Do you Feel the World is Broken?
Scripture Reading - Ecclesiastes 5:8-20
“If you see oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness in the province, don’t be astonished at the situation, because one official protects another official, and higher officials protect them. The profit from the land is taken by all; the king is served by the field. The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep. There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does the one gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much frustration, sickness, and anger. Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.”
Well friends, I do greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let's prepare our hearts and our minds for the teaching from God's word and by bowing our heads and praying before Almighty God.
Father God in Heaven, I do thank you for your word. It is faithful and true upon it we can build our lives and our testimonies. It's good for and sufficient for all things. Lord God as we a now pay careful attention to your word, I do ask that you would instruct us by your Holy Spirit. Would our minds be transformed with our hearts be stirred and might our lives be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ our Lord and our Saviour. Might we as a people at Crystal Park Baptist Church be made fit for Heaven’s glory. We long to see Jesus so would you now show us Him in your word we pray and all these things we pray in His most wonderful name. Amen.
This morning we will be looking at Ecclesiastes 5:8-9 paying special attention to those two verses.
In December 2004, Liezl and I were down in Port Elizabeth visiting our family and on Boxing Day, all the Uncles, the Aunts, the Cousins and Grandkids got together for our Traditional Family Leftover Turkey and Gammon Feast filled with the fun of leftover Christmas crackers. I remember walking through to the TV room, flicking on the big screen looking for some test cricket and learning of the devastation of the “Boxing Day Tsunami”. A cold chill came over me as I watched a wall of water reaching a road and sweeping cars and trucks along with it as if they were children's toys. I didn't know if there were people in those cars and trucks and I can remember wiping away tears from my eyes. 227 898 people lost their lives that day.
There is something wrong with the World. Do you feel the Brokenness?
I had the same cold chills sweep over me on 11th September 2001. I was at work and browsing the Internet looking at News24 or something and I heard that there had been terrorist attacks in the United States and so I went through to the Company's boardroom and turned on the television. Just a few minutes later if I remember correctly, I saw a second plane crashing into the World Trade Center. 2977 people died that day.
There is something wrong with the World. Do you feel it?
Coronavirus disease 2009 shortened to COVID-19 was identified in December 2019 in Wuhan China. I looked at the Worldometer Coronavirus stats this morning and last night too and they had changed dramatically overnight. 8,914,787 cases with 416,718 deaths. Last week, 3 South African Baptist Pastors were diagnosed with Coronavirus and another one this morning. On Friday one of them died from direct complications related to the disease. Adding to Coronavirus there is Malaria, Heart Disease, Strokes, Tuberculosis, Aids and Cancer.
There is something wrong with the World. Do you feel it?
Presently 20 million souls are at risk in Yemen, South Sudan, Unity State, Somalia and Nigeria from widespread scarcity of food caused by several factors including war, hyper-inflation, crop failure, population imbalance or stupid Government policies.
There is something wrong with the World. Do you feel it?
On Wednesday, Our President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the Nation. I quote his words as a man, as a husband and as a father. He said "I'm appalled at what is no less than a war being waged against the women and children of our country at a time when the pandemic has left us all feeling vulnerable and uncertain. Violence is being unleashed on women and children with the brutality that defies comprehension. We will speak for the 89-year-old grandmother who was killed in an old age home in Queenstown, the 79-year-old grandmother who was killed in Brakpan and the elderly woman who is raped in KwaSwayimane in KwaZulu-Natal. We will speak for the innocent souls of Tshegofatso Pule's unborn daughter who had already been given a name, six-year-old Raynecia Kotjie and the six-year-old child found dead in the veld in KwaZulu-Natal.
There is something wrong with the World. Do you feel it?
John Piper puts it this way: "We live in a world with unending calamities. Over 50 million people die every year in this world, over 6000 people every hour, over 100 people every minute and most of them do not die at a ripe old age in a sleeping, peaceful way slipping happily into eternity. Most die young, most die after long struggles with pain and millions die because of evil of one man against another and you will be among the dead sooner than you think.”
There is something wrong with the World. Do you do you feel it?
The writer of Ecclesiastes: our preacher, the searcher and the observer is with us this morning and he is sure that there is something wrong with the world and I'm asking you the question this morning. Do you feel the world is broken too?
Title: Do you feel the World is Broken?
There's something very wrong with the World. Are you awake enough to see it?
