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Books of the Bible

May 2016
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Eternity Is The Only Permanent Thing

9Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 ESV)

Considering all the turmoil going on in the world, which King Solomon has recognized in all the preceding passages, the best time to enjoy life is when we are youngIn our youth we are more able to rejoice because we are less encumbered by life’s troubles.

That does not mean, however, that it is appropriate for us to do whatever our heart wants and our eyes see. Not all behavior is beneficial to us, even if it is pleasurable. Instead we should live with a godly caution, knowing that God will judge all the things we do and say during our lifetime.

All too often people think that God doesn’t want us to be happy; that He is interested in keeping us in a constant state of misery. But these verses prove that isn’t true. He wants us to be happy. But not so happy that we lose sight of the dangers in this world.

We’ve all had times in life we were giddy over a new direction our life was taking. Maybe it was a new relationship, or marriage. Or a new job. Or going to college. But when we are overly excited we tend to lose direction for lack of foresight of the things that can go wrong. This is why relationships end on a sour note. This is why marriages end in divorce. It’s great to be happy and enjoy life. But we must remain constantly vigilant against life’s pit falls.

Young people don’t realize this. Every day for them is a new experience. And they impulsively charge ahead in life, understandably, excited about their futures only to learn the hard way that life isn’t always a bed of roses. God warns us about this in today’s verse. Not everything in life is good for us, even if it seems so.

On the other hand, God doesn’t want us to be mired in a constant state of depression and misery. He commands us to remove vexation from our heart and to put away pain from our body. God knows that the unfairness of life can lead to emotional and physical pain. He does not want that for us. But, this verse seems to be warning us against self-inflicted future pain.

Considering our fleeting youth and the fact that our lives will be judged, we should act in such a way now so as to avoid painful consequences in the future. We can avoid troubles tomorrow by making wise choices today. Young people don’t often think this way. They live for today, not thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Youth and the dawn of life soon pass away. We are young for only a short time. It’s better, therefore, to think long-term. We’ll spend more time on this earth as adults than we will as children. But more than that, we’ll spend more time in eternity than we’ll spend on this earth. Eternity is the only permanent thing about our existence.

The best way to go through life is with just enough awareness of the evil that exists in this world so we can avoid it but not to be so concerned with such things that they rob us of our joy.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Enjoy Life Despite The Difficulties

7Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. 8So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 ESV)

The first thing God made was light. And He declared that light was good [Genesis 1:3, 4]. Solomon echoes those sentiments. Being alive – being able to see the sun – is a good and pleasant thing.

For as long as a person may live, he/she should rejoice in all the many years of life they have. This is not a new declaration by King Solomon; he had told us to do this previously [Ecclesiastes 3:12, 8:15 et. al].

But we should also remember that the days of darkness will me many. It is difficult to tell whether this is referring to the recurring times of trial we experience during our life on this earth or to the end of our life (death). Considering that people who lived during Old Testament times didn’t have full understanding of life after death, it could be the latter.

But in either case, the point is clear: life is given to us for enjoyment. God wants us to enjoy life, including our time on earth. Happiness is not meant solely for heaven.

We can be happy on this earth, despite the struggles, unfairness, and meaninglessness that exists here. The secret is, as we’ve already studied, that happiness can not be found in wealth, or career, or sex, or fame [Luke 12:15]. It comes from relationship – a relationship with the living God who created each and every one of us.

It is good for us often to remember the days of darkness else we might live for pleasure itself, which is also not good [Ecclesiastes 2:1-2]. Pleasure in life is found in living it God’s way – through work and relationship. Pleasure is meant to come from having the necessities of life and from the very fact that we are alive to begin with.

Light in the Bible is often a reference to God Himself, for God is light [Psalm 27:1; 1 John 1:5]. In heaven, there will be no sun but there will be light [Revelation 21:23]. In hell, there will be only darkness (figuratively; possibly literally) because God will not be there.

For those who choose to decline God’s offer of forgiveness before they die, this earth will be the only chance they have to enjoy being alive. For them, this life is as good as it gets. There will be no enjoyment of existence in hell because good things only come from God who will not be present there [James 1:17].

