We are all aware of Jesus’ response to the question posed to Him as recorded in Matthew 22:36-39 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
He spoke to the relationship that man should have to God, and through that relationship, to man.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. Experience teaches us that the natural man does not fulfil this command. Without the love for God in our hearts and the love of God working in us, we cannot have a right relationship with man and therefore, happiness again escapes us. Solomon had ample opportunity to provide wise judgment to an ungodly world. Following his scientific investigation which had led him to a dead end on the road corresponding truth, he continued down the highway of life under the sun and posted a warning sign for those following him “Warning, no rest areas ahead”. While creation has a balance in its order, mankind does not. No true system exists where one complements the other. Whether prince or pauper, no happiness results.
Along this part of the highway there were four exits that he investigated: The exit of Powerful People, the exit of Prosperous People, the exit of Private People, and the exit of Prideful People. He recorded his findings in chapter four with his statement of purpose – “So I returned and considered –
I. The Powerful People. Ecclesiastes 4:1-3
President Reagan’s insightful viewpoint is a sad but true commentary of government in general: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’
Nothing seems to have changed from the times of Solomon until now. Solomon declared in these verses that there was –
A. No Righteousness. Ecclesiastes 4:1a “…all the oppressions that are done under the sun…”
B. No Relief. Ecclesiastes 4:1b No one was offering help to the oppressed. …they had no comforter…”
C. No Recourse. Ecclesiastes 4:1c No authority to approach for help. Oppressors controlled everything. Any that would try to help were fearful and intimidated by those in power.
D. No Reason to live. Ecclesiastes 4:2,3 They were frustrated by their circumstances and had no expectation for any change in the future.
Job declared this frustration with life –
Job 3:11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
Job could find no comforter even though he cried out often for one to help. It is important to recognize that the oppressors also have no comforter. Their self righteousness was a lie and they were rebuked by God – :… the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right…” The oppressors found no satisfaction in their oppressing. Their actions only brought on themselves frustration and anger, and eventually judgment. Neither the oppressed or the oppressors have rest in their lives under the sun.
Next Solomon turned to study another manner of man, not those that oppress for power and position, but those that work for it. Many strive for satisfaction, peace, and enjoyment in their work. They hope that they will be appreciated by what they are accomplishing and that their accomplishments will identify who they are – their being or as otherwise stated – their worth.
II. The Prosperous People. Ecclesiastes 4:4-6
Solomon discovered that –
A. One that labours to accomplish something in life, to provide for his family and promote the good of his community realizes little peace and enjoyment from his labour because of those that are envious and jealous of what he has done. Ecclesiastes 4:4
B. One who is envious makes excuses for his lack, claiming to be satisfied with the little effort he puts forth. Ecclesiastes 4:5,6
Neither finds rest because of their misplaced expectations and their unrighteous relationship with one another. Remember that a right relationship with our neighbor can only come through a right relationship with God.
Solomon chose to visit with those that seek contentment in solitude –
III. The Private People. Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
Solomon noticed another group of people who sought peace in life through solitude. He discovered –
A. The reasoning behind their decision. Ecclesiastes 4:7,8
They could not be happy and content while being responsible for others. They would fulfil their lives through their work, not being concerned for the care of anyone but themselves.
Solomon replied to their reasons by stating –
B. The results of companionship. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
1. Productivity increases. 4:9
2. Presence of one to help in difficult times. There are many ways to fall (Physically, emotionally, spiritually)
3. Promoting the comfort of one another. 4:10
4. Protection from adversaries. 4:11
Solomon previously concluded that while solitude will not result in contentment, neither will personal companionship. As he noted when he stated that light of the world is better than the darkness of the world – light being better does not give happiness or contentment. It only provides an advantage to life under the sun. The eventual conclusion will be that the life of the natural man is meaningless. This is not an accusation against anyone. It is the conclusion of the wisest man the world has ever known.
IV. The Prideful People. Ecclesiastes 4:13-16
People look to the king for answers to their problems. The king, being just a man, believes that he does have the solutions for his subject’s problems. What neither immediately realize is that they have different problems and, very often are in opposition with one another. The king cannot settle one problem without creating another. Eventually he will divide the people and lose his power to rule. This is evidenced by the personal experience of King Solomon. In the beginning of his reign, Israel had great expectations and were united with their king.
A. The testimony of the nations in the beginning of his reign as King of Israel.
1 Kings 10:7-8 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
B. The testimony of his subjects at the end of his reign as King of Israel.
1 Kings 12:4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
The people rebelled because Solomon’s quest for happiness and contentment did satisfy him, and therefore obviously did not extend to them. While he became great, he did so on the backs of his people. He did not lift them up with him but changed his attitude from that which he declared in 1 Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? – to believing that they were his people to be used for his good. His self service was not lost on the people. They did live in peace and prosperity, but they were the ones paying for it through high taxes and hard service.
C. The testimony of Solomon.
1. His anticipation of greatness. He was handed the kingdom with the blessings of God.
2. His anxiety of failure. He sought for the very thing that he had been given, but without God. Ecclesiastes 4:15,16
At this crossroad, Solomon has posted the warning sign for us – “Warning, no rest areas ahead”. Beware of the roads of power, prosperity, privacy, and pride for they do not lead to happiness, contentment, or satisfaction in life! Rest for the soul is not found on any of them. The only rest in life is in God through His blessed Son, Jesus Christ.
Matthew 11:28-29 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
There is no rest under the sun, only weariness. Will you trust God today? Will you believe that Jesus Christ, God the Son, has given Himself for mankind – dying on the cross, buried for three days, and risen from among the dead satisfying the justice of His Holy Father. He conquered death and has victory over death and the grave and He did it for you.