Living in the Present – September 29, 2023

I can probably assume that everyone reading this article has driven in a really bad snowstorm. Being from Upstate New York, I’ve had my share of driving in blizzards. I can remember driving to school my senior year in almost a foot of snow because they didn’t cancel. Yes, you read that right. If New York canceled every time we got a foot of snow overnight, then I’d still be in high school. So how should you drive in a snowstorm? Most of us would not say, “speed up and take sharp turns.” That would not end well! When caught in a blizzard it’s wise to slow down, turn on your flashers if it’s hard to see, and never stop in the road. The truth is, living in an uncertain world is like navigating a snowstorm. It’s dangerous and we must be careful. Ecclesiastes 11 continues the topic of why we need to submit our lives to God. Solomon has taught us that life is short, and this world is full of uncertainty. In this chapter, we learn two facts about life and the proper responses.

Although tomorrow is uncertain, we should be diligent today (Eccl. 11:1-6). In verses 1-4, Solomon gives some proverbs about planning for the future. The message is- be diligent today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Solomon alludes to seafaring trade. Israel wasn’t known as a seafaring nation. However, this trade peaked during Solomon’s reign. The sea is a dangerous place, especially in a world without motors, life jackets, and the Coast Guard. Nothing is certain on the sea. The winds could be still or wild. The waves could be crashing one minute and calm the next. A capsized vessel was a death sentence. Solomon is encouraging us to take advantage of the opportunities that we have. There may be risks, like in seafaring, but there are also great rewards. We never know what disaster may come, so we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. It’s wise to use the gifts that God gave to you and trust Him with the results. 

Again, Solomon reminds us in verses 5-6 that we can’t comprehend God’s works, so we should be diligent with our time. Solomon illustrates this point with the mystery of human life. Man is composed of two parts- immaterial and material, or body and soul. Our physical nature comes from our parents’ DNA. But where does the soul come from? Ultimately, we know it comes from God. But how does He put the soul in the baby in the womb? This is a mystery to us. Likewise, we can’t understand all God’s works. The response to this fact is found verse 6, “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” Basically, we don’t know the outcome, so we should be diligent with the time that we have. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we can’t comprehend all of God’s works, so we should be committed to using our time for good. 

Although death is certain, we should enjoy the life we have (Eccl. 11:7-10). Solomon gives us the facts- life is short, death is certain, so rejoice in the time that you have. We should enjoy the life that God has given us, but we also need to remember that death is coming. Our days are numbered. All that we have in this life will be lost to the grave. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the life that God has given us. This concept may seem crazy to an unbeliever, but Solomon understands that there is life after death (cf. 3:17; 12:14). Although this world is broken and offers no hope, God gives joy and hope to those who fear Him. 

In verses 8-9, Solomon commends joy. He tells us to enjoy our youth but remember that God is the Final Judge. So don’t use your life for wickedness, don’t pursue the vain pleasures of this world, because God will hold you accountable. This brings up a very important fact for us to consider- life can be enjoyable without sin. Often we fall into the trap of thinking: “Christian stuff is good and worldly stuff is fun.” But that’s not the whole truth. Solomon has taught us that true joy and pleasure are found when we trust and obey God. David declares in Psalm 16:11, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Did David have an easy life? Certainly not! But did David enjoy his life? Yes, because he understood that only God offers true joy.  

The final verse is a plea to remove the frustrations and evils of this life because they’re vanity. Solomon’s message in this book has been- if you seek meaning and purpose in this world, then you will only find pain and frustration. So put off that pursuit and live a life that pleases God. The vanity of this world will only bring pain. So remove them from your life. Instead, submit your life to the Creator and Final Judge.  

God wants you to be happy. But the happiness He gives is pure. The fact is, lasting happiness is only found in God. We need to submit our work and desires to God because He controls all things. Although life is like driving in a snowstorm, we have to keep moving. We can’t control the future, but God does. We can’t control death, but God does. And God is the Final Judge. So submit to Him and He’ll give you true joy.

The Benefits of Wisdom – September 22, 2023

What are the benefits of exercise? Exercise can help you be healthier, stronger, and more energetic. What are the limits of exercise? Exercise takes time, it can cause injuries, and in today’s world it often costs money. Like exercise, wisdom has benefits and limits. Ecclesiastes has taught us a lot about wisdom. Wisdom is good. However, we can’t trust our own wisdom to fix all our problems. We’ve looked at the limits of wisdom, the attributes of wisdom, and how to be wise in a wicked world. These discussions have pointed us to our need for submitting to God. He controls all things, and our lives belong to Him. Last week we uncovered the reality that we live in a world full of uncertainty. Once again, Solomon reminds us that wisdom is necessary in a world full of vanity. Ecclesiastes 10 gives the benefits of wisdom in a world full of uncertainty.

