Summary: Dealing with perplexing problems
“PROBLEMS AND MORE PROBLEMS”
A woman’s husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she stayed by his bedside every single day. When he finally came to, he motioned for her to come nearer.
When she leaned closer to him, he said, “You know what? You have been with me all through the bad
times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got
shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you gave me support. When my health started failing, you
were still by my side. You know what?"”
“What, dear?” she asked gently. He looked her in the eye and said, “I think you bring me bad luck.”
Problems can certainly multiply. We even have an idiom in the English language that expresses the sentiment that things can go well for awhile but when problems happen, they really happen: “When it rains, it pours.”
We resume our study of Ecclesiastes this morning. Remember that Ecclesiastes is where Solomon looks at life as it is lived according to two viewpoints: life lived “under the sun” and life lived “under heaven.” Life lived “under the sun” operates under the viewpoint that this life is all there is. Life lived “under heaven” recognizes that there is a God and real life happens when you live according to His direction.
Solomon continues his examination of life. He notes that there are some problems that are perplexing. These problems have a cause. The problems he mentions in today’s passage also have a cure. It all depends on how we live life and whether we live it “under the sun” or “under heaven”.
Eccl. 5:8-20 – If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. 9 The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields. Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him. Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
To discover the cause of the problems that Solomon mentions in this particular passage of Ecclesiastes, we have to go back to the previous passage: Eccl. 5:1-7. The cause that Solomon identifies is hypocritical worship. When a nation worships the wrong things or worships God in the wrong ways, there are going to be problems.
Solomon mentions three specific issues in hypocritical worship. The first issue is that worship is not an event; it’s a lifestyle. Rom. 12:1-2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
The second issue is that worship does not start when you enter a building erected for corporate worship. It’s what you do before and after you enter the building. In Eccl. 5:1a, Solomon warns, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.”
The third issue has to do with the key to worship. Solomon says that the key to worship is being prepared to hear what God has to say. In Eccl. 5:1b, Solomon says, Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Solomon tells us that real worship is not about enjoying yourself or participating in a certain ritual. He says that true worship is about hearing and obeying. True worship is the opening of ourselves to listening and responding to what God wants from each of us.