csibiblestudy


Ecclesiastes 12: The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing
July 9, 2012, 6:22 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

Solomon says, “Remember God while you are young and enjoy your youth.”

NOTE: a key to enjoying your youth seems to be acknowledging God. v1

REMEMBER- “to act decisively on behalf of someone.”  Solomon is being used by the Holy Spirit to deliver the message that we are to act decisively on behalf of God while we are young.  Why? Because the “evil days” are coming when we reap what we sow.

2. Solomon describes old age and death. (12:2-8)

The effects of aging

  1. 1.       Mentally- the crisp, razor-sharp light of understanding begins to fade, and we live in “darkness” (gloom and depression)
  2. 2.      Physically- trembling lips, hands, and head.  Then stooping of the legs. 

2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders (the grinders fail, because they grind little) cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

a. old age is like a gathering storm. v2

b. “keepers of the house” = arms and legs

c. “strong men shall bow themselves” = weak legs

d. “grinders…they be few” = few teeth

e. “windows be darkened” = weakened eyes

f. “doors shut…sound…low” = loss of hearing

g. “rise up” = restless sleep

h. “daughters of music brought low” = a decreased appreciation of music due to loss of hearing.

i. “afraid of that which is high” = the difficulty of ascending heights

j. “fears shall be in the way” = afraid of falling when walking

k. “almond tree shall flourish” = speaks of one’s whitened hair

l. “grasshopper shall be a burden and desire shall fail” = crippled and bent limbs will impair mobility

m. “long home” = absence from the earth

n. “mourners go about” = wailers at the funeral

o. “silver cord be loosed”(spinal cord), “golden bowl be broken”(the head), “pitcher be broken”(the lungs), and “wheel broken at cistern”(the heart) = all of these have reference to the end of life

p. “dust returns to earth” = man was formed out of the dust of the earth

q. “spirit return unto God” = God breathed into man the breath of life

3.  The Final Factor in our lives on earth (7-8)  Death is the final piece of life to those living under the sun.     

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

8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.( Brief)

How we view death:  Far too often we see death as the end, but remember the words of Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Practical Applications:

  1. 1.       I’m not getting any younger, so look for ways to serve Him.
  2. 2.      God has designed me to be empty without Him, so focus on your relationship with Him.
  3. 3.      Now is the time to prepare for eternity because you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

The Conclusion

  1. 1.       A Horizontal Look (12:9-12)

9 And moreover (the more wise the preacher was), because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

As the Seeker, Solomon pondered, searched out, and arranged many proverbs.  Solomon “pondered … sought out … set in order:”  (“weighed … examined … and arranged”)

10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable (the words of delight) words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

 He carefully thought about what he was saying and tried to say it in the clearest, most understandable way.

Acceptable- means he sought “delightful words that were winsome, easy to grasp and readily applied.  He wanted to communicate God’s truth so that people “got it”   (Acceptable words—pleasant words, words of grace—and words of truth. The truth referred to here is the truth from God.)

11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Why did Solomon carefully select his words?  Because words are like goads- they jab and prod us into action.  Because words are like well driven nails- they drive us into place and rivet us to the Truth.  Words Communicate God to man.   These “well-driven nails” are “pegs” which are used (2 Chr. 3:9; Jer. 10:4) and refer to hooks in tents where families hung the clothes and pots needed for everyday life. Here they refer to mental hooks giving stability and perspective to life.)

12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study (reading) is a weariness of the flesh.

Solomon warns his son, that there is a BIG difference between God’s Words and man’s words.  Man will write a lot of books, but God has revealed all we need to know in HIS BOOK.

1.       A Vertical Look (12:13-14) Two Commandments and a Warning

  1. 1st Command- Take God seriously- Fear God
  2. 2nd Command- Obey God when He speaks- We shouldn’t let anything or anybody keep us from doing what God tells us to do.
  3. Warning- God will bring every act into judgment.

 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Fear God

F:  faith in His existence.

There is where fear begins: faith that God exists.

E: experience of His grace. You never can properly fear God until you have learned what kind of a God He is. He is a God of mercy, of grace, of forgiveness. Until you have stood before Him and felt your guilt, acknowledged it, known you were wrong and corrupt, and heard Him say in your inner heart, Neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin (John 8:11), you will never be able to properly fear God. One element of fear is the experience of the wonder of forgiveness, that God forgives and sends you out with a whole new purpose and a new resource available.

