Today’s Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 1-3:22; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Psalm 46:1-11; Proverbs 22:15
Today we begin the book of Ecclesiastes (from the Greek for “teacher” or “speaker”). Due to the way the author describes himself, many believe that it was King Solomon who wrote this book.
In this book the author searches for the meaning of life. Much of the book has a somber, even hopeless, tone.
The first observation made by the teacher is that “everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The word “meaningless” is translated “vanity” in some translations. The word in Hebrew is “vapor” – something that lasts for a very brief period; something that is ungraspable.
How true it is that despite man’s hard work there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Everything that happens has happened before. The people might be different. Even the location might be different. But essentially everything is the same today as it was in years past.
The saying “ignorance is bliss” might actually be true. The more wisdom the teacher obtained the more sorrow he had (Ecclesiastes 1:18). As he will say later on – perhaps the best strategy is to just live life simply without paying too much attention to what is going on around us.
We can fill our lives with pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1) even foolishness (Ecclesiastes 2:3). We can fill our lives with work, accomplishments, and wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8). But all that too has no meaning (Ecclesiastes 2:11). We work hard all our lives yet everything we accumulate will eventually be owned by someone else (Ecclesiastes 2:18).
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a very famous passage and was even the inspiration for a popular song in the 1960s by The Byrds. Life is an endless cycle of positive and negative events. Each of us experiences “seasons” in our life. We laugh. We cry. We are born. We die. So, the author asks “what is the point?”.
Where do people get their idea of life after death? From God (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has embedded the very notion of eternity in our DNA. Even remote tribes who have never heard of the Bible or Jesus believe that there is life after they die. Atheism is not natural. It is a theory that man invented so he wouldn’t have to face the reality of his own evilness and the eternal consequences that it brings.
Considering all the negative things about life, it would make sense to expect justice. But even that cannot be found on earth (Ecclesiastes 3:16).
A pretty downbeat start to this book, eh? We’ll see what else the teacher has to say over the next three days.
One of the wonderful aspects of being a Christian, and therefore an adopted child of God, is that God allows us to help Him accomplish His work (2 Corinthians 1:1). But just like the little boy who hands his dad a screwdriver and thinks he is helping to fix the car, we aren’t really needed by God. But He lets us “help” anyway. What a great picture that is. God, our dad (“abba” in Aramaic) lets us participate in what He is doing on this earth – bringing others into a relationship with Him.
As God’s helpers – visible to those around us – we need to live in a way that does not cause anyone else to sin or reject God (2 Corinthians 6:3). Many atheists reject God because of the behavior they perceive from Christians. While they will not be able to use any bad-behavior from Christians as an excuse when they come face-to-face with God, and most such observations by atheists are due to misguided expectations, Christians do have a responsibility to live in a way that is above reproach (God’s reproach, not man’s).
One way we can show ourselves as ambassadors for Christ is to endure difficult situations (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) although most of us will never have to face the trials Paul did or the those of believers in anti-Christian countries.
Another way we “help” God is through our lifestyle (2 Corinthians 6:6). We are called upon to be pure, patient, understanding, and kind. No one can be perfect. Some will nit-pick every mistake we make. But that is their problem.
Even though we may be despised, slandered, ignored, or beaten to the point of death we are to continue to look for ways to bring spiritual enlightenment to those around us (2 Corinthians 6:8-10). As Christians our lives are no longer our own. They were ransomed by Jesus on the cross. We now belong to Him and live to serve Him in all we do.
Psalm 46 is all about riding out the storms of life in God’s arms. Whether it is an earthquake or war, God wants us to rest in the fact that He is God and He is in control (Psalm 46:1). The Hebrew words translated “be still” actually mean to become weak or limp – to give up. One translation says “Stop striving”. God wants us to sink into Him like a soft, comfortable sofa and stop worrying.
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