Let’s take a look at Ecclesiastes 5:8 together.
1). Do you feel the World is broken? (5:8a CSB)
The writer says, "if you see oppression in the poor, if you see oppression of the poor and perversion of justice and righteousness in the province.”
He starts off by saying "if you see". He is been using that word over and over through the book and we've been in this book for eight months now. We started in November 2019. We started in chapter 1 and when we got to verse 14, we read these words “I have seen” the preacher says "all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind.” In chapter 3:16, he turns his attention to oppression, he turns his attention to wickedness that to the perversion of justice and he says, “I have observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness.” In chapter 4:1, “Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun” and now he brings his readers into his observation. He said "I've seen this. Do you see it? Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them.” This refrain, as he talks of this World, this messed up World and this broken World. This World which 27 times, he uses the phrase “Under the sun”. We sing maybe not as often today as in yesteryear, but we sing that song "All things bright and beautiful" but we should sing a second verse "All things marred and horrible".
The biblical account of creation is recorded in the opening chapters of the Bible "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". God spoke and everything came into being. My son, we were working through the New City Catechism and when we get to the question: What did God create? The answer is everything but he says the giraffes and the hippopotamuses and the planets and the sun and the moon and the stars and he goes on and on and on... God spoke the sky and the planets and the seas and vegetation and animals and everything into being and it was GOOD. All things created in untested perfection. The pinnacle of his creation was Adam whom he created in His own image. Designed to fellowship with God, to reason like God and to enjoy God forever. In a garden designed specifically for Adam, God walked with him and talked with him and fashioned Eve to companion with him and gave them everything to enjoy except the fruit from one tree. Adam was told if he ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would surely die. In the garden, Satan in the likeness of a serpent, came to Eve and suggested that God had not really forbidden the fruit for her good but was rather keeping good from her. So Eve ate and gave some to Adam and in that moment everything changed. Sin entered into God's perfect world and mankind fell. Because of Adam's sin, God placed a curse upon the world: the people, the animals, the plants and even the very ground. Their sin had bought upon them the judgment of God and the only punishment for such high treason was eternal death and so we now live in a world of unending calamities. The Bible explains why there is something wrong with this World and why we can feel it is so very broken. That is what the writer of Ecclesiastes means the 27 times that he uses the phrase "under the sun". He means that life in this sin cursed world is an eternal struggle, in a life lived with the consequences of the fall, with the consequences of man's sin and of men's rebellion. Look at it, look at the oppression of the poor along with the writer of Ecclesiastes. Don't ignore it and pretend that it's not there.
Man, sinful as he is: sees the oppression of the vulnerable and feels that there is something wrong. The oppression of the poor stirs anger in the hearts of men because it is a slander against the very image of God that we have been created in. It breaks the hearts of believers because we understand it breaks the heart of God. We know that the treatment of others reflects our relationship with God and affects our relationship with Him. Proverbs 14:31 says, "The one who oppresses the poor person insults his Maker." Proverbs 17:5, "The one who mocks the poor insults his Maker, and the one who rejoices over calamity will not go unpunished." If you see the oppression of the poor and the perversion of justice and righteousness in the province, God Himself is justice. It is who He is. He is justice as an indispensable part of his character. In the same way He's love, and His mercy are part of who He is. Without His justice sin would run unchecked when men pervert’s justice, when he pervert’s righteousness, he perverts the image of God that we are created in. The writer observes the social injustice around him and says there is something wrong here.
Where might he find a Saviour?
2). The World is Affected and We’re Infected (5:8b CSB)
Let's look at Ecclesiastes 5:8b to see if one can be found there. "Don't be astonished at the situation, because one official protects another official, and higher officials protect them." Literally in the language the word for official is "high". One High protects another high and higher highs protect them. The last part of the verse, the last phrase is plural. Its “higher officials”. It's not higher official and so it's not speaking of either God or the King. It's talking about Government. How? How is it possible that Government can cause the kinds of oppression that we see in the poor, the misuse of justice in the perversion of righteousness? We live in a red tape society. Don't we? Somehow our multilevel bureaucracy seems to always open doors to corruption. Could be that the endless delays and excuses that officials give while the poor cannot afford to wait, justice is turned about between the tiers of the hierarchical system and justice delayed is justice denied or perhaps the point is that each tier of Government takes something from the tier below it. Rampant abuse of power, nepotism, cronyism. Eventually injustice reaches down to the poor who had probably oppressed someone if they could but because they can't, because they are at the bottom of the stinking pile or maybe it's a spies state and maybe rather than one official protecting another official, the word is one official watches another official. Higher officials watch them. Different branches of Government are suspicious of one another, surveillance unit in SARS, in the police, in crime intelligence watching, watching everybody is watching someone else looking for a way to take advantage of them. The poor ordinary people on the outside look in. Whether it is impersonal bureaucracy, a captured state or spy state, the Government under the sun has gone wrong. It's broken and so the people are oppressed. There is no Saviour to be found in this state. The sad reality is that we shouldn't be astonished by this.
