Daily Update #258

Pause:  “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.  There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.  ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’  This too is meaningless – a miserable business!  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4 : 8 – 12

Although the Book of Ecclesiastes often seems to be predominantly doom and gloom, we are seeing through these Daily Reflections occasional bursts of sunlight which may even be inspiring.  I was really pleased when I saw which verses I would be writing about today, as they are among my favourites in the whole book.  In this portion today there is this important reminder that we are not meant to function in this world as isolated beings.  

In verse 8 we see a man accruing great wealth through his toil, and yet his wealth did not appear to bring him any joy.  He has no-one to share it with, no-one to inherit it after him, and he seems to be saying, “what is the point of it all?”  Last Friday the “i” newspaper had an article about Matthew Moulding which absolutely thrilled me.  I had never heard of Matthew, but he is the founder of an e-commerce group (whatever that is!)  He has recently pledged to donate £100m of the company’s shares to charity; also, recently he and his fellow CEO donated their base salaries, £300,000, to charity.  I am sure that giving in this way brings just as much joy, if not more, as in the gaining of that wealth.  They are not alone of course; there are several very rich people, including one lovely Christian multi-millionaire named Andrew who Anne and I met in Australia, who have pledged to do good with their wealth.  In fact, Andrew and his wife have stated their determination to die poor!

Verses 9 to 12 really are a great favourite of mine.  When I joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman it was not long before we were being taught about Knots and Splices, and I found a real joy in this very essential part of life at sea; if ever there was some rope-work to do I would very quickly volunteer.  Why do I mention it here? Simply that the strongest ropes were, and probably still are, made of three cords twisted together, something that the writer of Ecclesiastes knew all those hundreds of years ago.  As the writer says, two working together are much better than one working alone, but there is even greater strength in a three-fold combination.  As I thought about this something else occurred to me.  Each strand of rope is made up of literally thousands of fine pieces of twine, bound together to form firstly a cord and then a rope.  Our lives are made of many strands formed over the years, our thinking, our emotions and our behaviour, entwined together they make us who we are.  As I mentioned earlier, we were not created to function in isolation; to have a friend to walk through life alongside one is a real blessing, sharing both our present times but also our future hopes and plans.  This friend might be a spouse, a sibling, a relative or an unrelated friend; what matters is that they are someone willing to walk alongside us through life.  If that friendship is joined by the One who has promised to be both our Friend and Saviour, so that the bond becomes three-fold, then the blessing is more than doubled.  Friendship involves a giving of oneself, and the receiving of another, and our prime example is Jesus who gave Himself completely for us so that He could be with us forever.  Let us thank God for our friendships, both past and present, and above all thank Him for His Son, the best friend of all.

A prayer:  O Lord our God, thank you for all those who have been our friends through the years, and thank you for those whom we now know as friends.  Thank you also for Jesus, who calls us friends, and who proved His love for us on the Cross of Calvary.  May our lives be a blessing to others we pray.   Amen.

Monday’s passage:  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7