The Spirit Returns to God

I’ve come to the last chapter of Ecclesiastes and here’s what stands out for me:

“Remember also your Creator …. before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:1a, 6-7

Many will find this morbid, but it’s comforting to me.  When life is over — and it will be, because the fatality rate is 100%–my spirit will return to the One who created me.  The One who is good and merciful, the One who loved me before I was born.  I’m reminded of the high priestly prayer of Jesus when He says this:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:20-23

All believers, at death will be given that oneness with God for which we have been yearning.  The writer of Ecclesiastes knew that something was missing from this life; in the end, nothing could not satisfy him.  All the things he chased after and achieved were meaningless.  They were idols.  The only thing that truly mattered was his relationship with God.  Chase after that, and in the end you’ll be content, resting in the arms of the Father who made you.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

Another Blast from the Past

How Do You Hope to Die?

 

 

Which Will Prosper?

Continuing my lectio divina study of Ecclesiastes, these verses stood out for me in Chapter 11:

“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not withhold yor hand, for you do not know what will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”  Ecclesiastes 11:6

In other words, we don’t know how some situation or decision will turn out.  This reminds me an ancient parable:

“A farmer’s horse, his most valuable possesion runs away.  The neighbors, hearing about this, visit his house, saying ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

A few days later, the horse returns, bringing a herd of wild horses with him.  The neighbors again visit, saying ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

The farmer’s son breaks his leg while attempting to tame the wild horses.  He becomes quite ill with an infection.  The neighbors say ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

At the same time, a war is going on.  The local warlord comes to the farmer’s house to conscript his son.  When he finds him feverish, delerious and useless, he leaves him there.  The neighbors once again say, ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.'”

What looks bad today may work out for the best — what looks wonderful can have unexpected and unfortunate consequences.  We’ve all experienced this.  We lose a job, and end up in a new position we like so much more.  We move to a new house in a beautiful subdivision, only to realize how much we miss our old neighborhood and friends.  Our favorite candidate wins the election, then reneges on all those promises he made.  We get a deadly disease — which causes us to grow closer to God.  You get the idea.

The solution?  Make the best decision you can and then surrender it to God. Detach yourself from expectations. Trust that He’s working it all out for good.  The writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to say:

“… you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”  Ecclesiastes 11:5b

So surrender, and leave the results to God.  It’s the way to peace.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Another Blast from the Past

The Good Old Days?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3–What Stands Out

 

 

 

Stay Calm

I just finished chapter 10 in my lectio divina reading of Ecclesiastes, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…calmness will lay great offenses to rest.”  Ecclesiastes 1o:4b

Calmness is a rare quality in our world today.  We not only want to say what we think, we want to say it NOW! Even worse, we want to put it out there for the world to see– on Facebook or Twitter, or whatever other social media option is readily available to us.  The upshot is many people are offended with one another.  I know so many relatives and friends who have “blocked” one another due to unpleasant social media exchanges that are ill advised, and often trivial. Do we really have to get nasty and worked up about our allegiance to a sports team?  Or even a political party or candidate?  Is it necessary to demonize everyone who disagrees with us?  Even when we are right about an issue, demeaning our opponents will never bring them around to our way of thinking.

So, stay calm.  That means, think before you speak (or text). Use your manners.  Respect others.  You know, the rules they taught us in elementary school?  The Bible teaches them too.  Think about these other verses:

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil.”  Psalm 37:8

 

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”  Proverbs 15:18

 

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

I read once that nuturing anger is like drinking poison in the hopes that the person who upset you will die.  Don’t poison yourself.  Quell those angry words.  Say a prayer– remember you are a sinner, too!  Surrender those feelings to God and allow Jesus to calm the storm.  Ask yourself, do I want to escalate this argument?  Spoil this relationship? Would I want Jesus to hear these words or read this text?  It’s probably not worth it.  So just stay calm.  You’ll be glad you did.

For more on anger see these posts:

Unoffendable

What Should I Do When I am Angry?

Are You Angry?

 

 

Time and Chance

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swft, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.”  Ecclesiastes 9:11

In continuing my lectio divina study of Ecclesiastes, “time and chance happen to them all” stood out for me.  It’s hard to give up control, to surrender to God.  However, as I read somewhere recently “we live the life God planned for us, not the life we planned.”

