Our theme for the year will be "Doing Divine Things Together."
The book of Matthew has 5 discourses and 5 narrative sections presenting Christ as the King. Our passage today is part of the Sermon on the Mount, which is not new information. As one author described, "It is the wisdom of God inviting all of us through faith to orient our vision, values, and habits from the ways of external righteousness to wholeheartedness towards God. Jesus' method of teaching uses thematic structures, images, and poetic language to allow His listeners more simple ways to remember, meditate on, and memorize Christ's heart on how to live every day."
Solomon offers more wisdom principles as he concludes the book of Ecclesiastes. He urges us to embrace good, simple things as we have them. As we discipline ourselves to use our energy to enjoy God's good gifts, we will be a joyful people!
Solomon has several concluding chapters as he shares wisdom on enduring the margin of mystery. The theme is similar to 1 Peter 4:19: When life is hard to understand, stay active doing good things.
We are learning from Solomon how to live simply in the margin of mystery created by the unpredictability of life. Ecclesiastes 9:11-18 warns us not to trust our personal ability or opportunities.
We try to understand God's plan, but we can never know all of it; and we couldn't handle that knowledge anyway. Life is full of spiritual mystery. What can and should we do as we live through this reality?
Ecclesiastes 8:12-17 are addressed primarily to the wise employee of a despotic king. Though we are not all government employees, all of God's people can learn a wise disposition while we live under human government from these verses.
Ecclesiastes 8:1-15 is our last set of verses in the third section of this book. These verses tell us how to respond to darkness in government. Ecclesiastes 8:15 sums up the conclusion of the whole section: an exhortation to enjoy life. We should never let inequity in government distract us from living joyfully as Christians.
In Solomon's discussion of living life on purpose, we have studied a bold determination in Ecclesiastes 7:15-18. We now turn to a balanced assessment and some benign reminders.
At first reading, Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 seems to advocate being a little bit wicked. But this interpretation would not fit with the rest of Scripture. Instead, Solomon is showing that excessively applying righteousness and piling on wickedness are both dangerous. We should not come to conclusions about a person's character too quickly.
In our American church context, we are all wealthy compared to the rest of the world. So there is much for us to learn from Solomon's wisdom for wealthy people in this section of Ecclesiastes.
We are studying the third section of Ecclesiastes, which instructs us on how to rejoice in hard times. Joy is the reality of the believer who lives in the blessed will of God (Ecclesiastes 8:15). With the proper perspective, believers can enjoy all God's good gifts, but if distracted from eternal purpose, we will doubt the integrity of God and His providence.
Ecclesiastes 5:8-17 show that God is comfortable talking about politics and finance. These topics often cause tension, but we can converse confidently about what God says about each of these areas of human life.
This week, our study of Ecclesiastes moves from chapter 4's examination of oppression, competition, isolation, and position to adoration in chapter 5. While living through the difficulties of a broken world, God wants us to know His will and be refreshed when we come to worship Him. Solomon shares 3 aspects of wisdom to prepare our hearts for worship.
We are expected to pursue human wisdom and enjoy that pursuit while understanding that only God's wisdom will satisfy us in Jesus Christ.
Human wisdom robs our joy. Left to our own thinking, life doesn't make much sense. Lived with God's wisdom, life can be enjoyed.
Ecclesiastes 1:3-11 could be interpreted quite negatively. If the purpose of the book is to help us know how to live with joy, this cannot be the ultimate interpretation. This passage exemplifies 4 thought patterns that can rob our joy. Unbelievers can approach these negatively or positively. How should believers respond to these thoughts?
It's important to understand the God of wisdom before trying to understand practical living. Ecclesiastes has much to say about who God is.
Solomon's exhortation to "eat, drink, and be merry" does not mean we should live in excess, but simply that we must keep living however difficult our circumstances. God wants us to enjoy every area of life within His parameters (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2).
We have spent the first part of this year studying how to walk in a way that pleases God by living His character. The next book we will study as a church family is one that shows us how to do this.
Alva J. McClain said, "the person who knows well the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans knows more about the philosophy of human history than all the wisest historians that the world has ever seen. There is a philosophy of history here that is unmatched. It makes the historians on the earth appear like children playing with their toys." This passage simplifies what man has complicated. Paul reflects on the beauty of simplicity in salvation: humanity is composed of 2 groups of people, who both have 1 Savior. God has given our biggest difficulty the simplest solution in Jesus Christ.
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