Pastoral Care. Sending short emails to people at special times in their lives will help to build a spirit of community.
What God’s will is.
”I know what his will is by those who direct me; whatever they bid me do, if it is ever so small in itself, it is the will of God for me. Then do it in the manner he wills it, not sewing an old thing as if it were new or a new thing as if it were old; not fretting because the oven is too hot, or in a fuss because it is too cold. You understand – not flying and driving because you are too hurried, not creeping like a snail because no one pushes you. Our dear Savior was never in extremes. The third object is to do his will because he wills it, that is, to be ready to quit at any moment and do anything else to which you may be called.”
“Be above the vain fears of nature and efforts of your enemy. You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you, and the best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow in tears, but you may be sure to reap in Joy.” (Elizabeth Ann Seton).
God claims all of our lives, both spiritual and earthly as his own. How might this realization change common perceptions of worship, church, stewardship, and the like?
Who are humans? Who is Man? We are creatures of God, made in his image as Sons or Daughters to join Him in heaven. Why? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This means we live here on earth a life received from and lived for God in dependence and active obedience, so that we can make the decision to join Him and to prepare for that joining.
(Matthew 12:50)”Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”
From your life this week, would others see you as a “Brother or sister” of Jesus?
As we have seen above, God has trained his children to offer praise to him, and that when we do so we become Christ’s brother and sisters. And again as we are reminded in the following statement, We also are created in the image of God.
“God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). Genesis goes on to assert that: “Man is privileged to run the world, but he/she is ultimately responsible and accountable to its Creator.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee,” (St. Augustine)
Ecclesiastes Book Overview
|Purpose:||To spare future generations the bitterness of learning through their own experience that life is meaningless apart from God|
|To Whom Written:||Solomon’s subjects in particular, and all people in general|
|Date Written:||Probably around 935 b.c., late in Solomon’s life|
|Setting:||Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God|
|Key Verse:||“Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person” (12:13).|
The molded bunny lies in the basket, surrounded by green paper “grass.” With Easter morning eyes wide with anticipation, the little boy carefully lifts the chocolate figure and bites into one of the long ears. But the sweet taste fades quickly, and the child looks again at the candy in his hand. It’s hollow!
Empty, futile, hollow, nothing—the words have a ring of disappointment and disillusionment. Yet this is the life experience of many. Grasping the sweet things—possessions, experience, power, and pleasure—they find nothing inside. Life is empty, meaningless—and they sink into despair.
Almost 3,000 years ago, Solomon spoke of this human dilemma; but the insights and applications of his message are relevant to our time. Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s written sermon, is an analysis of life’s experiences and a critical essay about life’s true meaning. In this profound book, Solomon takes us on a reflective journey through his life, explaining how everything he had tried, tested, or tasted had been “meaningless”—useless, irrational, pointless, foolish, and empty—an exercise in futility. And remember, these words are from one who “had it all”—tremendous intellect, power, and wealth. After this biographical tour, Solomon made his triumphant conclusion: “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad” (12:13, 14).
When Solomon became king, he asked God for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-12), and he became the wisest man in the world (1 Kings 4:29-34). He studied, taught, judged, and wrote. Kings and leaders from other nations came to Jerusalem to learn from him. But with all of his practical insight on life, Solomon failed to heed his own advice, and he began a downward spiral. Near the end of his life, Solomon looked back with an attitude of humility and repentance. He took stock of his life, hoping to spare his readers the bitterness of learning through personal experience that everything apart from God is empty, hollow, and meaningless.
Although the tone of Ecclesiastes is negative and pessimistic, we must not conclude that the only chapter worth reading and applying is the last one, where he draws his conclusions. In reality, the entire book is filled with practical wisdom (how to accomplish things in the world and stay out of trouble) and spiritual wisdom (how to find and know eternal values). Solomon had a very honest approach to life. All of his remarks relating to the futility of life are there for a purpose: to lead us to seek fulfillment and happiness in God alone. He was not trying to destroy all hope, but to direct our hopes to the only one who can truly fulfill them and give our life meaning. Solomon affirms the value of knowledge, relationships, work, and pleasure, but only in their proper place. All of these temporal things in life must be seen in light of the eternal.
