Beware of Foretold Favor

January 10, 2014 at 11:36 am | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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David wanted to build a house in which the presence of the Lord could dwell (II Samuel 7:1-3), but the Lord wanted David’s son to be the one to build it (II Samuel 7:4-13). David’s son Solomon became king, and at the appointed time he determined to fulfill the promise which the Lord had made to his father.

And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.

I Kings 5:5

When the opportunity came for Solomon to accomplish this sacred duty, he recognized that the providence of God was at work. He also remembered – and relied upon – the promise of God to help him accomplish it.

As Christians we must remember that the Spirit of God which brought us to Christ does not thereafter lie dormant in our lives until our time to go to Heaven. He has decreed good works for us to accomplish during our temporary sojourn in this wicked world. We certainly don’t want to miss these opportunities! Our task is to remember this promise, to get excited about it, and to seek to accomplish it in God’s power. When enthusiasm and expectation meet providence and purpose, great things are accomplished and God is glorified.

Would You Rather? (Wisdom of Solomon Edition)

September 26, 2012 at 10:59 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 3 Comments
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Have you ever played the game “Would You Rather?” The idea is to take two equally unpleasant propositions (or, in a variation, two equally desirable propositions), and force the contestant to choose one. At least that’s how it was played at recess when I was a kid. “Would you rather get hit square in the face with a Nolan Ryan fastball or slide down a giant razor blade into a pool of rubbing alcohol?” Gross, huh? Well, I like to use the basic concept of this game in thinking about Ecclesiastes Chapter 7.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

Would you rather have: wealth or wisdom?

They say that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but that, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. If we think of wisdom as only the means to acquire wealth, it might seem preferable to take the short cut and receive the wealth without the effort, but, according to the Bible, wisdom itself is the more valuable commodity. The caveat to the idea that learning to fish is better than receiving a free fish is: God is still the One Who provides the fish – and the rod – and the bait – and the water – and the strength to set the hook.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:13

In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

Would you rather have problems or prosperity?

This is a no-brainer for most of us. However, in a previous lesson we did learn that problems are an inevitable part of life, and in some ways, they are extremely beneficial when facing an uncertain future. So the caveat to this one is: We have to accept adversity from God without getting bitter at God for sending it.

All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

Ecclesiastes 7:15-18

Would you rather have purity or pleasure?

As Christians we choose purity, which just so happens to contain real joy, which is far superior to temporal pleasure. But, again, there is a caveat: Beware of self-righteousness or pride.

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Would you rather have infamy or ignorance?

Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

On the one hand, no one really relishes the idea of being ignorant, but on the other hand, do you really want to know what everyone is saying about you? Sometimes, they say, ignorance is bliss. Here is the caveat to this one: Only Christ can control our thoughts and tongues.

All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

Ecclesiastes 7:23-24

Would you rather have a God who is knowable or knowledgeable?

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

Ecclesiastes 7:25-28

If you are a lady, you are probably not appreciating the smug satisfaction my sinful flesh is taking in knowing that at least Solomon found one man out of 1000 with some wisdom, while not finding a single woman! (Sorry, just kidding.) The fact is, we have a God who is both transcendent and immanent. We can never truly know the depths of His glory, nor His secret counsels, nor the fullness of His wisdom. Yet He has revealed Himself to us to a degree that allows us to know Him intimately. The caveat to this is: We must accept that we can never know as much as God, and, left to our own devices, we tend to go astray.

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

Nothing New Under the Sun

April 4, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 65 Comments
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The common expression, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” is from the Bible.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

When God spoke the universe into existence, He created all the “matter” that exists today. Scientists have been able to discover that matter is made up of molecules. It’s kind of strange to think about, but these molecules have been around for a long time. The molecules that make up the water you drink today might be some of the same molecules that made up the water that Julius Caesar drank over 2000 years ago. Some of the cells in your body might be made up of some the same material that used to make up King Solomon’s body.

There is a joke about a group of scientists who came to God and said, “Well, God, we don’t need You any more – we can finally do what You can do. We can ‘create.’ We have invented a machine that can create anything we want. All we have to do is add dirt-”

“Hold on a minute,” said God. “Go get your own dirt.”

You are breathing air right now, and scientists have discovered a great deal about that air. They understand the elements that make it up and the way it behaves under certain circumstances. But no scientist provided the air you are breathing right now. You are breathing God’s air. He created it and He provides it, and He deserves the credit and the thanks for it. If He decides that your next breath is your last one, no scientist will be able to prevent that. There have been great advances in the field of cardiology, but your heart is not beating right now because a cardiologist created your heart or gave it the ability to pump blood. Your heart is beating under the power and supervision and control of God, and it had better be beating to His glory. He could stop it in an instant.

“Life is vanity” was the perspective of Solomon “under the sun.” “Vanity” is a key concept in Ecclesiastes. It is sometimes defined as “emptiness” or “vapor.” It is something that is insubstantial although it is still noticeable, like “wind.” In our day it is sometimes linked with the idea of arrogance or pride. We say that somebody who is “vain” is “stuck up,” or somebody who thinks she’s “all that,” with the implication being that she’s really nothing. There was a popular song by Carly Simon when I was a kid called “You’re So Vain” that exemplified this idea. Vanity can be something that causes a lot of consternation, but doesn’t amount to anything. One commentator on the Book of Ecclesiastes defined vanity as “what’s left after you pop a soap bubble.”

