ECCLESIASTES-SERIES NR 4
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:1 – 5:7
Theme: New perspective on life
Remember the photo of that young boy from Ethiopia: His ribs sticking out. His cheeks hollow. His little face sad, lonely and without hope.
Or think about Jennifer: Eleven years old. Pretty features. But with deep sadness and hopelessness in her eyes, because for 3 years she has been molested, abused and misused by her uncle. She cannot talk to her mother about it at all. Mother just closes her mind concerning all that. And Jennifer wonders: “Why was someone like me ever born?”
Worse still is the little girl who has not even got a name yet. Because she is only 12 weeks old, weighs 18 grams and is 17 centimetre long. She has a brain, a nose, eyes, ears, even toenails and a heartbeat. But there is no hope for her. Within the next hour she is going to be murdered. She is an unwanted little baby.
Yes, to a great extent our world – and specifically the world without the Lord – is a world of oppression, hurt and pain.
That is exactly what Solomon saw when he contemplated the world around him in Ecclesiastes 4.
He sees a man who is accumulating wealth. Great wealth. Too much to handle. But it does not look as if his wealth brings him any contentment.
There is, on the other hand, a man who is sitting with folded arms and does nothing. He is completely ruined. Society has kicked him out. He could not become a multi-millionaire quickly enough.
That is how the world is: envy, greed, discontent. Young people sacrifice everything to get to the so-called “top”. They sacrifice their marriages, children, friendships – just to get higher up on the ladder. In pursuit of their ambition.
Once Abraham Lincoln was walking with his three sons who were arguing with each other all the time. Someone asked him what was wrong with the boys. His reply: “That which is wrong with the whole world. I have 3 peaches with me and every child wants two”.
That is the world Solomon saw in Ecclesiastes 4. He sees people who are alone and lonely – despite wealth and despite people around them. Yes, the most lonely people in Cape Town may be present here this morning – surrounded by people.
In this life there are only two ways to live. Everyone-for-himself (individualism) OR Godfearing. The entire humanity is divided into these two ways to live. Everything that we are exposed to every day, fall within these two categories.
The everyone-for-himself attitude towards life began when the first human couple ate from the tree which God had forbidden them to eat. From that moment on, man began to live with the attitude of “I-me-myself”. Right outside paradise, Cain murdered his brother: because Cain was self-centered. Literally everything going on around us, is tainted. Our own heart is tainted. Every sin can be related to individualism. The everyone-for-himself attitude towards life results in life feeling like a chasing after the wind/nothing makes sense.
Why do you think the suicide rate is so frightfully high? That is what Ecclesiastes is describing. The only alternative is to be GODFEARING. The Holy Spirit had it written in at chapter 5:7. “Stand in awe of God”. An attitude towards a life of standing in AWE OF GOD helps us to see this life with its everyone-for-himself philosophy in a different light.
1 The attitude towards a life of everyone-for-himself
One can say a lot about this. I will keep only to what is written in Ecclesiastes 4. I will attempt to summarise everything in a nutshell.
What is Solomon saying about the attitude towards a life of everyone-for-himself? What effect does this have on our lives? TWO THINGS: Materialism (only about what we can get). And: We cannot keep our word. Your word is no longer your honour.
That is exactly what is described here. Ecclesiastes says THAT is what he saw in people’s lives. It concerns only what each person can gain. Therefore it does not matter whether you break your promises/word. That is why we oppress other people who are created in God’s image (verse 1). Why do we look down on people with a different skin-colour, culture, who are poor? Why do we want to keep them separated from ourselves? Is it not perhaps because we think that they will not add to our advantage? We imagine that we are above them. We suppose that we are superior. Think about the hold that money and power have on us. There is nothing wrong in working hard and becoming qualified. But, how often is it not a wrong motive that is driving us (verse 4). We want more than the next person.
We want to be ABOVE other people in society. That is why people become slaves of their occupation. That is why they sit with stomach ulcers and tranquillisers. Other people again are lazy and sit with idle hands, because everything is a chasing after wind (verse 5). A lazy person is just as selfish as the person who is working himself to a standstill to reach the so called TOP.
