November 25, 2016 – Ecclesiastes 4
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)
It seems to me that Ecclesiastes could easily be titled, “Solomon’s Lament.”
After living an opulent life filled with “wine, women and song,” he sadly realizes that having fed his indulgences and rather than pursuing godliness, his days are ending filled with emptiness. All the strivings and efforts of man “under the sun” (earthly, godless) end in emptiness (vanity). Chasing the wind (vexation of the spirit) ends with hands full of nothingness. Without God, all is vanity!
The title Ecclesiastes in our English translation comes from the Septuagint. The Hebrew is “Koheleth,” which Luther translated as “Preacher,” and so in the opening verse of the KJV, “The words of the preacher.” Some theologians suggest that “Debater” is probably most accurate
Seven times Solomon says, “I communed with my own heart,” which reveals this book to be not revelation but the thoughts of a “natural man.” Thus, Solomon takes a theistic approach in writing Ecclesiastes and refers to God thirty-five times as Elohim, the Creator, and not as Jehovah/Yahweh which “specifies an immediacy, a presence—Yahweh is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11) and guidance (Psalm 31:3).” (because it interested me, below is attached a list of the names of God compiled by Ken Hemphill). Elohim put us here, “under the sun,” on earth, below His dominion considered to be “above the sun.” Without God, then, all is EMPTYNESS, chasing the wind, fleeting vanities. Gaebelein suggests, “Ecclesiastes is embodied in the Holy Scriptures for one purpose, to show to the natural man the hollowness and vanity of all that is under the sun, and to convince him thereby to seek and find that which is better, that which is “above the sun.””
In chapter four Solomon conjectures (v 1-3) that the dead are better off than the living for they cannot be oppressed, and the unborn are better off than the living for they have not seen the evil works done “under the son,” i.e. without God. Then he observes (v 4) that lust, envy, and coveting drive the economy, the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome. This too is chasing the wind, while the lazy (v 5) wastes away for lack of provisions, destroying themselves and his family.
Verses 8-12 reflect the importance of family and friends, both secular and Christian, just as we experienced time and again when tragedies strike, and even unknown “brothers and sisters in Christ” come from across the miles to aid and comfort the souls of those struck with such terrible tragedies which destroyed homes and communities. The synergy of family, friends, and Church, make us all are stronger and encouraged when bound together. (After every tragedy, Christians pull together from all over the world to help each other and others in the community.)
Solomon begins his wrap-up of this chapter with an obvious reference to Joseph who rose from a pit and from a prison to rule the mightiest kingdom on earth, as compared to one born a king who rejects council, is opposed and loses it all. The Targum (interpretive Jewish readings of the OT in Arabic when the Hebrew language was dying) interprets v 15 as the foresight Solomon had, by a spirit of prophecy, of those who stood with his son Rehoboam, those who rebelled against him, and of those who reigned in his stead. Verse 16, generations come and generations go. Time flows on. Contentment of the people never, ever lasts for long. Eventually the citizens rebel against whatever governance prevails.
Considering that “all is vanity,” enjoy the provisions God has placed here for us. After all, “Emptiness, emptiness,” everything under the son is only “Chasing the wind.” True contentment, everlasting happiness, is found only in Him who is “above the sun.” True peace is in the pursuit of godliness.
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”. . . “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Hebrews 13:5; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:6
May we each enjoy a life filled with the abundant delights of our God—Father, Son and Spirit.
Ecclesiastes 4 (NLT) Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. 2 So I concluded that the dead are better off than the living. 3 But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun.
4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. leading them to ruin.” 6 And yet, 5 “Fools fold their idle hands, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.”
The Advantages of Companionship
7 I observed yet another example of something meaningless under the sun. 8 This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. 9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
The Futility of Political Power
13 It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. 14 Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. 15 But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. 16 Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
EL, ELOAH: God “mighty, strong, prominent” (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 139:19) – etymologically, El appears to mean “power,” as in “I have the power to harm you” (Genesis 31:29). El is associated with other qualities, such as integrity (Numbers 23:19), jealousy (Deuteronomy 5:9), and compassion (Nehemiah 9:31), but the root idea of “might” remains.