A: awe at the majesty, the wisdom, and the wonder of God. What a Being He is! What a marvelous mind that can comprehend all the billions of pieces of information in this universe and hold them continually before Him, that can hear every voice and relate to every person who has ever lived! What a marvelous God! Awe at the sense of His majesty, His comprehensiveness, His unfailing wisdom and power, is part of fearing God.

R.  Resolve to do what He says, to keep His commandments.  Jesus Himself said that all the law and writings could be reduced to two commandments:

  1.  We need to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind in response to the love He has already shown us.  Love Him because He loved us and then as we work on our relationship, we deepen our love for Him because of Who He is.
  2. We are to love others as ourselves.  Reach out to them with grace, compassion and unconditional love.

Micah put it this way, God only requires that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.



Teens as Disciples: Did Jesus Blow a Hole in the Statement: Teens are the church of tomorrow?
July 5, 2012, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Recently in church, one of our teens mentioned that they heard a speaker suggest most of the disciples were teens.  It made me think, “How old were the disciples?”  In addition, what can we learn about working with teens from Jesus?  Let’s first look at the age of the disciples.  Where they in their teens? Or where they old men with grey beards and walking staffs? Or maybe something between?

In examining their age, what can be offered as proof of them being young, in their teens?  I believe that we need to start with an event recorded in Matthew 17:24-27.  “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?  He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.  Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”   In this passage it tells us that Jesus and Peter paid the tax, “…take, and give unto them for me and thee.”  Why not for the other disciples.  According to Exodus 30:14-15, “Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.  The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.”  Jewish law states that every male over the age of 20 is to pay a half-shekel as a census offering when they visit the temple of God.  Peter gets the shekel from the mouth of the fish he caught, which was enough to pay the tax for two men, Jesus and Peter.  What about the others.  A deduction from this concludes that the others were under the age of 20, so they didn’t have to pay.

A second proof is Jesus’ use of “little ones” toward the disciples.  “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”  The word in the KJV is “babes”. The term is “nepios” and occurs 14 times in the New Testament.  7 times it is translated as “child”, 6 times “babe”, and “childish” once.  It means 1) An infant, little child, 2) a minor, not of age, or 3) a metaphor for childish, untaught, or unskilled.  Another time Jesus used this term for the disciples was Luke 10:21 “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”  A third time Jesus referred to His disciples with a similar term was John 13:33, “ Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.”  The term for “little children” is “Teknion” which is translated 9 times out of nine occurrences as “little children”.  The term meant “a little child” or as a kind way of teachers referring to their disciples. The argument is that this term would be a bit insulting to adults, but teens would understand the usage.

A third argument is that except for Peter, because Jesus healed his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15), there is no mention of the other disciples’ wives.  In the New Testament times, a Jewish man received a wife after the age of 18.  Therefore, you could conclude that the other disciples were under the age of 18.

A fourth observation in the Gospels, comes from the behavior of the disciples.  They were enthusiastic and often foolish in their choices.  That seems consistent to the behavior of teens.  It seems more logical that teens would argue over who was the greatest in the kingdom of God, than adults.  Experienced adult fishermen would be less likely to panic when a storm hit, but it is consistent with inexperienced teens to be fear-stricken and waking up Jesus for help.  Experience in working with teens confirms that while they want the privileges of adulthood, when trouble come, they turn to parents for help.  Teens often are forgetful and distracted when it comes to learning, so it is understandable that they forgot what Jesus said, when He died, even thought He had taught them about it.  They were quick to admit their failures when Jesus pointed them out because like teens, they sought approval from a parent figure.  In addition, they seem to have no limit of energy when taking the Gospel throughout the country.  Jesus seemed patience with them, had low expectation of their behavior because they were teens, and He taught them in ways better suited for teens.  If they were grown men, they were the most childish grown men possible.  The behavior of the disciples better fits the characteristics of teens.

The final argument for the disciples being teens is found in the Mishnah, a rabbinical commentary that was added to the Old Testament.  In it we learn of the ancient Jewish education traditions.   At age 5, the study of scripture began.  Mishnad study started at age 19.  Torah obligations were completed at aged 13, and those chosen by a teacher for continued study were selected at age 15.  If not, apprenticeship to a trade began.  Marriage took place at 18.  Formal teaching began at 30.  Jesus began teaching at 30.  For most Jewish children,  education stopped at age 15.  These disciples were taken from trades when Jesus selected them to be his followers.  As young people, they were more likely to want to continue their education.

The arguments against this view are as follows.  Matthew was a tax collector.  Would a teen be trusted as an agent by the Romans?  The authority of a tax collector was found in the support of the Roman military.  So a teen could do the job.  In addition, think about a teen’s desire to be independent and on his own.  Certainly it fits with a young man taking a job for money and advancement, even if it meant he would be disliked.

