The next chapter in Ecclesiastes is famous because of the song written by the Birds in the 1960’s, called “Turn, Turn, Turn”. This is perhaps the most difficult chapter because it is so well-known, making me nervous about living up to its potential.
The wise man begins the chapter by stating the first line of the song, without the word, “turn”.
Vs 1-“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (more…)
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The next chapter in Ecclesiastes is famous because of the song written by the Birds in the 1960’s, called “Turn, Turn, Turn”. This is perhaps the most difficult chapter because it is so well-known, making me nervous about living up to its potential.
The sources of stress:
Some stress is self-imposed. The idea of imagining trouble when you don’t know what will happen.
Matt. 6:34-“Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Will take care of itself, each day has its own trouble.
vs 25-34-Jesus is teaching about an action-worry. Worry is the action and stress is the outcome. It may not be healthy, but is common to have stress.
Do we have modern stress?
Was life easier 100 years ago or last few 100 years. In Bible times?
They had stress, too. Water-source-well or stream-had to fetch it-it could go bad-daily-for hot water-build a fire
Farming-water-pests-weather-illness-could lead to serious illness and even death
Keys to managing stress
-A relationship with God as Creator and Father-helps us to cope
-The right priorities-seek first Kingdom-when we zone in on God and His kingdom-it releases us from our stress
-Realizing your limits in ability and time
What about modern stress?
Unique stresses to modern living
-Social isolation -you can fill up your car, get groceries without communicating with one human being
we are not near family, to get to burial places of grandparents
We are social creatures, can create anxiety, despair
-Barriers to nature-live in man-made
-Moral relativism-decide for yourself what is right-last 150 years-like traveling without landmarks-when you remove the truth that there is right and wrong-like a fog
-fast pace of information
Bible’s answer to modern stress:
Fellowship with God and His people
Look to the created world
Learn the unchangeable truth already revealed
I’ve started a series of posts on the book of Ecclesiastes, where the writer says “life stinks” and “what’s the point?”. In chapter 2, he talks about experimenting with toys that you can acquire in life and what he found out.
Get your Bible because I may not list every verse in these posts. Ecclesiastes can be found halfway through the Bible after Psalms and Proverbs and before The Song of Solomon and the prophets. Let’s begin.
The first 3 verses is sort of a summary of his findings. Do you remember in school, when you had to write a five paragraph paper and the first paragraph you had to summarize what it was about? That’s what he is doing, here. He has one advantage that we don’t have-the wisdom God gave him. He still found it to be vanity.
Verses 4-8 talk about all the things that he acquired-houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, slaves, flocks and herds, silver and gold, singers and concubines. That’s a lot of stuff! You would think he was the happiest man on earth, but all this did not make him happy. In life, we think that if we just get that new car we want, that new and bigger house or whatever else you may want, that we’ll be happy. You know what? I finally got a large, new townhouse a few years ago, and it did not give me the happiness I thought it would. In fact, I was let down after the excitement wore off and I am less happy than I was in the townhouse we had before this one. It was brand new and kind of big, but we were renting it and we needed to buy something to stop throwing money out the window. When I saw this one we’re in now, I was no longer satisfied with the one we had, and thought if we bought this one, I would be totally satisfied. I have actually been depressed.Go figure!
Verse 9-“Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me.”
The wise man’s wealth and status grew-a lot of people want to be great in this life-but does it bring them happiness?
Verse 10-“Amd all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.”
This makes me think of a kid in a candy store. What if, when you were a kid, someone took you to a candy store and said,”Go up and down every aisle and get whatever you want.”
You would take off, wouldn’t you? I know I would have. I still might today-but I would grab mostly chocolate-I don’t like the other stuff anymore.
My parents have given me money in the past, for Christmas or my birthday. It is fun to shop and decide what to buy with money just handed to you. What if you earned it? For years now, I have been wanting to make some money with my writing and have the satisfaction that I earned it. It seems more satisfying if you earn money from a job well done. I have a list of things I want to get-a new kitchen table, for one, to match the decor.
This also sounds like many celebrities, not withholding any pleasure from themselves-we can see that in the news. Does it last forever? Look at verse 11.
Verse 11-“Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.”