According to the “under the sun” viewpoint of King Solomon:

1. Life is vain because of its monotony. (Referring to the ordinary repetitiveness of life, not the board game where you collect $200 for passing “go.”)

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

How many days in your life do you really remember in detail? Probably a small percentage. You probably remember your wedding day, the days your children were born, the day you hit a game-winning home run, but overall you only remember a small percentage of the days of your life, because so many of them are so much alike. Even fewer are the days of your life which stand out in the memory of other people. However, we do remember some “historical” dates – dates on which famous people did important things. This is one reason why man – even man “under the sun” – is different from the beasts. We have personal histories.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that, although we are part of a “life cycle,” the life cycle always ends in death. They say that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. [I would add two others: (1) If I leave my car windows down in a parking lot, it will rain before I get back; (2) If I change from a slow-moving lane of traffic into a faster-moving lane, the cars in front of me in that lane will immediately stop.]

The Lord Jesus miraculously broke into the “life cycle” of this planet – and into human history. He made it so that resurrection is possible. Life doesn’t have to end in death. You can be “born again.” Your life was put in motion with your first birth, but with a new birth you can start over – with a new destination.

According to Ecclesiastes, “under the sun:”

2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.

Solomon was the wisest man in the world, but he could not equal God’s wisdom. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was even God-given. The human race has been around for about 6000 years, and it is questionable whether we have really come up with any real solutions to any real problems – at least without a willingness to create even more problems. We desperately need God’s wisdom.

Contextual Wisdom

March 19, 2012 at 9:43 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 7 Comments
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And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

As we study the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ll find that many of the principles put forth don’t seem to fit in with the joy we usually proclaim when we talk about the Bible. Many of these sayings, taken alone, with an earthly perspective, don’t seem to match up with the promise of Romans 8:28 – even though they’re clearly from God. However, the conclusion of Ecclesiastes teaches us that the principles of how God works, when combined together, make all things work together for good to those who are the “called” – the “ekklesia” – those who are separated out of this world unto God by faith.

That’s where the word “Ecclesiastes” comes from – the Greek Word for a “called out assembly.” In Hebrew the word is “qoheleth” (ko-HAY-leth), which means “preacher,” or one who presides over an assembly while speaking to them. The Greek word “ekklesia” is where we get the word “ecclesiastical,” which means “related to a church.”

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Ecclesiastes 1:1

The human instrument that the Holy Spirit used to write the Book of Ecclesiastes appears to have been King Solomon, and it was probably written near the end of his life. It is generally accepted that the Holy Spirit used Solomon to write Proverbs and Song of Solomon, as well.

King Solomon is known for two main things: wisdom and wealth. He was probably the richest human being in the Bible and possibly the entire world. He was even richer than Job. As Solomon began to look back, he spoke about the things he had done and all the experiences he had and all the tests he conducted to determine the meaning of life.

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Ecclesiastes 1:4-5

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

We have to be careful about taking doctrine from books like Ecclesiastes and Job. One of the practices of the cults is to take isolated Bible verses out of context and build fanciful doctrines around them. Here are a couple of examples in Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 of statements which contain greats truths in their context but could seem contradictory of other passages of Scripture on their face:

That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

Ecclesiastes 1:15

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:18

Ecclesiastes is full of these kinds of statements – when isolated they don’t seem to fit in with the doctrine of the rest of the Bible.

Here’s an example from Job:

As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

Job 7:9

To get the correct understanding, we have to look at who’s speaking. It is true that someone said Job 7:9, but what he said is not always true.

Have Mine Own Way

January 6, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Hosea, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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When King Solomon died his kingdom became divided. Two of the twelve tribes, led by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became the southern kingdom of Judah. The other ten tribes, ruled over by Jeroboam, became the northern kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim).

Jeroboam did not want his subjects going to the southern kingdom so they could worship in Jerusalem. Therefore, he found a way to entice them to stay. He placed golden calves for the people to worship, and allowed pagan fertility rites and prostitution to be practiced in the northern places of worship. It seems almost unthinkable that a race of people who had almost been rejected by God because of the worship of a golden calf (see Exodus 32), would back-slide into such evil again.

Hosea the prophet was one of only a very few voices crying out against such wickedness.

For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.

Hosea 4:16

He also warned the southern kingdom not to follow their example.

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

Hosea 4:17

What a sad day it is when the Lord’s people turn back to that from which they have already been delivered. Many of us have been rescued from the idolatry of this world by loving Christian friends. We must not make the mistake of presuming upon God’s grace, however. There may come a time when the Lord says to your friends, “Let him alone.” One of the harshest disciplines that God may give to His children is to let them have their own way.

The Last but Not the Least – Part 3

September 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Jeremiah, Salvation | 8 Comments
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Last time we saw that: Being content brings gratitude, but being covetous brings gall.

