Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Stand in awe of God, and live your life to bring HIM praise!"

Day #313:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 6th

Scripture Reading:  Ecclesiastes 5 - 6 …

"That moment when …"  A popular fad today begins with those words, followed by a thought, a word, an event or a realization that marks that moment as a memorable one, or at least one worth noting.  Solomon's "Ecclesiastes" is full of such moments as the Spirit opens his eyes to see things that he hadn't seen before or to understand things that he hadn't understood before.  Often, it is in making a connection between truth and life … between knowing what God says and living it out!  Such is the case in these chapters.

You might say that Solomon had a view of life from the palace.  He had grown up in the King's palace and then became King of Israel himself.  God had given him wisdom and wealth and prosperity beyond what most of us could possibly imagine, yet he had married foreign women and at times even worshiped their gods.  He wrote Proverbs as God's Spirit spoke through him, and yet it seems that as he writes Ecclesiastes he is trying to understand what life is all about and why living for God was the only thing that made life worth living.  The temple was now built and was the center of worship.  People went there to bring their offerings, but as Isaiah wrote, "their hearts were far from God."

So God speaks TO Solomon as he writes these words for all those who would come after him to read.  And as he writes them, Solomon has "moments,"  moments when the realization of these truths strike deep within his own soul and draw him closer to the God he knows and whom he is called to worship.  He begins Chapter 5 with a warning:  "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong" (5:1).  We have talked about humility many times.  Many try to make deals with God, making vows and not keeping them, and then doubting God's justice when things don't go as they had planned, as though God was the one to break His promise.  It is better to confess your sin as your draw near to God, to admit your need for cleansing and to truly seek Him, to ask for understanding, to be teachable.

"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. …  When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it" (5:2,4).  God actually hears us when we speak, when we make promises, when we say we're going to do something for Him … and He sees us when we don't do it.  Solomon's "moment" is in understanding that GOD is God, that His wisdom and power far exceed yours and mine, and that it is WE who must listen to God, not the other way around.  Trying to tell God what He should be doing displays pride and Scripture clearly teaches us that "pride goes before a fall" because "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Solomon was wise, yet he had much to learn.  As God gives you wisdom through His Word, and by His Spirit and through the counsel of others, be careful not to think that you know it all and that you have nothing more to learn.  With all of his prosperity, Solomon came to realize that having "things" did not bring happiness.  "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless" (5:10).  If God blesses with material wealth and prosperity it is to use for His glory … not to get more and more and more.  When asked, "How much is enough?"  One extremely wealthy person responded, "Just a little more!"

On the other hand, "the sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep" (5:12).  You may have little, yet if you have labored and used God's gifts to acquire what you have there is peace and satisfaction to be found in contentment.  And if God has given you more than you need, there is joy in using it to be a blessing to others.  Solomon sees the evil of "wealth hoarded" or "wealth lost" (5:13-14).  As Job came to understand, "Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs" (5:15).  That's just the way it is, and such knowledge could be depressing … but it is here that Solomon has another "moment" …

"Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun the few days of life God has given him - for this is his lot.  Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God.  He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart" ( 5:18-20).  Those are powerful words to live by!  Work is a GOOD thing, when done for the Lord and offered to Him as a sacrifice of praise.  How many today are caught in the trap of dissatisfaction, always looking for something more to possess or to experience, when it is GOD they need!!

In Chapter 6 Solomon goes on to explain that simply having wealth and not enjoying it is more of a curse than a blessing.  And by enjoying it, he means using it for the good that God puts in front of you to do.  Listen to his lament:  "All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied" (6:7).  The rest of the chapter follows this sad line of thinking and wrong way of living.  I can't help but wonder what Solomon would think of all the books Christians read today:  "The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?" (6:11).  Jumping ahead to the last chapter of this book, Solomon writes, "of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body" (12:12).  Many a student would agree!  Still …

… there IS a book whose words are necessary for LIFE itself!  "For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow?  Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone?" (6:12).  God's Word, the Bible, declares the wisdom of God to all who take the time to read, to hear, to understand and to "grow in the grace and knowledge" revealed within it.  Only those who hear the truth that God reveals and believe in the One to whom it all points have anything to say, and our words ring true only as they are grounded in the very truth of God.  We have nothing to offer but that which God has given to us.

Living for yourself and talking about yourself or about other people profits nothing.  Working to acquire the things of this world so you can use them for yourself is meaningless.  God calls us to so much more!  He calls those who come to Him through faith in Jesus to a life lived in His presence, where we stand in awe of God and know that we are HIS.  Too many people today act as though God is THEIR servant, rather than the other way around.  Knowing God and serving God … because you LOVE God, is the only thing that replaces the meaninglessness of life with true happiness and joy.

Like Solomon, we must realize that "it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him … " (5:18).  When Solomon says, "he seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart," (5:20), that should be our goal and our delight.  Living for God and pleasing God in what you are doing should bring you joy and peace of mind and heart.  Whether you have plenty or little doesn't matter, it's how you use it and what you do with what God has given you that matters.

Life lived for God through faith in Jesus Christ is never meaningless!  You will never understand all that is going on in the world around you and how God is working to turn it all for your good and for His glory, but He is.  As you learn more of Him you will stand in awe of God, and as you live your life to bring Him praise you will discover the meaning and purpose that you so desperately seek and need.  When you have that moment where you understand that He IS your life, more "moments" will follow as He reveals Himself and His ways to you more and more, and you will arrive where the writer of Psalm 73 did 3,000 years ago:

"I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And earth has nothing I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (Psalm 73:25-26).

"My Lord and my God, I worship You as I stand in awe of You, my Creator, my Savior and my God.  You alone are the true desire of my heart, for in You alone is joy unspeakable that lasts forever!  Tear my eyes and my heart away from those things in this world that would distract me and from the sin that so easily entangles me.  Make me Yours, in body and soul, that I may serve You with passion and zeal, giving You all I am and so bringing praise, glory and honor to You, my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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