Matthew 9:18-31: Power Over Death

Read: Matthew 9:18-31

Raising the dead was an extraordinary miracle to say the least. Of all the miracles that Jesus does in the context of his ministry, this one would have certainly vindicated his authority over all matters, and in particularly life. But in the midst of this resurrection, a woman made a desperate attempt to get healing that she so dearly wanted. She reasons that touching the edge of Jesus’ garment is all she needs to do. This is probably talking about the edge of his prayer shawl that was worn by Jewish men (Numbers 15:38-41). This particular woman had had discharge of blood for 12 years, so according to the Law (Leviticus 15:25-33) she would have been unclean for 12 years, and unable to participate in many of the community activities that required ceremonial cleanliness. Even touching them would have made someone else unclean. Interestingly, Jesus is touched by the woman and he himself touches a dead corpse.

These two miracles undoubtedly reminiscent of the miracles performed by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-36), both of whom were involved with resurrections of dead children. In Elisha’s case, the son of the Shunammite and Elijah’s the son of the widow with whom he resided. In the case of Elijah, the woman used the resurrection as affirmation of Elijah’s status when she acknowledges that the words that came from his mouth were “truth”. When Jesus came to the house, the mourners though laughed at him when he said the girl was “asleep.” Jesus’ expression here is interesting. By saying she was merely asleep, he was alluding to what he was about to do. She was temporarily dead, not permanently so.

Resurrection and the healing point to a greater reality concerning the power of Jesus. The promise of eternal life is available to all who will believe. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 uses similar language to describe the temporary nature of death for those who do believe. Paul says that not all will “sleep” as some will be alive when Christ returns, however for those that don’t they will experience resurrection. Regardless though, death is powerless such that it has lost its sting and is swallowed in victory by Jesus who makes it possible. Believers will put on the imperishable and immortal. In the New Heaven and New Earth, such things will be done away with – no more crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). The power of God is manifested here, and in this there is great hope!

Lord, you have power over death! Even life itself is under your dominion!

Ecclesiastes 10:15-20: A Sundry of Wisdom

Read: Ecclesiastes 10:15-20

The Preacher gives various points concerning wisdom towards the end of Chapter 10:

  • The fool who can’t find his way home after a longs day of work shows his foolishness. The point of the proverb is not that that the fool is stupid or forget his way, rather that he worked himself so hard that he does not have the energy to get home. A fool as such works harder, not using wisdom to more efficiently complete a task that a wiser person could do with less effort.
  • On the same token, the Preacher rails against inexperience on the part of a king. He pities the land that has a young, inexperienced king to the one who has a wise and mature king. Such rulers play before work rather than working before play.
  • In all this though, the Preacher says it not wise to insult or talk poorly about the King – even if the king is a fool – because of the possibility that gossip mongers will spread the words around.
  • The Preacher speaks to merriment and how money can be a buffer for people. While such things are not inherently bad, these things have their proper place and usage
  • And once again, the Preacher rails against laziness. He says that a lazy will have a dilapidated house with a leaky roof.

These points of wisdom draw to a close the principle treatise the Preacher set out to write concerning how the Preacher learned wisdom, how he learned its limits, and how one can aptly apply it. The Preacher in his experience sought wisdom for the purpose of becoming wise, but in this realized that the wisdom for wisdom sake we vanity. Rather than do this, the Preacher concludes that it is best to fear God and keep his commandments. For the Preacher, this was the conclusion (Ecclesiastes 12:13). For the Proverbs, it was the principle premise (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom in the right context has purpose. The Hebrew word “חכמה” carries with it the idea of being skillful as a master craftsman would be at his craft. Wisdom in the context of the fear of the Lord is to enable one to live skillfully before God according to the commandments God has given. Aptly applying wisdom to one’s life can help one obey God in many practical ways.

Lord, help me to take wisdom and apply it aptly in my own life!

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12,19,23-25: Wisdom For All

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:11-12,19,23-25

The value of wisdom cannot be overstated, and the Preacher in Ecclesiastes seems to recognize this. He compares wisdom to three things. First he compares it to an inheritances, calling it a “good thing”. When one inherits something, he or she does not necessarily have to work for it or earn it — it is simply given to the one because of the person’s relationship to the one bequeathing the inheritances. Wisdom is like this too. It is freely offered to all those who will hear it and receive it. One does not have to work hard to ascertain wisdom, just simply listen to the wise (Proverbs 13:20). Second, the Preacher compares wisdom to the sun — it blesses everyone. There is no limit to the reach of wisdom and it does not discriminate against those who wish to receive it. For this reason it does bless everyone. Only the fool disdains wisdom. Third, the Preacher compares wisdom to money saying that both are as a shelter. The contrast though is that wisdom “preserves” one’s life. Money and wisdom can buffer one against harm, but wisdom, unlike money, can actually save one’s life. When the buffer is gone, only wisdom will remain, and it is hear that only wisdom can work.