The first benefit of wisdom is that it protects from foolish mistakes (Eccl. 10:2-7). In verse 2, Solomon lays out the sharp contrast between the wise and the fool. The fact is, they’re on totally different paths. What path someone is on is usually evident by their words. A fool is known by words that lack sense. Foolishness is almost never quiet. Solomon gives some wisdom in verse 4. He says that if a ruler or someone with authority gets angry with you, don’t run, or respond with anger. Instead, the wise will respond with patience and humility by remaining calm. In verses 5-7, Solomon explains that this is important because those in high authority have power over your life. In those days, a king could execute a citizen for any reason he saw fit. Solomon’s point is, the wise won’t overreact when someone is angry with them. A fool will respond harshly and only make things worse. Wisdom remains calm when falsely accused and submits to authority.

The second benefit of wisdom is that it often brings success (Eccl. 10:8-11). Wisdom will consider the challenges and potential dangers of a job, prepare accordingly, then accomplish the task. Any job has potential risks. The fool ignores them and eventually regrets it. Wisdom will consider the risks and work carefully with proper planning and preparation. Furthermore, the wise won’t be lazy or procrastinate. The job only gets harder when we delay. If we procrastinate, then we risk losing the job all together. Solomon gives the example of a snake charmer. If he is slow to charm the deadly serpent, then it will bite him, and he’ll have a bigger problem. Therefore, the wise must be diligent and it will eventually bring success.

Third, wisdom wins favor with others (Eccl. 10:12-20). Wisdom wins favor by thoughtful words. A wise man earns approval by his words, but the fool is consumed by his foolish talk. The fool will talk a lot and his words will be full of filth and madness. But a wise man uses his words carefully. The fool multiplies words, yet his understanding is little. Wisdom also wins favor by using authority for good. A foolish ruler will use his power for his own wealth and satisfaction, instead of for his people. A young and foolish king that is only committed to his own glory is a curse to a land. This kind of ruler brings destruction. 

This section reminds me of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. In 1 Kings 12, we read about Rehoboam’s ascension to the throne of Israel. Early in his reign he was faced with a question. The people of Israel asked Rehoboam to lighten their workload because they had done so much during Solomon’s reign. They promised to serve him faithfully and give him full allegiance if he granted their request. First, Rehoboam took council with the elders. The wise elders told him to treat the people with kindness to earn their favor and allegiance. But Rehoboam didn’t like their advice. So, he went to his friends and they told him to respond with an iron fist and assert himself by adding to the people’s workload. In 1 Kings 12:14, Rehoboam tells the people that he will add to their yoke and discipline them with scorpions. But the foolish king should have listened to the elders because the people responded in verse 16, “And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents.” After this foolish decision, the kingdom of Israel was divided, and Rehoboam’s reign would be remembered forever as a bitter failure. The fact is, a foolish king can destroy a whole kingdom. But a wise king is a great benefit to a land and will be favored by the people. Wisdom will earn favor with others, but foolishness only causes strife.

What are you known for? The fool is quick to anger, slow to work, and recklessly causes strife. The wise man is patient, diligent, slow to speak, and pursues peace. Wisdom will protect, help, and bless those who have it. So get wisdom! James 1:5-6 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” We need God’s wisdom. So ask Him in faith and He will graciously provide.

The Uncertainties of Life – September 15, 2023

“These are uncertain times.” If you’re like me, then you were probably tired of hearing that phrase during the COVID-19 pandemic. It felt like every commercial and news channel used this phrase on a daily basis. The irony of this statement is that in a fallen world all time is uncertain. No moment of life is guaranteed. No one can tell you for certain what tomorrow will bring. It doesn’t matter if we are in World War 3 or a worldwide pandemic, all time is uncertain.