For those who do accept God’s offer of forgiveness of their sins before they die then this life is as bad as it gets. As such, we can tolerate the hurts and disappointments we experience here knowing that they are but temporary.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Wants Us To Be Liberal Givers

5As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. 6In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
(Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 ESV)

Yesterday we learned that wise people give to others who are in need. But doing so is risky, as we could always use whatever money or resources we give away for ourselves. So we make up excuses not to give. Solomon addresses this in today’s passage.

God has given us our resources to steward. Certainly we need to use some of them on ourselves – God never commands us to live in poverty or self-neglect [Luke 12:29-30]. But He also commands us to share with others.

Previously in Ecclesiastes God admonished us to be prudent and careful in the way we live [Ecclesiastes 10:8-11]. Living that way is the wise way to live as there are many misleading enticements in life that can snare us into unfulfillment and render life meaningless.

But here, God changes tactics. When it comes to our money, the wise way to live is to be liberal.

Obviously, this involves risk. We may need the money ourselves in the future. Besides, how can we be sure that the person to whom we give really needs it or won’t squander it?

Valid questions. But they are not our concern. Just as we do not know how a person’s spirit is joined to their body (this happens in the womb) we do not know the work of God. We may not know how God will take care of us in the future, but He will.

So we should be generous with our resources as if we were sowing seed. We should spread it around wisely, but without excessive analysis.

When sowing seed we do not know which will prosper nor do we worry about it. Some seeds will germinate and some will not. We don’t know which. All we know is that something good will eventually come of out of the ground.

Likewise, when we share with others we may not know where our own future sustenance will come from. Nor may we know who will receive the benefit of money (e.g. if we give through a charity). But we can know – for sure – that God will make something good come from our generous giving. And that is all we need to be concerned about.

When we give liberally we are 1) demonstrating concern for other people and their well-being and 2) trusting God to take care of us in the future.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Wise Time To Give To Others Is Right Now

1Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth. 3If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. 4He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-4 ESV)

We come now to the beginning of the conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes. Up until now, King Solomon has recognized and opined on the emptiness of life, the unfairness of life, and struggles of life. He has taught us that things don’t satisfy us and that nothing lasts beyond this lifetime, not even us. So he now turns to advising us on how to live properly.

Rather than chasing after things of this earth, we should be living lives characterized by wisdom. But not human wisdom. Godly wisdom.

And it is often the case that godly wisdom – wisdom that comes from God – does not make sense to limited human minds like our own. The things that God tells us to do and the way He tells us to live are usually just the opposite of how we would be naturally inclined to do things.

But we’ve already learned in our study that applying human wisdom to our lives doesn’t work; it doesn’t make our lives better. And despite its counter-intuitive nature, God’s way of doing things works; it does make our lives better.

One thing that God commands us to do is cast our bread upon the waters. Bread is sustenance. It is the things we need to live, like food and money. But rather than keep it for ourselves, God tells us to do something counter-intuitive: give it away to those in need.

When we do, we can be certain that God will take of us (you will find it) in the future if and when we are in need.

When we give we are to give to those we can and even more. This is the meaning behind the phrase “give a portion to seven, or even to eight“. This type of proverbial reference (X, X+1) is common in Hebrew [Proverbs 6:16, 30:18; Amos 1:3].

We should not be stingy with our giving. We should give what we think is appropriate and then add a bit more to it, as we tend to underestimate how much we should give. The reason for this is simple: we know not what disaster may happen on earth.

We shouldn’t wait to give to others until we are sure of their need. Just like clouds that are full of rain will eventually empty themselves on the earth, we can be sure there is someone who is in need right now or who will be shortly.

But too many of us wait After all, we might need the money ourselves. But this is exactly the opposite of how God wants us to live. We want to hold on to our money so we find any excuse not to give.

The one who observes the wind will not sow; the one who regards the clouds will not reap. In other words, those who wait for the perfect opportunity miss out.

The perfect time to give to others in need is right now. Hesitating in our giving or to being stingy with our giving is not wise.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Sad Is The Land With Bad Leaders

16Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning! 17Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility, and your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! 18Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. 19Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything. 20Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.
(Ecclesiastes 10:16-20 ESV)

It is not a good thing when a land is ruled by someone (king) who is immature (a child) and who is more interested in having a good time than taking care of business.