But the Preacher had given staunch warning about wisdom for wisdom’s sake The Preacher isn’t putting down wisdom in general, rather the pursuit of wisdom for wisdom’s sake.  Proverbs speaks of wisdom in great lengths, saying that is useful any number of things (Proverbs 1:1-6). Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, rather than the end of it. Ecclesiastes concludes the matter after pursuing all other things to an end (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Proverbs starts the book with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom for the purpose of serving the Lord is always better. James 1:5 says that one should ask for wisdom and the Lord will give it (Proverbs 2:6), and one should ask for it in all things so that the Lord can teach one how to live skillfully.

Christians should ask for and implement wisdom for the purpose of becoming more like Christ in his or her life by living in accordance with the ways of God. Wisdom is readily available to all who will receive it from those who are wise and from God’s word. One should apply his or her self to obtaining wisdom so that he or she can live skillfully in all matters!

Lord, help to walk with the wise so that I will become wise!

Ecclesiastes 7:1-6: Legacy

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:1-6

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes is now old, and is perhaps here looking back over his life as to what he has accomplished. He had tried any number of things, but what he had pursued left him empty, wanting more. He was never satisfied in his pursuits. In light of this though, the Preacher looks at other things in his life with particular regard to his legacy. He says that a good name is better than fine perfume and one’s death day is better than one’s day of birth. The Preacher is not being morbid, rather he is being introspective, and realizing how death causes one to look inwardly at one’s own life. Going to the house of mourning and having a sad face conjures up feelings of loss no doubt, but it also gives pause in one’s life. When death comes, it usually interrupts life such that people have a time or mourning for whomever it was that was lost, thinking about that person’s life and how that person impacted the lives of others. In the end, a person’s name is remembered as ad good or bad. The Preacher says that the common destiny of all, namely death, should be taken to heart so that when one does pass away, one’s name will be remembered.

Perhaps the best legacy one can have is a life that is lived in accordance with the ways of God. Proverbs 16:31 says that gray hair is a crown of splendor earned through a righteous life. Everyone knows that gray hair is caused by age, but the writer is saying that the respect do to those who are older is from one’s right living.  Paul in all his turmoil says toward the end of his life that he has earned a crown of righteousness because he has “fought the good fight” and has “finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The sort of legacy that Paul left behind was a life committed to the gospel. Paul calls his converts his “letters of commendation” (2 Corinthians 3:1-5). The believers in Corinth were a testament to what he had done. Psalm 71 speaks of one who has feared God from his youth. The Psalmist says that he declared the works of God, and asks God not to forsake him in his old age.  Hebrews 11 enumerates many of those whose names are immortalized in the Bible. They all left a legacy by having faith in God.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 11:7-12-7 says that those who are young should remember their creator while they are young. He says that youth and vigor are meaningless, much like Proverbs 31:30 says concerning beauty. These things are fleeting. In a culture that glorifies youthfulness and vigor, these words can fall on deaf ears. Christians need not consume themselves with things that are fleeting, rather they should consume themselves with the things that bring about a good name: fearing God and keeping his commandments. This sort of legacy can be passed from generation to generation such that one will be among those in Hebrew 11 and among those who receive a crown of righteousness!

Lord, help my legacy to be your name!

Ecclesiastes 5:8-18: Wealth for Wealth’s Sake

Read: Ecclesiastes 5:8-18

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes often mentions wealth in his book and the relationship of wealth to life. His general thinking is that wealth for wealth’s sake is meaningless for a number of reasons.

  • The one who pursues wealth for wealth’s sake is never satisfied with what he has.
  • As one’s wealth amasses, so do those who consume it. Wealthy people are often surrounded by people who want a piece of the wealth for themselves. They are only interested in the owner because he or she is wealthy, no more.  The preacher says that such people have no benefit to the owner because all they do is stare at the wealth.
  • Wealth can be lost in misfortune or stolen.
  • People are born into the world naked, and they cannot take wealth with them when they die.

On the other hand, the Preacher thinks that people find much satisfaction in enjoying the fruits of their labor. Wealth for wealth’s sake has little satisfaction in such pursuits but the one who stops to enjoy what he or she has worked hard for finds satisfaction in this sort of work. The Preacher is saying that having money is evil; rather one should take the time to both work hard and then reap the benefits of his or her work. He sees this as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 8:15, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). The Bible does not condone having money but that it should be used for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6), but the pursuit of money for the sake of being wealthy is shunned (Proverbs 23:4-45, Matthew 6:19-20). The Bible teaches too that contentment is good (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11) and that it is better to be righteous than wealthy (Proverbs 15:16-17, Proverbs 16:8).