I would take that to be a “no”. After getting all those things for himself-vanity and he had no profit. What a letdown! We expect more from our toys than that, don’t we? Shame on those toys!
Verses 12-17 are poetic in nature as he describes weighing fun with wisdom. In verse 12, he asks about the man who will come after him. He will probably not be satisfied with what the wise man did and will want to do it himself. You don’t want the hand-me-down, you want the new thing.
In verse 14, he compares the fool and the wise man with light and darkness. If you walk around in the dark, you can’t see what you are doing and you end up doing dumb things, like running into the wall or knocking over a lamp, when you could just turn on the light. At the end, however, they will meet the same fate-no matter what they do in this life.
In verse 15, he asks himself why he has been wise because what’s the point if he is just going to die. In verse 17, he hates life because his work was grievous and everything was vain. Have you ever felt that way?
In verses 18-21, he basically says that life is not fair and he was in despair. He mentions the man who will come after him-will he be wise or foolish? Will he take care of what the wise man acquired? The wise man will have no control over his things after he is dead and it is not fair to have to hand over your things that you worked for to someone else. Sometimes I wonder who lives in my grandparents’ house and if they take care of it? My grandparents worked hard to build the house and took care of it for 50 years. It is only fair for the next person to take just as good care of it. It seems like people don’t take as good of care of things handed down to them, as opposed to working for it themselves.
Verse 22-He repeats his question of the vanity of life.
Verse 23-“Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.”
Have you ever lain awake, thinking about some project?
Verses 24-26-the wise man says that we should live our life and appreciate what we have because everything we have is a gift from God. He says if you don’t have God in your life, you can’t be happy. Think of all the celebrities who had it all and ended up committing suicide because their life was empty without God. So true. What is it worth without Him?
Hey, y’all! If you read my last two posts on Ecclesiastes, we were reviewing the overview of the book and possible author. The overall message of the book: Life stinks…and then you die. The wise man looks at life and finds it vain.
And now, it’s time to take a close look at the first chapter. If you have a Bible, grab it and read along, since I may not list every verse. Besides, the more you study using your Bible, the more comfortable you will become opening it up and the more familiar you will be with your own Bible. Ecclesiastes can be found about halfway through the Bible, after Psalms and Proverbs, in the Poetry section of the Old Testament and yes, it is a book of poetry. The author uses poetic language to discuss what he has observed about life.
We’ve already discussed the first two verses: the writer identifies himself, or hints at who he is, and declares that all is vanity. What a happy message!
Vs 3-“What advantage does a man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?”
The wise man knows everyone has to work for a living and is not talking about the immediate results, like picking up your paycheck or paying your bills, or even finishing that project you’ve been working on. He is talking about the long term effects of work on your whole life. It is kind of like when we say, “I get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and get up and do it all over again.”
You will see the phrase, “under the sun” many times throughout the book. It pretty much means “on the earth” or “in life”.
Vs 4-“A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.”
We’ve heard this said before. We live, we die, a new generation comes and replaces us and the world keeps going on, generation after generation.
Verses 5-7 give more examples-the sun, the wind, the rivers keep doing the same thing.
Vs 8-“All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.”
When you were a kid, do you remember wanting that new toy, the one that everyone had? Then, after you got it, another one came out that was even better? It seems like it still happens. People want that new, most advanced technological device, the one that everyone has; then, after they get it, a better one comes out. Our daughters have even been victims of that.
Well, the writer noticed the same thing. No matter what we have, we always want more.
Vs 9-“That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So, there is nothing new under the sun.”
This was a memory verse for me when I was younger and I still remember it. This sentence is summing up the first eight verses.
Vs 10-11-we might think that we discover things or invent things that no one ever has but the more the archeologists find, the more we find out that other generations had the same thing-lighted streets, embalming, medicine, the aging process, etc. The ancient world already knew these things.
Martina McBride has a line in a song, called “Anyway”. “You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in, that tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang. Sing it anyway.”
I think that sums up the idea of the verse. I read an article that Sylvester Stallone is doing another Rambo because he is afraid he will be forgotten. It happens to everyone. Celebrities are constantly reinventing themselves so they are not forgotten.
One thing I really want in life is to be remembered for what I write. I also want to stand in front of God on the judgment day and have Him tell me that souls were saved because my writing pricked their hearts. But I have to admit, I struggle with wanting to be great. Why do we want that so bad?