The daytime is the time for working. Feasts, in Israel, never took place in the mornings. They took place in the afternoon/evenings. So a leader (prince) who was attending or throwing a feast in the morning is demonstrating irresponsibility.

It is a sad time when a country’s leader(s) lack experience to handle their important positions and use those positions to satisfy their own pleasures. Unfortunately we have many leaders in America at all levels of government who are thusly immature and irresponsible.

On the other hand, a land is happy when its leader (king) does the right things at the proper time and does them not self-indulgently but for the sake of others.

When a leader is well educated and practices self-control (as would be the son of nobility) the people are better off. Such a leader may still feast but he does so for the purpose of gaining strength so he can continue to do his job rather than doing so for selfish reasons (drunkeness, gluttony). In other words, a good leader does not use his/her position to indulge himself. He uses it to serve others.

When a leader fails to do his job the roof sinks in and the house leaks. Small problems become big problems and big problems become disasters when they are neglected through the inactivity (sloth) and laziness (indolence) of those in leadership.

Verse 18 seems to be a sarcastic barb at lazy and incompetent leaders. They think that they are in power to enjoy the products of people’s labor such as bread and wine. Then they cover up their abuses by throwing money around in an attempt to silence their critics.

But nevertheless, when we have bad and corrupt leaders – as we currently have in America – we are not to curse them, not even in our thoughts or in the privacy of our own home.

God created leadership. Everyone who is in a leadership position was placed there by God [Romans 13:1]. And we are not to undermine His authority with gossip and complaining. If we do we are only making the problem worse by escalating dissatisfaction.

Such thoughts will be carried on air like a bird or winged creature who will then tell the matter to someone else. This, by the way, is the origin of the phrase “a little birdie told me”. And pretty soon our discontentment has spread to others, including those we don’t know.

Instead, God wants us to take our problems to Him, as only He can solve them. No other human being can solve the problem a poor leader is doing. It’s best to hand the problem over to God and not make the problem worse by complaining.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Trying To Lead Without God Is Pure Foolishness

11If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer. 12The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him. 13The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness. 14A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? 15The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.
(Ecclesiastes 10:11-15 ESV)

Today’s passage continues with more proverbs extolling the benefits of living a life navigated by God-based wisdom.

Snake charmers were used in ancient times to remove snakes from a home. But the time to call the charmer is before the serpent (snake) bites. Once it has bitten then the damage has been done and there is no advantage in calling the charmer.

The time to prevent catastrophe is before it strikes, not after. Wise people make preparations in life to mitigate the danger and damage and as a result their lives are usually less stressful and more enjoyable.

The use of words differentiates wise people from foolish people. The words of a wise man win him favor. Wise people’s speech is constructive; it is useful; it is beneficial.

On the other hand, the words of a fool consume him. That is, they do the opposite of the wise words – they bring problems and do harm to his life.

Notice that the words of a fool are foolishness right from the beginning. Foolishness is inherent in a fool. It is part of their character. And it doesn’t get any better as time goes on; by the end his talk is evil madness. Any person who does not navigate life via God’s wisdom never has anything useful to say and never will.

In order to make up for the lack of quality in their words, a fool multiplies words. Foolish information is ubiquitous. And never has that been more true than in our day. We are bombarded with all kinds of information on TV, websites, blog and virtually none of it is useful.

This is something I realized a while back. And as a bit of an experiment (but also to clear my mind of all the crap it is exposed to) I stopped reading any news-related website and stopped using Twitter and Facebook. And since I also haven’t had a television for many years, I was no longer exposed to any information about current events.

I’ve been doing this for several weeks now and I can honestly say I don’t think I have missed out on anything. Virtually none of the information that is poured out of our media today is useful. All of it is nothing more than a waste of words and it is a waste of life to spend any time following it.

One way to tell a fool from a wise person is that the former talks about the future as if he knows what is to be. But no one can tell what will be.

No one knows what the future holds. Only God knows that. If someone does not listen to and follow God but instead only listens to and follows their own human thinking they cannot lead.

Sadly, in America (and all over the world) we have leaders who do just that – they ignore God (if they recognize His existence at all) and instead try to lead using their own understanding.

Such an approach wearies people who follow such a foolish leader for that leader does not know the way into the city. This apparently was an ancient proverb indicating that someone did not understand the most simple and obvious things.

