Hebrews 11:3: Faith and Creation

Read: Hebrews 11:3: Faith and Creation

When the author of Hebrews writes about faith as it relates to creation – he says that by faith we understand that the world was called into existence by God’s word and from things “not seen” it has its being. The author of Hebrews is recalling the creation account from Genesis 1. Genesis 1:1 asserts that God created the heavens and the earth, and then continues to give the account of creation through the end of the chapter. Genesis 1:2 asserts that the earth is “formless” and “void”. Psalm 33:6 says that God made the universe by a word – that is he spoke it into existence out of nothingness. The traditional understanding of this is called “ex nihilo” creation – creation out of nothing rather than out of some sort of pre-existing matter.

Perhaps the reason the author of Hebrews asserts that believers understand creation as an act of God is because people were not present during the act of creation. But the act of creation is evident in the created on many counts. The act of creation from nothing is evident from cause and purpose. Any number of things exhibit cause. Children are a result of their parents, who are a result of their parents and so on. A table made of wood is derived from a tree, which owes its existence to growth from the ground, rain, and sunshine, and other elements and so on. These causal chains, however, are not circular nor are they infinite and thereby require an ultimate first cause, which is God. These arguments form a class of arguments called “cosmological arguments”. Purpose is exhibited in creation as well in the form of design, morality, and ascetics. The arguments here reason that such things are not the product of natural processes, rather the product of a being, who is God. These arguments form a class of arguments called “teleological arguments”.

Paul argues in Romans 1:18-20 that the creator is evidence in the created, such that men are “without excuse”. In a similar fashion, Paul argues that God created man such that man is not far from God. And for some time, God overlooked ignorance and is calling men to repent (Acts 17:22-31). Creation testifies to the glory of God, and should spur men towards repentance. But this is not enough to result in salvation. Believing that God exists is not enough – one needs Jesus for salvation. For this reason, Paul closes the letter to the Romans, he declaring his intent to go to Spain so he can declare Jesus where Jesus was not known (Romans 15:18-25). While the creator is evident in the created, the creator has given believers the task of declaring Jesus to the world (Matthew 28:19-20). People cannot believe in something they have never heard about, and for this reason it is the responsibility of Christians to take the gospel to the nations so they may have a complete faith resulting in salvation (Romans 10:4-17).

Lord, creation declares your splendor!

Help me to declare Jesus!

Ecclesiastes 9:11-18: Certainty in Uncertainty

Read: Ecclesiastes 9:11-18

The Preacher in the latter half of chapter 9 reflects on the nature of the would-be rewards to a particular pursuit. It seems logical that one who is swift would win a race, one who is strong will win a battle, and one who is wise will have bread, and so on. What the Preacher concludes on the matter is that not everything is guaranteed and certain as one might think. He says that within a swift moment – like a fish caught in a net or a bird in a snare – things can change all of a sudden for men. The Preacher then says he observed this in a battle between a great king and a small town. The small town had but a few people and the great king had a mighty army. It would seem logical that the great king could with his mighty army capture the small city with no problem. But the small city had a wise, but poor man. The wisdom of the poor man thwarted the attempts of the mighty king, yet the poor man was no rewarded, rather scorned and forgotten primarily because he was poor. In two cases, the mighty king did not win the battle and the wise man did not receive his due respect. Instead, quite the opposite happened to both the mighty king and the poor wise man. At the end of all this though, the Preacher is right in saying that wisdom is better than strength and the whispers of the wise are better than shouting of rulers, but there is certainly no guarantee that even wisdom will be rewarded.

In an uncertain world where things can change rapidly and calamity strike at any moment. The most certain thing that man can find is found only in God. God is unchanging, constant, and eternal (James 1:17, 1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 102:12,25-28, Malachi 3:6). Trusting in God gives one the surety of eternal life and a hope (1 Peter 1:3-5), but even in spite of this there is still uncertainty. Pertaining to God, the uncertainty not knowing when he will do what he has promised. The time of Jesus’ return is uncertain. Jesus himself said said that he would return like a thief in the night – that is his return will come unexpectedly and quickly without much warning if any at all. Rather than speculate as to when Jesus will return, Christians should do well to be watchful and ready for his return (Matthew 24:43-51). In other words, Christians should not be caught off guard when Jesus does return.

The Bible does say that one should prepare for the future or make plans, rather the Bible encourages men to do so to mitigate uncertain calamity (Proverbs 6:6-15, Proverbs 16:1-4). But at the same time tells people to not “worry” about the future, that is “μεριμνησητε” which means to be anxious and consumed with planning of about the future (Matthew 6:25-34). For this matter it is better to trust in God concerning the future and not be caught off guard when the Jesus returns. The Proverbs and Matthew encourage their readers to commit themselves to the Lord and seek his purposes. The one thing that is guaranteed and certain is that God will accomplish what he has set out to do and thing can thwart that!

Lord, help me to commit my ways to do and trust you for the outcome!

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9: The End In Mind

Read: Ecclesiastes  7:8-9: The End In Mind

“Begin with the end in mind” has been a popular quote in recent years because of the best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. The idea put forth in the book resonates with what the Preacher wrote some over two thousand years ago.  The Preacher, now seemingly advanced in years has reflected back in Ecclesiastes all that he had done. At the end of the day, the Preacher says that the end is better than the beginning and it is better to be patient than haughty — that is proud.  The comparison talks about what one puts into a task and likewise the results of the task. He’s saying that generally speaking, when one sets out to do something, he or she invests much time working towards a goal, and for this reason the goal, when obtained is most certainly a better state of affairs than when one started towards that goal (Psalms 126:5-6). But at the same time, the Preacher is offering a warning too: patience is better than pride. This is a warning against looking for quick results to build up one’s self. Rather than taking shortcuts, one should invest the proper time and energy into a task and be patient so that the results are robust rather than shoddy.   The Preacher also gives warning  against being hot tempered too, because anger of this fool makes one a fool. Coming off the previous proverb, the Preacher is probably speaking to about those that get ahead quickly. Those who use dubious schemes to advance themselves quickly frustrate another who is trying to do things the right way. Rather than become hot headed, one should keep his or her cool in the matter, for this is best (Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 16:32).

Hebrews 12:1-3, describes a race. Hebrews says that one should put off things that entangle and run with perseverance the race that is marked out. Hebrews is teaching that the courses has been laid out already. Christians follow the commands of Christ for this is their course. The picture of Jesus standing at the finish encouraging one on is here too. The runner in the race Hebrews is describing that the runner is fixing his eyes on Jesus. Jesus himself had already persevered, having bore the cross and despised its shame, but through this he received glory. For Jesus, the beginning of the task was not easy, but the end result was glory. For the Christian, life is full of challenges, but the Christian is called to run with perseverance — that is not take shortcuts — and enduring hardship. At the end of the race, one will be rewarded for his or her faithfulness. The reward comes at the end of the race, not during or before. Christians should heed the words of the Preacher, know the end is better than the beginning, but patience is better than pride.

Lord, help me run the race with the end in mind!