First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ August 9, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 1 Peter 4:7-11
The Book of Ecclesiastes explores life under the sun, life without God. In fact, it exposes the ultimate bankruptcy of trying to find meaning, purpose, happiness, security, and satisfaction apart from God. As I pointed out before, Ecclesiastes may seem depressing and it shouldn’t be looked at this way. It is intended to drive us to despair, and at the same time fills us with a different kind of hope. It is intended to cause us to cry out, “Is this it? Is this really all that there is?” The whole book is intended to help us find freedom by realizing that life without God is meaningless, vanity. That if you and I ever, ever hope to find true, long-lasting happiness, real meaning, it is going to have to come from above the sun. Outside my experience. Beyond the facilities of this world.
This morning we get to chapter 4 and we will be examining Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. So what does the Qoheleth, what does the Preacher want us to see in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12? The Preacher says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
The Preacher is saying we were not made to be alone. We don’t thrive when we are alone. We are not as safe when we are alone. We are not as comfortable when we are alone. We are not as happy when we are alone. It’s a simple yet a profound message.
A Call to Community
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is a call to community. This passage of Ecclesiastes highlights the importance of companionship where isolation reigns. In Romans 12:15, the Bible exhorts us to share our happiness and our hurt with each other, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” says Romans 12:15. God gave us a desire to be with other people. Life is too complicated for anyone to figure out alone. Christians are to pray together, study God’s Word together, and meet together more regularly as time goes on (Acts 4:31-33; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 10:23-25).
I am sure we have experienced in one way or another during this pandemic the importance of community. We long for the day when all of us can freely embrace each other, lift up our voices in praise, fellowship together without being worried to get or to pass COVID. We long for that day because this is so central to our live together as God’s children. It makes the gospel a lived reality.
Two Are Better Than One
“Two are better than one,” says the Preacher. This is the principle that lies behind Christian fellowship. This is the way God created us – to fellowship together. In three examples, the Preacher illustrates the blessings of fellowship. The three examples are taken from the risks of traveling by foot in ancient Palestine and they speak in a great way to our journey, the journey of life. The Preacher highlights 3 benefits in verses 10-12: assistance, comfort, and defense.
The first example is that of a traveler who falls into a pit or ditch. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. For a traveler on his or her own, a fall might prove fatal, especially at night. If a leg is broken, if ribs are cracked, if a skull is split open, the single traveler may never receive needed medical attention. The traveler with a companion, however, has someone to pull him or her out of the ditch or pit, someone to splint the broken bones, someone to bring that traveler to safety.
Christians do not travel through life alone. They have each other. When a believer falls into the pit of sin, their brother or sister in Christ can help to pull them out. When a believer is having problems and trials, they can lean on their brothers and sisters. “Two are better than one.”
The second example might sound strange to us. It’s of a traveler facing the cold nights of Palestine. The Preacher is not talking about a married couple. The Preacher says in 4:11, “Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” Hotels and motels were not common in those days except in the major cities and big towns. When people traveled on foot, it was not always possible to get to the next town and the safety and warmth of an inn. In such a situation, it was very common for a traveler to sleep under the stars or in a cave. Palestine nights, even during the summer months, can be very cool. Most travelers found it necessary to sleep in groups, typically one for men, one for women, and another group for children. This way they stayed warm and comfortable. One of the joys of Christian fellowship is the warmth and love we find in each other. We can always find comfort in community.
A third illustration is taken from the burglar or wayside bandit. “And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken,” states the preacher in Ecclesiastes 4:12. Christian believers strengthen and sustain each other. They look to each other for support and encouragement. They uphold and defend each other.
“Two are better than one,” says the Preacher. Yet, he also says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” The rope-makers of the ancient world certainly knew this: a rope made of a single or double strand of cord could be broken so easily; a rope, however, made of three strands was not so easily broken. The Preacher reminds us here that Christian fellowship always involves three parties: you, me, and God. This is a reminder that true Christian fellowship always has Christ at its center. True Christian fellowship is found only where Jesus is believed in as Savior, served as Lord, and praised as God.
Friends, no person is an island. No Christian is a Christian by him or herself. We need each other. We have a duty to help each other in Christian growth and maturity. We must assist and encourage each other. We are all responsible for each other. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” says the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:2. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling,” says the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:8-9. Friends, it’s been a tough time for lots of people. Let’s put the concept of Christian fellowship into practice. We are better together. We help and get helped; we bring comfort and get comforted; we protect others and get protected by them. Make a phone call, or a text message, or shoot an e-mail to someone this week and check on them. Amen.
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