Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 23 April 2023:
[Note: Here is a link to a video overview of Ecclesiastes: https://youtu.be/lrsQ1tc-2wk%5D
Ecclesiastes 1:2 — “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Some Bible versions use the word “vanity” rather than “meaningless.” The book of Ecclesiastes addresses the futility of life apart from God. Apart from God, despite all of our great efforts to make sense out of things and to control life, life seems to have no purpose and meaning, and our efforts seem pointless. Apart from God life can be very dark and depressing. In fact, reading most of Ecclesiastes can feel quite depressing. However, Ecclesiastes deals with some of the biggest questions about life that have been asked throughout all human history. What is the point of trying? This is a question which can only be answered by the Author of Life.
While Solomon, the wisest man who had ever lived in his time, saw life as meaningless after having tried to learn and do everything, after having been caught up in sin, and after having corrupted Israel so badly that it would eventually be permanently divided, how could Paul, while facing persecution, prison and eventually his execution say, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58) Paul understood that nothing is in vain that is done for the LORD, with the LORD, and through the LORD by the one who abides in the eternal life of Jesus. The anchor for Paul’s soul was his hope in Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 6) As you read Ecclesiastes, read it from the context of your revelation of Jesus which the “teacher” of Ecclesiastes did not have.
- Isaiah 65:23 — They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them.
Psalm 47:5-9 — God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!
Shout for joy today! Sing Praises! He is risen! Tell the world!
If we don’t feel overwhelmed with a desire to praise God today, despite circumstances, it is because we have a wrong perspective of God and the reality of the situation at hand. Joy is an issue of perception, understanding, and focus. So, will you shout for joy today?
If you don’t feel much like rejoicing right now, these verses are not intended to be a chastisement but rather an encouragement. Good coaches don’t usually tell players what the players don’t know, they mostly remind them to practice what they do know and encourage them to grow in their abilities through that practice. Let the Holy Spirit coach you with these verses, reminding you that God is Sovereign and encouraging you to rejoice in His love and in your security in Him. Sometimes we all need to stop, refocus on the truth of the Gospel, and “rejoice,” or ‘joy again.’ Sometimes, when we don’t feel much like singing praises, we need to sing praises more often and louder! Sometimes, when God feels distant, we need to get closer to Him through Bible study, prayer, and meditation, confidently waiting upon Him with great expectation. And sometimes when we are having dark thoughts, we need to proactively replace those thoughts with positive contemplations. Of course, this isn’t always easy to do, which is why the Bible is so full of encouragement to just do it and to practice, practice, practice –
- Philippians 4:4-7 — Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:8-9 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
- Philippians 4:12-13, 19, 23 — I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me…. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus…. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Psalm 48:13, 14 — Tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.
Sing praises to God today for salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and for His continued provision. And share with others the truth of the Gospel, particularly with your children. One of our greatest responsibilities is to pass our knowledge of God to the next generation. (Psalm 48:13, 14) Let your joy through all circumstances be your testimony to them of God’s perfect providence.
Proverbs 23:1-3 – When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.
The Bible warns that politicians will make many promises and offer many gifts in order to stay in power – this is a deception. Have you ever seen a poor politician?
Proverbs 23:4 — Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
If your pursuit of productivity gets in the way of your relationship with God and others, your productivity, your accomplishments, have become your idol – sin to you. Don’t sacrifice what matters for what ultimately doesn’t matter.
Proverbs 23:6, 7 – Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
Many people will fake generosity in order to get something in return, and many relationships depend on reciprocity. Love is a gift, requiring and expecting nothing in return. Only relationships grounded in love are reliable under all circumstances.
Proverbs 23:9 – Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Fools aren’t really listening to what you have to say. With many, you are wasting your time trying to speak truth to them. Sometimes it is best to save your energy for those who are being moved by the Spirit to hear.
Proverbs 23:10 – Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.
God is the Redeemer who holds everyone accountable for all their words and deeds.
Proverbs 23:13, 14 – Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
Parents who don’t discipline their children create adults with deep character issues. “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)
Proverbs 23:17 – Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
What is the most powerful influence in your life, God or others, popular opinion or the word of God? Your actions will reveal who you are really following.
Following Jesus is a daily endeavor that requires self-control. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Notice how these sins involve a lack of self-control. However, Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Notice that self-control comes from the Spirit, not merely human will. Note that the key to self-control is belonging to Christ and being crucified with Him and being born again into a new creation:
- Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- Galatians 6:15 — For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
- Luke 14:27 — Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
The Bible describes envy as one of the most dangerous of emotions. It involves resentment over the wealth, blessings, talents, good fortune, or achievements of another. The envious person feels a deep sense of injustice that can only be directed at God who provides all things to all people. This verse points out that envy is a deep spiritual sin which tempts you into a tantrum of rebellion against God. Be very careful not to be envious of others, but rather be thankful for what God is doing in your life to bless you.
Proverbs 23:20, 21 — Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.
It is interesting that the Bible places alcoholism and excessive eating into the same category — what do they have in common? They both demonstrate a lack of self-control, and idolatrous dependency, misdirected emotions, escapism, and destructive behavior. God wants you to have self-control through the Spirit, and to desire and depend on Him that you might experience the fullness of life and joy.
Proverbs 23:22-25 – Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old…. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
The most important institution in the Bible is the family. The foundation of society is the family. The family is the school house for character development. The most important leadership position is parent. The measure of the leader is the character of his/her children. Children need the leadership of both a godly man and a godly woman, working together to develop the whole person developing in the child. When a society loses respect for God’s plan for the family, the society is doomed.
Proverbs 23:26 — My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
Your heart guides what you choose to focus on, but what you choose to focus on also affects the condition of your heart. We must do as Job did and make a covenant not to gaze upon what we shouldn’t in order to guard the heart. (Job 31:1) This is a premeditated decision.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 April 2023: Truly celebrate the Gospel today in your heart and with loved ones. Shout for joy today! Sing Praises! He is risen! Tell the world!