Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 28 August 21:
Ecclesiastes 12:11-13 — The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) and after a lifetime of searching for the meaning of life and how best to live our short lives, the author of Ecclesiastes concludes that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the “end of the matter… the whole duty of man.” While the Bible is clear that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by our works, we are called to strive to grow in our love, faithfulness and obedience.
In today’s readings, God’s word is described as “goads,” which were spiked sticks used to get animals moving and to guide them along the proper course. Occasionally, animals would resist and kick angrily against the goads, only causing them more, needless pain along the way – “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’” (Acts 26:14) In His Sovereignty and perfect love, God has given us His word for His glory and for our benefit. Resisting God’s word is not only an offense against Him, it is pointless and painful. Don’t suffer the needless pain of kicking against the goads.
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh…. beware of anything beyond [God’s word].” According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) statistics, over 1,755, 355 new books have been published worldwide this year, with a new book being added to the list approximately every 15 seconds. How many of these books reflect people’s vain pursuit of purpose, meaning, and wisdom apart from God? Or, how many authors seek to characterize God or His ways on their own terms or from their own extraordinarily limited perspective? How much of what is written reflects the pride and vanity of mankind? How much merely celebrates kicking against the goads? There are many great books out there, but be careful of anything that seeks to add to God’s word or which offers “Good News” that is really no Gospel at all. Also, always begin your daily reading with God’s word, and judge everything else from the standard of His truth.
- Proverbs 30:5-6 — Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
- Deuteronomy 4:2 — You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
- Deuteronomy 12:32 — Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
- Galatians 1:6-9 — I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
- Colossians 2:8 — See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
- Acts 17:11 — Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
- 1 John 4:1 — Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 — For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
- Ezekiel 34:18, 19 — Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
- John 17:17 — Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Finally, the author or Ecclesiastes says, fearing God and keeping His commands is “the whole duty of man,” which is true, but Jesus wants your motivation to move from duty to love — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When you are doing what you really love with the One you love the most, it hardly feels like duty. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Commands (laws and rules) are boundaries intended for those who need them. When you are walking in genuine love for God and for others, you won’t need commands to keep you within the boundaries of God’s will, and you won’t feel constrained by them. The laws remain, but you have no need of them — “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
When thinking about the importance of God’s word in your life and your response to it, consider the experience of leash training a puppy: Without the leash, the puppy will wander, perhaps into traffic or some other threatening situation. When the master puts on a leash for the first time, the puppy naturally fights it but over time learns the benefits of walking with the master and no longer resists. Before long, the growing puppy gets excited about the leash because when the puppy sees it, it knows the master is going to take it on an exciting journey. If the puppy grows into a disciplined dog, a time will come when it no longer needs a leash to obey the master; the dog knows the master’s voice and responds, bringing great joy to both the dog and the master. Ironically though, the obedient dog which no longer needs the leash still appreciates the leash and might enthusiastically bring it to the master to express the desire to go for another walk with the master – and healthy dogs never get tired of walking with the master, even when they are old and struggle physically. The faithful dog loves to be with the master and eagerly desires to please him in every way and to experience life with him. Obedience comes naturally with love and appreciation. Where are you in your obedience training? How excited are you about God’s word and walking in it with your Master? Is it a burden or a wonderful joy you can’t get enough of?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 August 21: Today, focus on walking with the Lord, loving Him, obeying Him, and celebrating Him. Listen to His voice through His word and through constant prayer, and don’t be distracted by the countless ‘teachers’ out there who offer a way, a truth, and a life other than The Way, The Truth and The Life, Jesus.