Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"As human beings we need to know our place …"

Day #320:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 13th

Scripture Reading:  Ecclesiastes 7 - 8 …

Human wisdom is limited, it's as simple as that.  Human power is limited.  Human understanding is limited.  As soon as we think there are no limits, God does something to remind us that HE is the only one without limits!  We may think we know more than Solomon did 3,000 years ago, but the truth is, our wisdom, power and understanding are just as limited as his were.  He says, "Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?  No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death" (8:7-8).  Much of the Bible is written to put us in our place … to help us understand that we are NOT God, but that there IS a God who created the world and everything in it and HIS wisdom, power and understanding ARE unlimited!

James put it this way:  "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.  As it is you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil" (James 4:13-16).  This is why Solomon said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7).  Wisdom begins with the knowledge of God, and all true wisdom points back to God.

People who know God find rest in Him and know that His ways are best.  In Chapter 7, Solomon says, "A good name is better than fine perfume" (7:1).  And how do you get a good name?  By living according to God's commands.  While it may be true that some will throw stones at those who live in obedience to God, more people will take notice and perhaps be moved to seek the life you are living for Christ.  With good reason Peter writes, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us" (I Peter 2:12).  That puts all of life into perspective.  This explains, at least in part, what Solomon says next …

In verses 2-4 of Chapter 7, Solomon seems to be saying that it is better to be sad than happy!  How can that be?  Before you think he has gone off the deep end you need to remember that Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:3-4).  Both are expressing the truth that living in this world that is broken by sin moves those who know God to grieve, to recognize the horrible consequences of sin and long to be free from the bonds, from the limitations of this life.  Pretending that all is well when it isn't is foolishness.  Carried to the extreme this would lead to despair, but Solomon is simply pointing out that taking life seriously is important.  Laughter is good medicine and joy is the fruit of the Spirit, but seeking happiness in the pleasures of this world is the pursuit of fools.

The next few verses contain some of Solomon's proverbs.  He points out some of the contrasts and apparent contradictions you and I experience in living life.  He is describing how some people think as they debate what is right or wrong, good or bad.  Man's wisdom, you will remember, is limited.  "The man who fears God will avoid all extremes" (7:18).  People often defend their own positions with greater zeal than they defend God's Word.  When it comes to what makes people happy and the "pursuit of happiness," it seems that most people exist on one end or the other … the extremes.  Either they desire and pursue the pleasure and happiness of the world and live for the things of the world, or they separate themselves from any joy or pleasure - even that which God has created to be enjoyed.  Solomon tells us not to do that.  We are to find our joy in God and serve Him in this world knowing that eternity lies ahead!!

I have often asked people where they are at spiritually on a scale of 1-10 … Are you riding high or plumbing the depths?  While some people will say an 8 or 9, most will answer 2 -5.  What does that mean? How would you answer that question?  Or does it depend on the day?  If we simply judge our external experiences, then our mood, our attitude and our joy will vary greatly from one day to the next.  But if our hope is in the Lord and we know He is with us; if we rejoice in His love and forgiveness and know that we have eternal life waiting for us; if we know there is a purpose for everything that happens and that God is faithful to provide all we truly need, that He will never leave or forsake us … then every day is a 7-9 … (10 is reserved for the perfection of glory!).

Your circumstances will change, but the foundation upon which your life is built won't, if your foundation is in the God who created you.  "Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Solomon writes, "All this I tested by wisdom and I said, 'I am determined to be wise' - but this was beyond me.  whatever wisdom may be, it is far off and most profound - who can discover it?" (7:23-24).  People will believe almost any theory scientists come up with today, even though they change their minds and their theories continually.  Solomon concludes, "This only have I found:  God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes" (7:29).  How true that is!  The schemes of mankind know no end.  We continue to explore the universe GOD made to discover where we came from and how this world began, when God has already told us!

So Solomon asks, "Who is like the wise man?  Who knows the explanation of things?" (8:1).  Centuries later, Paul asks the same question in I Corinthians 1, as he quotes Isaiah 29:14, where God says, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."  And then the question:  "Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. … God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise …"  (I Corinthians 1:20-21, 25, 27).

He arrives where he always does … at obedience.  Remember Jesus' words at the end of His Sermon on the Mount as He explains that the foolish man builds his house on the sand, while the wise man builds his house on the rock.  "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock"  (Matthew 7:24).  Solomon tells those who read his words to "obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God" (8:2).  Surely, he is writing about more than himself, as the king of Israel.  If Solomon understood one thing it was that there was a God who was greater than He was!

As you read through Ecclesiastes you get the feeling at times that Solomon explored all of these philosophies of man to prove a point not only to others, but to himself as well.  Looking at Solomon's life as it is recorded in Scripture reveals that even he made errors in judgment.  Remember, human wisdom, knowledge and understanding is limited.  We need desperately to understand our "place," lest we boast in our own wisdom and forget how much we need God.  There is something worse than being lost … not knowing you are lost!  If you don't know you're lost, if you boast in your own wisdom and power, you will never seek God or know Him.  What could possibly be more tragic than that?

Solomon witnesses injustices and evil in the world, yet he says, "I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God" (8:12).  KNOWING God leads to a life lived with and for God as His Spirit lives within us.  Without the knowledge of God there is only "living death."  "Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow" (8:13).  The best we can do in this life is to know God, to love Him because He first loved us in Christ, to live by the power of His Spirit in obedience to His Word and know that the best is yet to come, because God promised.  All that God has revealed in the Bible is God's testimony, revealed by His Spirit to those whom God chose and chooses.

Having seen what God had done and was doing, Solomon concludes, "No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun.  Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning.  Even if a wise man climbs he knows, he cannot really comprehend it" (8:17).  With the explosion of knowledge at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, mankind cannot answer the simplest of questions:  "Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  Where are we going?"

The Bible begins with God and ends with God.  Solomon declares that wisdom begins with God and ends with God!  In the past fifty years or more each successive decade reveals people of all ages drifting farther and farther away from the knowledge of God as they seek wisdom in the theories and philosophies of men.  If only they would read God's Word and learn what David, Solomon's father, knew as he wrote Psalm 8:

"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! … When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; …  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1,3-6,8).  Can anything or anyone give more meaning to life than that?  A good name is found in being a follower of Jesus Christ!

Pray that God would reveal His wisdom to you and to those whom you know and love, as well as to others.  Testify to His greatness and to the truth of His Word.  Be an instrument in God's hands to declare His Name to the nations.  When you know your place and come to God through faith in Jesus Christ you discover the life you've longed for … the life that brings certain and lasting joy and peace … life lived in the presence of your Creator.  It's a good thing to know your place!!

"O LORD, my God, Your wisdom far exceeds that of all the people who are alive on the earth today combined, and all those who have gone before us.  We can know only what You have already known and what You now choose to reveal to us.  In our foolishness, men exchange Your glory for that of created things, rejecting You and making themselves 'god.'  So I thank You, Father, for Your Spirit and for the wisdom You have given to me, that I might know You as I live in Your world.  Though I see the consequences of sin all around me, I see Your glory in the things You have created and rejoice in the promise that You will create a new heaven and a new earth, where I and all who have received Your grace will live with You, our God, our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord, FOREVER!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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