Oppression, Toil, Friendliness – The writer takes note of all the oppression he can see:
‘I see the tears of the oppressed…no comfort for them…the oppressors have all the power…
I declared that those who are dead must be happier than those who are alive still…
But better still, those who have not yet lived – they have not yet seen ‘the evil that is done under the sun’.
The writer observes that all work and achievement is driven by jealousy (‘envy of his neighbour’) – more meaningless chasing after wind:
‘The fool folds his hands and ruins himself…
Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil…chasing after wind
The writer observes something else which troubles him, more meaninglessness:
‘A man all alone…no son or brother…no end to his toil…’yet his eyes were not content with his wealth’
‘For whom am I toiling…and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ – miserable meaningless living.
Two are better than one…if one falls, his friend can pick him up…pity the one who falls and has no-one to help him up.
Two who lie down together keep each other warm…how can one keep warm alone?
‘Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’
Advancement is Meaningless – The writer concludes that it is better to be a poor and wise youth than an old but foolish king.
The king can no longer heed warnings; the youth may have come from prison or been born in poverty.
‘all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor.’
However those who come later will not be pleased with the successor – all meaningless chasing after wind.
It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, success is fickle – and therefore devoid of real meaning, if that’s what you’re building your life upon.
Stand in Awe of God - There is a call for people to be careful in their motives as they go to the house of God – people should go to listen, rather than to ‘offer the sacrifice of fools’.
Rather than being hasty in uttering anything (with heart or mouth) before God, there should be an acknowledgment that ‘God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.’
Dreams can reflect the number and weight of cares being carried – so too can foolish speaking reveal much through its many words.
People should faithfully follow through on commitments made to God – ‘fulfil your vow’.
Better not to vow at all than to vow and not follow through. We must be careful not to let our mouths lead us into sin, or to protest that we didn’t mean what we’d said.
‘Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.’
Riches are Meaningless - The writer notices the poor oppressed, their justice / rights denied - the officials are colluding and only looking after each other; the king gets richer through the profits from the fields.
‘Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied – it’s all meaningless.’
The more that goods increase, the more consumers consume – it’s all of no worth, just a sight for sore eyes.
Hard workers sleep well, however much they’ve eaten; abundantly rich men suffer insomnia.
The writer observes a ‘grievous evil’:
there is an accumulation of wealth which harms its owner, or is calamitously lost, so that if the owner has a son, there’s nothing left to inherit.
‘Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labour that he can carry in his hand.’
Another grievous evil the writer observes is summed up by ‘as a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind?’
The writer comes to the conclusion that it is good enough for people to eat and drink and be satisfied with their work ‘during the few days of life God has given’ - content with our lot.
It is a true gift of God when He allows people to gain wealth and possessions to enjoy, and to be happy in their work.
‘He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.’
Another evil is to see people acquire wealth, possessions and honour and then not be able to enjoy them – someone else reaps the benefit – it’s all meaningless.
‘A man may have 100 children and live many years, but if he cannot enjoy his prosperity, and doesn’t receive a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.’ As we all go the same way, the writer suggests that it would be better to never have seen the sun, than to live even a thousand years but be unable to enjoy all that we’ve worked for.
‘All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied’ – what advantage does anyone really have? People’s appetites are always changing, growing, and it’s all meaningless.
There’s nothing new – everything has been before; ‘the more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?’
‘For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after his is gone?’
1 CORINTHIANS: (Marriage cont.)
Paul urges the Corinthians to be content in whatever state they currently find themselves – circumcised or not (‘circumcision is nothing…keeping God’s commands is what counts’), slave or free (‘if you can gain your freedom, do so’…’he was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman…he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave’), virgins or married.
‘Each one should remain in the situation which was in when God called him.’
Paul refers to a crisis (v.26) – he is clearly responding to pressures people are feeling to marry, not marry, divorce, and he urges the Corinthians to not change their circumstances, but to live out their faith where they are.
‘Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.’
‘Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.’ – Paul may be making the point that marriage in itself doesn’t solve problems or avoid troubles; in fact, when individuals bring troubles or needs into a marriage, it can feel harder in the working it out. Paul’s point in the remaining verses is for those who feel pressured into marriage, that the unmarried have greater capacity to be concerned only about the Lord’s affairs, whereas the married carry a concern for their spouse and ‘the affairs of this world’. Paul wants the unmarried to see the ‘gift’ they are - ‘free from concern…devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit’.
He urges that time is short, that the Corinthians should not be distracted by marriage issues, grief, pleasures, materialism, ‘the things of this world’, because this world is passing away, and there is a need to live ‘in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.’
‘The fear of the Lord leads to life. Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
The lazy person can’t even lift his hand from the dish to his mouth!
The mocker should be dealt with harshly (flogging?), that the simple might gain some wisdom.
Even the ‘discerning man’ should experience rebuke, that he might gain knowledge.
The son who brings shame and disgrace is the one who robs his father and drives out his mother.
My son, if you stop listening to good instruction, you will be led on a path further and further away from sound, knowledgeable words.
Witnesses who are corrupt are ridiculing justice…wicked mouths gulp down evil.
Mockers beware – you will pay for your folly
Fools beware – watch your back!
Wine produces mockers, beer produces brawlers – the unwise are led astray by both.
Don’t anger a king – his roar is lion-like, his anger can be deadly.
‘It is to a man’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel’.
That lazy person (sluggard) never ploughs at just the right time, so he looks in vain for the harvest!