Saturday, May 30, 2009

Observations from an Astute Russian

I just read an article in Pravda regarding the demise of American Capitalism and our headlong dive into Marxism. It includes a sad commentary on the church in America today. I want to encourage all Christians to read this article and pray according to the promise of 2Chronicles 7:14 (see bottom of page). The link:


Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 5:1-3 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

I liked the NLT translation for the first part of this section: “As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut!” Solomon seemed to understand well the importance of guarding one’s tongue. If he is anything like me, it is a lesson learned through painful experience. He referenced this truth many times in his collection of Proverbs.

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”

Proverbs 18:7 “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”

Proverbs 29:11 “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”

Proverbs 29:20 “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

He declares that the personal who is quick to speak without first considering, or carefully thinking about what they want to convey, how they want to be perceived, and whether or not the setting and timing are appropriate often “do evil” in the process. The Hebrew for “evil” has a broad reach; it references causing adversity, distress, grief, hurt, misery, sorrow and trouble.

I know that the context as we continue in this chapter is specific to one’s attitude toward entering the house of God as it applies to making vows to God, but the principle of thinking before speaking is just as important in all forums and situations involving communication with others.

The reference to “rash” speaking continues to emphasize speaking quickly without due consideration of your words. We are more likely to speak rashly when confronted with a situation that provokes our anger or hurts our feelings. Sometimes we are tempted to speak rashly in response to a desire to serve or meet a need without considering God’s will in conjunction with other priorities and responsibilities we have (a more likely application to the context). When we choose to take on more than we can handle, we either end up stressed out and doing a poor job at trying to meet all our obligations or having to go back on our word and admit that we took on more than we could handle.

I like the CJB translation of verse 3: “For nightmares come from worrying too much; and a fool, when he speaks, chatters too much.”

As I continued to think about the application to one’s demeanor upon entering the house of God, it made me think about the reason one would be going to the house of God. In Solomon’s time it was a place to come and offer sacrifices for sin and/or gifts of praise and worship before Him. It was also considered a “house of prayer” as declared by the Lord Jesus as he quoted Isaiah.

Mark 11:17 “And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?”

Being “ready to hear” would seem to be a direct reference to hearing from God through the ministry of the Spirit as you listen to the reading of His word and in response to your time of prayer and worship. Aren’t we much more prone to want God to hear what we have to say to Him than to take the time to hear what He has to say to us? To be able to hear Him we need to be willing to allow Him time to speak.

I think there is also reference to the motivation behind the words that accompany one’s worship at God’s house. I remember from previous studies how God despised the people coming before Him with rote words and empty ritual and with the pretense of sacrifice by bringing blind and lame animals.

Isaiah 1:11-13 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.”

Malachi 1:6-10 “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.”

God wants nothing less than our best freely given from a heart of love and gratitude as evidenced by the poor woman and her mites.

Luke 21:1-4 “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

I know I am wandering a bit, but in reading through the scripture again I recently ran across a section in Nehemiah that stood out to me regarding the right way to approach God in worship and with a desire to understand His word.

Nehemiah 8:5-12 “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.”

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of a people gathering in reverence with a desire to know God’s word and responding with understanding in repentance for their shortcomings and in thankfulness and joy in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word? Oh that this was a picture of the “church” today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It’s Better to be Poor and Wise Rather than Rich and Foolish

Continuing our study of Solomon’s search for meaning in life….

Eccl. 4:13-14 "Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor."

Well, the translations certainly read quite differently on these verses. I tend to think that the NLT translation makes the most sense until the last phrase: “It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could come from prison and succeed....”

I think the last part of verse 14 is saying that the foolish king could end up poor as a result of refusing to listen to counsel.

The key observation Solomon is making is that there is wisdom to be found in realizing that all of us are subject to fault and in need of correction and counsel sometimes. Though not specifically stated, the implication is that one should be open to the correction and counsel of wise and respected men.