Now we will see that:

Being content brings glory to God.

Jeremiah the prophet prophesied in a time much like our own. His description of Egypt in his day was very much like America in our day.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north. Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.

Jeremiah 46:20-21

At the local fair, my kids like to look at the livestock in the 4-H exhibit. They enjoy seeing the plump healthy cattle, well-cared-for and sporting their blue ribbons. Little do they know that these cattle have been fattened for a slaughter. Why does the Lord let the wicked accumulate wealth? Why does He let wicked men and governments and corporations and nations oppress the weak and the poor? Could it be that they are being fattened for the slaughter? Could it be that they are being allowed to prosper and grow rich and fat – and believe themselves to be invincible – so that the Lord receives more glory when He strips them of everything they have coveted after, and casts them into the pit?

One of my favorite verses is James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” This verse does not mean that it’s a good idea to be humble, but it’s not really mandatory to be a victorious Christian. No, let me tell you something – your humility may be delayed – but it is not optional. You will be humble before the Almighty God. But this verse says I have the option of humbling myself. If I humble myself, He will lift me up. If I don’t humble myself, then He will humble me. As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, God will get the glory from my life – one way or the other.

Being content brings glory to God, but being covetous brings grief to a generation.

God can take away what you love most if you love it more than Him. God may take away the people you love most if you worship them in place of Him. Lord, help me to get my focus off of me – and get my focus on You. Do you want your life to bring grief to your generation, or do you want it to bring glory to God? Do you want to be the best parent you can be? Then love God with all your heart. Do you want to be the best spouse you can be? Then love God with all your mind. Do you want to be the best Christian you can be? Then love God with all your strength. Do you want to be the best person you can be – to have your “best life now?” Then forget about your “best life now.” Instead of having your “best” life now, have your “blessed” life now.

Before his conversion Saul of Tarsus had his “best life now.” Read his resume’ sometime in Philippians 3. He had a great job. He loved his work. He was the best, the brightest. He had money, renown, a reputation. He was strong, swift, educated, intelligent. He was on the fast track to be the number one man in his field!

And he threw it all away – to become the scum of the earth: beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, roaming from place to place, hunted at sea, hunted on land, hunted by the Jews, hunted by the heathen, hunted in the city, hunted in the wilderness, attacked by false friends, tired, wracked with pain, hungry, thirsty, cold, and naked (II Corinthians 11)! AND HE WAS CONTENT!!!!

If you try to save up your life – to make your life about the abundance of the possessions that you control – that you think you own (Luke 12:15) – you will lose it. But if you lose your life for His sake, you shall find it.

There was once a man who was the wisest (except for Jesus) and the richest (up until that time and maybe even today) man who ever walked the face of the earth. He had everything you could ever want or even imagine. He had every trinket, every delicacy, every luxury, every entertainment, every experience that could be had. The darkest fantasy you’ve ever dreamed of in your darkest most secret moment of sin – the one you wouldn’t dare tell your closest friend in the world about – he had it. And he had it twice, just to make sure. But after all the excess – after all the experience – after all pleasures that this world had to offer – here is what he had to say: “Vanity of vanities – all is vanity!” He had it all – and he was miserable. There must be something more, he thought, there must be something different. There must be something deeper – a knowledge of something greater. There must be Someone Who can give me – Who can be for me – what I have never been able to grasp. There must be Someone who can fill the vanity – the emptiness – that I’m left with – that is inside my very soul!

If you are reading this right now, and identifying with King Solomon, I can tell you there is only One. And there is only One Way to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is more real than just a plan, a path, or a purpose – He is a Person. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

What has the Devil and the world talked you into believing is going to make you happy? Getting what you see and what you want? Being like the wealthy, the powerful, the famous? Jesus Christ took your sin on Himself, and He took the punishment for it in your place on the Cross. He was sinless and perfect, yet He was tortured and crucified for every sin you and I ever committed. The good news: God accepted Him as the perfect and only possible sacrifice for sin, and showed His acceptance by resurrecting Him from the dead. He lives today. You have only two choices: You must believe on Him, rejecting your own self-righteousness – or you must reject Him. You are not promised a certain number of opportunities. If you leave the room you are in right now without asking Christ to save you, you might very well leave this life without being saved. Do not tempt the Lord your God.

The Happiest Slaves

February 8, 2010 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments
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When the Queen of Sheba came to see King Solomon, it was with no small amount of expectation. She had heard great things about his wealth and his wisdom. After traveling approximately 1500 miles, she was not disappointed.

And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

I Kings 10:6-7

After saying these things the Queen said something even more remarkable:

Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

I Kings 10:8

Conventionally, we think of the person being served as the one who is happy. The happiness of the ones doing the serving is of little concern. However, we know from the Bible that the blessings of serving are even greater than the blessings of being served (Matthew 20:27).

If it was a great blessing to be the servant of Solomon, consider how much greater it is to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only does Christ’s wisdom far exceed that of Solomon’s (Luke 11:31), but who would not want to serve a Master who wants better things for His servants than they want for themselves, and who has given His own life to purchase eternal life for those who serve Him?


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