“Reflection” – Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

December 15th, 2013

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20


  Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. — 1 Timothy 6:17                                                                                 The question to be answered is . . . After getting us to see we need to worship God alone and not money because it is so transient and temporary; what is Koheleth trying to show us?   Answer:  That even in the midst of this impermanent, meaningless and empty life under the sun, God has provided us with everything we need to live happy lives.  Even plenty of distractions so we don’t think about the futility of our lives under the sun.   But, in a life under the Son, for the first time, mankind can boldly go where we would never dare go before without the hope Jesus brings.  Now we can look at life under the sun as it really is and not as we are inclined to optimistically convince ourselves it needs to be.   The Word for the Day is . . . Reflect   What does Koheleth wants us to see in these three verses?: I.  To enjoy life under the sun we must simply and superficially be grateful for all God gives us to eat, to drink, our work and our possessions.  (Eccl 5:18-19; see also: 1 Chr 29:12-14; Eccl 2:10, 24-26; 3:22)   Again the Preacher asserts that a believer, whether he be rich or poor, can obtain pleasure in eating, drinking, and the regular blessings of life, because he knows they come from his heavenly Father.  God is not an austere Being who dislikes it when His children are happy.  He does not gain pleasure from tantalizing us by offering something that appears attractive but is harmful and disappointing when we get it.  He has placed us on a planet that offers abundance, and He wants us to enjoy it.  The hermits and ascetics had the mistaken idea that God is pleased when His children choose a life of hunger, privation, and needless suffering.  On the contrary, the Lord is delighted when He sees a happy family.  He is pleased when people joyously partake of the good things of this world.  It is not His fault that men are greedy for wealth and power.  He is not to blame when cravings or lusts drive them to destroy their own characters and bring misery upon themselves and their fellows.  (Richard W. DeHaan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-End Streets, 97)   The possibility is held out of wealth combined with power to enjoy it.  Secular-minded men may assume the two invariably go together; the Preacher regards them as distinct.  The secret to such a life is God’s will, for all depends on whether God gives the wealth and the power of enjoyment.  On man’s side it depends on acceptance of the style of life God apportions, and awareness of the God-given nature of all wealth.  The Hebrew (‘God…makes a master/gives mastery in order to enjoy…’) suggests that a man must be in control of his attitude to wealth rather than his attitude to wealth in control of him (cf. Phil. 4:12).  (Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes, 104)   God gives us not only the gift, but also the ability to enjoy it, the food and the mouth to eat it, the art and the mind to appreciate it, the beautiful earth and the feet to run upon it.  Every component of life, down to the smallest molecule, is part of His gift.  But we cannot enjoy any gift properly without reference to the Giver.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 131)   II.  Since the Fall God mercifully provides mankind with an abundance of gracious gifts to keep him occupied with gladness of heart so man is not forced to reflect on the meaningless days of his life. (Eccl 5:20; see also: Eccl 3:13; 6:2)   It is most important to set out Christian liberty, while we inculcate Christian mortification.  We must be careful not to give unworthy views of the real happiness to be found in the world–not primary indeed, yet valuable, though subordinate.  Let there be no cloud upon the glory of the Divine beneficence.  Let godliness throw a sunbeam upon all temporal enjoyments.  (Charles Bridges, Ecclesiastes, 120)   Many people demolish their integrity and self-esteem in the process of obtaining materialistic goals.  True happiness is impossible when greed and ambition dominate.  Then, too, the lust for wealth and power enmeshes men in a futile round of earning and spending, even though they are not finding the satisfaction they expected.  (Richard W. DeHaan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-End Streets, 98)   A cheerful spirit is a great blessing; it makes the yoke of our employments easy and the burden of our afflictions light.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Volume III, 1012)   Most men would rather die, than think.  Most men do.  —Bertrand Russell  (Jim Collins,  Good -To-Great, 144)   When a symbol becomes the reality rather than a reflection of it—it becomes an idol.   CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: How does a relationship with Christ relate to Koheleth’s message?: A-  Since Emmanuel, we no longer need to fear thorough and thoughtful reflection on our lives.  Those “in Christ” enjoy an existence and destiny that is no longer meaningless, empty and futile. (Mt 6:25-34; Jn 1:1-14; 3:1-36; 8:12; 10:10; 16:1-24;  Phil 3:1-4:13; Col 1:12)   The person who understands what Solomon has said (vv. 18, 19) will not focus on (remember) the hard times (days of his life) because the gift of God will occupy his thoughts and actions.  In other words, there will be a contentment that will ensue from enjoying the fruit of his labor, which will take his mind off the difficulties of life–of which there are plenty, as we all know.  He will be grateful to God for what he has received.  Here is important information.  What is the focus of your life?  