The Holy Spirit is showing us through the pen of Solomon where all these things tend. It causes one to become a lonely person (verses 7-8). Laziness causes loneliness. But you also become lonely if you are a materialist. That everyone-for-himself-attitude-towards-life causes you to lose people. You also lose your God. You estrange yourself from everyone. The worst is that you are actually living for nothing.
Through Solomon the Holy Spirit is saying that a cord of one strand is easily broken. But not a cord of three strands (verse12). A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. If you are in a team with the Lord and neighbour, you are strong. But the everyone-for-himself-attitude does not want a corded rope. Does not want the Lord and other people close by.
Solomon is saying that one observes it even in the temple. In the church/ congregation/ worship service. Even there you see this everyone-for-himself-attitude-towards-life. He says that you see it in the VOWS that people make before God, but then they do not fulfil those vows (5:1-6). Thoughtless (verse 3). Do not pay what they promised the Lord.
It is better to guard your steps when you go to the house of the Lord (5:1). It is better to LISTEN (5:1). Better not to promise anything. Because this everyone-for-himself-attitude-towards-life makes us feel uncomfortable about everything we have promised the Lord.
Think about all the times we have said YES in front of the pulpit. Marriage, Baptism, Confession of faith, Ordination as Minister, Elder, Deacon. Take time to consider once more the finer detail of all these times you and I uttered something before the LORD. If we would just be true to the 4 questions of Confession of Faith, Cape Town will experience a powerful revival. But there is one obstacle: The everyone-for-himself attitude. That is the clincher. That can be broken by only one alternative: True fear of God worked and created in our lives by the Holy Spirit …
2. The Godfearing attitude toward life
The Bible actually has only ONE intention: to give us the assurance that the sinners’ deliverance and salvation were successfully dealt with by the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary – the salvation of everyone who would ever come to faith in Him. He also dealt with the everyone-for-himself attitude towards life. Our good intentions and our own decisions are not what saves us. No, the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ are what saves us. When we turn about/repent and anchor our trust to that, the miracle starts to take place inside of us.
BUT >> The RESULT of all of this, we see in Ecclesiastes 5:7.
A life of standing in awe of God. Fearing God. It destroys the everyone-for-himself attitude in our hearts. It is like a good weed killer. Fear of God.
It does not mean to fear God the way you fear the authorities when you have transgressed the law. No, it means AWE because of LOVE, as a child is supposed to have for a parent. Yes, it means to live in a relationship with Him. It means to love Him. But not as if He is your buddy. No, with awe. Godfearing means to feel as if I have Him to thank for everything. That you are cherished in His Fatherly care. That you need not look for anything besides Him. Godfearing is high esteem. It is respect. Reverence. It is submission. You do not ever want to offend Him. In any way. You feel dead to any form of sin or anything that could grieve Him.
Then, you begin to see life in a different perspective. Other people starts to matter to you. Also those who are far below your standing and your culture and skin colour. You become serious about what your mouth utters before God. You do not cling to your earthly possessions, but start to serve others with it. That is what Godfearing means. The stranded cord. Not a single-strand cord.
This awe-of-God has wonderful practical value. It influences our lives in the same way the everyone-for-himself attitude influenced everything in our lives before. Let us take a thing like school as an example.
It is standing in awe of God that causes children to regard teachers, adults AND THEIR FRIENDS with respect and consideration. Standing in awe of God, moms and dads, is that you do not always choose your child’s side against the teacher. That teachers are respected. Also in the home where school is discussed. Then AUTHORITY is respected as the Lord’s Word teaches. Then it will never be necessary for teachers to have sleepless nights about some children who are undisciplined. What brings discipline, children? A cane? That can be very helpful. But, there is something far better: Fear of God in the lives of everybody.
Oh, we must never behave as if Jesus did not pay in full for our sins. We must not behave as if we are the important ones. As if we have not been bought dearly. Let us – who wholeheartedly confess the Lord – start to notice the everyone-for-himself-attitude-towards-life, and hate it passionately. And let us fear the Lord – with love and reverence.
Translated by Marthie Wilson