The biggest objection was when Jesus, while on the cross, committed to John the care of Mary.  John was the youngest of the disciples, possibly 13.  Would you trust your mother to the care of a 13 year old?  Maybe John was grown-up and mature for his age and since he lived longest, you can argue he was the best choice.  Jewish boys were considered men at age 12.

Should we examine how Jesus taught these children so we can begin to use those methods in our youth groups and Christian schools?  We adopt the world’s methods to teach truths that the natural man can’t understand.  We are trying to reach teens with God’s truth using the world’s methods.  Isn’t this a time for change?  We need to think outside the box, or we will lose a generation.



Ecclesiastes 11: Graciously Aging God’s Way
July 3, 2012, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

 Actively LIVE by faith by a bold, aggressive investment of our lives in making disciples and worshipping God. (11:1-6).  While the verses in Ecclesiastes 10 deal with nobles and upper class, Ecclesiastes 11 deals with the common man.  In order for a common man to get out of the “common” or “routine” way to live, they have to take risks by living by faith.

   By wisdom and faith, INVEST into the lives of others (1 Cast thy bread upon (upon the face of) the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days).  This verse is a metaphorical expression taken from grain trade of a seaport town and illustrates the successful prospects of a bold business investment.Pour yourself into God and into others as His instrument.  Become the “living sacrifice” that is broken and poured out into others.

1.       You become vulnerable and will get hurt

2.      You have to let down the walls

3.      You take a risk

4.      You will make a difference

5.      You will live a blessed life

  1.  Give generously to others (2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest notwhat evil shall be upon the earth).  The use of “seven, and also to eight” carries the idea of being generous to as many as possible and then some.
    1. Give of you (love, time, money)
    2. Don’t give to protect yourself from bad times.
    3. Expect God to work in your life
  2.   Actively pursue things which are extraordinary (3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be).  ( 4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap).  The idea here is that no matter what kind of precautions one may take, there are some things we have no control over…so live by faith!  Also remember that is a tree falls, someone will use the wood.  If we wait for the perfect time and perfect conditions, we will never do the Lord’s will. We are to give generously because it is the natural outflow of a full life, like clouds that are filled with rain and empty themselves again and again upon the earth. A life that is full of the blessing and grace of God ought to shower others with that blessing.  When we read of the tree falling, just remember it is God who controls the fall of the tree out in the forest; whether it falls to the south or the north is within the scope of divine providence to determine, but where it falls, that is where it is to be. Bloom where you are planted.
  3.  Courageously Trust God to use you (5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.)  (6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper (shall be right), either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good. ).  Since the ways of God and His works are His, we don’t understand them, but we do see His great power and wisdom.  So we all need to get busy and allow God to do something even though you don’t know how it will turn out…live by faith! Do not hold back from letting God break you, surrender and get involved. Let the success or failure of a task rest in the hand of God—but get to the task. A diligent man is a satisfied man.

Enjoy Life NOW (The Gospel gives us Abundant Life TODAY) (11:7-10).  Four Truths: 1.  Happiness and Joy are for TODAY as well as the Future in Heaven.  2.  True Happiness and Joy in inseparably linked to the person of Jesus Christ and apart from a growing, vital relationship with Him, nothing satisfies.  3.  There will be many days of darkness, difficult days.  4. All that cometh is vanity or joys will not come easily; God gives them in the midst of what we perceive as a  puzzling and futile life.

  1.  Enjoyment and judgment, though strange partners, come together in this section because both clamor for man’s deepest commitment. Surprisingly, one does not win out over the other. In a world created for enjoyment but damaged by sin, judgment and enjoyment/pleasure are held in tension. With too much pleasure, judgment stands as a threatening force; with too much judgment, enjoyment suffers. In the final analysis, both are prominent themes of life that are resolved in our relationship to God, the primary issue of life and this book.
  2.   Focus on the good rather than the bad in your life. (7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:  Light=life, darkness=death.
  3.  Don’t limit your happiness to one age or stage in your life, enjoy it all.  (8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity).
  4.  Pay attention to God’s Warnings to keep our lives from turning joy into sin. (9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.) (10 Therefore remove sorrow(vexation or anger) from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth arevanity.)
    1. Youth passes, so get busy NOW in doing God’s will.
    2. Remove sorrow (vexation) which includes the ideas of anger and resentment.  When mixed together, these lead to rebellion.  We are to also remove those things which bring harmful effects to us.