Someone who does not navigate his/her own life via godly wisdom has no ability to navigate other people’s lives. Both he and his followers will end up lost.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Wisdom Leads To Success

8He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall. 9He who quarries stones is hurt by them, and he who splits logs is endangered by them. 10If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.
(Ecclesiastes 10:8-10 ESV)

In today’s passage and the ones that follow King Solomon offers up some examples of wisdom that people can use to make their lives easier and better. These examples are given in the form of proverbs.

Like most proverbs, these are not meant to be taken literally. Rather King Solomon uses what were then culturally-relevant illustrations to teach lessons about living a wise life.

Today’s verses identify how we can mitigate danger in our lives and thereby protect ourselves from unnecessary harm. The wise man identifies danger ahead of time and takes necessary precautions.

Obviously the one who digs a pit will need to take precautions so he won’t fall into it himself. In ancient times walls were used as boundary markers between property. But it was common for snakes to hide in these walls (which often didn’t use mortar). Thinking about this ahead of time and protecting oneself is the wise thing to do.

The point here is to think before acting. Don’t just charge ahead in life without considering the possible consequences of your actions. There may be hidden dangers.

Likewise, dangerous jobs such as quarrying stones or splitting logs can endanger and hurt someone. Proper precautions should be taken.

Good preparation will make life easier, safer, and more enjoyable. As the modern-day proverb states: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Thinking things through before we start and having a proper plan will result in more efficient work with less rework. But too many times in life we just charge ahead without proper preparation (how many of us read user manuals?). As a result we experience frustration and delay.

This is why Solomon says if the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength. Today our tools are made from steel and other high quality metals. But in Solomon’s day they were made from iron. During use they would lose their sharpness (e.g. an axe) and would need to be sharpened (e.g. in a forge) in order to work effectively.

But if those tools are not sharpened they will not work properly and more time and effort will have to be expended to achieve results. Not to mention there was increased probability of harming oneself. Obviously, the wise thing to do is to keep one’s tools sharp.

Wisdom is like a sharpened tool. It helps us get through life will less effort and danger and with more success. When we approach life in a wise way – instituting the actions and attitudes that we’ve been reading about in Ecclesiastes – life will go much better for us.

The wise person thinks things through before taking action. He has a plan that accounts for what could go wrong and takes the necessary precautions. Wisdom helps one to succeed.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Wisdom Is Easily Undermined

1Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. 3Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool. 4If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest. 5There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.
(Ecclesiastes 10:1-7 ESV)

Continuing on from where he left off in chapter nine, King Solomon uses several proverbs in chapter 10 that tell us it doesn’t take much to undo wise plans or to undermine a reputation built on wisdom.

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench. Flies are small. Yet when they fall into perfume, which is supposed to smell good, they cause it to small bad. Similarly just a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

The most wise plans are easily undermined by folly. And an honorable reputation is quickly erased by foolish behavior.

In ancient times the right and left hands were thought to be good and bad, respectively. This is probably because most people are right-handed. In fact, the Latin word for “left” is “sinister”.

Therefore, proverbially, a wise man inclines to the right – to good things – whereas a fool inclines to the left – to bad things. Notice in both cases that it is a person’s heart – their character – that leads them.

When we are inherently wise we will do and experience good things. Other people will take notice. The opposite is also true. A fool says to everyone that he is a fool. Just by observing his actions people can tell he lacks sense. It isn’t too difficult in life to tell who are the wise and who are the foolish.

One way we can exhibit wisdom is in our dealings with someone (perhaps a ruler – someone in authority) who shows anger against us. The best response is calmness because calmness indicates that such actions are inconsequential and are not worth getting upset over.

Such strength of character will put great offenses to rest much more than reacting to them ever will. It will also limit or prevent such future attacks if our adversary was purposely trying to rile us. Its wisest to just let such things roll off our backs.

In fact, those who demonstrate anger at their subordinates are the ones acting foolishly as folly is often set in high places. Just because someone is a leader doesn’t mean they are wise. There have been plenty of people in high places in history who were stupid and who demonstrated their stupidity by their actions.

There are people who are better suited for being followers (e.g. slaves) who are in leadership positions (e.g. riding on horses). And there are people who are meant to be leaders (e.g. princes) who are not.

