Order in a Fallen World

June 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Ecclesiastes | 70 Comments
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God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing). This does not mean, however, that God created Himself, for this would be an impossibility. God is self-existent and eternal. There has never been a time when God did not exist. Therefore, the statement, ex nihilo nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes), is also true. God created everything out of “nothing,” in the sense that He did not find external matter outside of Himself which He then began to fashion and mold. No, He created everything that exists out of Himself, and in this sense He is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:16-17).

King Solomon, in his wisdom, understood more about the eternal nature of God than most of us, but even he could not truly fathom its depths.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-17

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 Solomon moved from looking at the natural order of life and things in nature, and he began to look at man’s institutions to see if there is anything man has organized under the sun that is not vanity.

1. Government

God has ordained government for the purpose of making society more peaceful than it would otherwise be, especially in a sinful world. However, human beings have been given the “charge” or “stewardship” of earthly governments, so, naturally, earthly governments are corrupt.

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

Ecclesiastes 4:1

2. Economy

Solomon sees one man who is hard-working, but who has no time for anything but work.

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

Ecclesiastes 4:4

This man is working just to keep up with the neighbors. He is motivated by envy.

Then Solomon sees another man who enjoys the pleasures of life, but is lazy and does not work.

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

This person is too lazy even to provide for himself! He’s like one of my old friends who used to say, “I just love hard work – I could watch it all day!”

Finally, Solomon finds a man who is more balanced.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 4:6

This man doesn’t have both hands full, but he’s not empty-handed either. The Bible teaches that a balanced life is important.

Then Solomon addressed the pros and cons of working alone versus working together

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s strange to me to think that we live a world with something like 7.7 billion people in it, and yet supposedly one the greatest mental health problems is loneliness. If you ever feel lonely, you can call my house and I’ll put you on speaker-phone. I have a wife and a five year old daughter, and it’s hard to be lonely in the middle of constant talking! But, seriously, God has put something in us that cries out for companionship – for togetherness – for fellowship. Social workers and child abuse experts will tell you that newborn babies in a neglectfully dysfunctional environment, who are not held, and who are kept in cruel isolation for long periods of time, have some of the worst problems and mental disorders later in life.

A summation of Solomon’s view on companionship in labor is that there is vanity in working for the wrong reasons, but it’s better to work hard than to be lazy, and that many hands make light work and lighter hearts.

3. Church

We would expect vanity and corruption in man-made institutions such as government and economy, but we should work hard to keep it out of our church congregations. There is no place for vanity in worship.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

Keep thy foot = watch your step. Don’t take going to church lightly. When you get there, put more emphasis on listening to what God is saying to you, than on telling others what you want to say. We are guilty of “the sacrifice of fools” if we come to church and make an outward show of worship while we have unconfessed sin in our lives. It’s the sacrifice of fools because we are fools if we think we can deceive God.

… to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

I Samuel 15:22

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

This is a reminder to us to be reverent before God, and to take worshiping Him seriously.

Lord, I thank You that life is emptiness and vanity only from the perspective of “under the sun.” Please help us to keep our focus on things above (Colossians 3:2) – things that are good and edifying and Godly – and keep us from becoming preoccupied with the things of this world. Help us to put away our idols. If we can’t do it, Lord, tear them away. They’re only hurting us, anyway, by keeping us from You. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

Good Timing

May 31, 2012 at 11:27 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 6 Comments
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This passage from Ecclesiastes is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. A group called The Byrds even used it in a hit song.

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

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Does the Bible really sanction “a time to kill?” Some examples would be just warfare, a husband defending his wife, a parent defending his or her children, and self-defense.

There is “a time to heal” physically and emotionally. Forgiveness is the remedy for healing broken relationships.

What is the “time to break down?” We are supposed to be breaking down the enemy’s strong holds, even as God’s Spirit breaks our own pride.

There is “a time to build up” and this might happen when you edify your fellow Sunday School members, when you minister in the love of Christ, when you offer encouragement to someone who is working hard, when we engage in grief counseling or marriage counseling, just to name a few.

We know there is “a time to weep.” Sometimes we weep for joy, sometimes for grief. Sometimes we weep in repentance over sin. And there is “a time to laugh.” (When your Sunday School teacher tells a joke, go ahead and laugh even if it’s a lame joke – it will make him feel better.)

There is “a time to cast away stones.” This can be literal – as in the clearing of land for farming or building – or it can be figurative. We “cast away the stones” we were about to use to throw at someone in condemnation, and instead decide to show grace and mercy. There is “a time to gather stones together” when we are building, or, at times, we participate in the government-sanctioned execution of justice.

There is “a time to embrace:” Married couples should do this a lot! And there is “a time to refrain from embracing:” There should not be any romantic or sexual embracing outside of marriage!

There is “a time to get” (payday), and “a time to lose” (bill paying day).

There is “a time to keep” (saving something valuable), and “a time to cast away” (hoarding).

Sometimes it is “time to rend:” to tear something apart. Sometimes it is “time to sew:” to mend that which has been torn.

All those things are from God – but they are to be done in His time and for His purpose.

I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

Ecclesiates 3:17

Do Birds Sing about Eternity?