In Ecclesiastes 9-10, Solomon writes about the uncertainties of life. Although God controls all things, life under the sun is still full of puzzling realities. This world is unpredictable. Solomon is considering this fact to show us why we need to submit to God. Continuing the topic of last week, this section teaches us that we should submit to God because life is uncertain. Solomon explains this by describing two uncertainties in life:

First, we see that time is uncertain (Eccl. 9:11-12). The outcomes of life are unpredictable. The fastest don’t always win the race. The strongest don’t always win the battle. The wisest don’t always succeed. This is because we live in a world full of chance. Victory in life is never certain. That’s why sports are so fun. No matter how good or bad a team is, there’s always a chance to win. The Cinderella story only happens because victory is never guaranteed for anyone. Success is uncertain. The smartest people can lose it all with one wrong move. The fool can amass great riches and never lose a dime. Life can be random. One moment things are good, and the next they’re awful. Time and chance happen to all because these things are beyond our control. 

Furthermore, the time of death is uncertain. Solomon says, “For man does not know his time.” No one knows their time of death. Death happens suddenly. Solomon compares it to the fish that is caught in a net or a bird that is caught in a snare. One moment they’re happy and free, and the next they’re trapped and killed. This is how life works. Our time is limited, and that limit is unknowable.

Second, we learn that wisdom is uncertain (Eccl. 9:13-10:1). Solomon illustrates the uncertainty of wisdom with a story in verses 13-16. He describes a little city that is being attacked by a great king. It seems like all hope is lost for this city. But in a crazy turn of events the little city was delivered by a poor, wise man. Somehow this wise man knew how to defeat the enemy and save the city. This great victory should earn this man a hero’s honor, right? Solomon says in verse 15, “Yet no one remembered that poor man.” How outrageous is that? This man saved the city and yet everyone forgot him. The point is, wisdom gives strength, but its results are still uncertain.

Next, Solomon assures us that wisdom is valuable, but it can’t fix sin. The words of the wise are better than the shouting of fools. Wisdom is better than the weapons of war. As seen in the previous story, wisdom can earn victory even when the battle seems lost. However, as great and powerful as wisdom is, one sinner can destroy much good. Like dead flies that ruin an expensive perfume, a little foolishness can destroy the hard work of wisdom. The outcomes of wisdom are uncertain because we live in a sin-cursed world. One foolish act can destroy a lifetime of wisdom. Wisdom is like a house of cards. It takes careful skill and steadiness to build a house of cards. This structure is an impressive display of weight distribution and geometry. However, just one small gust of air can topple the whole thing. Likewise, wisdom can give success, but one small act of foolishness can take it all away. 

You can’t control the future, or time, or what happens with your life. When we consider all the uncertainties and dangers that we face every day, it can become crippling. But the truth is, although life is full of uncertainty, we can trust God because He is certain. God controls time, death, joy, and results. Life is too short and uncertain to depend on yourself, so submit to God. The most foolish lie of sin is the outlandish claim that you don’t need God. But the facts of life clearly prove that wrong. Thankfully, God wants you. He sent His Son to die for us on the cross to save us because He wants us. So don’t be foolish, submit to God and trust Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Submit to God – September 8, 2023

As you read this sentence, a moment of your life has passed by that will never happen again. Time is linear. Once a moment happens, it will never “be” again. That’s how time works in this world. The Bible teaches us that God is Sovereign. That means He controls all things, including time. In this series, we’ve wrestled with the fact that man cannot totally grasp God’s purpose and plan for this world. In Ecclesiastes 9, Solomon considers these facts and gives us the proper response to God’s sovereignty. Today we’ll see that because our lives are subject to God’s will, we should submit to Him. Solomon gives two reasons why we should submit our lives to God: 

First, we should submit our lives to God because death is inevitable (Eccl. 9:1-6). Solomon says our deeds are “in the hand of God.” All of us are subject to God’s sovereign will. We’re not the masters of our own fate. We can’t control the future, our success, other people, and ultimately, we can’t control the day that we die. But God controls all these things. Solomon reminds us that we’re all subject to the same fate. Solomon contrasts the righteous and the wicked, and on a surface level it seems like there’s no difference in the end. Both face adversity and hate. Both experience prosperity and love. And both die in the end. 

Sadly, this fact has caused many people to live in wickedness because they think that death is the end. Man’s response to the reality of death is to live in rampant wickedness and pursue whatever evil desires he can possibly imagine. But what’s the problem with that lifestyle? You still die in the end, and you will face God’s judgment. Ecclesiastes 3:17 warned that God will judge the righteous and the wicked. God is the final Judge and those that live in wickedness will face His wrath. So, life has advantages over death. He who is joined to the living has hope. If you’re still breathing, then there’s hope for your soul. Hope for what? Hope for a life of meaning, to escape the vanity of this world, and to find eternal joy in God. The dead are forgotten and will never return. Their life on this earth is over. However, there is still hope for the living.

