Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ecclesiastes 12 - Enjoy Life! Fear God!

LINK: Ecclesiastes 12

by Katrina

Solomon gives a vivid illustration of old age coming like a storm and breaking down the "house" (body) of the old man.
  • watchmen of the house tremble - your arms/hands tremble
  • mighty men stoop - you walk bent over
  • grinding ones stand idle because they are few - you lose your teeth
  • those who look through windows grow dim - your vision grows dim
  • doors are shut - loss of hearing
  • arise at the sound of the birds - you awaken early (even though you might not want to)
  • afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road - you fear falling
  • almond tree blossoms - your hair turns white (like the almond blossoms)
  • grasshopper drags himself along - you are impaired by crippled and bent limbs
  • caperberry is ineffective - you become sexually impotent
  • goes to his eternal home - you die
Solomon is using this illustration of old age to spur the young not only to enjoy their youth, but also remember to serve God in their youth. Old age will come quicker than you think!

Solomon comes to his conclusion. He said at the beginning of the book that life, in and of itself, is meaningless. If life is going to have meaning, that meaning must come from God. "Remember God," Solomon says. Pay attention to what God says, consider his words, obey him. "Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil" (v 13-14).

Enjoy life! Fear God!

Lord, what a privilege it is to live this life for you! May I live my life in such a way as to honor you. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ecclesiastes 11 - The Adventure of Life

LINK: Ecclesiastes 11

by Katrina

Life is an adventure! We never know what is going to happen, so here are some words of wisdom from Solomon.
  • Be bold in your business ventures (v 1), yet diversify your assets (v 2).
  • Learn to recognize the cycles and finalities in life (v 3).
  • Do not be overly cautious or fearful and thereby never accomplish anything (v 4).
  • Don't expect to understand everything that God does (v 5).
  • Work diligently (v 6).
  • Enjoy your life on this earth, especially your youth (v 7-10).
  • Pursue your dreams, but do so within the bounds of living righteously before God (v 9).

I do see life as an adventure, with God leading me through it. I want to experience the variety and wonders of God's creation. I enjoy going new places, meeting new people, reading new adventures, experiencing new tastes and new cultures, etc. God has given me much to enjoy in this life.

There are many ways to enjoy life -- as many ways as there are people, I suppose. So, how about you? Do you enjoy the life God has given you?

Father, thank you for each day you have given me here on this earth. Let me milk this life for all it's worth. I want to serve you each and every day. May I be diligent and not live in fear, trusting you to lead me and do what you will with my life. For, in reality, my life belongs to you. You have purchased it with the blood of Jesus. In his name, amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ecclesiastes 4 - Scenes of Life

LINK: Ecclesiastes 4

by Katrina

Having discussed the times of life, Solomon now looks around at several "scenes" from life on this earth.

First, he observes those who are oppressed and those who oppress them. Neither is happy.

Next, he watches laborers in their competition against one another. He sees both the hard working man (v 4) and the lazy man (v 5). He sees a well-balanced man (v 6). But he also sees the workaholic (v 8) who couldn't get enough no matter how much he had. The work of the laborers is vanity and striving after wind.

Third, he observes two men together. Because there are two of them, they have some benefits over isolated men -- in their labor, when one falls, in keeping warm, and in protection. There is another person to help in all these situations. And the fact that there are two working together makes them stronger.

The final scene is the throne room of the king. Although a man is king, it is not worth much if he is also a fool. A poor man can come out of prison and take the throne. But in the end, he will lose the throne to another successor. This, too, is vanity and striving after wind.

One thing Solomon points out in this chapter is that we need balance in our lives. For example, we need to work, but the work itself is not the goal, neither is great riches for riches' sake. Our work should be productive but not all-consuming. I like how Solomon illustrated his point -- we should have work in one hand and rest in the other.

