The Value of a Friend

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The Value of a Friend

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 4:9-16



Sunday, February 9, 2020 pm      


In our previous lesson, we noted how Solomon observed the oppression of the poor. He observed how both the oppressor and those oppressed, “they have no comforter” (4:1).   This led to a discussion of work and laziness, as well as contentment and the “workaholic” who is driven yet never finds relief nor satisfaction, and in spite of this he never stops to ask< “Why am I doing this?”   As usual, “this also is vanity and a grave misfortune.”

In today’s lesson we find Solomon following this up with observations about the value of a friend. This is followed up by some observations about the temporary nature of those who rule.

NOTE: In this chapter and those that follow, we find a variety of topics addressed, much like the proverbs.   Each verse or short section can be applied individually and contribute to our overall understanding of finding value as we live this life (with a view toward eternity of course).     However, in this chapter (4) the varying themes can be tied together under the heading of the value of a true friend.

The Value of a True Friend (9-12)

  1. Recall how the verses just prior to this address one who is alone because he is so driven by work and lack of contentment that he fails to consider for whom and why he is doing it. That is the one who is so consumed with either his work or some hobby to the point that he loses everyone who is dear to him.   Far too many today fall into this category and many are miserable.
  2. Two are better than one
    1. This verse is sometimes quoted in wedding ceremonies (I use it – TT). Yet that is not the exclusive focus of this section, though it certainly is appropriate and for a marriage to be healthy – you ought to strive to be best friends with each other.
      Consider that God said “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and thus He made a helper for Him.   Moses emphasized this as the first marriage and it is a purpose for marriage.
      Also consider the different benefits Solomon mentions in this text – they all apply, and in a very special way, to a healthy marriage.   That is why we find instructions about husbands and wives loving each other and being there for each other (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:4, 1 Peter 3:1-7, etc.)
    2. There are many examples of pairs in scripture – Jesus sent out the twelve “two by two” (Mark 6:7), and later the 70 “two by two” (Luke 10:1).   There is something to be said about this when engaging in personal evangelism. It’s always good to have a helper with you.
      We also read of specific examples: David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-3); Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:2); Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17); Paul on his journeys always had a partner (at first Barnabas, then Silas); Further there was his working with Timothy and Luke, as well as others. Most of the time he had someone with him.
      Consider his loneliness in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 – he is urging Timothy to come to him – he needs friends (though he understood the Lord was always with him).
    3. We all need friends. There are some who are loners, but in reality most reach a point where they need someone, but their lonely choices leave them with no one to turn to.
      • The proverbs talk about the value of a true friend.
        Proverbs 18:24 – speaks of the friend who is closer than a brother.
        Proverbs 27:9, Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.
        Proverbs 27:17, As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
        These are proverbs about the blessing of friends.   Of course, there is much more to be said as we consider what type of friends we ought to have and various thoughts about developing and maintain friendships. But here, as with Solomon, we simply note there is great value in friends.
    1. Solomon gives a number of benefits to having a true friend.:
      1. They have a good reward for their labor.   It is likely that two working together can accomplish more than each one individually.
        This is a like a team of horses pulling a load.   It has been proven that two horse working together can pull 3 times the load of 1 horse, and if they are properly trained possibly 4 times the load of 1 horse.
        We call this synergy.   People working together and in synch and thus accomplishing more as a team. We have already seen the blessing of working with others.
      2. If one falls, his companion is there to lift him up.   We all make mistakes and sometimes we stumble and fall.   If we are alone, we are in trouble, but if we have a companion, friend or even a fellow worker, there is someone there to help us get up. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – we warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, and uphold the weak…    There is nothing as sad as having to go through difficulties alone.
        Woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Think about this when some alienate their friends by bad conduct – constant criticisms, betrayal, etc.
      3. They can provide warmth for each other.   While certainly applying in marriage, in cold circumstances people can stay warm longer by sharing each other’s body heat.
        This implies a closeness in helping each other with their needs.
        How can one be warm alone?
      4. Together they can withstand one seeking to overpower the one by himself. Consider the man robbed in the parable of the good Samaritan.
        Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.
        “There is safety in numbers” – one is less likely to become a victim if he/she is with someone.
        Furthermore, you have someone to defend you and fight with you in whatever you are going through.
        Many of us face struggles of various types – Satan is a major perpetrator. But when we have genuine friends, they want to help us through those times.
        Consider God’s wisdom in giving us the church – brethren who are there for us and to help us through WHATEVER we are facing.
      5. A threefold cord is not quickly broken – three are even stronger than two.
        Some commentators observe that this simply a metaphor for the strength of combining forces (or strands of a string).   But the point is, “there is strength in numbers”.
        Imagine 3 friends who are very close to each other – that is better than two.
        Apply this to marriage – I strive to make a spiritual application to this. A healthy, godly marriage will consist of 3 – God, the husband and the wife,   And the closer each spouse is to God – the closer they will be to each other.   Consider Paul’s analogy of the husband and wife in Ephesians 5, where he compares the husband/wife relationship to that of Christ/church.   Clearly God is a part of that.
        Apply this to brethren who stand with each other AND God!     Romans 8:31 – If God is for us, who can be against us?
    2. Be reminded of our age of technology. The ability to communicate is great, but how much technology – television, computers, smart devices have alienated us from engaging in genuine and personal interaction with others.   One can have a thousand friends on Facebook and still be alone.   It is a two-edged sword.

The tragedy of a leader who will not listen (4:13-16)

  1. Solomon concludes this chapter by observing another life lesson.   An aged leader who is arrogant and can   be admonished no more.     A “poor and wise youth” is better than him.
    The details of this section are enigmatic, but the life lessons are the same.
  2. 14 could describe the youthful man who becomes a king, from humble roots – perhaps like David or Joseph (these are not perfect illustrations, but we see the idea of rising from humility to great power).
    OR this could describe the aged king who in time has become arrogant and unwilling to listen to others – Consider King Saul who began with very humble roots, but later in his life he lost it all in pride and arrogance.
  3. 15-16 – the people follow after the youthful king, rather than the older one.   This could mean they reject that king because of his pride and arrogance. It is clear that he is more interested in himself than the people.   So when someone youthful comes along, the people turn to him (can be a good thing, but at times not so much).
    OR, this could refer to a THIRD king who follows the youthful one.   Dynamic people that are able to amass a following, and how many are willing to follow after whatever the latest trend is – often without truly weighing the whole matter?
    An example that might apply could be that of Solomon’s successor – Rehoboam, and Jeroboam who took away 10 tribes of Israel and divided the nation.
  4. 16 – Solomon concludes, “surely, this is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
  5. Application:   When thoughts are worldly, people are unstable and follow whatever the latest trend is.   The overwhelming majority do not take time to examine the whole picture. Sometimes their decisions work, but quite often they do not and there are dire consequences.
    This can apply in the spiritual world as well – that is why we are warned about false teaches – wolves in sheep’s clothing as Jesus called them (Matthew 7:15-17) or 2 Peter 2:1-3 which speaks of the deceptive ways false teachers and prophets work.
  6. Application: Also there is the oft repeated warning about arrogance and pride.   If you are prideful long enough, the people WILL reject you.
  7. Application: Do NOT put your trust in riches or in men!

And thus we see Solomon’s continued observations about why trusting in the things of this life is sheer vanity.   The people of this world will let you down.   At times, even your friends may let you down.   But know that we have a friend who will NEVER forsake us – Jesus Christ.   Are you a friend of His? John 15:13-15.