Ecclesiastes 4 (5)
Pray Psalm 72.12-14.
For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.
Read Ecclesiastes 4.7, 8.
1. What does Solomon mean by “vanity under the sun”? To what does this refer in our passage?
2. Why is the man presented here a fool?
Solomon presents the case of a man who has missed a fundamental component of human experience. He has no one whom he needs to support by his work, and yet he works like a dog, so that he can satisfy all his lusts; yet his work isn’t pleasurable. He is a slave to his passions (his “eye”), and he works to satisfy them; but he can never find in material success what he is missing in human relationships.
He’s so busy trying to satisfy his lusts that he doesn’t even stop to consider that perhaps he’s looking for meaning and purpose in life in the wrong place. He doesn’t have to work so hard, having no one else to support. And working like he does doesn’t satisfy what he really needs – which he might find in meaningful relationships, if he were so inclined. He’s trapped in the getting-and-spending lifestyle and the bumper sticker on his chariot asks, “Are we having fun yet?”
“Under the sun”, men’s inner needs drive them, but their limited perception hijacks their efforts to meet those needs into one dead-end after another.
These two verses bridge to the next part of this sub-section on relationships. He’s been talking about man alone, but he is moving to a section on relationships. So he sets it up by showing this man who’s so busy working to satisfy his cravings that he can’t even think about relating to others.
These days we hear complaints that the world is becoming an increasingly impersonal place. Everyone has a number; phones are answered digitally; politicians troll for votes with recorded messages; neighbors cocoon in their homes; no one seems to know my name.
Our modern/postmodern world can seem too busy for meaningful relationships, and, as Solomon asserts, this too is vanity and an unhappy business.
1. What does Solomon consider to be more important, things or people? Explain.
2. There is no doubt that work can satisfy many of our needs and wants. But it cannot satisfy them all, especially the most important needs. Explain.
3. It seems like Solomon is trying to provoke Rehoboam to a little introspection. How do you see that? Why is that a good idea when we’re trying to explain life “under heaven”?
A selfish man cares for nobody; there is none to take care of but himself, yet he will scarcely allow necessary rest to himself, and the people he employs. He never thinks he has enough. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4.7, 8
Lord, do not let me overlook the people to whom You are sending me today, but let me…
Pray Psalm 72.9-14.
As Jesus – the Righteous One – increases and enlarges His rule in your Personal Mission Field, how should that impact the people around you? Pray about how you should seek Christ’s Kingdom and rule in your life today.
Sing Psalm 72.9-14.
Psalm 72.9-14 (Martyrdom: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed)
And let the Righteous rule the earth, and let His foes bow low.
Let nations praise His matchless worth, and all His bidding do.
The Lord the needy rescues when he cries to Him for grace.
All they who suffer violence find mercy before His face.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).