Life is full of opportunities to go "overboard" in one area and neglect another. Take some time to examine your life and evaluate whether it's balanced. You might ask a close friend to help you in your evaluation. (Sometimes our own perceptions aren't quite accurate, but a loving friend can help you see things more realistically.) Some specific areas to consider and questions to ask yourself --
  • time - Do I use my time wisely or fritter it away on meaningless activities?
  • money - How do I spend it? Am I investing in things of value, or just purchasing pleasure for today?
  • health - My body belongs to the Lord. Am I taking care of it? Am I using it in a way that is pleasing to him?
  • abilities/talents - Do I honor God with my creative abilities?

Lord, you have blessed us and given us many things in this life. Help us to be wise stewards of the time, money, health, abilities, and other resources you have given us. Teach us how to keep our lives balanced and to use these resources for your glory and honor rather than only for personal gain. Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ecclesiastes 3 - Time & Eternity

LINK: Ecclesiastes 3

by Katrina

Everything that happens in this life "under the sun" has an appropriate time of occurrence. There is an appointed time for everything - a time for birth and a time for death, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up, and so on (v 2-8). This passage is very well-known and popular. I've heard songs written from it. It is a very poetic way to demonstrate the variety of things that happen in this life.

In verse 11, Solomon transitions from this life to the next. "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart." Mankind has been given a sense of eternity. He knows in his heart that this life is not all there is. We can look beyond the daily routine of life toward eternity. In light of eternity, Solomon reminds his readers that there is also a judgment coming. "God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man" (v. 17). Every man dies and his body returns to dust, but his soul ascends to God (v 21).

"I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him" (v. 14). All the things that we do routinely on a day-to-day basis - laundry, meals, plant, build, search, weep, etc. - are not things that will remain forever. They are the stuff of this life and allow us to function "under the sun." But God's work is eternal. He has eternal purpose. We know from the New Testament that we can join God in this eternal work and purpose, but it's still God's work, not ours. We still have to do the stuff of this life, but what a privilege it is to join God in this work of eternal value!

We have many tasks to do in this life, and sometimes we get bogged down in them all. Solomon has some good reminders for us here in verse 12-13 and 22.
  • We are to rejoice in our work
  • We should resolve to do good in this life
  • We can enjoy the fruits of our labor
  • We should recognize them as a gift from God.
Take some time today to think about your attitudes when you are doing the "stuff of life." Do you rejoice as you work or do you grumble and complain? I think it's easier to enjoy the fruits of my labor when I have done the labor cheerfully! Do you seek out good things to do? And remember, everything you have - even if you worked for it - is really a gift from God, and be thankful.

Father, thank you for all you have given us -- ability to work, food and drink to enjoy, (add anything you are thankful for). Remind us to rejoice in our work that we do on a day-to-day basis. Help us to seek out good things we can do in this life to benefit others. We praise you as the eternal God, whose work will remain forever. Amen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Job 42 - Job's Answer to God

LINK: Job 42

by Katrina

Job knew God was right and he had sinned. His suffering was not a result of sin, but he had sinned by accusing God of being unjust and demanding an explanation from God. His sin was more in his attitude than in his action. So he answers in verses 2-6 with two points (1) God can do anything he wants to do without my permission or understanding; and (2) I was wrong to accuse God of being unjust. So Job took back (retracted) what he had said earlier and repented.

God was angry with Job's friends who had "not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has." So, he required them to offer a sacrifice for their sin and told Job to intercede for them. They did so, and the Lord accepted their sacrifice and forgave them.

Then the Lord blessed Job with twice what he had blessed him with before Satan started his accusations. And Job lived a full and happy life for another 140 years.

As we conclude this book, I think it's important to look back at the beginning and remember what the reason for Job's suffering was in the first place. In the first two chapters of the book, Satan accused Job before God, saying that he only feared God because God blessed him and protected him. God allowed Job to suffer in order to prove that Satan was wrong. God wanted to demonstrate Job's faithfulness and righteousness. Did Job pass the test?

Job was not sinless, but that wasn't the test. He remained faithful to God, even when his wife told him to "curse God and die" (2:9). And he maintained his integrity and righteousness before God to the end. He did not turn against God but kept his faith in God even though he could not understand what God was doing. He never cursed God as Satan predicted he would (1:11). Also, God continued to call Job his servant, maintaining the relationship they had. And God even had Job serve as a priest and offer sacrifices for his friends. So, YES! Job passed the test.