 

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Ecclesiastes 10: Solomon’s examples of Wisdom
July 2, 2012, 2:53 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

1 Dead flies (flies of death) cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

Just as one fly can ruin a whole batch of perfume, an act of foolishness can destroy a life of wisdom.

Wisdom Can Be Nullified By the Whim or Impulsive Act of Rulers (2-7)

2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

When we read that a wise man’s heart is at his right hand, in the ancient Jewish world, that implies that a wise man’s heart is at a place of honor and favor, and since left handed people were considered children of Satan, most people used their right hands with more precision and power than their left.  A fool is pictured as being “left hearted” which leaves him more vulnerable to sin and foolish acts.

3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.

A foolish person lives foolishly, showing everyone that he is living life by his principles and not God’s.

 4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

When a ruler’s anger flares up, calmly response and everything may smooth over.

5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from (before) the ruler:

Rulers can make bad judgments and those decisions or judgments have great and far-reaching consequences. 

6 Folly is set in great (heights) dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

In life, things aren’t always what we think they should be.  Fools are placed in many positions of authority, while rich (in wisdom) often have positions of serving.  God is still in control and He works His good purposes through events and circumstances that we don’t understand.

7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

Solomon notes that in his search for wisdom, he has seen a reversal of the normal roles of those better suited to be servants and those better suited to be leaders.  This reversal in ancient Middle East society, was considered to be an outrage against society.

Wisdom is Needed to Avert Dangers in Everyday Life (8-11)

8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

Life is full of uncertainties.  Nothing is a sure thing.  Every against has consequences and once in motion, we can’t change the consequences.

9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

When we work, we are subject to certain dangers relating to that work.  For example, one who works in a quarry, may be crushed by a stone or one who splits longs, can be cut.

10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

When an ax gets dull, a wise man will sharpen it.  If he doesn’t, he will have to work harder.  Using wisdom when faced with decisions, usually produces a good outcome, even if it is different than what we planned.

11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler (the master of the tongue) is no better.

If a snake bites before it is charmed, the snake charmer is in trouble, therefore, if we don’t used wisdom or our skills, we are wasting God-given abilities.

Words and Works of Wise Men and Fools (12-15)

12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious (grace); but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

A wise man’s words will win his favor, but a fools words are self-destructive.  But it may take time.

13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk (his mouth) is mischievous madness.

It is the inability of the fool to choose his words carefully that will bring about his own destruction.

14 A fool also is full (multiplieth) of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Fools keep on talking, even about things they have no knowledge about. 

15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

If a fool can’t find his way to town, how can they find God?  Why trust a fool when he talks about God or anything spiritual?

The Problem with Foolish Rulers (16-20)

16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

Wisdom tells us that leaders who lack experience lose control over the areas of their responsibility and/or spend all their time partying into the early morning or enjoying activities other than fulfilling the duties of leadership.

17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

Godly leaders have a sense of responsibility and Useful nobility expresses itself in a sense of responsibility and respect to social order. This verse is an argument for correct behavior characterized by self-control.

18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

Houses fall because of laziness.  The pursuit of a personal relationship with God takes energy and time that lazy people won’t invest.  Disciplining others also takes energy and time that we often replace with rules and restrictions.

  19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

The partying king of verse 16, thinks he can fix all the disasters of of his inept reign by raising taxes.

20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought ; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

We should watch what we say, for we never know who is listening.

 

 



Ecclesiastes 9: The Ultimate Chapter
July 2, 2012, 2:50 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

9:1-6  The ultimate mystery of life: death.

Death is the great proof that there is something wrong about humanity; it forces us to face reality.

1 For all this I considered (gave my heart or set my heart on) in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God (“in God’s control and possession.”) no man knoweth either love or hatred (in Hebrew two opposites together are a way of saying “everything.” Love and hate are best viewed as words for God’s favor and disfavor.by all that is before them.)

We are all in the hand of God and He does as He pleases.  If this was said about one of us, we would worry, because when we do as we please, it often demonstrates a selfish nature that takes advantage of others.  But God is good and holy, so we can expect Him to do what is RIGHT.  When we look at life from an overview, the events of life doesn’t show God as loving some while hating others.

At times, we create our own version of God, a version which with we are comfortable.  Our version of God,  immediately rewards the righteous and judges the wicked. What actually happens is very different.

Because God is longsuffering, His judgment upon sinners doesn’t occur immediately.  God give the opportunity to repent.  However, the sinner’s freedom from divine punishment causes him to fill his heart with madness and rebellion while he lives. The Hebrew word translated madness implies a blindness to the true issues. While alive there is hope of repentance or as verse 4 “A living dog is better than a dead lion”.

