Friday, December 09, 2016

The Vision (12.9.16): But they had no comforter

Image:  Fall leaves, December 2016, North Garden, Virginia

Note:  Devotion taken from sermon notes from last Sunday's message on Ecclesiastes 4:1-8.

Ecclesiastes 4:1 So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. 2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. 3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

Solomon begins by noting he returned to consider the “oppressions [injustices] that are done under the sun” (v. 1a).

And he mentions seeing the tears of the oppressed (v. 1b).  Solomon was moved with outrage at the sight of injustices that appear in the world.  This might have been the rich exploiting the poor, the strong afflicting the weak, the intelligent scorning and belittling the less intelligent.  We’d like the world to be like a fairy tale where the good always prevail, the right is always vindicated, the truth always triumphs.  But we know this does not always happen.  Matthew Henry here observes:  “The world is a place of weepers.”

If there is a just God in the heavens why is this allowed to happen?  Why do the tears continue to flow?

Note how Solomon adds to the intensity of our sympathy but saying “and they had no comforter.”  Parents know how piercing God has made the cry of infant children and how this cry will compel them to wake from a solid sleep to attend to the wailing child’s needs.  But Solomon says that in this world there are sometimes those who cry out, but it appears they have no loving Father who arises to comfort them.  Why is this so?

He continues: “and on the side of their oppressors there was power.”  He points not just to the tears of the oppressed but to the massive power granted to the oppressors.  And he repeats the sad refrain:  “but they had no comforter.”  There is an imbalance.  The oppressors have the power and the oppressed have no one to comfort them.

This verse reminds us that when you become a believer you automatically become a defender of the weak, the exploited, the oppressed, the used and abused.  As Proverbs 31:8 exhorts, “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.”

Solomon was in such a state of despair here, however, that he concluded the oppressed would have been better off if they were already dead. At least then they would be out of their misery.  The dead are better off than the living (v. 2).

In v. 3 he goes a step forward (or backward in the morality of his thinking).  Better than both the living and the dead would be the person who had never even been conceived and born, the person who had never existed!  This recalls Job’s despair: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3).

This is the sentiment of every despondent person who has ever muttered, I wish I had never been born.  It is the unbelief of the couple who pledges never to bring a child into such a world as this.  It denies the purpose and value of every life and it denies the sovereignty of God even over the injustices and inequities that he allows to take place for his own hidden purposes.

The man who is apart from Christ may very well often feel this way. Who cares for me?  Who would comfort me?  Who will take up my cause?

There is comfort, however, for the man of faith.  I thought of the opening blessing in 2 Corinthians which describes the God of the Bible as “the God of all comfort” who comforts us in our tribulation (1:3-4).

The God of the Bible is indeed a God of comfort.  The greatest sign of this was the sending of his own dear Son (John 3:16; Hebrews 4:15).  During his earthly ministry he demonstrated unfailing care and compassion for his flock:

Matthew 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

This culminated in the ultimate act of compassion when he laid down his life for his friends on the cross.  And even now he has not left us without comfort.  He has given us the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 15:26).

We are not alone.  The God of all comfort is with us and for us through Christ and by the Holy Spirit.  We have a comforter.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle 

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