I decided to pull out an old book, The New Dictionary of Thoughts, to see if there were some good quotes on the subject and found a couple that I thought were applicable.

Diogenes – “Wise kings generally have wise counselors; and he must be a wise man himself who is capable of distinguishing one.”

Bacon – “All precepts concerning kings are comprehended in these: remember thou art a man; remember thou art God’s viceregent.”

Eccl. 4:15-16 "I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead. There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit."

These verses continue in context with the preceding two. He seems to be thinking in reference to observation of a neighboring kingdom, though he may just be following a scenario through in his thoughts. My brain goes off on such tangents at times, and I couldn’t help but find application to the current political scenario in America today.

An intelligent and charismatic new young ruler of the next generation rises to power with the support of an adoring public who is fed up with the “old ruler” whose time of leadership is perceived by many as having been filled with unwise decisions and in disregard of the advice of those who perceive themselves to be wiser and more experienced.

In Solomon’s consideration, the new young ruler will also lose his popularity as the people find fault with his choices and the actions he takes and the next generation emerges on the scene. The cycle is doomed to continue because men are fallible and proud. A couple of the translations describe this cycle as “chasing the wind,” one that will never produce a satisfying result. As Christians, we know that to be a valid observation. Without acknowledging God as LORD and living according to the truth of His word, man’s efforts will always fall far short of expectation and true success.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Benefits of Teamwork

Continuing our study of Solomon’s search for meaning in life….

Eccl. 4:7-8 ¶ Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.

It would seem that an ambitious, hard working single man caught Solomon’s attention; and he couldn’t help but wonder why he would be so driven and not take time to enjoy life. He didn’t have anyone to share his success. His only purpose in life is to accumulate more wealth. It was obvious to Solomon that this was a useless endeavor in the ongoing scheme of things. This man would end up going to the grave having only the satisfaction of having accumulated so much—and he certainly couldn’t take it with him as scripture affirms.

Job 1:20-21 “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

1Timothy 6:7 “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Eccl. 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Solomon concludes that having a companion to work with and share in life is much preferable to being alone. When the going gets tough, it is good to have a partner to help pick you up and get you going again. It’s hard to find self-motivation when you feel defeated; it’s always helpful to get encouragement and support from someone else. Two can provide comfort to one another, while a person alone has no one to comfort him/her. A person alone is vulnerable to the attack of an enemy; a team of two, however, is not so vulnerable. Stands to reason that a team of three is even better than two.

Though not the specific context, these are beautiful verses to consider when thinking of marriage. Finding the right life partner is a wonderful thing. It clearly gives one a sense of strength and confidence in facing whatever life might throw your way. The obvious application to the Lord as the third cord in your relationship should give the Christian couple a strong sense of peace and security as they trust Him to guide and protect them according to His will. They can be confident that He will allow nothing to touch them that isn’t meant for good.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

I think it is significant to note that the reference is to a “cord,” a single string or rope made of several strands. In other words, the key to its strength and function is in its unity.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chasing the Wind

Continuing our study of Solomon’s search for meaning in life….

Eccl. 4:4 ¶ Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

I thing the NLT makes the meaning of this verse a bit clearer: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless, like chasing the wind.”

At least, Solomon recognizes that there is no true fulfillment or eternal purpose to be found through such endeavor.

Again, this is a pretty sad commentary on the character of man; but without God as Lord of your life, man’s motivation has to find root in the things of the world—things with no eternal benefit. I believe that pride is the root of all sin. When we reject God as Lord, we automatically place ourselves in that position. Therefore, everything we do is rooted in wanting to exalt “me” and to garner the admiration of others, accumulate possessions, and attain power and influence.

I couldn’t help but think of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

And the words of the Apostle John.

1John 2:16-17 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

And the words of Peter.

1Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:”

Eccl. 4:5-6 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Not everyone is motivated to “go for the gold.” Some decide that the rat race just isn’t worth it. In fact, they go to the other extreme. They are content to settle for whatever comes their way rather than to invest their time and energy in hard work to even provide for themselves.

I couldn’t help but think of those who abuse the welfare system today and are content to live off handouts rather than work for a living. They seem to have no sense of shame in taking advantage of hardworking men and women. This is not an indictment against the truly needy or those who need a helping hand in between jobs. I just don’t understand how our government doesn’t seem to understand that they are promoting laziness and dependency rather than motivating people to work hard and become independent as they seem to be intent on taking us on the fast track to socialism.

Scripture is clear in declaring the importance of hard work and sharing with the truly needy.

Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

1Thessalonians 4:11-12 “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.”

2Thessalonians 3:10-12 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

Even according to earthly wisdom, Solomon realizes that one is better off to find contentment in working for what you actually need to support yourself and your family rather than putting yourself through the stress and frustration that often accompanies what the world calls success.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I’d Rather be Dead

Continuing our study of Solomon’s search for meaning in life….

Eccl. 4:2-3 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

Solomon goes on to rationalize that the dead are better off than those who are alive, and that the unborn is even better off than either those who are dead or alive. Solomon isn’t the only person in the bible to express such thoughts. I am reminded of the words of Job and Jeremiah.

Job 3:11-13 “Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest….”

Jeremiah 20:14-18 “Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?”

This is a really pathetic outlook on life. This type of thinking is a direct result of allowing circumstances to take our focus off the Lord and His will for us and turn that focus on self and our own will. It is God’s will to bless us abundantly if we will but live in submission to His will as LORD.

Psalms 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

The key is in refusing to allow expectation to stumble our faith. We should rest in trust of God’s faithfulness to His Word according to His timing and purpose period—no other expectations attached.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Life is Unfair

Chapter 4 continues Solomon’s journal of observations as he attempts to find meaning in life.

Eccl. 4:1 ¶ So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

At this point Solomon takes note of how unfair life seems to be. All around he can observe people being mistreated by wicked men. The Hebrew for the word “oppress” makes reference to one who would defraud, violate, deceive and do violence to others. He also observed that all the power seemed to be on the side of the oppressors and that there was no one looking out for the oppressed; they had no comforter—no one to console them or avenge them.

I think most everyone in America and throughout the world today can identify with Solomon’s observation. More often than not, those with power and influence get by with wrongdoing simply because they have money and/or position to bribe and/or manipulate the powers that be. Sometimes we can’t help but wonder why God allows these people to prosper. That thinking is just another cop out that places blame on God and refuses to recognize our own responsibility in allowing such wicked men to prosper as a result of our apathy and/or refusal to take action to hold them accountable.

Other men of faith struggled with these same thoughts, but Solomon’s own father, David, clearly understood the truth.

Psalms 73:11-18 “And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.”

As I continued to think about this, I was reminded that Solomon was known as an oppressive king according to those who advised his son Rehoboam upon assuming throne.

1Kings 12:9-11 “And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

It is always easier to point out someone else’s sin while refusing to admit our own. It seems that Solomon was not much better than the politicians in America today. They seem to be quite adept at pointing out the injustice practiced by others according to their own perceptions while refusing to acknowledge their own wrong actions and/or choosing to justify them as necessary for a higher good. They choose to live by the motto that the end justifies the means.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Facing God in Judgment

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

As noted at the close of chapter two, Solomon’s own words testify to his understanding that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I was listening to a sermon by Adrian Rogers the other night, and he defined fear of the Lord as “love on its knees”; I think that is the best definition I’ve heard.

I liked what Ray Stedman had to say about this verse ( as it applies to us: “Most of the struggle of life comes from us wanting to play God ourselves, wanting to be in charge of what happens to us. That is true even of Christians. When God refuses to go along we sulk and pout and get angry with him. We throw away our faith and say, "What's the use? I tried it but it doesn't work." What a foolish statement! God will not surrender his prerogatives. "Nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it -- God has made it so in order that men should fear before him."