Read Ecclesiastes and learn about life. Hear the stern warnings and dire predictions, and commit yourself to remember your Creator now (12:1).
|1. Solomon’s personal experience (1:1–2:26)
2. Solomon’s general observations (3:1–5:20)
3. Solomon’s practical counsel (6:1–8:17)
4. Solomon’s final conclusion (9:1–12:14)
|Ecclesiastes shows that certain paths in life lead to emptiness. This profound book also helps us discover true purpose in life. Such wisdom can spare us from the emptiness that results from a life without God. Solomon teaches that people will not find meaning in life through knowledge, money, pleasure, work, or popularity. True satisfaction comes from knowing that what we are doing is part of God’s purpose for our life. This is a book that can help free us from our scramble for power, approval, and money, and draw us closer to God.|
|Searching||Solomon searched for satisfaction almost as though he was conducting a scientific experiment. Through this process, he discovered that life without God is a long and fruitless search for enjoyment, meaning, and fulfillment. True happiness is not in our power to attain because we always want more than we can have. In addition, there are circumstances beyond our control that can snatch away our possessions or attainments.||People are still searching. Yet the more they try to get, the more they realize how little they really have. No pleasure or happiness is possible without God. Without him, satisfaction is a lost search. Above everything we should strive to know and love God. He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy.|
|Emptiness||Solomon shows how empty it is to pursue the pleasures that this life has to offer rather than seek to have a relationship with the eternal God. The search for pleasure, wealth, and success is ultimately disappointing. Nothing in the world can fill the emptiness and satisfy the deep longings in our restless hearts.||The cure for emptiness is to center on God. His love also can fill the emptiness of human experience. Fear God throughout your life, and fill your life with serving God and others rather than with selfish pleasures.|
|Work||Solomon tried to shake people’s confidence in their own efforts, abilities, and wisdom and to direct them to faith in God as the only sound basis for living. Without God, there is no lasting reward or benefit in hard work.||Work done with the wrong attitude will leave us empty. But work accepted as an assignment from God can be seen as a gift. Examine what you expect from your efforts. God gives you abilities and opportunities to work so that you can use your time well.|
|Death||The certainty of death makes all human achievements futile. God has a plan for each one of us that goes beyond life and death. The reality of aging and dying reminds each individual of the end to come when God will judge each person’s life.||Because life is short, we need wisdom that is greater than this world can offer. We need the words of God so we can live right. If we listen to him, his wisdom spares us the bitterness of futile human experience and gives us a hope that goes beyond death.|
|Wisdom||Human wisdom doesn’t contain all the answers. Knowledge and education have their limits. To understand life and make right choices, we need the wisdom that can be found only in God’s Word—the Bible.||When we realize that God will evaluate all that we do, we should learn to live wisely, remembering that he is present each day, and learn to obey his guidelines for living. But in order to have God’s wisdom, we must first get to know and honor him.|
Everything Is Meaningless
2 _ “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless!”
3What do people get for all their hard work? 4Generations come and go, but nothing really changes. 5The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. 6The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. 7The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea. 8 _ Everything is so weary and tiresome! No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
9History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10What can you point to that is new? How do you know it didn’t already exist long ago? 11We don’t remember what happened in those former times. And in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
The Futility of Wisdom
12 _ I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. 13I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done in the world. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. 14Everything under the sun is meaningless, like chasing the wind. 15What is wrong cannot be righted. What is missing cannot be recovered.
16 _ I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” 17So I worked hard to distinguish wisdom from foolishness. But now I realize that even this was like chasing the wind. 18For the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
1 _ I said to myself, “Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. 2“It is silly to be laughing all the time,” I said. “What good does it do to seek only pleasure?” 3After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. While still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I hoped to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
4 _ I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. 6I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. 7I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned great herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who lived in Jerusalem before me. 8I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
9So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. And with it all, I remained clear-eyed so that I could evaluate all these things. 10Anything I wanted, I took. I did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work, an additional reward for all my labors. 11 _ But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity under heaven.
2A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.
4A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6A time to search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.
8 _ A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 _ For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
8“All is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “utterly meaningless.”
9 _ Because the Teacher was wise, he taught the people everything he knew. He collected proverbs and classified them. 10 _ Indeed, the Teacher taught the plain truth, and he did so in an interesting way.
11 _ A wise teacher’s words spur students to action and emphasize important truths. The collected sayings of the wise are like guidance from a shepherd.
12 _ But, my child,£ be warned: There is no end of opinions ready to be expressed. Studying them can go on forever and become very exhausting!
13 _ Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. 14God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
1 Wine produces mockers; liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise.
2 The king’s fury is like a lion’s roar; to rouse his anger is to risk your life.
3 Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling.
4 If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.
5 Though good advice lies deep within a person’s heart, the wise will draw it out.
6 Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is really faithful?
7 The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children after them.
8 When a king judges, he carefully weighs all the evidence, distinguishing the bad from the good.
9 Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin”?
10 The Lord despises double standards of every kind.
11 Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure and right.