Second, we should submit our lives to God because He can give us true joy (Eccl. 9:7-10). Life is a gift from God. Our food, clothing, goods, and relationships are gifts from God and should be enjoyed. Our lives are fleeting, so we should enjoy the time that we have. God wants us to enjoy His gifts. He approves of those that fear Him and seek to please Him with their lives. God controls the hearts of men, so only He can give us true joy and peace. Even common things like eating and drinking are a gift from God and should be used for His glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Life is not always a party, it’s not always easy, but it can be joyful. 

Solomon commends things like marriage and hard work. God created these things for us to enjoy. We only have one life on this earth, so we should use it to serve and honor God. He has given us so many blessings to use and appreciate. We should make the most of the talents and abilities that God has given us. We should take the opportunities that the Lord puts in front of us. We should work hard for the glory of God and give Him all the praise.

Where do you find joy? This life is short, and our time is running out. Thankfully, this life can be enjoyed when we submit to God. God controls all things. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is before all things, He knows all things, and all things are for Him. So, we should submit to our Creator and Lord. We can have hope in life and death because of Christ. Only Jesus can rescue us from our sin and guarantee our home in heaven. He is our only hope. So, submit to Christ because life is short and true joy is only found in Him.

Wise Living – September 1, 2023

Solomon talks a lot about wisdom. This doesn’t surprise us because that was his thing. When we read Proverbs it’s easy to be overwhelmed by his supreme understanding. But as we’ve seen, wisdom is not everything. Wisdom is good and we need it, but we can’t trust our own wisdom to save us or to give us joy. Wisdom is kind of like steak. Steak is delicious and a wonderful gift of God. However, if I only eat steak and nothing else, then I’ll get sick of it (eventually) and my body would lack other necessary nutrients for proper functioning. Likewise, wisdom is good, but it’s insufficient to provide the meaning of life.   

In Ecclesiastes 8, Solomon turns again to the value of wisdom because he wants us to understand that although wisdom can’t save us, it is good for us. We can’t trust our own wisdom for meaning and purpose, but God still desires us to be wise because we live in a wicked word. Our world is full of sin and chaos, and this is nothing new. Solomon observed the wickedness of his day and said in Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” We could echo those words today. So, how can we be wise in a wicked world? In this chapter, Solomon explains how to be wise with three attributes of wisdom:

The first attribute of wisdom is that a wise person obeys God’s appointed authorities (Eccl. 8:1-9). Solomon starts this chapter with a reminder of the value of wisdom. He says that the wise will stand out and have a good reputation. They’ll be known for their upright character and godliness. This character is demonstrated by their obedience to the king. The wise person will obey the king or ruling authority because God has appointed them to that position. God determines who rules and exercises authority. Lest we think that we’re exempt from this command I implore you to read Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-25 and consider the context in which those passages were written. God appoints all rulers, and we display our trust in God by obeying those authorities.

Then Solomon goes a step further and explains why we should honor our authorities. We should serve and pray for our leaders and do what is right. Solomon gives three reasons why this is wise: 1) Honor your rulers because they’re superior (v. 4), 2) Honor your rulers because it keeps you out of trouble (v. 5), and 3) Honor your rulers because the wicked will be judged by God (vv. 6-9). God will punish those that disobey His commands. So, we should honor God by honoring the authorities He put in place.

The second attribute of wisdom is that a wise person fears God (Eccl. 8:10-13). Once again Solomon reminds us of the reality of death, in particular the death of the wicked. The wicked may prosper in this life and deceive themselves by thinking they can escape God, but death is proof that everyone is accountable to God. Sadly, our sinful world tends to praise the wicked and persecute the righteous. But Solomon reminds us that no sinner can escape death by his wickedness. In verse 12, we have a glimpse of hope because Solomon says that the one who fears God will escape His wrath. Although the wicked seem to prosper in this life, their judgment will come. So, we should fear the Final Judge. Those that fear God will escape His wrath. This is good news! We’re all sinners and we all deserve God’s wrath. However, we can be spared if we fear God. But those who do not fear God, who persist in wickedness and never repent, will face God’s eternal wrath. 