Christians would do well to listen to the wisdom of the Preacher and consider the end goal of one’s pursuits. The end goal of every pursuit should be in accordance with the purposes of God. Psalms 67 teaches that God blesses so the blessed can bless others. In doing so, the ends of the earth will fear God. Work therefore should be to the glory of God. Paul encourages that whatever one does, one should do it as unto God rather than man (Colossians 3:23-24). Even so, as the Preacher says, people will only be interested in a person for his or her wealth rather than being genuinely interested in the person. The best thing to do is fear God, then everything else will follow suit. It is only in this that one can find real meaning!

Lord, let me honor you with all I have!

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12: Friends

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes seems to be speaking from experience concerning friends. In his old age, he is alone, not having any friends because he spent his entire life pursuing wealth to no end. He says that there is no end to his toil and no contentment in wealth. The preacher declares this predicament meaningless as chasing after the wind. He had traded meaningful relationships for stuff, and in the end he was empty. With this in mind, the Preacher makes some observations concerning friendship:

  • Two are better than one when it comes to labor. There is a synergy to the effort of two people when they work — more output than the sum of the individuals. The Preacher thinks that this is a good return on one’s investment because it is efficient — requiring less effort to accomplish the same sort of task.
  • Those who have friends have someone there to help them out in a bind, but those who don’t do not have such luxuries. The Preacher probably had his wealth as his security, but this does not help one in only when people can. In the event when money cannot help, having a person to help is worth more than all the money in the world.
  • Friends offer each other warmth too. The Preacher describes it in terms of lying down with one another. In ancient times, when traveling, travelers would huddle together at night when sleeping to stay warm. Such is true when times are cold figuratively too. One does well to have a friend to help him or her through cold times.
  • Friends are also there to watch another friend back — that is defend them when threats arrive, that is threats of all sorts. Threats can come in all shapes an sizes from accusations to physical threats. Friends can help defend one’s character and life at times.

The Preacher summarizes the text on friendship: a chord of three strands is not easily broken. This summary statement shows the value of friendship. When a strand is bound together with other strands, the strands pull as a unit rather than three individual strands. The load is distributed evenly such that it is not likely to break! The ultimate description of friendship is found in Christ. He says that the greatest form of love is for one to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). In the manner that Jesus laid down his life, so Christians ought to lay down his or her life for the sake of his friends, being willing to work with one another, help one another, comfort one another, and protect one another in all things!

Lord, help me to be a friend to others!

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3: Meaning in Life

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes adds to his remarks in Chapter 3 in Chapter 4. He had remarked that he saw no meaning in the fact that in justice and judgment there was evil, and that there was no difference between the righteous and unrighteous in death. The preacher continues on this theme, thinking that power is in the hands of oppressors and that there is no advocate for the oppressed. He reckons it is better to be dead than alive, and even better yet is the one who had never been born – that is the one who has never seen the evil in the world, even where there should be justice and judgment. The words are a harsh sentiment, but the Preacher is not necessarily speaking of things in light of the fully revealed Christ. The Preacher when he made these remarks apparently had not concluded the fact that it was best for man to fear the Lord.

The relationship between life and death is more realized in the New Testament in light of resurrection. The hope offered by resurrection gave Paul a completely different attitude towards life and death. He says first that to live is Christ and to dies is gain (Philippians 1:21). In saying this, Paul says that there is joy in serving the Lord even though he faces suffering, and to die is gain because one gets to do the second thing: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what is hoped for and confident of things not seen – that is being certain of some future promised that has not yet been received. Knowing that Jesus died and rose from the dead conquers death is the basis of the hope for the Christian and that even though one day, he or she may still yet live.

Christians therefore need not be pessimistic in life or in death as the Preacher was. Saying that it is better to be dead than alive or better to have never been born because of evil is not the mark of a Christian, rather saying it is best to be a child of God because of the hope  offered by God to all those that believe. The job of the Christian is not to mope over the apparent injustice in life, rather the job of the Christian to proclaim the life that is offered in Jesus and how sin is judgment are reconciled in the Cross. The heart of the Christian can know and believe in the hope, knowing that to live is Christ having his joy and to die is to be with the Lord.

Lord, you are what gives meaning to life!