Through all of Job's experience of suffering and hearing from God, his relationship with the Lord was greatly deepened. He said in verse five, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You." Before this point, Job knew about God, believed what he had learned about God, trusted in God. But now he has experienced God.

James 5:11 says, "Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." Let's remember just who our God is and endure the difficulties of life without losing faith in him. Let's take these verses to heart:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Father, help us to endure the difficulties of this life, because through them, we can experience your compassion and mercy. You are the Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. We bow down and worship you. Amen.

(Exodus 34:6-8)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Job 41 - Leviathan

LINK: Job 41

by Katrina

God continues to demonstrate his power over creation by describing creatures that man could not tame or control. This entire chapter is devoted to a creature known as Leviathan.

Some say that Leviathan is a mythical creature. If that were the case, then God demonstrating to Job his power over Leviathan is pointless. So, what was Leviathan?

Many say Leviathan is the crocodile, but does the crocodile really fit the description of Leviathan? Let's look at God's description in this chapter -- Leviathan was a fierce creature with mighty strength. It had scales like armor and very strong neck and limbs. He could breathe fire and stirred up the sea like boiling water with his writhing. No one was able to capture or kill him. Nothing else on earth could compare to Leviathan in strength or fierceness.

Probably, of the creatures alive today, the crocodile comes closest to this description. However, the crocodile doesn't live out in the sea and isn't as intimidating as the creature described in Job 41. Job lived in the first 100-200 years after the flood, and it could be that Leviathan was a real creature at that time, but is now extinct.

If you are interested in reading further on this topic, here's an article from Answers in Genesis.

Lord, you rule over all creation because you made it and it is yours. Yet you make yourself known to us and allow us to come into your presence. What an awesome God you are! We praise and honor you above all. And thank you for reconciling us to you through Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Job 40-Who’s Judging Who?

LINK: Job 40

The Lord has spoken to Job for the last 2 chapters. Finally, He dares Job to respond and to accuse Him. Job responds that he is unworthy. He cannot say more. God goes on to question Job on his right to condemn him. He asks Job if he can be God and do the mighty things that God can do. He mentions the Behemoth as a mighty animal of his creation. This animal is thought to be either a hippopotamus or an elephant. God asks if man can capture or tame it.

Is blaming God for his suffering Job’s sin? Job was righteous before Satan’s “experiment.” His sin came through his judgment of God. He accuses God of forsaking him and questions God’s sovereignty.

Mack, the main character in the book, The Shack, is struggling with why God allows evil to happen. Like Job, he questions God’s sovereignty and assumes that God has forsaken him:

Wisdom, in the form of a woman, is speaking to Mack, “Give up being his judge and know Papa (God) for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be. Papa has crawled inside your world to be with you…” (The Shack by William Paul Young, quoted with permission, pg.165)

Two thoughts impressed me in this quote, first, when we look at the world from our own self-centered perspective, we actively push God away. Secondly, God is with us in our pain.

We cannot blame God for the evil of this world. However, we can trust God to be with us during suffering. God did not bring on Job’s suffering. Satan did. I find it interesting that God does not put the blame on Satan. He simply tells Job who He is and who Job is not. We, as followers of the New Covenant have a huge advantage over Job. We have the Holy Spirit, indwelling our hearts and speaking to us in ways that Job did not have.

Father, let us trust you with our whole hearts, embracing your love in the midst of our pain. You will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that we are your children. In Jesus name, Amen

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Job 39

LINK: Job 39
Observation & Interpretation
God continues his reply to Job. For most of chapter 38, He discussed the inanimate objects he has made; in chapter 39, He describes his animate creation. Again, He reminds Job who is in charge, who is in control and who is incomprehensible.

The animals described in the chapter are a fun reminder of the diversity of life:
the lion (ch 38)
the raven (ch 38)
the mountain goat
the wild donkey
the wild ox
the ostrich
the war horse
the hawk
the eagle

So often, followers of God refrain from singing the praises of animals as they do not want to become animists (animal worshippers) – and rightly so. However, God did create amazing creatures. It would behoove us to observe them and learn more about our God.