Vs 12-18-The heading in my Bible in front of these verses says-The futility of wisdom.
He says that he set his mind to find out everything he could about life. He says that he found that it is vain. He begins using another phrase, which he uses often-“striving after wind”. It has the same meaning as “vanity”. Remember the first verse, when he said that all is vanity? He is going to keep coming back to that point and he uses, “striving after wind” as a poetic way of saying that things are vain. Can you catch the wind? Have you ever tried? The next time you are outside on a windy day, reach out your hand and try to catch the wind. It will go right through it. I can’t explain how, but you can’t catch the wind. You can’t see it but you know it’s there, which leads me to think that people believe in the wind, even though they can’t see it but they don’t believe in God because they can’t see Him. They don’t have to alter their lives and answer to the wind, like they would God, and I am going to get off this soapbox now.
In verse 14, the wise man says he has seen everything done under the sun and it is vanity and striving after wind. He should know since he has seen everything. In verse 16, he says that he increased in wisdom more than all than were in Jerusalem before him, observing a lot of wisdom and knowledge. He is sort of telling us what he did before writing this book and why he is qualified to write this book. I think he is also saying that since he is qualified, maybe we should listen to him. He is kind of saying, “If you want to know about life and what it really means, follow me and I’ll show you.”
Vs 17-“Ad I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.”
I did want to single this verse out because I want to explain a couple of things that might be fuzzy. “Folly” is a really old word that means foolishness. “Madness” is being used as they say in Britain, “He is mad”, or crazy, not in the sense of being angry.
The wise man is saying that he wanted to know both ends of the spectrum-wisdom on one end and foolishness on the other.
Vs 18-“Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”
Have you ever felt this way? We have a saying today similar to his statement: “Ignorance is bliss”. Have you ever felt that the more you find out about life, the more miserable you are? Do you ever want to go back to being a kid, when life was much simpler and you didn’t know as much? I know I have. The more wisdom I gain, the more miserable I become and I really struggle with depression, especially since I am a writer and my mind never stops. I wish I could just put it on pause for a few minutes but no can do. Sometimes I get so tired of my own mind. ,you know what I mean?
Well, that’s it for Chapter 1 and as we go along, the wise man will have much wisdom to share with us. It does get happier as the book goes along and the wise man tells us how to deal with life. One advantage we have that he did not, is that he did not have the whole story. Jesus had not come yet and saved us from our sins, and revealed things to us about heaven and spending eternity with Him in heaven. Try to remember that as you read along and I will, too. I might remind you along the way to do so.
In Chapter 2, we will take a look at what all the writer did to achieve his wisdom and all of the things that he had, and what he found out about it.
I have started a series of posts on Ecclesiastes to get a deeper look at the book but I wanted to talk about the writer, or supposed writer. If the writer was Solomon and you are not familiar with his story, I’ll go over it.
I have listed some quotes from verses of the story:
1 Kings 3:5-“In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.”
Vs 7-“And now, O Lord my God, Thou hast made thy servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.”
Vs 8-“And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.”
Vs 9-“So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?”
In other words, God was pleased with Solomon’s good behavior (earlier in the book, it says that he loved God like his father, David), soon after he became king and came to him in a dream, offering him whatever he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom. We know he was young but we dont know how old he was-not old enough to have gained wisdom. Back to the verses:
Vs 10-“And it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.”
Vs 11-“And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice,”
Vs12-“behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.”
Vs 13-“And I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.”
Vs 14-“And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father, David walked, then I will prolong your days.’ ”
God was pleased with Solomon’s request, taking note that he did not ask for revenge or wealth. In addition, God gives him wealth and a long life. This can show us that if we ask for the right things, not selfish things, God will reward us. He will give us what we ask, if it is His will, plus more, sometimes. I’m not saying every time. Have you ever been going along in your life and something good happens that you wanted but did not ask for? How had you been behaving, lately? We’re you trying to follow God’s commands? I we live like we should, God blesses us, not just materially, but helps our stress, takes care of a problem, steers us in the right way in a confusing time, or in a time where we need to make a decision fast. God blesses us in so many ways, I cannot even list them right now.
