life: injustice and death.
Pastor Meyers describes it this way:
Here in 3:16-22 he begins with the first two discrepancies that are obvious to anyone who looks around them at what is happening in the world: injustice and death.
In mentioning injustice and death, Solomon is not listing two unrelated phenomena. Thus it is natural for Solomon to move from the problem of injustice to the problem of mortality.
Solomon fixes his gaze on the hypocrisy of injustice-the fact that it is found precisely where society is supposed to protect the innocent and enforce justice and fairness. God has instituted these human tribunals, these places of judgment so that men could find some justice, some judicial relief from wickedness. When wickedness itself is found there, then it is serious indeed.
How does Solomon respond to this? He responds with a confession: “God shall judge the righteous and wicked.” (3:17) This is an article of faith. You do not learn from experience. You do not see it in the world around you. Rather, you hear God say it. You hear God tell you that he will being everything into judgment. And you believe it and confess it because you are certain that God is trustworthy. Judgment belongs to God’s time. (pp.90-92)
I must admit I wished God would have intervened sooner to injustice that man has committed against man. As an American and a child of the post civil-rights generation, I have wondered why God didn’t have slavery abolished sooner or desegregation happen quicker. Also, I look at post World War II and why did 6 million Jews have to die? And I could go on with many other examples…but I must admit I have wondered why would God let these things happen? And yes….these are types of questions that can shake one’s faith and keep many others from believing in Him.
The obvious question is…What is God waiting for?
Solomon gives us the answer in verse eighteen. Pastor Meyers writes:
“I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. (3:18)
Our first need is not to teach God his business or to instruct him about the times and seasons when he should act. Rather, our need is to learn the truth about ourselves–that in a very significant way we are not different than the animals. This is a lesson we are slow to accept, but it is not rationally deniable. What happens to us humans is exactly what happens to the animals: we both die and decompose. The breath departs from man and beast alike. Our lives are all mere vapor.
Solomon is not saying that man is no more than a highly evolved animal. Rather, mankind has been reduced to the level of dying like animals because of God’s judgment. Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 3:17-19, thought they might rise to the level of divinity. Instead, they were laid low like the animals.
Death is a message to us–a message that we are finite and limited, that we are not God but rather answerable to him. God is testing man to see if he will get the point. That is the clearest proof that you have no control. (pp. 92-93)
Why does God have to test us like that? I must admit I was afraid to talk about death. It scared me! And I know that it will happen to everyone….but to talk about it was something I didn’t want to do. To be honest, I still don’t like to talk about it much even after losing my oldest sister, Maxine and my father, Marion.
However as a believer in Christ, we have a savior who has defeated death. And what He has done for humanity can never be repaid. Pastor Meyers writes this:
But some things have changed since Solomon’s day. We can move beyond Solomon since we have the enormous benefit of living after the cross. This still involves walking by faith rather than by sight, but the faith we have is an acceptance of eyewitness testimony that the curse of death has been overturned to resurrection life in the case of Jesus.
That’s why the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to Christianity. Man alone can’t defeat death but our belief in the one who did gives us that ability.
Solomon begins Chapter 4 looking at the problem of injustice(oppression) from a different angle. Verse 1 describes it:
“Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them. On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.”
He is talking about the importance of friendship and it is the theme of Chapter 4.
Pastor Meyers writes:
Solomon finds that suffering injustice is much worse when one must do it all alone. His concern is not so much to expose oppression so as to stop it; but to expose the brutal reality of a world where injustice is found and in which there is no one to help. (pp.98)
What that tells me…we are made for friendship and even in the worst of times having a true friend to go through it with will create a bond that can be even tighter than a bond with a brother or sister.
The key verses for me in Chapter 4 are 11 & 12:
“Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a three fold cord is not quickly broken.”
Friendship is essential as believers in Christ and practicing Christianity. No Lone Ranger Christianity will work. I must admit I have felt in the past it’s easier to do it alone because I thought I could get closer to God.
Well, that’s not true. Churches are here for a reason….even though the Church has not been perfect (that’s an understatement). We need to have a place where everybody can come to worship, to learn the Word of God, and fellowship amongst one another.
Pastor Meyers writes this:
Here, then, is true religion–genuine holiness and righteousness before God. It not only involves providing for obvious material needs, but genuine friendship and companionship. Extending such requires effort, but it is what God requires. It is also what God blesses. Statistics show that if new members of a church do not find genuine companionship within a year, they will leave.
Of course, it works both ways. Personally, both as a layman and then a pastor. I have noticed in church after church that too many of those people that leave have made no effort themselves to find friendship. We may think good preaching or exalting worship is what draws us to a church. Our culture may train us not to consider the issue of alienation and fellowship. When we do not become genuine members of a real fellowship, we will grow restless and dissatisfied. (pp.104)
I believe that sums up this week’s study. I have a couple of questions for you think about and as always I welcome your comments.
1) How do you feel with God not dealing with injustice when we wanted him too or think he should have? Also, has the injustices of the world ever shaken your faith or belief that He even exists?
2) According to Pastor Meyers, statistics show that if new members of a church do not find genuine companionship or friendship within a year, they will leave. How do we create or cultivate genuine friendship amongst Christians?