The living know that they shall die. Although at first this seems a pointless advantage, in reality the possession of this knowledge represents a great advantage. As long as a man is alive and is experiencing the grace of God as it encounters him in the various “time events” of his days, there is the possibility that he may be moved to consider his ways

2 All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

3 This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

9:3 event- simply refers to an outcome determined by God.

9:3 all men- all have sinned, universal depravity.

 4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

9:4 In this verse, Solomon uses a proverb that says a living lowly creature is preferable to a dead exalted creature. The point is not that death is the absolute end of all things; instead, the point is that while there is life, there is hope of doing something to the glory of God.

5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

9:5, 6 This, again, is not a flat denial of any hope beyond the grave. The point of view is limited to what can be known strictly from a human point of view, “under the sun.” they have no more reward: The Preacher’s point appears to be the same as that in the Gospel of John: One must work while it is still day (that is, while one is still alive), for the night will come when no one can work (John 9:4).

7–10 The ultimate profit: a joyful life.

The way to ultimate profit, is to commit to enjoying life and don’t get tied up with the problems of life.  We are to actively enjoy the little gifts of God.  To those who seek the treasures of this world, this concept is rejected. Men also need the inner conviction of God’s approval and acceptance of those who seek to walk before Him in righteousness instead of seeking outward tokens of His approval.  He delights in our decision to rest in Him and obey.

The Preacher also counsels us to “keep your garments white and anoint your head with fragrant spiced oil”. He tells men to get a wife and bask in the sunshine of her love. A man must love that wife all the days of his life and prize her as one of God’s choicest gifts. Here the emphasis is on monogamy and the intensity of relationship which the man and woman are to share a relationship that would not be possible in a polygamous structure. The companionship shared between a right-man and a right-woman joined in the bond of love will provide one of life’s greatest rewards for men and women who labor under the sun (4:9).

Men filled with the knowledge of these wise principles should enter upon the tasks of life with great boldness. Whatever we are to do, we must see it as a gift from the Lord and enter into its challenge with an awareness that He will hold us accountable for what we do with His provisions. When the spirit goes upward, there is no opportunity for making up tasks left undone.

7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. (God meant for all His gifts to be enjoyed. The image of bread and wine is frequently used in Scripture as a symbol of the fact that God gives comfort and cheer to people.)

8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

9:8 It was difficult in ancient times to keep white garments clean. White garments and ointments—oil—were both symbols of joy and purity as well as symbols of festivity and joy.

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.  (Marriage is the gift of God. “Marriage is honorable” and the marriage bed should be kept “undefiled,”.  Marriage is to be cherished and unfaithfulness avoided. Life of vanity, or the life which passes so quickly.

10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave (Sheol- the place of the departed dead), whither thou goest.

9:10 It is possible that the apostle Paul had this verse in mind when he wrote, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23). no work … in the grave: there will be no work because our focus on the torments.

 11–18. The ultimate question:  why do good people not receive all the rewards and bad people all the punishments?

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (time and chance. Wisdom cannot guarantee good outcomes because of what appear to be so many unpredictable contingencies.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Do these things for only the diligent practice of them will lead to true profit, profit that isn’t dependent on the events of life.  Do these things because life is uncertain and can end at anytime. “the swift … strong … wise … men of understanding … men of skill”: These five assets were enjoyed by individuals. But while some planned and counted on their assets, God in the end determined their lot.  Who was speedier than Asahel (2 Sam. 2:22, 23), stronger than Samson (Judg. 16:19), wiser than Solomon (1 Kin. 11:1–25), more discerning than Ahithophel (2 Sam. 16:23; 17:5–14), or more learned than Moses (Ex. 2:11–15; Acts 7:22)?

The winner in life is not always the one who you would think should win.

One sinner destroys much good, but the way of wisdom is still the better way.”

God’s hero in this world is the poor wise man who is ready to do his part, even though men will despise him, refuse to hear his words, and ultimately forget him. Such a man is, however, a man compelled by a sense of duty. He continues to speak the words of wisdom, regardless of the response of others. He has found the way to profit, and duty compels him to share it with all.

The words of the Preacher will only be heard by those who have an inner quietness.

12 For man also knoweth not his time  (The time of his misfortune, especially death).: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

 13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:

9:11–13 We would like to think that the best always win, that the deserving are always rewarded. But our experience shows that these expectations are not always realized. not to.

9:14–18 Here is a parable about how an unstoppable military operation against a small city was prevented by the wisdom of one poor but wise man. The conclusion is that wisdom is preferable to strength and should be heeded.

14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.  (a poor wise man is despised because he lacks status and position).