May 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Eternity | 5 Comments
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The next time you find yourself grumbling and complaining because you think you’ve had a bad day, or because you feel like God’s providence hasn’t been especially “fair” to you that day, try going out into your backyard and sitting quietly as the sun sets. Depending on where you live, there is a good chance you will be able to hear a bird singing somewhere. If you do, try to imagine all the things that bird had to go through that day, compared to your own experiences. Did you wake up this morning and have to hunt for your food, or was there a pop tart conveniently waiting for you in your pantry? Were there other birds – bigger and swifter than you – trying to swoop down and chase you away from your nest? Any snakes coiled around the branches where you were trying to land, or hiding in the bushes ready to strike when you landed on the grass? Did any mean kids with BB guns take pot shots at you? Birds don’t have houses or refrigerators or grocery stores. Their nests don’t have locks or burglar alarms, and they can’t call “Bird 911” if their eggs are attacked. Yet, there’s that bird – all day he’s been struggling just to survive – and at the end of the day he’s singing a song of glory to God!

http://quietsolopursuits.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/dsc_6465.jpg?w=500&h=355

Solomon’s rebuttal to his own arguments concerning the vanity of life in Chapters 1 and 2 of Ecclesiastes is found in Chapter 3. He recognizes that man’s life is a gift from a loving God. Human beings have an internal link to eternity: we have souls, we are created in God’s image.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

We know – inherently – that we were made by some higher Being for some eternal purpose. This universe is not a “closed system.” It’s not closed off from its connection with God, and we ourselves are never severed from our connection to God. God is transcendent and “immanent.” This means that He is actively and intimately involved in the affairs of this world. We use the the other homonyms of that word to describe theological principles also. We say that the return of Jesus Christ could be “imminent:” about to happen. And we say that God is “eminent:” having a glorious and prestigious character.

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

Ecclesiastes 3:14

Break It Up!

February 10, 2012 at 10:01 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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We might suppose that God is chiefly in the business of building.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

However, the Bible tells us that there are times ordained by God for breaking, as well as building.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Ecclesiastes 3:3

When we think of some of the heroes of the faith who were themselves broken before God, like Job, Jonah, Isaiah, David, and Peter, just to name a few – and when we recall all the times that God, in loving discipline, has had to break us in order to bring us back to Himself – we might be very glad that God condescends to use broken things.

Vance Havner once said that God uses “broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.” If you are feeling broken right now, maybe to the point where you feel useless before God, take heart! The body of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, was broken for you on Calvary’s Cross, so that you might draw strength from Him. The Apostle Paul understood this principle.

When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

Acts 20:11

When you are experiencing a dark night of brokenness, call upon the Lord, and when His sun “breaks” the morning sky, get up and depart from your bed of sorrows, ready to serve Him with new energy.

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

I Corinthians 11:24

Right Where You’re Supposed to Be

April 24, 2009 at 10:16 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes, Eternity | 11 Comments
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Have you ever wondered why you were born in the place where you were born? Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to live in a different time in history? These are questions that we will never be able to fully answer on this side of eternity. However, you can rest assured that, according to Scripture, God, before He created you, ordained in His perfect will that you would be born exactly where and when He chose.

The divine appointment which we call our birthday was chosen for our own good, and for God’s Own glory. In the heart of every person, at every place and time, since the beginning of creation, God has placed the idea of eternity, and revelation of Himself.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

For this reason, every single one of us is without excuse if we have failed to acknowledge and worship God (Romans 1:19-20). We have all failed to do this at one time or another, but the realization that we are part of God’s eternal, unseen plan should cause us to rejoice, and should motivate us to serve Him with joy.

I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

Ecclesiastes 3:12

Professing Atheists Conveniently Pick and Choose Their Own “Morality”

March 2, 2009 at 10:16 am | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 3 Comments
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Professing Atheist: Judges 19 vv22-25 seems a little misogynistic and immoral.

Christian: Whether it SEEMS a little immoral or whether it SEEMS horrific, is irrelevant. Judges 19 is in the Bible not as an example of condoned behavior, but partly to show the atrocities that occur when men gauge right and wrong by what “seems” right or wrong, instead of what God says in His holy Word.

Professing Atheist: What about God’s own behaviour in Numbers 15 vv35-36, and pretty much everywhere in Leviticus 20? Do you think God’s Word, as revealed in these passages, is moral? I go shopping on Sundays. Would you stone me to death for that, as God unambiguously commands you to do? If not, why not?

Christian: The whole idea you have of fitting Scripture into your own “culture” or your own ideas of morality is partly where you are missing the point. The laws found in Leviticus and Numbers were God’s laws for the Jewish people. My opinion of them does not matter, except on a personal level, that I accept what the Bible says about them as absolute truth. New Testament believers are not commanded to stone people who shop on Sunday, or on the Jewish Sabbath for that matter. See Matthew 12:1-8.

You ask me, “Do I ‘think’ God’s laws are moral?” I don’t judge God’s laws. God judges all men. And He judges righteously.

Professing Atheist: Imagine you had been born in twelfth century Sweden. Or in Iran in, say, 1980. Just be honest: in those circumstances, which God do you think you would have ended up believing in? What do your answers tell you about your claim that your God, alone, is the right one?

Christian: God, before He created me, ordained in His perfect will that I would not be born in Iran or Sweden in a different time period. But if He had, I would be without excuse if I failed to acknowledge and worship Him. In the heart of every man, at every place and time, since the beginning of creation, God has placed the idea of eternity, and revelation of Himself. (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:19-20)


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