April 18: No Other Gods

Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12

Somehow, most people who try it are either unaware of the risks or think that they will be the exception to the rule.  And so they forge ahead.  They give inordinate priority to money, possessions, and wealth.  The result?  Those who are rich have a “camel through the eye of the needle” chance of entering the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24).  Those who pursue wealth walk a path filled with potholes (1 Tim. 6:9).  Those who love money tap into a root that branches into all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10).

Solomon observed those realities as well.  But keep in mind that he is numbered among the wealthiest men to ever live.  He wrote not only from observation of others but also from personal experience.  He knew that those who love wealth would love to have more.  They are never satisfied (5:10).  To him it was clear that wealth can rob a person of peaceful sleep (5:12).  He wrote of how riches can harm the owner and disappoint the heir (5:13, 14).  He observed that wealth has no lasting benefit when a person departs this life (5:15-17).  He saw that the rich often lack opportunity to enjoy what they have acquired (6:1-6).  Yes, there is great risk involved in the pursuit of wealth!

Of course, a person cannot navigate through life today without money and at least some possessions.  The biblical alternative to the pursuit of wealth, however, is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).  When that pursuit has priority in your life, God promises to provide for your needs.  It is then that you are also able to find satisfaction in your work and even enjoy its fruit.  That is amazing!  It’s worth repeating.  When we give priority to the Lord and His ways, we experience His provision, work satisfaction, and life enjoyment.

Rather than attempting to be an exception to the rule, go with God’s sure plan.  Seek Him first!

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 17: The Sacrifice of Fools

Read Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Have you ever offered the “sacrifice of fools”?  It is true…Solomon’s initial readers lived at a time when specific details about animal sacrifices and grain offerings had been outlined.  But this sacrifice of fools did not include the wrong animal or the wrong timing or the wrong method.  The fools’ sacrifice of which he speaks is likely just as possible today.  Here are some of its characteristics:

  1. A casual approach to God without considering His position. Perhaps you often hear an emphasis on a close, personal relationship with God.  That is biblically accurate and necessary.  Meanwhile, you must also recognize that He is “Our Father in heaven” whose name is “hallowed” (Matt. 6:9) while you are a human “on earth” (Eccl. 5:2).  Reflect His exalted position in your approach to Him!
  2. Too many words and not enough listening. When I read that idea in verses 1 and 2, I picture someone who babbles incessantly without pausing to listen.  These many words can be an indication of selfishness where a person thinks that this divine relationship is all about him/her.  Instead, you are instructed to “let your words be few” (v. 2).
  3. Hasty words and not enough consideration. This is often related to speaking too much, but not always.  It can be reflected in times when you open your mouth before engaging your heart and brain (v. 2).  Take time to reflect in your relationship to the Lord.
  4. Failure to keep a promise made to God. Vows to the Lord are much less a part of the Christian culture today than they were at the time the Scriptures were written.  Many believers choose instead to make no promises or at least to not make them public.  By so doing, no one knows when they fail.  Solomon, however, is not speaking against promises and vows.  He is encouraging the follow through!  Keep your promises!

I am guessing that all of us have been guilty of offering such a sacrifice.  Now, based on God’s word, we know to steer clear of those very real risks and bring true honor to the God of heaven.

“Therefore fear God!” (v. 7)

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 16: Finding Freedom From Futility

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

Solomon is right!  Living life “under the sun”…in a fallen world without the Lord…is a futile endeavor.  It is filled with all kinds of experiences that cause pain and sorrow.  Undoubtedly, you have had your own run-ins with that…Perhaps in areas like those Solomon identified in this chapter:

  1. Oppression (vv. 1-3)- Injustice in the world places some people under the cruel hand of others who repress them. People experience it on the basis of race, gender, age, nationality, political affiliation, or…just because!  You’ll find it on the school playground and in prison camps.  But God places His people in this world as ones who will seek justice and free people from oppression.
  2. Envy (vv. 4-6)- James says that this is the root cause of fights (Js. 4:1-3). Solomon points out how it leads to anything but peace!  Meanwhile, God calls His people to be marked by characteristics like contentment and generosity.
  3. Loneliness (vv. 7-12)- Without others to go through life with, a person is inefficient in work, helpless in time of trouble, and overpowered by opposition. God, therefore, calls His people to engage in relationships where they seek to bless and help each other.