The third attribute of wisdom is that a wise person enjoys the life that God has given (Eccl. 8:14-17). As Solomon examined life on this earth, he noticed this frustrating fact- good and bad come to the wicked and to the righteous. The wicked and righteous don’t always get what they deserve. Sometimes the wicked are rewarded and the righteous are punished. This world is full of frustrating realities just like this one. Solomon is communicating that man cannot grasp God’s plan so he should humbly submit to God and trust His wisdom. Only then can we find true joy in this life. Life can be enjoyed with God. Although life seems unfair, when we trust God with the outcome, we find joy in this life. God’s ways are incomprehensible. Even the wisest man to ever live said that God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension. We can’t even scratch the surface of God’s knowledge and understanding. True wisdom is submitting to God’s wisdom and trusting His plan. Trusting that He’s in control and will always do what’s best. 

To be wise we must obey authority, fear God, and enjoy the life that He has given us. We need to be wise in this wicked world. Wisdom starts by trusting God’s wisdom and power. Many things in life don’t make sense to us, but that’s okay because God’s in control. We can rest in God’s goodness even though life may seem unfair. Trust God and find joy in His grace. True joy in life can only be found in a relationship with God.

The Limit of Wisdom – August 25, 2023

We all have our limits. This becomes apparent every Thanksgiving. We lay out that beautiful spread of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, candied yams, rolls, pies, etc. (Is your mouth watering yet?) When we first sit down, we think we can eat the whole table. We mound our plates with food, and before long we’re stuffed to the max. We loosen our belts and take a moment to try to clear more room. But eventually we reach the point where we can’t take another bite. We’ve reached our limit. Last week we talked about the necessity of wisdom. We all understand that God wants us to be wise. However, lest we become overconfident and start trusting our own ability, Solomon reminds us of our limitations. In Ecclesiastes 7:14-29, King Solomon exposes the danger of trusting in our own wisdom. Because although wisdom is good, it fails as the meaning of life. Today we’ll look at three limitations of wisdom that keep us from trusting in ourselves.

Solomon concluded in verse 14 that we need to trust God’s sovereignty over our lives. We should rejoice in the day of blessing and trust Him in the day of adversity because God is always in control. On this point, Solomon gives the first limitation of wisdom: wisdom cannot save you from death (Eccl. 7:15-18). As Solomon examines life under the sun, he reflects on the shortcomings of man’s wisdom. He brings up the puzzling fact that sometimes the righteous die young and the wicked live long. Why is this? Who knows the answer? Only God. Even the wisest man on earth doesn’t fully understand the ways of God. Solomon is trying to warn us about becoming self-righteous. As sinful people, we tend to rely on our own understanding and ability instead of God’s. Solomon shatters this thinking with the cold reality that death comes to all. It doesn’t matter how wise or foolish you are. There’s nothing you can do to escape death.

Then Solomon gives us a glimpse of hope in verse 18. He tells us that the person who fears God will come out from the self-righteous and foolish. Those who humbly repent of their sin and seek to obey God for His glory will be blessed by God. The one who fears God will value His wisdom, pursue His righteousness, and enjoy the life that He has given. 

Furthermore, we learn that wisdom cannot fix sin (Eccl. 7:19-24). Wisdom is valuable because it gives strength and protection. However, it can’t save you. Solomon says in verse 20, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” All of us are sinners. And that means our wisdom is corrupt and insufficient.

Solomon gives some examples to prove our own sinfulness. He tells us not to be offended when we hear people cursing us because ultimately, we’re no better than they are. All of us have gossiped, cursed, and slandered others. People say sinful things because people are sinful. That doesn’t make it right, but we shouldn’t be surprised when sinful people sin. No amount of man’s wisdom can fix sin. Even the wisest man in the world said that true understanding and complete wisdom are far off and impossible for man to obtain. Even Solomon realized that man is incapable of knowing everything and fixing all his problems.

Finally, we see that wisdom fails as the meaning of life because mankind is sinful (Eccl. 7:25-29). Again, Solomon tested wisdom and knowledge and again he was disappointed. The more he studied mankind the more Solomon realized how sinful and foolish we are. Solomon concludes that foolishness is worse than death. Why is that? Remember Ecclesiastes 3:17 – “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.” The fool will receive his just punishment. Those that are deceived by folly will reap the reward of destruction. 