17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

 



Ecclesiastes 8 Common Sense Has Limits
July 2, 2012, 2:47 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

The topic of wisdom brackets chapter 8 with two declarations about “the wise man” (vv. 1, 17). Verse 1 speaks again to the rarity of the truly wise person (7:27–28); verse 17 announces the frustration of the wise person who says, “I know,” but cannot comprehend all the work of God “under the sun.” Wisdom has its benefits (v. 1b), but it also has its limits (v. 17).

Wisdom in Situations beyond a Person’s Control (vv. 1–9)

Verse 1 serves as a transition between chapters 7 and 8. Whether it concludes chapter 7 or commences chapter 8, the verse serves as a “hinge” between the two.  Rhetorical questions like those in the first half of verse 1 normally receive a negative answer. The questions anticipate “no one knows” (v. 7) and the reference to those who think they know, but have not come to a full comprehension of all that God does (v. 17).  However, in the second half of the verse Solomon answers by indicating that such individuals do exist—despite their rarity (cf. 7:28).  A wise person possesses the ability to interpret a matter and its resulting calm assurance produces a radiant countenance (v. 1b). Similar terminology occurs in the Aaronic blessing: “The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you” (Num 6:25; cp. Ps 4:6). The context indicates that the shining face refers to God’s favor, grace, and mercy (cf. Ps 67:1). Proverbs 16:15 applies the metaphor to human beings (“In the light of a king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain”). Ecclesiastes 8:1 concludes with the statement that a person’s wisdom transforms “the boldness of his face” (literally, “the strength of his face changes”). Wisdom softens one’s face as a reflection of the softened heart (cp. Prov 15:13). In other words, that individual becomes more gracious, merciful, and forgiving.  In 7:15–29 Solomon had exhorted his readers to be forgiving of those who have spoken ill of them (7:21). Now, in 8:1, he offers a fuller explanation of what transpires in the exhibition of that forgiving spirit. Since chapters 7 and 8 depict wisdom as something desirable and positive.  Ecclesiastes 8:2-6  seem to present kings in a negative light. Would King Solomon speak in such a manner? However, who better to expound on practical politics in the royal court than a king? His advice resounds with credibility gained from firsthand experience on the throne and with other sovereigns.

  1.  Being Wise in a King’s Throne Room (vv. 2–6)

First, the writer of Ecclesiastes advises his readers to keep the king’s commandment (v. 2).  Does Solomon refer to a human monarch or to the divine King?  This seems to be instructing us to obey human monarchs.  Proverbs also connect wisdom with behavior in a king’s presence. Opening the instruction with “I counsel” (literally, “I”— no verb) echoes 6:3 and 8:14. Submission to royal authority finds its basis in “the oath of God” (literal translation). The phrase contains some grammatical ambiguity, since the genitive can mean an oath that God takes or gives, an oath characterized by God (“sacred oath,”), or an oath taken to God or before God.  The last offers the most likely meaning. With God as witness, subjects make their oath of allegiance to their sovereign (cp. Exod 22:11; 2 Sam 21:7; 1 Kgs 2:43; 1 Chron 29:24).  Solomon exhorts people to be faithful in their sworn allegiance to their king.

Verse 3 continues the exhortation to allegiance and submission. Subjects should not hastily depart from the king’s presence. One should wait to be dismissed by the king himself. A person should demonstrate that their business does not transcend the king’s and that their time is at his pleasure. Indeed, if one makes an untimely exit, he or she might lose an opportunity to influence the king.  People also must beware of getting involved in any matter that the king might find displeasing. In other words, they should not engage in a “evil thing” (or bad cause). The king will punish any appearance of evil, lack of submission, rebellion, or improprieties as he sees fit (cf. Prov 14:35; 24:21–22). Verse 4 warns about arguing with the king or demanding an explanation for his decisions. The rhetorical question (“who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’”) demands a negative response, “No one” (cp. Job 9:12; Isa. 45:9). God, king, and potter exercise similar power over their subjects. Obedience to royal decrees keeps one out of trouble with the king (v. 5a; cf. Prov 16:14; 19:12; 20:2).

A citizen must employ the correct process at the proper time to present any disagreement or grievance (v. 5b).