Eccl. 3:15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

This verse is basically a repeat of 1:9: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

The interesting added observation in this verse is that all that is past has a purpose in God’s plan. I think in context that the reference is to the natural flow of things as set into motion through creation. I liked the application to us as stated in the NIV commentary: “We may discard the lessons of history, but God confronts us with them again and again.” He gives us every opportunity to learn.

Eccl. 3:16-17 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

“Under the sun” is a reference to life on planet earth. After reading through several translations, I think Solomon has concluded that where man is in charge of determining justice, you will find corruption and injustice. He takes solace in the thought that God will judge both the righteous and the wicked.

We need to realize that it was man that bought sin into the world. Because God has chosen to give man freedom of choice, the continued actions of sinful man often result in situations that we would call “unfair.” The masses always like to blame God for “bad” things, without considering man’s responsibility. We want to hold God accountable for His actions toward us while accepting no accountability to Him for our own actions. It’s our response to God and His provision for us in this fallen world that will determine God’s judgment regarding our eternal being. If we respond in faith and obedience to His provision for us through His Son Jesus Christ, we will be clothed in righteousness to live with Him for eternity. If we choose to indulge the flesh and reject God as Lord, we will be condemned to eternity apart from Him.

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Eccl. 3:18-22 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

I think it is important to remember the context of this section to the previous section of verses. Solomon is expressing his thoughts that God is testing these wicked and unjust men; observation should make them recognize that man without God, the wicked and unjust, is no better off than the animals. Both man and beast return to the dust of the ground in death. Without faith in God, man has no assurance of life after death. He can hope for nothing better than to enjoy the pleasures of this life for a season.

Some commentators regard the words in verse 21, “Who knoweth the spirit of man...,” as a statement, not a question. In a verse from chapter 12 Solomon clarifies his understanding that there is a difference in the fate of the “spirit” of the beast and the “spirit” of man. In reference to the death of a man he states:

Eccl. 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

In other words, the spirit of man is going to face judgment in the presence of Almighty God.

The beautiful truth for the Christian is that Jesus has already been judged in our place; He suffered the judgment of our sin. The only judgment the Christian will face is one of determination of eternal rewards.

1Corinthians 3:11-15 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

The wicked and unjust will, however, face God alone in judgment based on his works in this life.

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Knowledge of God is Innate

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 3:9-11 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

In recognition of all that is a part of life, Solomon still wants to know what ‘s the purpose of it all. He understands that God is the source of life and that He is the one that has set in motion the natural process that are a part of our life. He understands that God has a purpose for the things that are part of our life. Everything in the life of the child of God becomes “beautiful in His time.”

I liked the CJB translation of the last part of verse 11: “…He has given human beings an awareness of eternity; but in such a way that they can’t fully comprehend, from beginning to end, the things God does.”

The Hebrew for “world” is a reference to eternity. We have a divinely implanted understanding of our Creator as testified through the creation. The Holy Spirit affirmed this truth through the Apostle Paul.

Romans 1:19-20 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse….”

Whether we choose to admit it or not, we also have an understanding of God as eternal and that our being is eternal as well. The historical record of heathen cultures evidence belief in life after death. The fact that they created idols of false gods is indicative of their understanding of a supreme being positioned outside of time. In doing a little research I found an interesting argument from primitive man’s perspective in an article by Professor Peter Kreeft at

“Primitive Man has two cows. One dies. What is the difference between Dead Cow and Live Cow? Primitive man looks. (He's really quite bright.) There appears no material difference in size or weight immediately upon death. Yet there is an enormous difference; something is missing. What? Life, of course. And what is that? The answer is obvious to any intelligent observer whose head is not clouded with theories: life is what makes Live Cow breathe. Life is breath. (The word for 'soul', or 'life', and 'breath' is the same in many ancient languages.) Soul is not air, which is still in Dead Cow's lungs, but the power to move it.”

