Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Is Man?

I'm going to be away enjoying some family time, so I thought I would post a few more original scripture cards for you to enjoy until I get more time to prepare more postings.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who Knows Best?

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 6:10-12 That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he. Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

After looking at the Hebrew and reading several translations, I think Solomon is reflecting on the character of man and God. The basic character of man was defined by Adam, the human creation. He is powerless before Almighty God, “Him that is mightier than he,” the Creator. The Hebrew for the “many things that increase vanity” indicates a reference to words or thoughts. Solomon’s observation--No matter the number of words or thoughts, a reference to knowledge or wisdom, how do they actually benefit man? If knowledge and wisdom do not benefit our search for satisfaction, what’s the point? I liked the CJB translation of verse 12: “For who knows what is good for someone during life, during the days of his pointless life spent like a shadow? Who can tell what will happen under the sun after a person is gone?”

My son went through a terrible time of rebellion after graduating from high school. The Lord had to let him experience the truth of the futility of trying to find satisfaction through feeding the flesh before he was willing to repent and seek forgiveness and restored fellowship with the Lord and with his family. The night that brought him to a new beginning found him on his knees in our kitchen floor asking his father, “Is this all there is to life?” That sort of mirrors the thoughts of Solomon at this point.

Concerning who knows what is best for man in this life, the Christian knows that the obvious answer is God. I liked Chuck Smith’s comments on this. “What is better for me? Who really knows? I don't know my own heart. It's deceitful and desperately wicked. God knows. God knows what is best for me. That is why it is so wrong for me to contend with God when He doesn't do for me what I think He ought to be doing. When He doesn't give to me those things that I feel I need and desire….And rather than fighting and contending because He's not doing things my way, I need to just submit and yield my life into His hand, into His wisdom, for He knows what is best for me. And even the sorrow or the tragedy that I might be experiencing today God is using for my good. Even the sickness or the suffering that I might be experiencing now God is working His eternal purpose through it.”

The NIV Commentary indicated that the writer was basically conveying the thought that a man’s life is predestined by God, so he might as well not gripe or complain about his lot in life. You can’t overturn His will.

I really take issue with that understanding. Scripture is quite clear in declaring that man has the freedom to make his own choices.

Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”

Ezekiel 18:32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”

John 3:16 “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.”

Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

God would not make such a statements if man were not endowed with freedom of choice. This is one of those hot button issues for me, but I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Never Satisfied

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 6:3-6 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

In Israel it was considered a great blessing from God to live a long life and be blessed with many children.

Deuteronomy 4:40 “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.”

Psalms 127:3 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

Solomon is basically saying that he has observed this not always to be so. One could have 100 children and live many years and have an empty life. In his opinion that man would have been better off never to have been born. One that was miscarried would never be remembered and would never experience anything that life has to offer—good or bad. In Solomon’s opinion, the peace of that unborn child was to be desired rather than to experience the unfulfilled life of such a man. In the end, everyone goes to the same place anyway.

It is obvious that Solomon had no understanding of the heart of a mother. Though I have not experienced miscarriage myself, I have talked to moms who have; and those lost little ones have a precious place in their hearts.

Also, you can’t help but speculate how one with such blessing would be so miserable. I think the answer has to be found in the character of the person. Your children are not going to love you if you are not a loving father. People are not going to respect and honor you if you are not a kind, honest and caring neighbor. Without the love and respect of others, this life is empty.

Eccl. 6:7-9 All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

I think that Solomon is saying that man is continually working to feed the desires of his flesh, but he never seems to get enough; he always wants or feels like he needs more. Doesn’t that mean that the wise man is no better off than the fool who acts without wisdom? Neither finds satisfaction in life. I liked the understanding from the CJB of the next part. What good is knowledge or experience if you are poor? This just describes another category of unsatisfied people. I liked the NLT translation for verse 9: “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.”

It seems as though there is nothing new under the sun. Even in the days of Solomon many were never satisfied with what they had and always wanted more. Every person who is working to satisfy the flesh will never find satisfaction. I liked Adam Clarke’s comment: “When man learns to provide as distinctly for his soul as he does for his body, then he will begin to be happy, and may soon attain his end.”

Christians will find contentment and satisfaction if they will learn to deny the flesh and the pressure of the culture. We would do well to consider the words of Paul and the writer of Hebrews.

