Eccl 4:1-3

Eternity Online: John Edmiston (Editor)

Eternity-Inspiration for Thursday  13th November 1997

Eccl 4:1-3

I got a letter this week asking when we were going to finish the book of Ecclesiastes. Well we will make a start at least and see how far we get in the next ten days or so. A quick reminder for those who were not on the list when we ran the first three chapters of Ecclesiastes. We saw that Solomon is writing from a purely humanistic perspective. He views everything from the perspective of its value "under the sun". There is no heaven or hell taken into account. He shows, thousands of years before Satre that life is absurd and a cruel, mad joke if taken from this perspective. Ecclesiastes is presuppositional apologetics. It attacks the worldly person's viewpoint with logic and shows that their assumptions lead to a meaningless existence and thus opens up the longing for a better alternative. (Quite coincidentally this first devotional ties in with the theme of the persecuted church we were just looking at).
(Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 NIV) Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter. {2} And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. {3} But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.
The first three verses about oppression seem very true -particularly in Third World countries under military dictatorships or communism. The 1 million Christians murdered by Idi Amin in his attempt at turning Uganda into a Muslim state, the 1.5 million Christians in the Sudan that have been been starved, shot and tortured to death. The Christians torn apart by lions in the Colosseum in NT times or just a Christian wife tormented by an unbelieving husband. "Power is on the side of the oppressors and they have no comfort..." But is that REALLY true?

Lets look at the first mention of oppression in the Bible. (Exodus 1:11-12 NIV) " So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. {12} But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites." The more they were oppressed the more they multiplied! That is the story of the persecuted church! As Tertullian said "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

Ultimately power is not on the side of the oppressors but it is with the oppressed! The oppressed who trust in God have more "with them" than there is "against them". (Psalms 146:5-9 NIV) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, {6} the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever. {7} He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, {8} the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. {9} The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Proverbs, which is one of the most pragmatic (and at times almost worldly) books in the Bible has a radical perspective on being oppressed. (Proverbs 16:19 NIV) " Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud."

Humility and integrity are more precious than all the riches gained by plunder and oppression. Christians often have to make tough choices in life that put them at an economic disadvantage. In some countries the best universities are reserved for Muslims, in others it is nearly impossible for a Christian to get a well paid job. In Australia where I am things are good but Christians often have to leave well paying jobs that want them to be dishonest in some way. In this case the advice of Proverbs can be of some comfort - by choosing to be among the oppressed we are making the better choice. Its a choice Moses made: (Hebrews 11:25-26 NIV) He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. {26} He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

If we feel the sting of oppression lets not give up and feel hopeless and helpless and overwhelmed by the sheer power of those that torment us. Lets remember that God is with us, that He has a reward for us and that when we are bold for Him and take our place among His people that we receive a treasure "of greater value than the treasures of Egypt".

Father in Heaven, give us a clear glimpse of our reward so that we may persist for You in the midst of trials. May Your sovereignty be our stay and our strength and our trust and may we love You amidst the unfair and even brutal contexts we live in. Amen.


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John Edmiston ([email protected])
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