Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 5: Ecclesiastes 10 – 12; Psalm 49; Proverbs 22:20-21; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15



Overview

            Ecclesiastes: Like dead flies in perfume, so folly mess up wisdom and honor. A wise man goes to the right a fool to the left and has no sense even when going straight.
            Keep cool if a ruler is angry with you as it will calm things down.
            It is evil to see things that shouldn’t be like foolish rulers, rich being dishonored, slaves riding, and princes walking.
            Solomon tells of several things that harm while doing work. He then speaks of words that win favor or result in foolishness especially when a fool yammers on and on. He explains how a country has problems when kings are too young or don’t have self-control. Laziness destroys a house. Bread and wine are for happiness and money solves all problems. Don’t curse the king, he will find out.
            Invest well and it will come back to you. Give generously and when you are in need it will come back also. You don’t know when it will happen like rain or a tree falling. Too much waiting for the right time loses the opportunity.
            No one knows when God puts life into a baby in the womb so neither do you know how God makes everything.
            Work in the fields in the morning and at home in the evening. You don’t know which will prosper more.
            Enjoy seeing the sunshine and remember the dark times as they will be many. Everything ends up meaningless. Enjoy your youth and have fun but remember God will judge what you do. Don’t become anxious and ignore your minor pains of youth. The easy times won’t last forever.
            Remember God created you while you are young before you get old and can’t enjoy your health. Before eyes go dim, legs give out, teeth decay and fall out, can’t get outside, can’t hear but noise bothers you, can’t sleep, fear falling, fear dangers, lose interest in beauty, and then die. Remember God before you die and you return to dust and your spirit goes back to God who gave it. All this is meaningless says the Preacher.
            The Preacher was wise and taught his people knowledge using proverbs. He based it on all his analysis. He found the right words and wrote truthfully. Words are an encouragement to the wise when they come from one Shepherd so be careful not to add to his words. Too many books and too much study will wear you out.
            With all this said, fear God and keep his commandments because this is man’s duty. God will bring all things, public and private, good or evil, into judgment.
            Psalm: The psalmist calls everyone in the world to hear what he is about to sing. He does not fear though there are sinful cheats all around him. They trust in their wealth but that won’t redeem them from the pit because no one can pay the costly price to God to do that. Wise, fools, rich, and poor all die. The proud die and go to Sheol, but God will ransom the psalmist. His advice is not to fear or envy the rich man; if they are proud with all their pomp, they will end up like beasts that die.
            Proverbs: These are 30 sayings of counsel and knowledge so we can know what is right and true and be able to answer those we work for.
            2 Corinthians: Paul and his companions tell the Corinthians about the way God’s grace has worked in the churches of Macedonia. They are poor and have given generously even beyond what one would expect because of their poverty. They did it of their own free will, even begging to help the saints in need. They gave themselves first to God, then to Paul and his companions. Titus had started the relief effort in Corinth and so Paul urges them to complete this act of grace since they excel in all things.
            Paul isn’t making it a command, but to have them show that their love is genuine. He compares it to the grace of Jesus Christ who was rich but became poor so that by his poverty the Corinthians might become rich. Since they started the collection a year ago, it is time to finish it. He isn’t trying to tell them that they should impoverish themselves to aid others but wants to see some fairness. They have abundance at this time so they can help others and later, the roles may be reversed. The equality should be as it happened in the Old Testament that those who gathered had neither too much or too little.

What Stood Out

            Ecclesiastes: “Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor” (Eccl 10:1).                                          
            Psalm: “Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high,
rich and poor together!” (Ps 49:1-2).
            Proverbs: “Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?” (Prov 22:20-21).
            2 Corinthians: “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Cor 8:13-14).

Insight

            Ecclesiastes: Here we are at the end of Ecclesiastes and there is not a lot that would encourage someone who isn’t looking for gems. Some of the more depressing ones are in Ecclesiastes 10:8-11 which explains that whatever work you may choose for a living, you can have a fatal accident. A better one is in Ecclesiastes 11:1-4; it is good advice about investing, whether it is in being generous or business. Once the opportunity has passed, you may not have it again and end up with nothing. However, the one that brings the most interest is the description of getting older in Ecclesiastes 12:18. Solomon thinks that growing old is meaningless because you can’t do what you did as a youth. It is true, but some of us older people realize we just move from one opportunity to serve the Lord to a different way of serving.
            Going back to Ecclesiastes 10:1 is a tiny gem that is often overlooked. I think it is because we laugh at the first part knowing that dead flies will make perfume stink. We then gloss over the second part about foolishness and wisdom. However, this is very important in our lives. It has brought down many otherwise honorable people. One foolish decision, one slip of the tongue, one sin has very often negated all the good that a person has done in their life. It happens to politicians, businessmen, Christian ministers, and just about all of us at one time or another.
            While it applies in general, it also applies to eternal life. If I commit just one sin, I’m guilty of breaking all of God’s law (James 2:10). Since everyone is a sinner (Rom 3:23), it doesn’t matter how much good I’ve done in my life, that good is all negated by just one sin. That dead fly of sin causes me to stink before God. That’s the bad news. The good news is that by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have been cleansed of all those dead fly sins and the stench has been removed and replace by Jesus’ righteousness. We are washed clean and saved forever when we turn to Jesus in faith and repentance.
            Psalm: The Psalmist declares that everyone in the world should hear this Psalm. You could print this up and use it as a salvation tract. All you would need to do is explain that Jesus is the one who has purchased salvation for us because he is not just a man but God incarnate. It is clear from this Psalm that salvation can’t be found in another person, wealth, implying also your own self. Everyone wise or foolish ends up in hell if they haven’t trusted in God for their salvation. And we now know that God has decreed that salvation is in no one else than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We are commanded to repent and there will be a day when Jesus will judge the world (Acts 17:30). The proof that we have salvation in Jesus, that we must repent, and that there will be a judgment is Christ’s resurrection (Act 17:31).
            Proverbs: Presumably, there should be thirty proverbs that were before or after this one that would help us in our relationship with the person or people that sent us to do something. Wow, isn’t that vague? To make matters worse different translations say three (KJV) or only excellent (NAS, NKJV) proverbs. If you start here and start counting in either direction you won’t find three or thirty specific proverbs in a row that fit this description. So, just be sure that when you read Proverbs, you will be able to find many that will apply directly to work situations and how to work with kings, bosses, and others who we work for. What is even more important is to apply them.
            2 Corinthians: The early churches started out a whole lot different financially than we operate today. When we look back at Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-37 where all the believers shared everything in common. They sold what they had to take care of those who had nothing. They were living in a communal society. The genuineness of their love for each other was beyond question. However, Satan entered the picture to mess it up when Ananias and Sapphira decided to pretend to give generously. I wonder if that is when people started thinking twice about how much they should support each other.
            Fast forward to today and many churches have a hard time just paying the staff of their churches and keeping the doors open. They have very little opportunity to make sure the needy in their church has anything close to fairness. Those who have a lot keep it and believe that the most they need to give is 10% and few do it. Those who are in need can’t pay their bills and therefore give little if anything.
            This is big contrast between us and the Macedonians who were giving out of their poverty. Paul asked the Corinthians to give to show their love. If we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need by physically helping them, then how can we say we love God (1 John 3:17). Jesus laid down his life for us and we should be willing to help those in need (1 John 3:16).

Application

             Back in Ecclesiastes it spoke of being generous and that is what I need to do. I can’t solve all the poverty in the world but I can help some. I can also declare the gospel at the same time to those need to know about Jesus.

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