We certainly see this in our society when it comes to political appointments. Elected officials often hand out jobs to those who got them elected regardless of their qualifications. We also see people in the entertainment industry (e.g. the Khardasians, Ellen, Oprah) setting the moral tone for the country when they clearly should not be.

This is part of the evil that happens on earth due to sin. It should not surprise us. When we have a society that lives as if there is no God (under the sun) this is what happens.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Wisdom Is Better Than Might

16But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. 17The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
(Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 ESV)

Even though people often fail to recognize the source of sage advice, wisdom is still better than might. This is true even though wisdom is despised and often not heard.

Godly wisdom (which is the type of wisdom Solomon is discussing here) falls on deaf ears. People aren’t interested in hearing what God has to say. They’d rather go with human strength and wisdom. But doing so is precisely the reason why the world is a mess.

Godly wisdom is revealed by God in the inner self, quietly, when we are alone with God in prayer. These insights, which God willingly provides, are the most effective ways to solve problems. They are vastly superior to human wisdom which often contradicts Scripture.

Sadly, most of our cultural leaders – be they political or social – lead with rhetoric and propaganda. Such tactics are nothing more than shouting among fools. Foolish people, who don’t think for themselves, absorb such demagoguery without recognizing it for the ineffective nonsense that it is.

This human wisdom drowns out godly wisdom and as a result poor decisions are made. Then, in a never-ending cycle, we try to solve the problems we have made because of human wisdom with more human wisdom. This can never work. You can dig yourself out of a hole.

One strategy that humans often employ to solve problems is weapons of war. As we’ve seen in the past decade, this may seem like a good idea at the time (at least to those in power) but using military force (e.g. invading Iraq) often creates subsequent, unforeseen problems (e.g. the rise of ISIS). Using wisdom to solve political situations is better.

But wisdom is fragile. As effective as it is, it can be destroyed by one sinner. It is far more difficult to gain wise insight and put it to use than it is to undo all that effort by one foolish act.

Wisdom requires much upfront research. It also requires much subsequent care and management. The need for wisdom does not end with the implementation of a plan of action. Ongoing wisdom is required in order for those results to remain.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Wisdom Receives Little Recognition

13I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man.
(Ecclesiastes 9:13-15 ESV)

Just like the swift may not always win the race, the wise may not always get rewarded. King Solomon explains this through a parable which relates a real-life example he had seen.

In this parable a great king came against a little city that had few men in it. The king built great siegeworks against the city. Considering the city’s small size and military weakness, this seems like overkill. If the king simply wanted to take over the city he could have probably done nothing more than send a threat. But it seems he wanted to throw his weight around.

But in the city there was found a poor, wise man. Notice that he was found. The people had to go looking for wisdom as apparently the city’s rulers did not have any. And they found it in an unlikely place – a poor man.

Poor people back then had little respect of those in power. The were not considered valuable resources. Yet, by this man’s wisdom the city was delivered out of the hand of the invading king.

Wisdom is greater than strength. Our society values strength – either physical or political. But most victories in life come not from controlling others but through diplomacy and relationship acumen.

Besides, strength doesn’t last. As we grow older our physical strength wanes. Over time our influence over others does likewise as newer leaders emerge on the scene. But wisdom not only doesn’t fade, it can increase as we grow older.

Sadly, though, no one remembered the poor man after the siege ended. Someone who should have been remembered as a savior and a hero was forgotten. People don’t value wisdom as much as they do influence, power, and fame.

Wisdom may be better, but it comes with no guarantee of reward – just like we learned yesterday. When we offer godly wisdom to others we may fail to profit from it while they reap its benefits. We should not be surprised or angry at this.

And even though human beings forget God never does. Even though our lives may go unnoticed by others, God knows those who are His [2 Timothy 2:19, Malachi 3:16, Luke 10:20].

Yesterday we read how our lives are certain to be interrupted by unforeseen circumstances. Wisdom teaches us how to deal with them.

Disaster may strike – as it did the city in the parable – but it can be turned into victory through the wisdom of God. True wisdom is following God [Proverbs 3:5-6].

Sadly, the world values other things more than God’s wisdom, including  secular wisdom. They’d rather follow the advice of a person based on their fame, wealth, or personality than follow the advice of the God who knows them and seeks only their good.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



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