Ecclesiastes 3:16-22: Life After Death

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22: Life After Death

The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes had just spoken concerning the cyclical nature of life. He juxtaposes the cycles of life against the enduring and unending nature of God, saying that this is in place for the purpose for man to fear God. But to the Preacher, the there is another apparent discrepancy that he cannot find any resolution to, and that is the apparent indifference between the outcomes of the righteous and the wicked and also the man and beast. The Preacher looked at justice and judgment and saw wickedness there, and states that surely God will bring all to judgment to the righteous and the wicked in due time. The preacher does seem to feel confident in the judgment of God, but there is no indication that he is talking about judgment in eschatological terms. He seems ambivalent concerning the nature of the soul after death or where it goes. He just knows that animals and man alike came from the dust and to the dust they return when they die. He concludes the matter, thinking that the best thing to do is to enjoy one’s work, because this is one’s lot.

The nature of life after death was much debated among the Jews up to the time of death. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection but the Pharisees did. The Preacher and the Jewish scholars were like the Preacher in that they were not sure about life after death. Jesus came to the earth and taught concerning resurrection. He said that he was the resurrection and the life. He says that the one who believes in him, though he may die, will live (John 11:25). Jesus proved that resurrection was possible when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Paul thinks the implication of uncertainty concerning resurrection would lead him to believe the same thing the Preacher did (1 Corinthians 15:32). But in any case, what Paul is certain of is that the resurrection is something to be preferred because it will lead to one putting off the perishable and putting on the imperishable (1 Corinthians 35-56). Revelation 21 shows the final judgment of all things concerning deeds where one is judged. The Preacher does not seems to indicated that he believes in such a judgment, but in any case, a final judgment is made clear in scriptures: all will be raised, but some will be raised to eternal life and some to judgment.

Christians need to be wary of the fact that there is an ultimate judgment for all people. This judgment is no joke – it is real and coming and must be taken seriously. Jesus’ resurrection is the source of hope for Christians, but it is also the proof that resurrection is possible, and Jesus wasn’t joking when he talks about the future judgment. The work of man is to be enjoyed in life, but at the same time, Christ’s mission was to propagate the gospel to all creation, and this mission has been imparted to Christians (Matthew 28:19-20). Christians should make the mission of Christ a priority in they live and think. Facing judgment without Jesus as one’s advocate is a scary thought in any respect, and Jesus’ sacrifice is good news considering the reality of judgment!

Lord, Judgment is real! Help me to tell everyone I can about it!

 

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22: Life After Death

The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes had just spoken concerning the cyclical nature of life. He juxtaposes the cycles of life against the enduring and unending nature of God, saying that this is in place for the purpose for man to fear God. But to the Preacher, the there is another apparent discrepancy that he cannot find any resolution to, and that is the apparent indifference between the outcomes of the righteous and the wicked and also the man and beast. The Preacher looked at justice and judgment and saw wickedness there, and states that surely God will bring all to judgment to the righteous and the wicked in due time. The preacher does seem to feel confident in the judgment of God, but there is no indication that he is talking about judgment in eschatological terms. He seems ambivalent concerning the nature of the soul after death or where it goes. He just knows that animals and man alike came from the dust and to the dust they return when they die. He concludes the matter, thinking that the best thing to do is to enjoy one’s work, because this is one’s lot.

The nature of life after death was much debated among the Jews up to the time of death. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection but the Pharisees did. The Preacher and the Jewish scholars were like the Preacher in that regard. Jesus came to the earth and taught concerning resurrection. He said that he was the resurrection and the life. He says that the one who believes in him, though he may die, will live (John 11:25). Jesus proved that resurrection was possible when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Paul thinks the implication of uncertainty concerning resurrection would lead him to believe the same thing the Preacher did (1 Corinthians 15:32). But in any case, what Paul is certain of is that the resurrection is something to be preferred because it will lead to one putting off the perishable and putting on the imperishable (1 Corinthians 35-56). Revelation 21 shows the final judgment of all things concerning deeds where one is judged. The Preacher does not seems to indicated that he believes in such a judgment, but in any case, a final judgment is made clear in scriptures: all will be raised, but some will be raised to eternal life and some to judgment.

Christians need to be wary of the fact that there is an ultimate judgment for all people. This judgment is no joke – it is real and coming and must be taken seriously. Jesus’ resurrection is the source of hope for Christians, but it is also the proof that resurrection is possible, and Jesus wasn’t joking when he talks about the future judgment. The work of man is to be enjoyed in life, but at the same time, Christ’s mission was to propagate the gospel to all creation, and this mission has been imparted to Christians (Matthew 28:19-20). Christians should make the mission of Christ a priority in they live and think. Facing judgment without Jesus as one’s advocate is a scary thought in any respect, and Jesus’ sacrifice is good news considering the reality of judgment!

