Tag Archives: wisdom

Psalm 119:97-120 Find time alone with God

What is it about God’s Word that the psalmist is so enamored with?  Answer: he has a personal relationship with God.  If we were to characterize this relationship as a two-way street, one side is the psalmist’s side of the street lined with worldly buildings and distractions, and the other, God’s side of the street.  So what is it about God’s side of the street that makes the psalmist want to cross over and devote himself completely? (Hint: did you have a best friend in your youth?  Was being able to stay at their house the best and most exciting thing ever?)

book-863418_960_720These three stanzas of Psalm 119 highlight the importance of finding time alone with God in prayer and Bible study.

(97) Your law – The God given Law is found in the Old Testament.  God have us his son, Jesus, in the New Testament.  The Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).  (98) Makes me wiser – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).  (99) I have more insight – those who sit at the feet of Christ often have more insight than Doctors of Divinity (Charles Spurgeon).  (100) I have more understanding – Trust in God with your heart and don’t rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  A regular time of private devotion also yields guidance (101), learning (102), and a hunger for more (103); an example being to your favorite food that tastes so good you can’t get enough of it.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119:105

In the next stanza God’s word lights my path (105), preserves my life (107), is my heritage  (111), and gives me hope (112).  If so much joy and happiness can be found spending time alone with God, why would we ever want to return to our worldly side of the street?  Spurgeon reminds us that, “We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into the darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word.”

The third stanza uses language one would find of a war being carried out in enemy territory.  (113) I hate double-minded people (frivolous, indulgent, worldly thinkers).  (114) God is our refuge and shield.  We must remember to wear the whole armor of God against the enemy (Ephesians 6).  (116) God’s word sustains and upholds us and is proven. (120) He alone is the right (true) one to worship.

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Matt Chandler offers three points for those who have a relationship with God, addressing our need to find alone time with him.  (1) Staying connected carries us through life’s ups and downs.  (2) When we remain near to God, it leads to a sustaining love. (3) We produce fruit when we stay connected.  Staying connected allows us to be transformed by him (Romans 12:1,2) and enables us to make a difference in the world in which we live (our side of the street).

“We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into the darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word.” C. Spurgeon

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Death and Folly

Encountering death

Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes brings into the conversation the “D” word no one wants to talk about. Sociologist Ernest Becker said, “of all things that move man, one of the principle ones is his terror of death.”

In this chapter Warren Wiersbe summarizes the words of Solomon in this manner: Death is unavoidable (9:1-10), and Life is unpredictable (9:11-18).

old-2081500_960_720Death is unavoidable:

  • Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear death is by appointment only. (God schedules the date and only He can change the appointment).

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27 ESV

  • A paradox: the reality of death is linked to the urgency of living. The more real death becomes the more urgent our desire to live becomes.
  • The sinner and the saint may share a common physical destiny but they don’t share a common eternal destiny. (Wiersbe)
  • Death is the final enemy we face, but thanks to the cross of Jesus Christ, death has been defeated. (Rom 6:23; John 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:51-58)

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will life, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT

  • We can’t escape death (v3)
  • We can endure beyond the thought (v4-6)
  • We can enjoy life in meantime (v7-10)

yahtzee-1132533_960_720Life is unpredictable

God controls time and chance (circumstances beyond human control)

“Chance” – In this verse it means an occasion or event (not a gambling term) There is no room for luck or chance in the Christian mind only the providence of God.

Wm. Barrick points out ironies found this section of scripture, which highlights the unpredictability of life.

  • Swiftness doesn’t always win the race
  • The fiercest warriors don’t always win the battle
  • Wise men might not always obtain food
  • The discerning might not acquire wealth
  • The skilled might not find favor

We are given the example of a wise man living in a city under siege (v16-18)

  1. Wisdom proved superior to might
  2. People do not always respect wisdom
  3. Powerful people can make it difficult to listen to wisdom
  4. Superior wisdom can be destroyed by a foolish act of a sinner

We cannot control the effects of sin; who it will affect or how it will manifest itself.  Old Testament examples of one sinner, bringing calamity: Adam (Genesis 3), Achen (Joshua 7), David (2 Samuel 24).

Death is unavoidable, and life unpredictable, but take heart: Jesus said,

“I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” Revelation 1:17-18

 

Encountering folly

In the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes Solomon pondered, was life worth living in light of the certainty of death?   He concluded yes life is worth living in spite of death being unavoidable (9:1-10) and life being unpredictable (9:11-18). This chapter highlights the need to reject folly (chapter 10) and embrace the wisdom of God.  The word folly occurs nine times in this chapter. The opposite of folly is wisdom.

jester-2072475_960_720V1       Folly is a problem generator. Dead flies are to perfume as folly is to a good reputation. Dead flies spoil the oil

V2,3    Folly is produced by the inclination of the heart (the center of our being, our emotions). The foolish person yields to the evil within it.

The reference to right and left here is not intended to characterize ones political persuasion. lol.  Instead, right is a road favored, left a path of error. The fool speaks loudly and is arrogant.

The foolish ruler

The example is given of a proud ruler who is easily agitated and takes out his anger on those who serve him. The king’s servants shouldn’t exacerbate the situation by losing their temper or becoming angry. A calm response prevents words or actions that will be regretted later.

Foolish workers

Does this section refer to those who attempt to do their work and end up suffering because they acted foolishly by taking dangerous shortcuts and bypassing safe guards? An implied lesson is to work smarter, not harder and do the job right the first time.

Foolish talkers

  • Are destructive – the fool says inappropriate things at wrong time. We need to follow the example of Jesus.
  • Are unreasonable – the fool makes no sense when he speaks
  • Are uncontrolled – the fool is unable to stop talking
  • Are boastful – mankind does not know what the future holds. The fool boasts carelessly about what the future holds.