But we see another ray of hope at the end of verse 26. Solomon says the one who pleases God will escape the temptation of foolishness. The one who fears God, trusts His wisdom, and obeys His Word will escape the destruction of folly. But the sinner who is self-righteous and arrogant will be taken by it. Sadly, the unrighteous outnumber the righteous. God made man upright, but man chose sin and sought out his own schemes. Therefore, all of us are corrupted by sin and have no hope in ourselves. 

Solomon has repeatedly warned us that death comes to all. We can do nothing to escape it. God wants us to be wise, but He doesn’t want us to trust in our own wisdom. That’s why we need to fear God. We need His help. Thankfully, in His kindness and love, God sent His perfect Son to deal with our sin. Christ paid the penalty for sin on the cross and defeated death by His resurrection. Now our problem with sin can be fixed in Jesus Christ. Our good deeds and wisdom could never do it. So, God did it for us! We should seek God’s wisdom. But we must put our faith in God’s grace. We can’t save ourselves. Only God can save us. 

What Is Wisdom? – August 18, 2023

Have you ever felt powerless? Sometimes when we see tragedies in the world it can provoke a feeling of helplessness. We think, “I wish I could help, but how?” We want to fix the problem but feel completely unable to help. At the end of Ecclesiastes 6, Solomon reminded us of our inability to fix this world. Sin has made us foolish and weak. We don’t know what’s good for us, or what the future holds, or how long we have on this earth. But God does. So, we must look to Him for the solution and meaning of life. Looking to God for the solution means that we seek to obey Him. In chapter seven, Solomon describes what wisdom looks like in our lives because God wants us to be wise. Ecclesiastes 7 gives four facts about wisdom:

First, wisdom is taking life seriously (Eccl. 7:1-6). In a series of proverbs, Solomon uses hyperbole (an exaggerated statement to make a point) to prove that the wise will take life seriously. The wise person will value their reputation. They understand the value of a good name. Wisdom is also having a healthy outlook on death. The wise consider the brevity of life and don’t ignore the reality of death. It’s foolish to ignore death. Death is a healthy reminder of our mortality. Because of sin, we will not live forever on this earth. In contrast, the fool tries to distract himself with fun and pleasure. Someone that takes life seriously will also be open to criticism because they want to learn and grow. It takes humility to accept rebuke, but this is the path of wisdom. In contrast, the fool never listens to advice and laughs at rebuke.

Second, wisdom is having good character (Eccl. 7:7-9). A wise person has integrity. They’re not corrupted by power or lucrative desires. A wise person is patient. They are diligent to see things through. The fool is constantly distracted by the latest and greatest. The wise are humble enough to put the work in and finish what they started. A wise person is slow to anger. The fool is quick to fight and argue, but the wise man is slow to anger and remains calm.

Third, wisdom is living in the present (Eccl. 7:10-12). The wise don’t live in the past. In contrast, the fool is obsessed with the good old days. Like the 40-year-old dad that never got past his glory days in high school, the fool can’t move on. Solomon reminds us that the former days weren’t as good as we remember them. Our egos and pride inflate the past in our minds. Every stage of life has its pros and cons, and we tend to forget the cons. Wisdom understands this fact and moves on from the past. Instead of living in the past, the wise person makes the most of today. Wisdom learns from the past, acts in the present, and plans for the future.

Fourth, wisdom is submitting to God (Eccl. 7:13-14). The wise consider God’s works and submit to them. God controls all things. Nothing He does can be changed or altered. His power and wisdom are beyond any human comprehension. When we consider His works, it should humble us and cause us to submit to Him. This is the essence of wisdom. We must trust and obey God in the highs and lows of life, because He controls both. Wisdom is understanding who God is and humbling submitting to Him. 

Do you take life seriously? Are you known for having good character? Are you learning from the past but living in the present? Do you submit to God? These are characteristics of a wise person. Wisdom can only come from God. To have wisdom, we must submit God and His Word. The Bible contains the wisdom that we need. We must understand this fundamental truth: God is God, and we are not. We need God and we need His wisdom.  

