Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: The Pursuit of Independent Success -The Discovery of Loving Relationships

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on January, 03, 2019

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: The Pursuit of Independent Success -The Discovery of Loving Relationships

Introduction to Ecclesiastes

All through the Book of Ecclesiastes, we have found the oft-repeated phrase, “under the sun.” Solomon used it 27 times, primarily in the first half of the book. The same is true with the word ‘vanity’ which was used 16 times (see chart). Solomon looks back upon his backslidden life and sees that when a man pursues things “under the sun” or apart from God, things are not well.

Not a few people have told me that they feel depressed when reading the Book of Ecclesiastes. Some don’t even want to read the book because of it! This was, though, Solomon’s purpose. Whenever a person lives his life apart from the clear influence of God’s grace, he ends up with a sad life—something is desperately missing. Unfortunately, man doesn’t observe this early in life but often only after most of his life has passed.

Think of the Book of Ecclesiastes as a big canvas, scene after scene carefully painted. In between each scene are many more pithy statements that serve as a backdrop to the whole. When one looks at the whole picture, one’s eyes are drawn to the large despairing scenes painted at the beginning of the book. The sight creates curiosity as to why he so personally writes about his despair. The reader begins to look for something the author might have found, and as one looks deeper, Solomon’s advice, largely found in the later part of the book, can be seen. The book progresses from a depressive analysis to hopeful solutions.

There is no doubt that the beginning of the book is very powerful and can quickly draw one in. Perhaps it is because his target audience would be so involved in their projects that they would have to be pulled away to pause for reflection? Solomon seems to have three main purposes for this book.

(1) To see how sad and lonely lives are apart from God.

(2) To warn us that prosperous lives will end in disaster if centered on earthly things.

(3) To call us back to a sensible and good life with God.

Solomon wants to grant us his hard-earned discernment—not to make money or a reputation but to warn and rescue. He is trying to help those caught in secularism’s web to escape the plague of meaninglessness and find true goodness and joy in the presence of God. If hope cannot be found “under the sun,” then we ought to live “under the heaven,” being influenced by God.

The secular society as we know it is best described as a man without God. The modern world boasts that its choices offer much more than the old way of morals and God. They run with a frenzy after new approaches to life and understanding so that they can escape God’s influence in life. The secular man boasts in his choices but hides the consequences: depression, broken relationships, hatred, disease, drugs, loneliness, and anxiety.

Jesus in John 10:10 strips the glamor coating off secularism’s pill and shows the poison hidden inside it. “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy….” (John 10:10). When a man lives in the groove of the secular world apart from God’s grace and truth, he lives in the spirit of the world. This is what Paul clearly described in Ephesians,

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The course of the world is ruled by the prince and power of the air–Satan. Man is convinced that he rules, but in a very real sense, it is not man who is in control, but their father, the evil one, who craftily inserts his wicked ways into the world.

Humanism rapes man and woman of what it is good, whether it is the secularistic version of humanism or the religious variety. Solomon has lived in the pulse of the world, and now, having looked back, he saw that he was fooled. It ended up being meaningless and empty—like a vapor of air. He got cheated and is trying to help us avoid falling for this delusion.

Without God, man’s resources are limited to what he has and what he makes out of life. But because they are missing life’s most essential part, their life pursuits are vain. One of the key characteristics of our society right now is what I call the pursuit of independent success. I believe this is something Solomon observed in his life as he penned the words in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, though from a different vantage point.

Remember, falling into the clasp of the world is the worst thing that can happen to you. You and I might get deluded thinking that we are missing something when we are not having the fun of the world but don’t be deluded. Once we doubt the power, joy, and love of the truth of God, Satan begins to steer us onto the barren course of the world. What we will be addressing today remains to be a very popular mindset. The road is well-travelled. It is not like one of those paths where you have to cut down branches to get through, but instead, a broad and oft-traveled path. One can travel on it without thinking. If we do not purposely seek another road, we will by the power of the world default to this path. This is the path or pursuit of independent success. It is a hybrid of the world, another of its byproducts. We will find this path both inside and outside the church. The church should know better, but for the most part, it has been mesmerized by the world. Oh, may the church of God come back to the Lord and trust in His good and beautiful ways! All through the Book of Ecclesiastes we have found the oft-repeated phrase, “under the sun.” Solomon used it 27 times, primarily in the first half of the book. The same is true with the word ‘vanity’ which was used sixteen times (see chart). Solomon looks back upon his backslidden life and sees that when a man pursues things “under the sun” or apart from God, things are not well.