ELOHIM: God “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7; Jeremiah 31:33) – the plural form of Eloah, which accommodates the doctrine of the Trinity. From the Bible’s first sentence, the superlative nature of God’s power is evident as God (Elohim) speaks the world into existence (Genesis 1:1).
EL SHADDAI: “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5) – speaks to God’s ultimate power over all.
ADONAI: “Lord” (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15) – used in place of YHWH, which was thought by the Jews to be too sacred to be uttered by sinful men. In the Old Testament, YHWH is more often used in God’s dealings with His people, while Adonai is used more when He deals with the Gentiles.
YHWH / YAHWEH / JEHOVAH: “LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Daniel 9:14) – strictly speaking, the only proper name for God. Translated in English Bibles “LORD” (all capitals) to distinguish it from Adonai, “Lord.” The revelation of the name is first given to Moses “I Am who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). This name specifies an immediacy, a presence. Yahweh is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11) and guidance (Psalm 31:3).
YAHWEH-JIREH: “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14) – the name memorialized by Abraham when God provided the ram to be sacrificed in place of Isaac.
YAHWEH-RAPHA: “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26) – “I am Jehovah who heals you” both in body and soul. In body, by preserving from and curing diseases, and in soul, by pardoning iniquities.
YAHWEH-NISSI: “The Lord Our Banner” (Exodus 17:15), where banner is understood to be a rallying place. This name commemorates the desert victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17.
YAHWEH-M’KADDESH: “The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy” (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28) – God makes it clear that He alone, not the law, can cleanse His people and make them holy.
YAHWEH-SHALOM: “The Lord Our Peace” (Judges 6:24) – the name given by Gideon to the altar he built after the Angel of the Lord assured him he would not die as he thought he would after seeing Him.
YAHWEH-ELOHIM: “LORD God” (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5) – a combination of God’s unique name YHWH and the generic “Lord,” signifying that He is the Lord of Lords.
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16) – As with YHWH-M’Kaddesh, it is God alone who provides righteousness to man, ultimately in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who became sin for us “that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
YAHWEH-ROHI: “The Lord Our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) – After David pondered his relationship as a shepherd to his sheep, he realized that was exactly the relationship God had with him, and so he declares, “Yahweh-Rohi is my Shepherd. I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
YAHWEH-SHAMMAH: “The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35) – the name ascribed to Jerusalem and the Temple there, indicating that the once-departed glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 8—11) had returned (Ezekiel 44:1-4).
YAHWEH-SABAOTH: “The Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7) – Hosts means “hordes,” both of angels and of men. He is Lord of the host of heaven and of the inhabitants of the earth, of Jews and Gentiles, of rich and poor, master and slave. The name is expressive of the majesty, power, and authority of God and shows that He is able to accomplish what He determines to do.
EL ELYON: “Most High” (Deuteronomy 26:19) – derived from the Hebrew root for “go up” or “ascend,” so the implication is of that which is the very highest. El Elyon denotes exaltation and speaks of absolute right to lordship.
EL ROI: “God of Seeing” (Genesis 16:13) – the name ascribed to God by Hagar, alone and desperate in the wilderness after being driven out by Sarah (Genesis 16:1-14). When Hagar met the Angel of the Lord, she realized she had seen God Himself in a theophany. She also realized that El Roi saw her in her distress and testified that He is a God who lives and sees all.
EL-OLAM: “Everlasting God” (Psalm 90:1-3) – God’s nature is without beginning or end, free from all constraints of time, and He contains within Himself the very cause of time itself. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
EL-GIBHOR: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) – the name describing the Messiah, Christ Jesus, in this prophetic portion of Isaiah. As a powerful and mighty warrior, the Messiah, the Mighty God, will accomplish the destruction of God’s enemies and rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).
Originally published in a PS1 article, Community Bible Church, Baton Rouge, LA
Recommended Resource: The Names of God by Ken Hemphill
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