Lord, Judgment is real! Help me to tell everyone I can about it!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15: Hearts Set on Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15: Hearts Set on Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 was classically adapted by The Byrds in the song “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The song is lifted right out of the text for the most part. The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes penned this poem in light of a general observation he makes: there is a time for everything. He lists 14 things using classical Hebrew parallelism about many life events concerning life. The Preacher, being an old man, perhaps saw many cycles of these various antonymous pairs. And he himself had probably experienced many of them first hand with his family, fortunes, and friends. The general observation has already been made in one fashion in Ecclesiastes 1:1-11. In chapter one and here in chapter 3, the Preacher describes the circular nature of life with an ebb and flow to all things. When one makes and observation that something is new, this really is not the case. Rather, someone is really rehashing the same old stuff. It might have the appearance of newness, but in and of itself is nothing of note.

The Preacher does make some observations concerning God though. First, he says that God has set the hearts of man on eternity, yet no one can fully comprehend it. Man has always yearned to understand what is beyond the temporal existence he lives in. Second, he notes that the best thing for men to do is be happy and do that which is good. Man should enjoy the fruits of his labor; this is a gift from God. And third, he says that everything that God does endures, and nothing can be added or taken away from this. God’s work in its totality is complete and infinite. The Preacher says this is so that man might fear God. The contrast between the finality and finitude of the experience of man and the eternalness and infinitude of God stand in stark contrast to one another. The Preacher in all his endeavors could still not obtain or grasp what it is like to be like God in these regard, and all his pursuits left him empty

The yearning for eternity can only be satisfied with one thing: God. When Jesus came to earth, he came as a man to break the cycle of death so that man might be free of it. Jesus died, but he did not stay dead. He resurrected from the dead. He also came to disrupt the cycle the Preacher describes in other ways. In the end, there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears (Revelation 21:4). All that stands in contrast to what men desire from eternity will be satisfied in Jesus. When Jesus says he came to that men may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). God has set the hearts of man on eternity to that they would fear him – that is trust him. The provision that God made to satisfy this is Jesus, who was God in the flesh. There can be no greater satisfaction than that which comes from the maker of the universe!

Lord, my heart yearns for eternity. My heart yearns for you!

2 Timothy 4:6-9: Crowns

Read: 2 Timothy 4:6-9

Paul when writing first Timothy seems to feel that his end is near. He claims that he is being poured out like a drink offering and that time for his departure has come. He’s dying. He says this on the cusp of telling Timothy to fulfill his ministry. Paul speaks of the rewards that await him after he passes to go to be with God, and uses this opportunity to remind Timothy of the rewards that await everyone who God has loved. Paul speaks of a crown of righteousness. The sort of crown that Paul is alluding to is a wreath awarded to athletes who win competitions. Paul feels this crown is well deserved because he has “finished the course” and “fought the fight”. He had spent the better part of his life enduring hardship for the sake of the gospel by traveling throughout Asia and Greece starting churches and telling people about how they could find salvation in Jesus.

The New Testament speaks of many rewards for various sorts of activity. The beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 speak of many different conditions, each with a blessing that comes from that condition. In addition to the “crown of righteousness” mentioned by Paul there are three other crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament. First there is a “crown of life” that comes from one persevering under trial (James 1:12). Second, there is an “incorruptible crown”. Paul says this crown is received for preaching the gospel and living according to it. It is received because he practices what he preaches, saying the rules and not disqualifying himself by obeying the rules (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Third, there is a “crown of glory” that comes from rightly shepherding a flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Ultimately the crowns that are received for faithful service will be cast before Jesus as an act of worship because all the glory, honor, and power belong to Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11).

The purpose of the work of the believer is to glorify the Father, and Paul knew this. He had every right to brag about his accomplishments as a Jew, but he considered that all loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Now at the end of his life, he has worked hard and endured much for the sake of the gospel. He could have been prideful in this work, but rather he takes the opportunity to encourage Timothy to continue because of the prize that await after one’s departure, and this prize will bring the most even more glory to God. Christians in the same manner as Paul should fulfill their ministry and receive the crowns for faithful service. Older Christians who have lived their lives faithfully and have fulfilled their ministry can likewise encourage young Christians to do the same. And on that Day that Paul speaks of, Christians can alongside Paul cast their crowns before God in worship giving the glory, honor, and power to him for all he has accomplished in and through the lives of believers!

Lord, I want to live so I receive crowns that I can used to glorify you! Help me to do so!

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