Observing God’s creation always helps me gain perspective on my life, especially when I am depressed or doubting. For instance, when I am feeling blue and self-focused, if I stop and observe the cute little chickadees and juncos outside my window, it can stop my train of destructive thought. It is like a reminder from God to focus on Him and how He can provide for whatever I feel worried, stress or depressed. If I have lost sight that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, I need only to look at His amazing creatures and realize that I am the most amazing of all His creatures. But perhaps I am beyond needing cute furry things to snap me out of dark thoughts; perhaps I am wondering about some complex theological question like Job was – how can God be just when there is great suffering about? does God even exist? Then, when I look at what He has made, I am reminded that there is indeed a Creator and that if He had the Wisdom and Understanding to create what I can see, then I need to trust that He has the Wisdom and Understanding to answer the questions that baffle me. He is indeed Sovereign, Omnipotent and Omniscient!

Oh, Lord, help me to be humble before you and remember your sovereignty over creation and my circumstances!

(Written by Ellen Peters, posted by The Vons)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Job 38 - God Speaks

LINK: Job 38

by Katrina

God has arrived on the scene! He speaks to Job out of a whirlwind (rather intimidating, I think), and asks him a series of rhetorical questions. Here's my summarized paraphrase --
  • Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth!
  • Who set the boundaries for the sea?
  • Have you ever commanded the sun to rise?
  • Have you seen the depths of the sea or the earth?
  • Do you know the way to the dwelling of light and darkness?
  • Have you seen the storehouses of snow and hail?
  • Can you cause a flood or a thunderstorm?
  • Do you control the stars and constellations?
  • Can you command the rain to come down?
  • Do you provide food for the wild animals?
Obviously, all of these things are only within God's power to do. Job cannot understand or do any of them, and neither can we.

There's nothing like a large dose of God's majesty and power to make us aware of our insignificance and powerlessness. Reflect on the things that God does, listed in this chapter, and allow yourself to be humbled by it.

Praise God for his great power and majesty today.

Lord, you are the one true God, creator of the universe in which we live. You are far above what our minds can think! You can do far more than we can even imagine! You are sovereign over all that happens everywhere through all of time. We praise you for who you are. Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Job 36 & 37 - Majesty of God

LINK: Job 36 & 37

by Katrina

Elihu continues once more with his fourth speech. He stresses the majesty of God. God is eternal and beyond our comprehension. "Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; the number of His years is unsearchable" (36:22). Elihu uses illustrations of nature to demonstrate God's sovereignty. If God is sovereign over all creation, and His wonders are beyond human explanation, then man really has nothing to tell God. Elihu cautions Job that maybe he doesn't really want a day in court with God.

"The Almighty -- we cannot find Him; He is exalted in power" (37:23). Yes, God is exalted and beyond our comprehension. But Elihu continues in the assumption that Job is suffering because of his unrighteousness and urges him to repent. "And He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness. Therefore men fear Him; He does not regard any who are wise of heart."

Elihu is right - God is way above our comprehension. We cannot fully understand what He is doing or why He does things the way He does. God is sovereign over us, and we cannot fully understand it. "Man's steps are ordained by the Lord. How then can man understand his ways?" (Proverbs 20:24) and "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Prov 16:9). We make plans and act on them, but God is ultimately the one in control.

Once we accept the fact that God is sovereign over all, we then have to deal with the questions in our minds of why He does what He does. This is where Job is. He wants an explanation from God.

It is very humbling for us to have to accept the fact that we aren't in control and can't make God do what we want. But it is even more difficult, I think, to let God be in control without demanding an explanation from Him. Instead, we have to learn to trust Him.

Lord, we know in our minds that you are the only sovereign God. You have control over all of creation and all that happens to us. Our hearts struggle to relinquish control and to trust that you are doing what's best. But you promise that you make all things work together for the good of your children who love you. (Romans 8:28-29) We can't fully understand your ways, because you are beyond our comprehension. Help us to learn to trust you rather than demand explanations from you. In the name of Jesus, amen.