Wealth and Honor – August 11, 2023

Who is the wealthiest person in the world? How you answer this question depends on how you define wealth. Is wealth purely a number? Or is it much more than that? Most people are aware that money does not equal happiness. So then what is the value of riches and fame? In Ecclesiastes 5-6 Solomon considers the value of riches, fame, and possessions in his quest for the meaning of life. Once again, he finds that these things are bitterly disappointing. I believe Solomon turned back to these common pursuits because he knew his own heart, and he knew that most people would think that these things would satisfy. Many of us believe- “If I only had more… then I’d be happy.” But King Solomon, the man who literally had it all, says otherwise. In Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12 Solomon gives three facts about wealth and honor:

The first fact is wealth and honor are vanity because people are corrupted by sin (Eccl. 5:8-17). Because of sin, every level of man’s authority is corrupt. The wealthy and powerful are wicked. Powerful people violate justice and righteousness. Although a good king is very beneficial, they are few and far between. Because of sin, man has an insatiable desire for more. Possessions and money are temporary. Often the more money you have, the more problems you experience. Money is fleeting. Solomon is reminding us that the wealth of this world will never satisfy your soul. The wealthy have no peace, so therefore they cannot rest. Because of sin, death ruins the promise of wealth. All riches are lost in the grave. You came into this world with nothing, and you’ll take nothing with you when you die. Living for wealth is striving after the wind.

Next, the second fact is wealth and honor can be enjoyed with God (Eccl. 5:18-20). Solomon takes a sudden turn in this discussion. After explaining the vanity of worldly wealth, he turns to the positive side. The things of this world can be enjoyed but they must be enjoyed with God. To enjoy our possessions, we must recognize that the common things in life are from God. Life itself is a gift from God, so we need to give Him the glory for all we have. So, when we sit down for a delicious meal, we praise God in prayer because food is a gift from God. We also need to recognize that the riches and blessings of this life are from God. Our money, houses, cars, clothes, jobs, intelligence, and abilities are gifts from God. We must accept these things as gifts and rejoice in God’s graciousness. This is why God desires us to be content and humble. Solomon is showing us that life with God is enjoyable. When we have a relationship with our Creator, we find true satisfaction.

And finally, the third fact is wealth and honor without God are vanity (Eccl. 6:1-12). In contrast to the one who walks with God, someone who has great wealth, but doesn’t have the God-given ability to enjoy it, is miserable. Wealth and honor without God’s blessing are vanity. This shows us God’s sovereignty even over the feelings and emotions of mankind. God controls everything and that includes our emotions and desires. If someone tries to find joy without Him, they will fail. A long and wealthy life without joy is vanity. Solomon says in verse 3 that if someone lives a long life with children, possessions, and wealth but has no joy, then they’re worse off than the stillborn child.

Furthermore, without God, man’s labors are vanity. We toil to fill our belly, but our appetite is never satisfied. No matter how much we eat, we will still get hungry. Both the fool and the wise cannot find satisfaction in this world. Solomon says it’s better to be content with what you have, than to constantly desire more. And finally, Solomon concludes this discussion with the reality that man cannot help himself. Man is weak and powerless. We can’t change the past and we have no power over the future. We can’t fix our greatest problem. 

Wealth and honor will never satisfy your soul. But God can! Solomon is pointing us to God. Only God can give you true joy and meaning in life. The good news is, we can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If we trust in Christ for salvation, then we are reconciled to God. We can enjoy this life when our sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus at the moment we put our faith in Him alone. As Christians, we can trust God with our money, possessions, and abilities because He’s in control. God knows what’s good for us. He knows what tomorrow will bring. He can fix our problems. So, we should submit to God, acknowledge our weaknesses, and trust our Creator.

To Fear God, Part 2 – August 4, 2023

What does it mean to fear God? Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” If we want to be wise, then we need to understand this truth. In Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, Solomon describes three actions that demonstrate the fear of the Lord. Last week we saw that to fear God is to worship Him in humility. This week we’ll discuss the other two actions:

To fear God is to honor Him in prayer (Eccl. 5:2-3). Solomon warns us to not be rash or hasty with our words, especially when we’re talking to God. We don’t want to disrespect God with our words. Solomon is teaching us a lesson about prayer. When we talk to God in prayer, we need to carefully choose our words. Solomon says this is important because “God is in heaven and you are on earth.” God is transcendent. That means He is above all others. He is distinct from everything else. No one can compare to Him in power, wisdom, and authority. God is holy. He is perfectly good. As we’ve seen, man is not. Mankind is corrupted by sin. We should keep this distinction in mind when we address God. When we pray, we talk to the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. So, heed Solomon’s warning and let your words be few.

On the other hand, the fool is careless with his words. The fool is always talking and never shuts his mouth. Likewise, his prayers are filled with empty words and selfish demands. Jesus talked about this in Luke 18. Christ condemns those that come to God with arrogance and selfish desires. Christ commends those who humble themselves and approach God with reverence. We must be careful with our words in prayer. We don’t want to be the fool who heaps up empty phrases with no reverence for God. We want to honor God in our prayers by approaching Him with humility and awe.