Your conclusions about life do not have to parallel the “chasing after the wind” bottom line that Solomon found.  If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, He has called you out of the world and has given you purpose.  He wants to use you as a voice against oppression and injustice.  His plan is that you find contentment in what you have instead of coveting what you lack.  He provides others in the body of Christ who can bless you and whom you can bless.  You must choose, however, to view life from His perspective!  You must view life from a vantage point that raises you above the natural, day-to-day experiences.  Your point of view must be forged in the fire of God’s word that offers you eyes to see the divine, eternal plan and will of God.

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 15: Dogs, Cats, and You

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

Have you ever jokingly wished for the life of your pet?  Many cats and dogs are catered to.  They don’t experience the frustrations of work or the anxieties of life.  Excuse the pun, but they seem to “have life by the tail.”

Although the writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t exalt the life of a pet above yours, he does seem to put both lives on the same plain.  “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return” (v. 20).  It is true that death is the great leveler of all living beings.  Ultimately all are destined for decay.

Be careful, however, in concluding that physical death is the end for both.  You see, yours is not a “dog’s life” in a “dog eat dog world.”  You are not a product of evolution.  You are not simply a highly developed animal.  You are different.  In contrast to “Fluffy,” God created you in His image (Gen. 1:26, 27).  He has placed a sense of eternity in your heart (Eccl. 3:11)…not in “Fido.”  Your death does not represent a “light’s out” experience in which you will no longer consciously exist.  Your “flesh” is different from “Lassie’s” (1 Cor. 15:35-44) in that it will one day be resurrected to new life if you have a personal relationship with Christ.  Your life is different in that you can connect with your Creator both now and in eternity.  There is purpose that comes from that that “Garfield” does not experience.

There is an answer to Solomon’s question posed in verse 21 from a purely natural standpoint, “Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward?”  Life in Christ brings purpose for the present and confidence about the future.  John described it like this in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

You can know if your spirit will rise upward at death.  Do you know that your spirit will rise upward?  That kind of confidence is not a statement of personal pride stemming from your own goodness.  No, that kind of confidence is a statement of trust stemming from the grace of God extended on the cross.

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 14: Hard Work and a Nice Meal

Read Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26

“Chasing after the wind…”  Ever tried doing that?  Probably not.  You know that you cannot see it, let alone catch it!  It is no wonder Solomon uses that word picture of futility to describe man’s attempt to experience meaning in life apart from God.  It is just not possible!

Solomon knew from his own experiences that life, without connection to the Creator, was one filled with vanity.  He had attempted it in many ways.  He tried education and wisdom (vv. 1:16-18; 2:12-16) but found them to be a dead end street.  When he pursued pleasure (2:1-3), he discovered it to be empty.  Building projects and acquisition of wealth (2:4-11) proved to be unsatisfying.  Even hard work done without God in your life and purpose is futile toil (2:17-23).

Based on those conclusions, it sounds like life is worthless.  It is enough to cause a person to say, “What’s the use?”  But Solomon doesn’t leave you in a hopeless state of depression.  Even though he withholds his final conclusion for the last chapter, he gives you a glimpse of hope and purpose in the latter verses of chapter two.

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”  (2:24, 25)

In other words, when Christ is part of your life, you can find joy and satisfaction in work.  Even menial tasks can be done to please God whom you serve (Col. 3:23).  But that’s not all.  You can also enjoy food and drink, because you recognize Him to be the source of every good and perfect gift (Js. 1:17) and even eating and drinking can be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

In short, when life is lived without God, everything lacks meaning and satisfaction.  When life is lived with God, everything has meaning…if you will recognize it…And everything can bring satisfaction…if you will allow it!