Not a few people have told me that they feel depressed when reading the Book of Ecclesiastes. Some don’t even want to read the book because of it! This was Solomon’s purpose. Whenever a person lives his life apart from the clear influence of God’s grace, he will end up with a sad life. Something is desperately missing. Unfortunately, man doesn’t observe this early in life but often only after most of his life has passed.

Think of the Book of Ecclesiastes as a big canvas, scene after scene carefully painted. In between each scene are many more pithy statements that serve as a backdrop to the whole. When one looks at the picture, one’s eyes are drawn to the large despairing scenes painted at the beginning of the book. The sight creates curiosity as to why he so personally writes about his despair. The reader begins to look for something the author might have found. As one looks deeper, Solomon’s advice, largely found in the later part of the book, can be seen. The book progresses from a depressive analysis to hopeful solutions.

There is no doubt that the beginning of the book is very powerful and can quickly draw one in. Perhaps it is because his target audience would be so involved in their projects that they would have to be pulled away to pause for reflection?

Solomon seems to have three main purposes for this book.

(1) He wants us to see how sad and lonely lives are apart from God.

(2) He warns us that happy and prosperous lives will end in disaster if centered on earthly things.

(3) He calls us back to a sensible and good life with God.

Solomon wants to grant us his hard-earned discernment—not to make money or a reputation but to warn and rescue. He is trying to help those caught in secularism’s web to escape the plague of meaningless and find true goodness and joy in the presences of God. If hope cannot be found “under the sun,” then we ought to live “under the heaven,” being influenced by God.

The secular society as we know it is best described as a man without God. The modern world boasts that its choices offer much more than the old way of morals and God. They run with a frenzy after new approaches to life and understanding so that they can escape God’s influence in life. The secular man boasts in his choices but hides the consequences: depression, broken relationships, hatred, disease, drugs, loneliness, and anxiety.

Jesus in John 10:10 strips the glamor coating off secularism’s pill and shows the poison hidden inside it. “The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy….” (John 10:10). When a man lives in the groove of the secular world apart from God’s grace and truth, he lives in the spirit of the world. This is what Paul clearly described in Ephesians,

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

The course of the world is ruled by the prince and power of the air–Satan. Man is convinced that he rules, but in a very real sense, it is not man who is in control, but their father, the evil one, who works his devilish ways through the world.

Humanism rapes man and woman of what it is good, whether it is the secularistic version of humanism or the religious variety. Solomon has lived in the pulse of the world, and now, having looked back, he saw that he was fooled. It was all meaningless and empty—like a vapor of air. He got cheated and is trying to help us avoid falling for this delusion.

Without God, man’s resources are limited to what he has and what he makes out of life. But because they are missing life’s most essential part, their life pursuits are vain. One of the key characteristics of our society right now is what I call the pursuit of independent success. I believe this is something Solomon observed in his life as he penned the words in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, though from a different vantage point.

Remember, falling into the clasp of the world is the worse thing that can happen to you. You and I might get deluded thinking that we are missing something when we are not having the fun of the world but don’t be deluded. Once we doubt the power, joy, and love of the truth of God, Satan begins to steer us onto the barren course of the world. What we will be addressing today remains to be a very popular mindset. The road is well-travelled. It is not like one of those paths where you have to cut down branches to get through but instead, a broad and oft-traveled path. One can travel on it without thinking. If we do not purposely seek another road, we will by the power of the world default to this path. This is the path or pursuit of independent success. It is a hybrid of the world, another of its byproducts. We will find this path both inside and outside the church. The church should know better, but for the most part, been mesmerized by the world. Oh, may the church of God come back to the Lord and trust in His good and beautiful ways!

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