Finally, to fear God is to promptly obey Him (Eccl. 5:4-7). Solomon demonstrates the necessity of quick obedience with the example of making vows. In those days, vows were made to God as a promise of obedience. They were usually made before a priest of the temple. In Deuteronomy 23, God’s people were warned about the seriousness of making a vow before God. Verse 21 says, “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.” Solomon is reminding God’s people to keep their vows with swift obedience.

The fool will make rash promises before God. God is not pleased when we fail to keep our promises because it’s contrary to His nature. He’s a covenant-keeping God. That means, the primary way that He interacts with His people is based on His promises. So when we fail to keep our promises, we’re acting against His holy nature.

We need to be careful with what we promise. If we don’t promptly obey God, then we subject ourselves to retribution. God will punish the disobedient and dishonest. We need to remember Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Thoughtful words and diligent obedience demonstrate the fear of God.

We must fear God in humble worship, honorable prayer, and diligent obedience. Christians must seek to obey God with diligence. This means we need to study God’s Word so that we can live His Word. Our words are often vain and careless, but God’s Word is eternal, true, and powerful. To fear God is to obey Him by obeying His Word. All of God’s actions are to bring His people to fear Him. Our purpose on this earth is to fear God.


To Fear God, Part 1 – July 28, 2023

Our culture has lost the fear of God. In ages past, most people had some sort of respect for a higher power that is holier than mankind. However, in a postmodern and anti-God world, the fear of God is hardly even in our vocabulary. Sadly, the church has followed this trend. An easy way to see this is to observe modern worship styles. Do they communicate proper respect for the God of heaven and earth that conquers kingdoms, brings tyrants to their knees, and devours His enemies like a consuming fire? Many modern worship songs speak of God as a boyfriend rather than the Holy Creator and Sovereign King. This is because people don’t fear God. 
In Ecclesiastes 3:14, Solomon said that all of God’s actions are to bring people to fear before Him. What does it mean to fear God? After considering the depravity of mankind, Solomon transitions back to the solution. If all of God’s actions are to bring Him fear, then what does that look like? Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 answers this question by describing three actions that demonstrate the fear of God. Today we’ll look at the first action:
To fear God is to worship Him in humility (Eccl. 5:1). Solomon tells us to consider our hearts before we go to worship by guarding our steps. We need to evaluate our lives before we approach the Holy Creator. The section before this taught us about the sinfulness of mankind. We should keep this in mind as we approach God in worship. You shouldn’t worship God flippantly or carelessly. To properly worship God, you must humble yourself and approach Him with reverence. 
This concept was seriously important in the Old Testament. Remember Leviticus 10:1-2 – “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” We’re not given a lot of details about this story but they’re sufficient. Nadab and Abihu offered strange or ‘unauthorized’ fire to the Lord and the results were catastrophic. They didn’t approach God in a proper manner, and it cost them their lives. Aaron’s response to this is even more striking, “Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:3). Aaron made a lot of mistakes, but he made the right choice here. He didn’t lash out or curse God. He held his peace because he knew that God is holy, and His judgment is holy. God determines how we approach Him in worship. Sadly, Nadab and Abihu got it wrong and were killed for it.
Furthermore, Solomon says that worship should take place in “the house of God.” In those days, they would worship and offer sacrifices in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem. This massive temple would have been a reminder to Israel that their God was infinite and holy. Today God’s people worship in the local church. The church is the house of God because God’s people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 
Hebrews 12 tells us that as we gather to worship, we come before the living God and Judge of all the earth, before the angels in festal gathering, before the assembly of saints that have gone before us, and before Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. The author concludes in verses 28-29, “Therefore… let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” We should prepare our hearts before we worship, and we should worship in God’s house. 
Solomon says it’s better to draw near to listen than to offer the sacrifice of fools. It’s foolish to irreverently approach God in worship. The fool offers sacrifices, but his heart is far from God. He’s ignorant of his sin even though God’s law clearly reveals his depravity. Solomon says it’s better to not bring a sacrifice and to just listen to God’s Word than to offer a foolish sacrifice with an impudent heart. God desires our hearts more than our hands. That is, He wants our love and submission more than our sacrifices. God wants us to have a heart of humility when we come to Him in worship. This humility clearly demonstrates that we fear God.