Anyway, back on the subject, Solomon was given great wisdom and wealth, which he uses to his advantage, to find out everything he possibly can about life.
Whether or not the author of Ecclesiastes is Solomon, he had a lot of wisdom and had tried everything in life, only to find it vain. How many celebrities can say the same thing, having tried just as many things, and how many ended up putting a gun to their head because they had no hope of heaven. They did not have God in their lives. We can learn from the wise man and from the hopelessness of these celebrities.
In class on Sunday morning, we’ve been studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It used to be my favorite book, because of the poetry in it-things like, “Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink,” and phrases like, “under the sun”, and “striving after the wind”.
I don’t know what it is, maybe because Stephanie has gone to college but I’ve been in a real depression. The kind that makes your body hurt and makes you sick, and Ecclesiastes hit home with me. It even made things worse. The thing is, you have to get to the end of the book to see the positive ending.
The whole message of the book: Life stinks and then you die. Pretty encouraging, isn’t it? It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We say that in today’s world. Who would have thought it was in the Bible, too?
The message at the end of the book, life stinks, but enjoy it anyway because what you do in this life matters. God is in control of the whole thing, no matter how crazy it may be and He is working in everybody’s lives. If we just hang on, there is something better at the end, in another place.
The writer of the book is believed to be Solomon. Personally, I can’t imagine it being anybody else, since he says he is the king of Israel and the son of David. He also talks about wisdom that he has and how he was richer than any king in the world.
Solomon was David’s son and was king of Israel. In his youth, God came to him and was pleased with his behavior and attitude and offered him anything he wanted but we’ll talk more about that in the next post. Anyway, what God ends up giving him is wisdom and more riches than any king who came before or after him. So, this does sound like Solomon to me, but since he doesn’t say, “I, Solomon”, we cannot say for sure.
Our preacher, Phillip, said that if you can get somebody in the Bible at all, just to get them to look at one thing, show them the book of Ecclesiastes, and they’ll end up saying, “Yeah, I know exactly what he’s talking about.”
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground.”
What is the significance of blood in the Bible? It sounds like God thinks blood is very significant. In fact, blood is used throughout the Bible with the same importance, no matter who or what is shedding it.
This quote is from the story of Cain and Abel after Cain killed his brother. God asked Cain the whereabouts of his brother and he claimed to not know but he knew very well where his brother was. He also asks the famous question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God then replies in verse 10 with the above quote and makes note of his brother’s blood. Notice he does not say, “Your brother is crying out to me,” or “Your brother’s blood,” but “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me”.
Did you know blood had a voice? None of us have ever heard the voice of blood but God can hear it. If someone is murdered in secret and the murderer thinks no one knows, God will hear the voice of the victim’s blood and that person-the murderer-will come to justice, whether in this life or the next.
Cain evidently thought that no one would know if he killed his brother or did not think about that fact before committing this evil act. We do not know what he was thinking but we can bet that Cain was not aware that God would hear the voice of his brother’s blood and that information came as a shock to him. It is shocking to realize that.
We often think about the poor victim and how they might have suffered or how they lost their life but God places importance on the fact that blood was spilled. He considers the blood of every individual important.
Have you ever sat down to watch the news and heard about murder after murder and thought, “How terrible!” and then you get up from your seat and not think about it again. How many murders do we hear about every day? How many murders does God deal with every day? How does He go on with every day, knowing that someone will kill someone today? That has to take a lot of strength, love and forgiveness.
Some murders become famous-Sharon Tate, the Whitchapel murders, Lacy Peterson and her son, Connor, Andrea Yates’ kids, Caylee Anthony and countless others. Others are only heard about locally on the news but many others happen that we do not even hear about. Can you imagine knowing about those every day? Can you imagine knowing they are going to happen before they happen?
I am not saying we need to sit and cry over all of the murder victims and get depressed. I am only saying that God takes care of a lot of things in this life-things we do not even know about. Things we may not care about. He takes care of things all over the world every day. He is in control of every life that breathes air does not breathe air. He is in control of everything that walks, crawls, flies, swims and anything else I forgot. (It’s a good thing I’m not God. 🙂 )
Sometimes me may forget how big He is and how He controls the seas, the weather, our health, our safety. And then there is little me, who stops to ask Him for something in my life or to thank Him for something. Does He listen to little me? (And I don’t mean my size 🙂 ). Yes, He does. He counts every person just as important as the next. I know we teach our kids this fact in Bible class but when was the last time you really stopped and thought about it? Maybe we should take a minute, today and praise Him for ALL that He does on a daily basis.