The mention of a proper time (v. 5) brings attention to other issues involving timing (vv. 6–8). “Because to every purpose there is a time and judgment” (v. 6) closely reproduces “a time for every purpose” in 3:1. In contexts dealing with time, translators tend to render the Hebrew word for “delight” as “matter” (3:1, 17). In contexts speaking of being pleased, they translate the same Hebrew word as “delight” (5:3). Since 8:6 is close to 3:1 in wording, it would seem more appropriate to understand it as “matter”: “For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter.” It fits the context better, because the topic concerns how to live under the authority of a king. The final clause of verse 6 further clarifies the intent: “therefore the misery of man is great upon him” (literally, “though the trouble of that person is plentiful [abundant] upon him”). The phrasing echoes Genesis 6:5 (“the wickedness of man was great”). This might imply that an individual’s trouble stems, at least originally, from his own sinfulness (see Eccl 7:29). No matter how many troubles the royal subject experiences due to the king’s decrees, he or she must not rush the matter or commit an error in approaching the king improperly for much needed relief.

 

  1.  Inability to Control Life’s Circumstances (vv. 7–9)

Next, mention of proper timing and the troubles which people face “under the sun” brings up mankind’s lack of knowledge about the future (v. 7). No one knows the future, so no one can explain to someone else what will happen. The identical phrase for “which shall be” appears in 1:9; 3:22; and 10:14. All speak of an unknown future. Only God has the power to declare the future (see Isa 46:10–11).  Mankind’s apparent helplessness with regard to the future relates to other matters “under the sun” over which no individual has control. In verse 8, Solomon offers four examples of an individual’s lack of control over life: (1) no one can restrain the “spirit” (wind) with the “spirit” (wind) (cp. Prov 27:16), (2) no one can control the day of his or her death, (3) no soldier can discharge himself in time of war, and (4) wicked deeds can never deliver evil doers.   Ambiguity creates difficulty in interpreting and translating the first of these examples. “Wind” is the same word (ruach) translated “breath” (3:19, 21) and “spirit” (7:8; 12:7

The final illustration provides an interesting insight. Literally, the text reads, “neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.” Those who practice evil have mastered its character and actions. But even evil’s masters remain helpless and subject to God’s authority. All four of these illustrations add to verse 7 and expand the picture of human inability to control their circumstances. The realms include the future, climate, death, war, and salvation. All of these are outside mankind’s control. Only God controls all of these things.  Solomon concludes this first section of chapter 8 by referring to his pursuit of wisdom regarding life “under the sun” (v. 9). He has given his mind to every deed performed in this life by which people might exercise authority over someone else for ill.  This is the same issue he addresses in 7:20 and 29. Fallen humanity perverts the right ways of God. Men and women are sinners. They tend to use authority to perform evil against their fellow man. Fallen humanity cannot change, cannot deliver, cannot contravene the decrees of God, and cannot avoid death. The “wherein” of some translations actually means “a time which” or “while”. It is the same word occurring 29 times in chapter 3 as well as 8:5 and 6. The duration of life “under the sun” constitutes a person’s “time” when he might utilize exercise authority.

Swindoll summarizes five characteristics of a wise leader from verses 1–8: a clear mind (v. 1a), a cheerful disposition (v. 1b), a discreet mouth (vv. 2–4), keen judgment (vv. 5–7), and a humble spirit (v. 8).   What about your spiritual journey? Is Solomon the only person to face his wisdom’s limitations? Does God expect only Solomon to model godly wisdom?

Being Wise in God’s Throne Room (vv. 10–17)

Some commentators consider verse 10 the most difficult in Ecclesiastes.18 Solomon speaks again of what he has seen (vv. 9, 10). He observed wicked people being buried (cp. 7:1, 2). Those same wicked individuals dared to enter the “place of the holy” (probably the Temple) where they mingled with believers. They did not live up to the impressions they conveyed in the holy place. What good did it do them? They are dead, buried, and forgotten. Their works, whether evil or good, appear to count as nothing. This is the ultimate meaning of “evil will not deliver those who practice it” (v. 8d). They did not obtain a good reputation (7:1; cp. Prov 10:7) and their fellow citizens (and fellow worshippers) soon forget them. “This too is futility [hebel],” Solomon declares.  Because of the sluggish pace of the legal system, the law loses its power to dissuade people from evil. Solomon observes that people give themselves more fully to committing evil deeds when “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily” (v. 11). Some take this as a complaint that Solomon as king could control as proof that he is not the author of Ecclesiastes.  If he is king, why doesn’t he correct this?   It seems that he was making an observation about the why things worked instead of a complaint.  Like all kings he delegated authority in lesser cases to other leaders (see 5:8). Some failed to expedite justice or were slowed in the process by accepting bribes (cp. 7:7). All such injustice comes about because of the fallen nature of humanity.