If you are a Christ-follower, perhaps your perspective on the things you do needs to change.  If you are not a Christ-follower, why not surrender the control of your life over to Him?

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 13: Look a Little Bit Higher!

Read Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

It seems almost as if the old country song “Bony Fingers” must have had the same author as the book of Ecclesiastes.  One of the lines to the song states, “Work your fingers to the bone…What do you get?  Bony fingers.”  Solomon put it this way in Ecclesiastes 1:3, “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?”  The implied conclusion of both is, “if you work hard, there will be nothing lasting or worthwhile to show for it.”

That single statement is one of many reasons Solomon concludes, “Everything is meaningless.”  In other words, life is vain.  It is purposeless.  The unending cycles of life depict an emptiness.  There are generations that come and go, the sun rises and sets and rises again. The wind blows in different directions and then returns.  Streams keep flowing to sea without filling it.  No matter what we have seen or heard, we still want to see and hear more.  Even history seems to repeat itself.  Generations come and go without leaving a lasting memory.  Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?

Remember, though, that Solomon was looking at life “under the sun” (vv. 3, 9).  That kind of life is different than life “in the Son” (Jesus).  The message of Ecclesiastes is fairly straightforward: life without God is meaningless, but life with God is full of meaning.  Life with no reference to or acknowledgement of God is futile and empty. It’s chasing after the wind.  But life lived with God is life to the full and thus can be enjoyed because it is a gift from God.  No wonder Jesus described part of the purpose of His coming with these incredible words that give us purpose:  “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Our study in Ecclesiastes will help us to examine from which source we are seeking satisfaction.

If your life seems futile, it is likely because you haven’t raised your view high enough.  Are you only looking within the parameters of the natural world?  Have you overlooked the fact that God has infused the natural world with spiritual, eternal significance?

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes

April 12: Meeting the Teacher

Read 1 Kings 3:1-28

As our kids were growing up, meeting their teachers every year was a tense time for them and for us.  “Who is she?”  “What is he like?”  “Will the person be a good match for our kids?”  “Will he set the bar too low?”  “Will she be too demanding?”  Those were just some of the questions we found ourselves asking internally each year.

As we launch this new series focused on the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, we find ourselves needing to “meet the teacher.”  “Teacher” is the way the NIV Bible translates the word “qoholeth,” the word the author, Solomon, uses seven times in the book in referring to himself.

So, who was this “teacher,” Solomon?

  • He was a son of David, born to him through Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:24).
  • He followed David on the throne over Israel (1 Kings 2:10-12).
  • He had been promised the privilege of building the temple that David envisioned (1 Chronicles 17).
  • He walked with God and loved Him (1 Kings. 3:3).
  • He was a man of compromise as he married foreign women and sacrificed on pagan altars (1 Kings 3:1-4).

While all of those describe who this “teacher” was, there was still a moment in his life that came to define him.  Early in Solomon’s reign as king, God made to him an amazing offer not unlike that of the mythical genie in a bottle, “Your wish is my command.”

So what did Solomon request?  What would you have requested?  Knowing the humanly impossible task before him of leading a nation, the new king asked for wisdom.  And, true to His promise, God gave that to him…and more.  He gave Solomon unsurpassed wisdom and wealth, honor, and a long life.

In spite of all that Solomon had at his fingertips, Ecclesiastes is a poetic account of this man’s search for and pursuit of true purpose and satisfaction in life.  Where is that found?  “The teacher” researches that for us and, in these twelve chapter, reports on his findings.

Have you found real purpose and satisfaction in life?  Join us as we disclose what Solomon discovered.

sbk

Posted in Chasing the Wind, Ecclesiastes