1Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 ESV)
Yesterday King Solomon pointed out that there is injustice in this world and presented that reality as a potential objection to the notion that God loves us and has a good plan for our lives. Today he raises another objection: all the oppressions that are done under the sun (on this earth).
Often such suffering goes unnoticed, especially by those in lofty positions such as King Solomon. But Solomon not only noticed, he was moved by the tears of the oppressed and saw how glib it would be to tell those who are oppressed that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. Such a statement comes across as naive at best and cold-hearted at worst. Solomon doesn’t address that dilemma in today’s passage, but he will later on.
Oppressors always have power on their side. They use their financial power, their military power, and/or their political power to harm others for the sake of their own gain. In history – including recent history – we’ve seen people oppressed because of the color of their skin, their gender, their ethnicity and other reasons – none of them valid.
God hates this behaviour and warns us against doing it [Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14; Psalms 62:10; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5]. But when we live in an “under the sun” world – a world that does not recognize God and obey Him – there will be people who ignore Him.
But make no mistake, such people will not prosper forever [Isaiah 1:21-26; Micah 3:8-12; James 5:1-6]. Meanwhile, those who are oppressed and afflicted will be comforted by God Himself [Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7] because they have no one else to comfort them.
The oppression that goes on on this earth is so disconcerting that King Solomon thought the dead more fortunate than the living for they no longer have to witness and experience such unfairness and cruelty. But those of us who are alive must endure it still.
Notice that Solomon refers to the dead who were already dead. This is an interesting phrase. It implies that there are dead who are not yet dead – the living dead, so to speak. They currently have biological life, but their spirit is dead. Likewise, he refers to the living who are still alive, implying that those who are not biologically alive are still alive. Here is another verse that let’s us know that we are eternal creatures. We don’t cease to exist once we die.
But Solomon suggests that even better than either the dead or the living is the one who has not yet been born and has therefore not seen the evil that man does to his fellow-man on this earth (“under the sun”). Abortionists use this verse to justify abortion – making it out to be the will of God. It is no such thing. This verse is clearly hyperbole. Abortion is a vile, selfish abomination – an oppression of the helpless in and of itself.
Those who belong to God – those born-again by the Spirit – are not to oppress others. Moreover, we are to seek justice for those who are oppressed and helpless to defend themselves such as the unborn, children, and the poor [Deuteronomy 16:19–20; Psalms 106:3; Proverbs 21:3, 15; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8].
In heaven there will be no oppression [Job 3:17-19]. Jesus will be our only authority [Philippians 2:10]. And those who oppress others and abuse their power here on earth will ultimately face God’s wrath [Matthew 18:6-7].
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