Last Wednesday, we talked in class about how the world thinks the Bible views women as unimportant and practically doormats. The truth is, the Bible does not see them that way at all. In fact, women were to have some key roles in His life.
The first time we see a woman involved in Jesus’ life is in Luke 1:26-38. This is when God sends the angel, Gabriel to Mary to tell her about Jesus, the baby she is carrying. God could have chosen to bring Jesus into the world any way He wanted but He chose to do it through the birth of a woman; a human woman, whom Gabriel calls, “favored one”.
In verse 35, Gabriel also tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. At this time, no one that I know of had the Holy Spirit come upon them, so this was very special. And to think it happened to a woman.
Another example is in Mark 5:24-34, where a woman, who had suffered with a hemorrhage for 12 years, despite many doctors’ attempts, came to Jesus. She believed that if she just touched His cloak, she would be healed. She came up behind Him amidst a large crowd and as soon as she touched His cloak, “she sensed that the affliction was healed”. Jesus felt the power leave Him and began looking around and asking who touched Him. At first, she was afraid to answer because women were not regarded that highly back then and she was afraid of what might happen. Jesus was not angry with her but praised her for such strong faith, and even called her “daughter”.
This was not the only female that Jesus helped that day. Just before He healed the woman with the hemorrhage, a synagogue official, named Jairus, approached Jesus and fell at His feet. Mark 5:23 says that the official “implored Him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live.'”
Jesus agreed to help this little girl, when at that time and in some countries around the world today, the only people less important than women are little girls; however, Jesus had compassion for this man and his daughter.
He was interrupted by the woman with the hemorrhage and after healing her, people from the official’s house came and told him that his daughter had died and not to bother Jesus anymore. Verse 36 tells us that He overheard what they said and told the official to, “…not be afraid any longer, only believe.”
So, He took Peter, James and John and went to the synagogue official’s house and according to verse 38, “He saw a commotion and people loudly weeping and wailing. And entering in, He said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.’
5:40-“They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and entered the room where the child was.
5:41-“Taking the child by the hand, He said to her, ‘Talitha kum!’ (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!’)”
5:42-“Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.”
5:43-“And he gave strict orders that no one should know about this , and He said that something should be given to her to eat.”
If Jesus thought little of women and little girls, why did he stop and heal this woman and bring the little girl back to life? He cared for every human being, male or female. In Acts 10:34, Peter says, “I most certainly understand that God shows no partiality.” Romans 2:11 also quotes, “For there is no partiality with God.”
The claims that people make today about the Bible showing no respect to women or showing them in a bad light are simply not true. Women had a part in Jesus’ life and certainly in His death. Who was at the cross when Jesus was crucified? The disciple John was there but Matthew 27 tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee were looking on and had been ministering to Him. They had provided food and provisions for Him in His life.
Lastly, who came to prepare Jesus’ body for burial with spices on the morning He had risen from the dead? In Mark 16:1, we find that “…Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him.”
In the end, women were there for Jesus in His life and they were there for Him in His death. I believe He knew that God made us this way and accepted our nurturing ways, nurturing us in return. We can feel special, knowing that Jesus gave loving attention to women as well as men.
9 – 11 – 01
What we learned…What we should not forget
Sunday, Sept 11, 10:30 message
This is the first of four lessons this fall about “Getting The Bible Where We Live”.
The lessons are designed to help our friends, family, and neighbors see how helpful the Bible can be for daily living.
Come join us if you are in the Northern Virginia area at the Dulles Church of Christ.
I’d love to see you!
Have you ever wondered where people, with musical abilities get them? Did you know that we have the answer in the Bible? The first man, with musical talent can be found in Genesis 4:21. His name was Jubal. The Bible only gives him one sentence of fame, and here it is.
Genesis 4:21-“His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of those who play the lyre and harp.”
The verse before talks about a man named Jabal, the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.
So now you know…the beginning of the story.