Foolish officers

  • Offer foolish indulgence – real leaders use authority for positive change, fools indulge themselves.
  • Offer incompetence – enjoy the privileges of office without taking care of the their responsibilities
  • Offer indifference – don’t care
  • Offer Indiscretion – be careful what you say about your boss. “a little bird told me”

“If nothing else, this chapter teaches to pay proper attention to the so-called “little things” in life both personally and nationally. Everything a person does matters. The character of a government leader matters. Even a little word can have far reaching consequences.” William Barrick

Wisdom’s Purpose

 

orion-568635_960_720Every one of us would like to know what the future holds. But no matter how much experience we gain or how much wisdom we possess, the future is still going to be a big unknown. For Christians “the future” is always and forever a matter of faith in God and yielding to his providence.

How, then, can wisdom be put to good use. Solomon gives us three useful purposes of Wisdom in Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

The first purpose of wisdom is to make life better.

  • Why is a good name better than perfume?

Warren Wiersbe: every person is born with three names. A name the family gives you, the name others call you, and the one you acquire for yourself. At birth you have no reputation. After you die your reputation defines you.

  • Why is the day of death better than the day of birth?

At birth we are propelled into a transient existence “under the sun.” Death propels us into eternity (Paul said “to die is gain” Phil 1:21, 23)

  • Why is attending a funeral better than attending a party?

Eaton said, “Every funeral anticipates our own.” Funerals remind us of our mortality. Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  • Is frustration better than laughter?

A fool doesn’t learn from the lessons of life. A wise person when they face death, disease and destruction learns from it and they become better not bitter. (Dr. Jeremiah)

  • Is rebuke better than praise?

Being flattered by worthless praise is like feeding crackling thorns to a fire. There is a burst of heat and bright flame but no lasting value. “Rebukes are really compliments turned inside out, designed to mold and mature us in wonderful ways.” Dr. Jeremiah (Proverbs 10:17; 12:1; 15:5; 17:10; 25:12)

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  • What’s wrong with shortcuts?

A bribe is a shortcut. Consider Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness. You want food—make these stones bread; you want fame—leap from this temple; you want followers—just bow to me. Bribery corrupts the heart.

  • Is the end really better than the beginning?

Steven Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” We need to visualize the goal and choose our steps to get there. The patience of a wise man is much better than the pride and anger of a fool.

  • Don’t long for the “good old days”

It is said that the “good old days” are a combination of a bad (selective) memory and a good imagination. Victorian essayist Hildaire Belloc: “While you are dreaming of the future or regretting the past, the present, which is all you have, slips from you and is gone.”

The second benefit of wisdom is enabling us to see life more clearly

Maturity is the ability to put life in perspective. Wisdom leads to maturity (Wiersbe)

Wealth – without wisdom an inheritance flounders. With wisdom, an inheritance likely flourishes

Providence – (Consider what God has done) Yielding to the will of God accomplishes more than fighting him every step of the way

Adversity and prosperity – with wisdom we can differentiate between mountain top experiences and spiritual valleys (we can see the sun). With wisdom we can battle adversity and keep from being discouraged (Job 2:10)

Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New Testament.” Francis Bacon.

The future – No matter how much experience we have gained as we walk through life we must still walk by faith. (Wiersbe). In Daniel 12:8-9, He asked, “What shall be the outcome of these things?” The angel told Daniel to go his way.

Verses 15-24 are very difficult to commentate on their meaning and hard to understand.

Wicked prosper while continuing their wickedness, the righteous seem to be robbed of both blessing and long life. Dr. Jeremiah offers this comment, ”God is both loving and powerful, but He allows the rewards to be reversed—success for evil, suffering for the good—for reasons relating to his eternal plan, and because it is the consequence of a fallen world in which we ourselves have invited such chaos.”

Don’t be overly righteous, overly wise or overly wicked and foolish?

Solomon is not advocating middle of the road spirituality. Being “sorta” holy is a sure path to hell. It’s a warning about being self-righteous and exalting yourself before others.

The third and final purpose of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 is being able to face life stronger

directory-229117_960_720Seek wisdom, not perfection. We are flawed creatures, our nature is to sin. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10); fear of the Lord leads to life. (Proverbs 19:23)

Don’t listen to the gossip said about you. If it’s not constructive, it is not worth your time. Trying to shape your life solely from what people are saying about you is not wisdom. “If we get upset when people talk about us, we are holding them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves to.” Dr. David Jeremiah

Solomon admits he lacks wisdom in areas of life’s inequalities and that death is inevitable. Ultimate wisdom does not lie in the land of the living (Job 28:13).

The woman whose heart is snares and nets is a seductress (opposite of a loving wife). Solomon’s harem could have totaled 1,000 women. These are the women who served foreign gods, daughters of foreign kings  who were often priestesses of pagan religions. Contrast this with what Solomon said about godly women (Proverbs 1:20-33)

Not one upright woman among them all (his harem?). As one commentator put it, what godly woman would place herself willingly in the midst of Solomon’s harem?

We were made upright (to walk in God’s light of truth) yet we continually scheme and pervert God’s ways

Phillip Ryken sums up all of Ecclesiastes this way, “Wise people will say all of the things that Ecclesiastes says. They will tell us that living for pleasure and working for selfish gain are striving after the wind. They will tell us that God has a time for everything, including a time to be born and a time to die. They will tell us that two are better than one at facing all of the toils and trials of life. They will tell us that because God is in heaven and we are on earth, we should be careful what we say. They will tell us that money will never satisfy our souls. In Short, they will teach us not to live for today, but to live for eternity.”

 

Ecclesiastes: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21