Luke 6:46-49: A Firm Foundation

Read: Luke 6:46-49

Jesus closes the discourse in Luke with another parable, this one describing two builders who build houses. One builds it on a rock and the house stands when the storm comes and the other on sand which collapses when the storm comes. The interpretation of this parable is pretty obvious, and Jesus gives it, saying that the one who listen and does the things that Jesus says will be like the man who builds his house on the rock. The foundation of a house is one of the most critical components of the house because on it rests the entire structure, and when the foundation is weak the house will fall flat. Jesus is saying that his words and instructions are the foundation of ones life, and the rest of one’s life is supported by these teachings.

If Jesus’ teachings are to be the foundation of ones life, then it necessary to first understand the teachings and second aptly apply the teachings of Jesus to ones life. The teachings of Jesus are codified in the pages of scripture, so if one wants to understand what Jesus said one needs to study the word of God. This is why Paul admonishes Timothy to use scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that scripture is “God-breathed” and useful for instruction in the ways of righteousness. Jesus being God, worked through human writers produce the 66 books of the Bible, some of which contains the actual words of Jesus himself. Paul acknowledges the work of the prophets, a reference to the Old Testament and apostles which is a reference to what would become the New Testament, but all of this is built on Jesus who is the “cornerstone” of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The process of studying and applying scripture is called “exegesis”, which is multi-part process. First, one attempts to understand what a text meant in the original context by studying the original language of the text, the literary features of the text, and also the historical and cultural settings of the text. These offer key insights into the next step, which is interpreting the text. Interpretation isn’t so much about finding hidden meanings, rather looking for what the text is trying to communicate in terms of instructions and principles. Lastly, one looks for application of the principles of the text, which is practical application of the text in one’s life and how one obeys the commands of Jesus.

Because the teachings and application of scriptures is is so important requires great care. This is why Peter warned against interpreting scripture in a vacuum (2 Peter 1:19-21). Rather, teachers are to be taught and to also teach what they have learned faithfully (2 Timothy 2:2). Holding fast to sound doctrine and sound teaching will give all who understand the knowledge necessary, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, one can aptly apply the scripture to ones life so that when the storms come one stands firm rather than falling flat.

Lord, your word is a firm foundation. Help me build my life on it!

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 1:12-18: Wisdom

Read: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

The writer of Ecclesiastes claims to have accumulated more wisdom than all of his predecessors. He “set his mind” to explore what people do. He set out to explorer life in general and all the wisdom and knowledge pertaining to it. At the end of his exploration, he concludes that He had studied much concerning the issues related to man, and found that the pursuit of wisdom is as anything void of meaning — what he calls a “chasing after the wind”. He says it is crooked and cannot be made straight. The sage is saying that man, in all his cunning, cannot do anything to alleviate meaningless in life through the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.

It would stand to reason that the one writing a piece of wisdom literature putting down the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is self-defeating.  The author if Ecclesiastes though isn’t putting down wisdom in general, rather the pursuit of wisdom as the end in and of itself. Wisdom is praised elsewhere in the scripture. Ecclesiastes 7 speaks of the value of wisdom. Proverbs speaks of wisdom in great lengths too, 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.

For any Christian wanting to live a life of godliness, wisdom and knowledge are essential. But wisdom is not an end and of itself. If it does not manifest itself in some practical way to enable one to live skillfully as one should do according to the principles of God, then wisdom is useless, and without meaning, as the write of Ecclesiastes notes. One should be a hearer as well as a doer (James 1:23-25), learning the wisdom and knowledge of God and putting these things into practice. This way one can be filled with knowledge and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and be able to bear fruit and please God in all respects (Colossians 1:9-12).

Lord, help to to have wisdom when I need and apply it skillfully!

Ecclesiastes: “Fear the Lord”

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Ecclesiastes was written by one who identifies himself as the “Preacher”, “son of David” and “King of Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). The author himself is anonymous, but has been traditionally associated with Solomon who was known for his wisdom. The vocabulary and style of the book, however, resemble literature from a much later period from Solomon’s era. While the author is unknown, the books canonicity has rarely been challenged, and most early canons and translations have included it.

Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature. Wisdom in Western thought is generally thought of as principally cognitive, but the wisdom in the Ancient Near East was more practical associated with skill – they saw a wise person as one who lives skillfully. The Jews had the law already. They desired to live according to the law to the fullest. The sages among the Jews collated and recorded a set of “best practices” for living out the law. In a manner of speaking, wisdom literature was a commentary on living life according to the law. Wisdom was offered as generalized statements about particular subjects such as money, family, friends, work, and government among many other topics. When reading literature one should be careful not to over extend it, thinking of wisdom as commandments, but neither should one diminish wisdom literature as irrelevant or unimportant.

Ecclesiastes was written by someone who had experienced many things. He had pursued wisdom, pleasures, and wealth and his conclusion on the fulfillment all these pursuits bring is “vanity” – that is it is empty and meaningless. That is fruitless endeavors that ultimately leave one empty, yearning for more. The vanity of these things however, is interspersed with commandments to “Fear the Lord” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, 5:7, 8:12-13, 12:13) – that is revere and respect the Lord. The pursuits themselves do not have meaning, but the writer seems to think that when one connects them with the Lord, realizing the blessings from the Lord, it corroborates the ultimate conclusion on the matter that the writer gives in Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Ecclesiastes is often seen as pessimistic and brooding, but this is only because the author is speaking truth about matters of life apart from God. At the end of the book, the author, as mentioned, things that fear of the Lord gives meaning to existence, and that is best for man to fear the Lord and keep his commandments. Rather than pursue things that result in emptiness, it is certainly better to pursue something that results in something eternal. The results of living a life of godliness is storing up treasures in heaven that do not rust (Matthew 6:19-21). If is best to fear the Lord and keep his commandments to store up this treasure.

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments, for this is best!