The end of this chapter marks the thematic halfway point for this grand book of prophecy. Since the first chapter to now, we have primarily been reading of judgment and consequence for various nations because of their sin and disobedience before Almighty God. Even God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, is included. The underlying implication is clear: all have sinned and are in need of salvation.
This chapter is a wonder of indictment, guilt and sorrow. While it laments man’s sorrowful state as a finite being, it also convinces the faithful reader of the need to seek and fear God, for even the righteous man finds sadness in his state. However, remember: all of this destitution of spirit leads to God’s glory and the salvation of mankind.
Verses 1-13: The first half of the chapter describes the state of judgment and suffering upon man. God makes it clear that the earth and all of of people are subject to Him only. God’s blessings that bring happiness and satisfaction to mankind will cease and protection will be removed. This is the state of man and the earth when God forsakes them. When God stops blessing us, the earth betrays our efforts and we laugh no more as we struggle to live.
Verses 14-23: Man’s answer to this state appears to be too little too late. He cries out but has no mercy from God. Even trying to escape consequence and folly, man finds himself in another snare. These verses are full of sadness because they reveal aspects of our true nature. Even though we sin and are depraved, our lives are still not meant to be the final total of our existence. To many, life can seem unsatisfying and pointless. Indeed, without God this is the case. But there is also a certain sorrow that accompanies life for even the most well-adjusted and happiest among us; friends and family get sick and die, and eventually we do as well. Happiness in this life is important and it should be sought, but it is not the final goal. All of this is leading to something and somewhere far better! Remember Job?
“Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue.” Job 14:1-2
The point of this chapter is to reveal what a barren wasteland our existence is without both the righteousness of God and the beauty of salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ. This is why we worship and love our God: because He loves us so much to save us from ourselves and we are not deserving.
God’s remedy for man’s sad and rebellious state is marked by mercy, sacrifice and love.