When All is Forlorn
As I’m writing this, it is the anniversary of the day one of my close friends took his life, while another friend’s son currently lies in a hospital bed with a serious head injury. There are many things in this world suggesting things are not the way they are supposed to be. Oppression of the unborn, innocent, young, weak, and marginalized is at the top of the list. The longing in the human soul for things to be different indicates that things may not have always been this way. These verses below soberly remind us that the world and everything in it has been damaged by evil.
- Where do you see cruel or unjust treatment of others in the world?
Read the Word
Ecclesiastes 4:1-6 (ESV)
4 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. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
5 The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh.
6 Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.
- What did the writer notice when looking at how things are in the world (vss. 1-2)? When you look at the world, where do you see oppression?
- What is the writer’s conclusion after considering all the oppression in the world (vss. 3-4)?
- In verse 4, it says “this also is vanity,” speaking of all kinds of labor. The word “also” suggests that the writer believed oppression in the world was also vanity and striving after the wind. What do you think this means?
- What does the writer offer as the anecdote to toil and striving (vs. 6)?
- What oppression or injustice—effects of sin and evil—are you grappling with in your own life today? How are you inviting God and the truth of his Word to enter into this?
Respond to God
The writer strongly concluded that life is not worth living considering all the oppression and brokenness in the world. It would be better to not even be born. The injustices in life can make it very difficult to understand God. Looking to life itself for hope and answers, though, only leads to confusion and despair. This passage subtly whispers to us to not lose hope, but to be humble, or as stated elsewhere in Ecclesiastes, to fear God. To find meaning not in life, but in God who gives life.
- Thank God for the fuller revelation of Scripture, which allows us to know that Jesus came to prove that oppression does not have the final word.
- Tell God that your hope is in him alone.