Are you always bringing up (remembering) the difficulties of life, or are you intent on enjoying whatever has been given by God?  There is the secret of contentment.  Never let . . . forget it.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 58-59)   Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “I am sure that we ought to love God in our lives and in the blessings he sends us.  We should trust him in our lives, so that when our time comes we may go to him in love and trust and joy.  But, speaking frankly, to long for the transcendent when you are in your wife’s arms is, to put it mildly, a lack of taste, and it is certainly not what God expects from us.  We ought to find God and love him in the blessings he sends.  If he pleases to send us some overwhelming earthly bliss, we ought not to try to be more religious than God himself.”  (Letters and Papers from Prison, 86)  (Robert Davidson, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, 40)   What it is that is here recommended to us, not to indulge the appetites of the flesh, or to take up with present pleasures or profits for our portion, but soberly and moderately to make use of what Providence has allotted for our comfortable passage through this world.  We must not starve ourselves through covetousness, because we cannot afford ourselves food convenient, nor through eagerness in our worldly pursuits, nor through excessive care and grief, but eat and drink what is fit for the serving of our souls in God’s service.  We must not kill ourselves with labour, and then leave others to enjoy the good of it, but take the comfort of that which our hands have laboured for, and that not now and then, but all the days of our life which God gives us.  Life is God’s gift, and he has appointed us the number of the days of our life (Job. 14:5); let us therefore spend those days in serving the Lord our God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Volume III, 1011)   If we want God to guide us, our attitude needs to be right. Here are some guidelines as to how we can play our part in arriving at right decisions. First, we must be willing to think. It is false piety, super-supernaturalism of an unhealthy pernicious sort that demands inward impressions with no rational base, and declines to heed the constant biblical summons to consider.  God made us thinking beings, and he guides our minds as we think things out in his presence. Second, we must be willing to think ahead and weigh the long-term consequences of alternative courses of action. Often we can only see what is wise and right, and what is foolish and wrong, as we dwell on the long-term issues. Third, we must be willing to take advice. It is a sign of conceit and immaturity to dispense with taking advice in major decisions. There are always people who know the Bible, human nature, and our own gifts and limitations better than we do, and even if we cannot finally accept their advice, nothing but good will come to us from carefully weighing what they say. Fourth, we must be willing to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves. We must suspect ourselves:  ask ourselves why we feel a particular course of action will be right and make ourselves give reasons. Fifth, we must be willing to wait. “Wait on the Lord” is a constant refrain in the Psalms and it is a necessary word, for the Lord often keeps us waiting. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God.  (James Packer; Your Father Loves You, 13)   “All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.  The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever” (C. S. Lewis;  The Problem of Pain)   The Christian Way — The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.   A baby feels hunger:  well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim:  well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire:  well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch 10, 120)   The word of God is truth.  And we need to meditate or ruminate on truth until it becomes food for us.   That is why Jesus said that His food was to do the will of His father and Jesus also echoed the words of Dt 8:3 In that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Are we taking in and chewing God’s word until it becomes food for our souls?  I feel the reason so many of us are spiritually malnourished is because we are not taking in God’s Word like this.  —paraphrase of Tim Keller   Our reading of the Scriptures is often far too superficial.  We just read a few verses and a brief commentary on them, then offer a brief prayer and rush off to work or something else.  But before we can know anything of joy in God we must spend time with these things, and meditate upon them.  To use the word of Isaac Watts, you have to survey them: ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross.’  A mere hurried and cursory reading of the Scriptures profits but little and never leads to true joy.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 160)   This is the age of the sermonette and sermonettes make Christianettes. —  Michael Green   The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity.  When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 110)   Someone once said: “We only learn what we already know.”  When we get beyond a superficial understanding of an idea or concept is when the truth really sinks in.  (John C. Maxwell, The Power of Leadership, 71)   B-  Now that we understand the work of God incarnate, we can glorify and honor God by enjoying life because we can now afford to see life boldly and candidly as a gift from God and not meaningless and empty.  (Ps 16:11; Jn 16:33; Rom 5:1-11; 8:18-25; 2 Cor 1:8-11; 2:14; 4:15-17; 9:11-15;  Eph 5:20; 1 Thes 5:18; 1 Tm 4:1-4; 6:8, 17; Jas 1:17;  1 Pt 1:3-9; )   For the man who walks with God, however, happiness is a way of life.  He accepts the good things with gratitude, enjoys them, and trusts the Lord for tomorrow.  