Philippians 4:11 “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wealthy But Deprived

Continuing with our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 6:1-2 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

Now Solomon makes note of another distressing observation about life. God chooses to give some men riches, wealth and honor so that they want for nothing. Yet, sometimes He allows trouble in that person’s life that prevents him from enjoying all that he has. Instead, someone else benefits from his adversity. The word “stranger” is just a reference to another individual. It just doesn’t seem fair.

The more interesting observation is that he considers this to be a common occurrence. This could be referencing a person that has fallen victim to others with more power or authority, or maybe someone who has bad health that prevents him from enjoying what he possesses.

A troubling article in the news recently comes to my mind regarding the current economic changes happening in our country. I’m not sure this family falls under the category of “wanting for nothing,” but it certainly falls under the category of not being allowed to enjoy what is rightfully theirs through unfair government interference. Following is an excerpt of this man’s letter to the editor in his local newspaper.

“On Thursday, May 14, 2009 I was notified that my Dodge franchise, that we purchased, will be taken away from my family on June 9, 2009 without compensation and given to another dealer at no cost to them. My new vehicle inventory consists of 125 vehicles with a financed balance of 3 million dollars. This inventory becomes impossible to sell with no factory incentives beyond June 9, 2009. Without the Dodge franchise we can no longer sell a new Dodge as "new," nor will we be able to do any warranty service work. Additionally, my Dodge parts inventory, (approximately $300,000.) is virtually worthless without the ability to perform warranty service. There is no offer from Chrysler to buy back the vehicles or parts inventory.
Our facility was recently totally renovated at Chrysler's insistence, incurring a multi-million dollar debt in the form of a mortgage at Sun Trust Bank.



This is beyond imagination! My business is being stolen from me through NO FAULT OF OUR OWN. We did NOTHING wrong.
This atrocity will most likely force my family into bankruptcy. This will also cause our 50+ employees to be unemployed. How will they provide for their families? This is a total economic disaster.” [end excerpt]

My heart goes out to that family. I don’t know whether or not they are Christians. If they are not, I believe that God is working to get them to turn to Him in faith. If they are, they can rest in the truth that God is going to work good out of what seems like a real personal tragedy. Still, from a purely earthly perspective, it certainly appears to be an evil under the sun.

One commentary equates this man to a miser that doesn’t know how to enjoy his blessings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Can’t Take it With You

Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 5:13-15 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

Solomon next takes note of the rich man who ends up losing his wealth through a poor business venture or theft or some other type of disaster. The result is that the man ends up with nothing to leave to his son, his heir. In the end, he will leave this life as naked and empty handed as he came into it.

Our culture is focused on getting material wealth to enjoy the temporal pleasures of this lifetime with no thought of gaining spiritual treasure that they will enjoy for eternity. The enemy has truly excelled in this area of deception. I am reminded again of the words of the Lord.

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.”

Eccl. 5:16-17 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

As I continued to think on this section, I think it is emphasizing the last. A person will leave this life just as he/she entered it—with nothing. All the energy one invests in working to attain material wealth is pictured as futile, like struggling with the wind. This knowledge causes many to live their lives in misery, sorrow and wrath. It’s like living with an incurable disease.

Eccl. 5:18 ¶ Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

According to Solomon’s observations, it is much better to enjoy what you have while you can. Don’t worry about amassing more and more. Enjoy the life that God has given you; it’s what God intended for you.

Eccl. 5:19-20 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

The wording indicates that Solomon recognizes that God is the source of all we have. In His sovereignty He chooses to give some riches and wealth and health to enjoy it all. That person should enjoy his work and rejoice in his blessings as a gift from God. One who takes that outlook will not look back on his life with sorrow, but with good memories of the blessings God has given him/her.

As a person who is not wealthy by American standards, I can find personal application to recognizing that this truth applies to one who is wealthy spiritually. I have found that the more I trust the Lord and live with the desire to honor Him, the more “wealthy” I consider myself to be in comparison to those who have only material wealth. He has filled my life with joy, especially through the blessings of my family. I know that He is going to supply what I need, so I don’t sit around worrying about those needs. Though I know we may face much harder times ahead, I know that if I will continue to honor and obey the Lord, I have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rich and Miserable

Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 5:10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

This verse is basically making the observation that man is never satisfied with the amount of money he has or the possessions he owns. Contrary to popular opinion—you can’t buy satisfaction; you can’t find fulfillment in riches. It’s an empty, unsatisfying pursuit that will lead you astray from achieving true satisfaction and fulfillment. I am reminded of the words of Paul in his letter to Timothy.

1Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Eccl. 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

This verse is an observation on the fact that the wealthier you are, the more “friends” and family will show up to help you spend it. I liked the phrasing of the CJB: “When the quantity of goods increases, so does the number of parasites consuming them; so the only advantage to the owner is that he gets to watch them do it.”

It is sad but true that it is difficult for a wealthy man/woman to know who are their true friends. That truth becomes painfully clear, however, when adversity comes and you see who sticks around to help you and encourage you through the tough times.

Adam Clarke had a different perspective. He made the application that more holdings require more workers and more people to provide for as well as more responsibility and stress associated with supervising your growing assets. His conclusion--Is it really worth it?

Eccl. 5:12 The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

Anyone who has put in a hard day’s work knows the truth of the first part of this verse. The body is really ready for the time of rest, sometimes to the point of falling asleep before getting to eat.

In several of the translations the last part of the verse reads in reference to the full stomach of the rich person in contrast to that of the laborer. In other words, that he has so overstuffed himself that he can’t sleep. This view seems to have the support of the Hebrew as I see it.

Some indicate that the many cares that are associated with the stress and responsibility of supervising his holdings are keeping him from sleep. I believe this is also a true statement.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Abuse of Authority

Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 5:8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

Solomon now makes another troubling observation. You shouldn’t be surprised when you see the poor being unjustly treated and robbed of justice under the ruling authorities. You should remember that every ruler is subject to a higher authority, and the highest authority is God. They may think they are getting away with their actions, but God will intercede for His own.

Our problem with this truth is that God doesn’t seem to act according to our expectations most of the time. We don’t understand why the wicked seem to get away with their evil deeds and even seem to prosper in the process. We don’t see the evidence of God’s provision for the poor. Again, it is a matter of seeing through God’s eyes. God is always acting so as to humble the sinner before Him in repentance and faith and to purify the believer through the trials He allows in his/her life to strengthen their faith and effectiveness in ministry.

Eccl. 5:9 ¶ Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

It’s always interesting to read the different translations. The NIV and NLT seem to make a direct connection to the preceding verse as painting a picture of unfair taxation, and the king benefits the most from the labor of the poor who barely get by. The CJB considers this a statement regarding the benefit of having a king who uses his position to the benefit of his kingdom.

The truth is that society will always be a composite of people at different levels—the workforce at all levels (from the lowest level employee to the top level of employers) and those occupying the different levels of government that culminate in the highest recognized authority. Because man is sinful and the root sin is pride, there will always be those who abuse their position (at whatever level). When a people are blessed to have a ruler that fears God, they will benefit from his integrity and righteous judgments; when the ruling authority has no fear of God, the people will suffer according to his leadership as defined by his character.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keep Your Promises to God

Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes…

Eccl. 5:4-5 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Let’s refocus on Solomon’s context regarding the importance of our words before God. A vow is a promise. Solomon is reiterating the words of Moses as he declares that God holds us accountable to our promises.

Deuteronomy 23:21-23 “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.”

I think it is important to note that reference is regarding that “which is gone out of thy lips…which thou hast promised with thy mouth.” We can’t always control the flow of our thoughts, but we can definitely control the words that we speak. When we make a conscious decision to voice a promise or commitment to God, He considers that binding. He is always faithful to His promise, and He expects the same from us.

I think this is an especially important truth for believers today to understand. We live in a culture in which a man’s word is no longer valued, and it is easy for the believer to find himself conforming to the culture. Marriage vows are easily broken and dissolved. Truth is considered relative. The ends justifies the means is accepted practice. More than ever we need to stand out as different from the world and living our lives according to the irrefutable truth of God’s word in submission and obedience to Him.

Eccl. 5:6-7 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

We saw from the verses in Deuteronomy quoted above that to make a vow to God and not keep it is a sin. “I didn’t mean it” is not an acceptable excuse. The implication is that God might respond in anger to your unkept promise and destroy what you have achieved through your hard work. He would certainly be just in doing so.

I was about to give up on making the connection in context of verse 7 until I pulled out The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by Walvoord and Zuck. It gave the somewhat literal translation as “Through many dreams there is futility and also through many words.” It made sense that Solomon was comparing rash vows to the many meaningless dreams that we have. Neither has value. Following after meaningless dreams can lead us astray (from the Hebrew for vanities) and rash vows can cause us to lose the fruits of our labor. The better choice is to live in fear and reverence before God in submission and obedience.