There's something very wrong in the world. The world itself is broken and we feel it's brokenness.
The world is being affected by the fall of man and man is infected by sin and so oppression and injustice abound. If we are to find a Saviour, it won't be in the corridors of power. Our hope won't be found in Government, whatever shape or form it takes. Where can we turn?
The King is the Problem! (5:9 NIV)
In chapter 5:9, is one of the harder passages in Scripture to understand. Not so much the interpretation of it but just the translation of it is really difficult. The difficulty rests with the King's relationship to the land. Does the King himself profit and unduly from the land. Is the King enriched reciprocally by the land or is the King the reason why the land produces bountifully?
There are 3 possibilities here. The first one is the possibility that the King is the problem.
We see that translative decision in the NIV. The King is the problem. Does King himself profit and unduly from the land. The NIV in chapter 5:9 reads, "The increase from the land is taken by all the King himself profits from the fields". Many commentators, scholars and even Bible translators read this verse negatively. The King is a scoundrel, he is as corrupt as his officials are, his part of the bureaucracy colluding together with them, self-enriching himself at the people’s expense. This is the way most rulers operated in the ancient world and Israel had their fair share of thief Kings. Robert Mugabe would certainly fall and fit this bill and any other despot through history who's become filthy rich while the people they pretend to serve become stinking poor. Have you ever heard of the word “Kleptomaniac”? It is what we call a person who doesn't resist the urge to steal. Well like you get monarchies ruled by a King or a Queen and democracies ruled by the people, you get kleptocracies ruled by thieves, by thugs, by mafia, nkandla stands as a witness in our own country to the rule and self-enrichment of Guptas and Zuma’s but I don't think that's what the author has in mind in this text.
The King is a Lousy Safeguard! (5:9 CSB)
Solomon was a benevolent monarch and his rule was characterized by general prosperity amongst his people and so we turn to the next possibility of what this text means and we use the Christian Standard Bible as a guide to look at the King being a lousy safeguard. The question that we could ask of the text, how the King relates to the land is: Is the King enriched reciprocally by the land? The CSB reads "The profit from the land is taken by all the King is served by the field." A number of Bible translators interpreters’ verse 9 as the King being the highest official in the land and as the highest official in the land, he must leverage the work of the peasant farmers to his advantage. There is a sense then that the King is subject to the farmer, the peasant; the lowliest person in the land. In that, if all the farmers of the land were lazy then the King himself would suffer. In an inversion of power, the peasant could even theoretically oppress the King but all things being equal and accepting that power generally flows from the top down, the King can't oppress the peasants too much because the King needs the fruits of the field, he needs the gross domestic product, he needs the wheels of industry and agriculture to turn in and therefore they are some natural limits to the oppression he can wield based on the King's appetites and desires. There is a possibility that this is a valid translation of the text and we see that there was oppression in the land at the time of the transition of power in 1 Kings: 12:1-10. You can go and read that after lunch. It might be that Solomon is saying that under the sun: even a bad King is a something of a safeguard against oppression. But I think that the third translative decision and interpretation is the best.
3) A King is the Solution! (5:9 NASB)
King is the solution. The relationship between the land would be this: Is the King the reason why the land produces bountifully and a King is the solution? We find this translated decision in the NASB, “After all, a King who cultivates the field is an advantage to the land” it reads. I truly believe NASB’s approach to the translation and interpretation is correct. It fits the the wider flow of the writers thought. If you remember last week we were talking about worship and more particularly we were talking about vows made in worship. We are not to drag our feet when we make vows, we are not to break our promises when we make vows, we not shoot our mouths off when we make vows or backpedal when we make vows and lastly don't forget who you're dealing with when you make vows to Almighty God. This idea of God being Sovereign over all things maybe even God being the Great King over all things, that if banty flows, it flows because there is a King: a benevolent King who's taking care of his people. And this line of thinking, the best defense against Government corruption is a Godly King. Society needs a ruler with wisdom, the wisdom of Solomon, with heart, the heart of David, with courage, the courage of Hezekiah and righteousness. Someone who values economic freedom, who encourages his people to prosper by cultivating their own fields. The general meaning is that good government comes from having rulers or a ruler who is not rapturous for their own aggrandizement but has the interests of the Country at heart.