His inner peace and gladness are more precious than all the pleasures money can buy.  Yes, misfortune may rob him of his earthly riches, tragedy may take away his family, and disease may deprive him of health, but he will still be joyful.  (Richard W. DeHaan, The Art of Staying Off Dead-End Streets, 98)   Enjoyment does not come from possessions or from riches.  Nor does it come from companionship, from popularity and fame, from the approval and the admiration of others.  Enjoyment comes by knowing the living God and taking everything from His hand with thanksgiving, whether pain or pleasure.  That is the gift of God, and that is the lesson of this great book.  (Ray C. Stedman, Is This All There Is to Life?, 76)   Solomon says that we shouldn’t see wealth as the goal of our lives; rather, we should see wealth as a means to do good and bring enjoyment.  Don’t try to collect it and show it off to everybody.  Instead, savor life’s Rocky Road.  Catch some baseball games.  Enjoy your money.  A wise person is too busy enjoying today to worry about every little detail concerning the future.  (Tommy Nelson, A Life Well Lived, 82)   At Christmas time, there are many persons who are unhappy with the gifts that they receive.  Spouses, parents, and others may work hard to select those things that will please, but the recipients will often be dissatisfied.  Some will even be ungracious enough to express that dissatisfaction in bitter words and actions.  Persons don’t always choose gifts for others well.  But you may be sure that when God gives each his lot (as a gift remember), He always gives what is best for the recipient.  (Jay E. Adams, Life under the Son, 58)   Earlier in this passage, when he was talking about the vanity of money, the Preacher hardly mentioned God at all.  But in verses 18-20 he mentions him repeatedly.  Whatever enjoyment he finds is God-centered.  Without God, life is meaningless and miserable, especially if we are living for money.  But when we know the God of joy, even money can be a blessing.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes–Why Everything Matters, 137)   Those that cheerfully use what God has given them thereby honour the giver, answer the intention of the gift, act rationally and generously, do good in the world, and make what they have turn to the best account, and this is both their credit and their comfort; it is good and comely; there is duty and decency in it.  (MacDonald Publishing Company, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible–Volume III, 1011)   There is a business that vexes and frustrates (cf. 1:13; 4:8), the life given to man to live within a vain world with its kinks and gaps (cf. 1:15).  The Preacher repeats his remedy of a God-given life of faith and joy which is even more preoccupying.  (Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes, 104)   John Wesley – founder of Methodism – believed, rightly so, that with a spiritual revival will come a fiscal revival. It happened in England. The great Awakening began during a period when London had an unemployment rate of almost 30%, an illegitimacy rate of nearly 50%, things were bad and getting worse. Churches were giving congregants tobacco and alcohol during church services just to keep the few active attenders coming while at the same time barring the poor from entering. It was terrible! Yet after the revival largely brought in by John Wesley and George Whitfield, Britain was economically saved, families began to be restored, jails and bars were shut down and prosperity returned within a generation. Yet, Wesley also said that each revival has built within it the seeds of its own destruction, because as Christians put into practice the virtues of hard work and thrift, they prosper, and as they prosper they see less a need of God, and they see less a need of God they turn away from the very principles that led to their prosperity and the whole cycle must repeat itself.   It is ironic in a world that often reflects far more hell than heaven that serious people could deny hell and affirm heaven and then expect it from a God they only grudgingly acknowledge as real.   This is not new.  — Bishop David Kendall   He was made man, who made man.  He was created of a mother whom he created.   He was carried by the hand that he formed.  He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word.   Without whom all human eloquence is mute.” — St. Augustine   Worship point:  Think about the great life you have as a result of God’s goodness.  Think about the even greater life you have in Christ.  Worship the One who is life and brings you life.   Spiritual Challenge:  Endeavor to develop the mind of Christ.  See His goodness and His providence and His sovereignty in every and any situation.  And endeavor to live life to the fullest in joy, peace and love.   The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existence.  One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.  It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.  Never lose a holy curiosity.  (Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, 755)   Quotes to Note: We have seen that riches well-nigh shut us out of heaven (Mt 19: 23)–and that “the love of them drowns men in destruction and perdition.”  (1 Tm 6:9, 10.)  Must we not then cast them away?  The Preacher gives the due balance.  They are not essentially evil.  The evil is in their abuse–as we have said–in their love, not in their possession.  The true difference is not in the gift, but in the power to use it–to eat thereof.  The gift may belong to the ungodly.  The power is the exclusive privilege of the Christian.  He ‘is not the slave of his worldly goods, but truly the master of them.’  (Charles Bridges, Ecclesiastes, 120-121)


He Who Gives

Substance to Our


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