12 Ears to hear and eyes to see—both are gifts from the Lord.
13 If you love sleep, you will end in poverty. Keep your eyes open, and there will be plenty to eat!
14The buyer haggles over the price, saying, “It’s worthless,” then brags about getting a bargain!
15Wise speech is rarer and more valuable than gold and rubies.
16Be sure to get collateral from anyone who guarantees the debt of a stranger. Get a deposit if someone guarantees the debt of a foreigner.
17 Stolen bread tastes sweet, but it turns to gravel in the mouth.
18 Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.
19 A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much.
20 If you curse your father or mother, the lamp of your life will be snuffed out.
21An inheritance obtained early in life is not a blessing in the end.
22 Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.
23 The Lord despises double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.
24 How can we understand the road we travel? It is the Lord who directs our steps.
25 It is dangerous to make a rash promise to God before counting the cost.
26 A wise king finds the wicked, lays them out like wheat, then runs the crushing wheel over them.
27 The Lord’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit,£ exposing every hidden motive.
28 Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.
29 The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.
30Physical punishment cleanses away evil;£ such discipline purifies the heart.
A person who is truly confident of his or her strength does not need to parade it. A truly brave person does not look for chances to prove it. A resourceful woman can find a way out of a fight. A man of endurance will avoid retaliating. Foolish people find it impossible to avoid strife. Men and women of character can. What kind of person are you?
You’ve heard similar warnings: If you don’t study, you’ll fail the test; if you don’t save, you won’t have money when you need it. God wants us to anticipate future needs and prepare for them. We can’t expect him to come to our rescue when we cause our own problems through lack of planning and action. He provides for us, but he also expects us to be responsible.
No one is without sin. As soon as we confess our sin and repent, sinful thoughts and actions begin to creep back into our life. We all need ongoing cleansing, moment by moment. Thank God he provides forgiveness by his mercy when we ask for it. Make confession and repentance a regular part of your talks with God. Rely on him moment by moment for the cleansing you need.
“Dishonest scales” refers to the loaded scales a merchant might use in order to cheat customers. Dishonesty is a difficult sin to avoid. It is easy to cheat if we think no one is looking. But dishonesty affects the very core of a person. It makes him untrustworthy and untrusting. It eventually makes him unable to know himself or relate to others. Don’t take dishonesty lightly. Even the smallest portion of dishonesty contains enough of the poison of deceit to kill your spiritual life. If there is any dishonesty in your life, tell God about it now.
We are often confused by the events around us. Some things we will never understand until years later when we look back and see how God was working. This proverb counsels us to not worry if we don’t understand everything as it happens. Instead, we should trust that God knows what he’s doing, even if his timing or design is not clear to us. See Psalm 37:23 for a reassuring promise of God’s direction in your life.
This proverb points out the danger of making a vow rashly and then reconsidering it. God takes vows seriously and requires that they be carried out (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). We often have good intentions when making a vow because we want to show God that we are determined to please him. Jesus, however, says it is better not to make promises to God because he knows how difficult they are to keep (Matthew 5:33-37). If you still feel it is important to make a vow, make sure that you weigh the consequences of breaking that vow. (In Judges 11, Jephthah made a rash promise to sacrifice the first thing he saw on his return home. As it happened, he saw his daughter first.) It is better not to make promises than to make them and then later not keep them. It is best to count the cost beforehand and then to fulfill them. (For a list of other Bible people who made rash vows, see the chart “Rash Vows.”)
|Honesty and Dishonesty|
|Proverbs tells us plainly that God despises all forms of dishonesty. Not only does God hate dishonesty, but we are told that it works against us—others no longer trust us, and we cannot even enjoy our dishonest gains. It is wiser to be honest because “the godly escape such trouble” (12:13).|
|Leaders value those who speak honestly||16:13|
|Most people will appreciate truth in the end more than flattery||28:23|
|Quality of Life|
|The godly person’s plans are just||12:5|
|Truthful witnesses do not lie; false witnesses breathe lies||14:5|
|Truthful witnesses save lives||14:25|
|The children of the righteous are blessed||20:7|
|Ill-gotten gain has no lasting value||10:2|
|The righteous are rescued from trouble||11:8|
|The evil are trapped by their own words||12:13|
|Fraudulent gain is sweet for a while||20:17|
|Good people are guided by their honesty||11:3|
|Truthful lips endure||12:19|
|Riches gained quickly don’t last||20:21|
|Riches gained dishonestly don’t last||21:6|
|The honest are kept safe||28:18|
|God delights in honesty||11:1|
|God delights in those who are truthful||12:22|
|God despises double standards||20:10|
|God is pleased when we do what is right and just||21:3|