The article posted several other logical arguments evidencing the immaterial part of our being such as mind over matter, recognizing that “I am more than my body,” etc. That immaterial part of our being that we call our soul/spirit is what connects with the eternal nature of God. I could really get side-tracked following up the research on this subject in glancing at titles in the search results.

We have an innate recognition that the works of God are far beyond our ability to understand, and scripture declares this truth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Eccl. 3:12-13 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

The KJV is a bit confusing, but other translations clarify that Solomon is concluding that the best approach to life is to enjoy the works of God. He should take pleasure in doing good things and recognize that the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor is in itself a gift of God.

I think that is an important truth to grasp in light of difficult times. We should focus on the blessings of God and be thankful for the abilities He has given us to be able to provide for our families and ourselves.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The “Times” of Life

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 3:1-8 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

This set of verses provides a window into Solomon’s mind as he processes thoughts of the contrasting events that make up one’s life. He understands that there is a right time and a wrong time for the things we do. All the actions/events listed make up the span of one’s life between birth and death, a time Pastor Bob refers to as your “hyphen” (1929 – 1999).

It is especially important for the Christian to realize that God’s timing is always the right timing, and the believer can be sure that everything that happens in his/her life is determined/allowed by God for good.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

When we choose to leave God out of the equation in these processes, we are asking for trouble. More and more today through the advances in technology we are trying to override God’s established natural processes.

I think it is important to note that some of the negatives in life are necessary to the appreciation of its blessings. Some of the negatives are actually beneficial to us; e.g., weeping is part of the healing process of mourning.

The reference to there being a proper time for embracing and for refraining from embracing jumped out to me in light of today’s culture of loose morals. We have come to the point that it is considered infringing upon the “rights” of others to expect them to refrain from the public display of sin. We call it “art” or “entertainment” to justify public display of nudity and sex. It’s called smart business to prey upon the lusts of the flesh in advertising.

Knowing when to speak and when to stay silent are very important to the testimony of the Christian. Scripture is very clear on the importance of controlling the tongue.

Psalms 39:1 “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.”

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”

James 3:5-6 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

You Can’t Take it With You

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 2:17-19 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

Solomon finally came to the point that he “hated” life; he saw no meaning or purpose in life. The possessions that he had amassed would eventually go to another, and who knew if this man would be wise or foolish? There was certainly no satisfaction in the thought that what he left might be squandered in foolishness.

This is a very interesting statement in light of the fact that he expected his son to inherit his throne. He had to realize that his example had not been one to encourage his son to follow wisdom. The book of Proverbs gives testimony that Solomon gave his son wise instruction, but the truth is that actions speak much louder than words—especially as pertains to father and son.

Eccl. 2:20-23 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil. For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

Again, this is interesting wording coming from King Solomon. The more he thought about his life, the more depressed he became. Most of us would not classify his life experience as one of labor. He was the wealthiest of the kings of Israel; scripture states that silver was accounted for nothing in his day.

1Kings 10:21 “And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.”

Solomon had servants and the wherewithal to hire out any work that needed to be done. In my mind that fact probably contributed to his lack of satisfaction in the things “he” had accomplished. Experience has shown me that the things you truly work for are the things you appreciate. This, of course, excludes things that money can’t buy and man can’t achieve on his own.

Without peace, one cannot truly rest. Without God as the center of one’s life, one cannot have peace.

Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

Psalms 4:8 “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Eccl. 2:24-26 There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Finally, Solomon concludes that God meant for man to enjoy satisfaction from honest labor and the fruit it produces. It is God who chooses to reward good men with wisdom, knowledge and joy. The sinner experiences just the opposite because his expectations are rooted in this life only; and if that’s the case, what’s the point?

Solomon had no excuse for not understanding what gave evidence of true wisdom. His own words testify to that truth.

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”