The World is broken, every part of the World has been affected by the fall even Government and every person is infected by sin. Where do and where will find a King like this? There is none to be found. Never mind how hard you look. This King who will rule in righteousness, this King who will rule for the sake of his people, this King who is righteous before God, this King who does not pervert justice, who does not pervert righteousness and this King who does not oppress the poor cannot be found because he doesn't exist except in one man and that one man is coming. You see my friend, as we look at this world and recognize that something is wrong under the sun, as we look at this world and recognize that something is broken. God does too. He knows the calamities that we live with, He understands how far our rebellion has cast us away from Him. Because of His mercy and His love and His grace, He has entered into this World as King! The first time He came, men would have looked at him and scoffed, maybe even mocked, in fact they did. Born in a stable in Bethlehem amongst the cattle and the sheep. The squalor of a lowly stable, can the Creator of the heavens and the earth. No solution exists for our redemption or salvation under the sun and so God Himself considered not equality with God something to be grasped but the son came to this world and took upon Himself the judgment of God for you and me on his own shoulders. He bore upon Himself the iniquity of man. He died a death which He did not deserve so that the merits of His life, the merits of His death might be given to us and we might be saved. Our sin upon Jesus Christ on the cross, His righteousness draped upon us like Royal robes that we might stand before God in spotless righteousness. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after being resurrected from the grave and there He is seated in power, making intercessions for His people but friends the King is coming again. He's coming to reign and rule on this earth. He's coming to bring the scepter of justice and an iron rod of rule to set up His Kingdom that would be without end. Jesus Christ, the King is coming and it's to Him that I want to point you to today. In the midst of this broken World, many you are facing economic hardship, many of us are facing physical calamities or at least know people who are struggling with all number of sickness and ill health. Friends this World is broken, and we see it and we feel it but today and everyday cast your gaze upon Jesus Christ.
If you are an unbeliever, recognize that you are separated from God and just like this world is broken so are you, you have sinned in thought and word and indeed and what you have left undone, you two are a rebel against the Creator of the Universe. Under the sun, you live out your miserable life and you too soon will die without a hope in hell should you not turn and put your faith and your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ and live. That is the call upon your life as you realize that there is no salvation to be found in Government. Next week there's no salvation to be found in your money, there's no salvation to be found in relationships in this world. If you are to find salvation it must be found in the person of Jesus Christ who is Lord and Saviour. Under the sun, over the sun, in heaven above, over all and everything!
Believer, we live in this World too don't we, we do, we feel it's brokenness. This morning take courage friend. This World, this current experience is the worst you will ever face. Soon a time is coming when we will be swept up together with the Saints and presented to Jesus Christ as His bride forever and ever, to worship Him. Spotless and radiant and prepared for glory, we must be. As we live out our lives under the sun, make sure that you left your eyes to things above and do not spend all your time on the cares of this World. For our King is coming and He is coming soon. May God add richly to the reading of His word. Amen.
Father God in heaven, we do look, we do see the oppression of the poor, we see the perversion of justice. Lord God, we see the perversion of righteousness, we are not blind to these things. Lord, we look to the Governments around us, all of them, corruption abounds, self-care and political concern for narrow interest abound. There is no salvation to be found in them at all. But Lord, you have stirred our hearts to look above and there we see Jesus. That first hanging on a cross and dying for our sins and in belief, we cry out and repent and cast ourselves upon Him, our Saviour. But then Lord, we recognize that our Saviour is Lord, His King, He is over all and every knee must one day bow before Him and we look forward to that day. Lord we say, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus come. Sweep away the injustices of this World, might they run before you, hide in the shadows, might you bring your glorious light, might you bring justice for those that are oppressed, vengeance to all who stand in your path and might you glorify yourself forever and ever. Help us to be fit for that day we pray in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friends, our closing benediction is taken from 1 Timothy chapter 1:15-17:
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal,immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”