Daily Update #257

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 the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.

4 And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

5 Fools fold their hands
    and ruin themselves.
6 Better one handful with tranquillity
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6

The Teacher has done extensive research, there’s no doubt about that.  His careful and painstaking evaluation will have revealed many situations where oppression takes place “under the sun” – where the oppressed have no advocate or comforter, no-one to fight their corner.  This is such a grievous situation that is it better not to have been born, that to witness (or have witnessed) this evil. 

A quick scan through our newspapers or news websites reveals that the same situation prevails today.  Black Lives Matter has been a necessary movement as clearly oppression continues.  The trail of Derek Chauvin following the death of George Floyd has seen mass media attention, as the impartiality of the legal system in the United States is tested in this high profile case.  David Cameron’s visit to meet Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, in the company of Lex Greensill in early 2020 looks like a case of the powerful enjoying their position and freedom to oppress, as well as being courted by others.  I don’t suppose Cameron and Greensill spent a lot of time chatting about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey or about the plight of millions of innocent Yemeni civilians, held in appalling conditions as the Saudis pursue their political and military objectives in that country.  

But this is not the last word.  We know that God cares about his creation and the people he made and sustains.  In sharp contrast to the world in the grip of human ways which the Teacher is evaluating and commenting on, we learn about God’s plan of redemption from the prophet Isaiah:  

40 Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
2  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2

Did you spot the difference between these situations?  In the purely human world (“under the sun”), the situation is dire, better not to have been born.  What is needed is the intervention of God himself to redeem the situation and banish evil.  God himself brings the comfort we all need.  Supremely, this was the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he called everyone to repent and believe the good news.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to all the evil and meaninglessness of life.  

So where do we go from here?  Today let’s take some time to rejoice in the comfort which we can enjoy as we rest in the Lord Jesus.  Let’s take time to share this comfort with others.  If they ask us for the reason we are so cheerful despite the world situation, let’s tell them!  If they are troubled or concerned, let’s lighten the mood as we share the pure joy which comes from being a disciple of Jesus and resting securely in him.  

10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

Isaiah 40:10-11

Tomorrow’s passage:  Ecclesiastes 4:7-16

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