In verse 12 Solomon observes that an evil person might have the opportunity to commit an act of evil 100 times and still live a long time. In the light of verse 11, it appears that he attributes to God the same delay in justice that is so evident in human courts of law. But Solomon declares, “yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him.” (or openly) Notice the departure from the writer’s usual “I have seen.” This truth he knows by conviction and holds by faith.   A true God-fearer goes through life more conscious of what God thinks or knows, than of what people might think or know.

An evil person’s major problem consists of the lack of any fear of God (v. 13). In verse 12 a sinner’s “day’s be prolonged” refers to his physical life on earth but in verse 13 the wicked “neither shall prolong his days,” which talks about his eternal life.  The ungodly need to live as long on earth as they can because when they died they will spend an eternity in hell.   “As a shadow” probably refers to the way that shadows become exceedingly long late in the day. Barton takes that figure to indicate that “sinners never reach the evening of life.” Malachi 3:13–4:3 replicates these same themes: the seeming futility of serving God when the wicked appear to prosper (3:13–15), the contrast between those who fear God and those who do not (3:16–18), and the future judgment of the wicked (4:1–3). The double reference to “vanity” (uselessness) in verse 14 sets the stage for a summary like that in 7:15. Verse 15 reveals the third “seize the day (carpe diem) text declaring that life is the gift of God (see 2:24–26; 5:18–20). “Commended” conveys the concept of a strong recommendation.

However, Solomon does not advise enjoyment of life as an anesthetic to deaden the pain of inequity, injustice, and death. His point is that human beings ought not waste their God-given joys by seeking to usurp the authority or work of the Creator. Fretting over the brevity and seeming unfairness of life brings no joy, no peace, no rest, and no solution. God’s wise bestowment of all things stands behind all that happens “under the sun.” No one can understand the ultimate reasons for what happens, because even the wisest is but a fool by comparison to God. We should not beat our “heads against the wall trying to figure out life.”26 An impressive continuity exists between Solomon’s teaching and that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:25–34).

Solomon reviews his pursuit of wisdom in verses 16–17 (cp. 1:13). In his search for wisdom he could eliminate sleep and still not succeed (v. 16). Interestingly, his earlier speech concerning labor with wisdom (2:18–23) includes the observation that the mind of the wise laborer (v. 21) has no rest even at night (v. 23).

The “work of God” serves as the object of Solomon’s observation (8:17; cp. 3:11, 14; 7:13, 29). However, humans are incapable of discovering all of God’s work “under the sun.” Whether the search involves God’s work in the past (7:24) or the future (7:14), it will elude the searcher. Paul writes similarly when examining the mercy of God in Romans 11:33–36. “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (v. 33b). His statement does not reflect skepticism, neither does Solomon’s.

Chapter 8’s conclusion reverberates in the words of 1 Corinthians 1:20–25.  Human wisdom cannot save anyone from their inability to control their circumstances or from their inherited sinful nature. Only God’s wisdom meets this task. God displays His wisdom in the person of the Messiah Himself. The ultimate answer to Solomon’s questions comes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Ecclesiastes removes all claims to the salvific value of human wisdom. This book prepares the human heart for the greater message of redemption. No one can turn to the Redeemer until they first recognizes their own inability to do anything for themselves. The final chapters of Ecclesiastes pick up from the message of 8:16–17 and point the reader toward God, the Maker or Creator, who alone controls life “under the sun.”

 

Questions for study:

  • • What produces greater graciousness and forgiveness in believers?

 

  • • How should believers conduct themselves before government leaders?

 

  • • Over what things do we have no control?

 

  • • How does Solomon “know” what he knows in verse 12?

 

  • • What does fretting over inequities and injustices and inabilities say about one’s relationship to their Creator?

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Rank yourself as a Christian

  1.  I have believed on Jesus Christ.
  2. I have been baptized.
  3. I read my Bible
  4. I pray
  5. I regularly go to church.
  6. I have a Christian service that I regularly do.
  7. I go on visitation
  8. I have been called by God into ministry.
  9. I dress appropriately for church.
  10. I memorize verses on a regularly basis.

All 10, I am a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

7-9, I am a growing Christian who pleases God.

4-6, I am a normal Christian who loves God but still needs to grow.

1-3, I am a Christian, who loves God but struggles in my walk.  But I am going to Heaven!  Praise the Lord!

 

How does Christ rank you?

  1.  You have sacrificed your life to follow Him.
  2. Your one and only love is Christ.
  3. You obey His commands, especially to love others, regardless of how they treat you.
  4. Although you sin, it breaks your heart to be out of fellowship with Christ and He always brings you back to Him.

Which are you, a “Christian” or a Christian?