We may work hard, we may be talented, we may be intelligent.  We may have advanced degrees, a hefty inheritance or a wealth of friends.  We may write a best-selling novel, star in a movie or become CEO of a multi-national company.  None of those things can protect us from “time and chance” which can change our lives in an instant.  Remember the parable of the foolish rich man in Luke? (Luke 12:16-21). His crop was so bountiful, he decided to build more barns to house it in.  He thought he was set for life.  Unfortunately his time ran out:

“… God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?””Luke 12:26

The moral, of course, is not to give up planning, but to hold our plans loosely;  to be attentive to God’s leading;  to be ready to follow His path instead of our own.  As author Ann Patchett puts it:

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook what you find.”

Time and chance will derail our plans, but they won’t derail God’s plan for us.  In fact they will reveal it.  Trust, obey, surrender.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time for Everything

Do Not Be Rash With Your Mouth

Two Are Better Than One

 

I Commend Joy

I’m now up to chapter 8 in my prayerful reading of Ecclesiastes.  Although we tend to think of this book as nothing but doom and gloom, here the author says:

“And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful,  for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 8:15

In other words, be attentive; God is blessing us every day through His gracious provision.  We should take the time to notice and be grateful.  When we do, our thankfulness will result in joy and lighten our burdens.

This goes along with one of the books I’ve been reading recently.  See:

He goes on to say that man cannot understand the ways of God and shouldn’t wrack his brain trying.  No matter how wise we become, God remains a mystery.  We cannot understand His long term plan.  At the beginning of chapter 9 we read:

“But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.”  Ecclesiastes 9:1

God is at work. You’re in His hands.  You can trust Him.  SURRENDER.  Give thanks for everyday blessings. I commend joy.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

A Time for Everything

Hoping for Something New?

 

The Good Old Days?

After reading chapters 6 & 7 of Ecclesiastes, this is what stood out for me:

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10”

It seems that I hear many people my age bemoaning the present, and longing for the past.  Things were better then;  people were more courteous;  more people went to church;  children were not so spoiled, and so on. Some of these things may be true, but bad things are always going on (I talked about this in a previous post– Hoping for Something New?. It also depends upon your particular situation and perspective.  For example, somebody recently who is a bit older than I am said she grew up in the best of times — however, if you were a person of color during that era, you probably wouldn’t look back on those days so fondly.  Jim Crow laws, segregation, and discrimination were widespread.

God calls us to look forward, not back.  When He punished His Old Testament people by exiling them to Babylon, they were told by the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5-7

 

In other words, make the best of things in the place and time where God has placed you.  He has work for you to do. Stop complaining and concentrate on being a blessing to others.

In the New Testament Paul echoes the same sentiment:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Yearning for the good old days is not helpful or God-pleasing.  It is not wise.  It is not even realistic!  Instead  look forward to the future God has prepared for you.

 

 

 

For more posts about the book of Ecclesiastes see:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Two Are Better Than One

Do Not Be Rash With Your Mouth

Here’s what stood out for me in my lection divina reading of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5:

“Do not be rash with your mouth …. therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2

Sins of the tongue are among the hardest to avoid.  I’m an introvert, so I do tend to think before I speak, but my tongue still gets away from me!  I like to use the acronym T.H.I.N..K,

  • T — is it true?
  • H–is it helpful?
  • I–is it inspiring?
  • N–is it necessary?
  • K–is it kind?

Most of the time, it works.  However, recently I was speaking with a neighbor about somebody else in our neighborhood, and I made a few comments — they were true, and I wanted to think they were helpful;  they weren’t even unkind — but in retrospect, I’m not sure they were necessary.  I fear they were thinly disguised gossip.  I simply got carried away with displaying my more intimate knowledge of this person and it was not God-pleasing.

No wonder the tongue is described this way:

“… the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” James 3:5-6

Words are an instance when less is more.  Keep your words few and gracious.  Once spoken, they can’t be called back.

For more posts on the tongue see:

Hold Your Tongue!

Live at Peace/Tame Your Tongue

Zip It by Karen Ehman–Book Review

 

Two Are Better Than One

The phrase that stands out for me in Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes is “two are better than one.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9.  To get the entire idea you must read further:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Of course, this is a section of Scripture often read at marriages.  Having just celebrated my 49th anniversary, I certainly agree that life has been better with a companion to walk and stand with me, to help me up when I feel weak or discouraged.

However, I think it also appeals to me because teamwork is one of my core values (see L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values). I’ve seen T-E-A-M used as an acronym to say “together everyone accomplishes more.”  I truly enjoy working with a group, and  I’ve completed projects with other people that I would never have considered doing on my own.  Genesis tells us:

“The LORD God also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone….”Genesis 2:18

We were created to be in relationship with others — and with God!  That’s the reason “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  God strengthens any relationship He joins.  In fact, without God, our ties to one another quickly fall apart.  Only with God’s help can we remain forgiving, self-sacrificing, and loving.

If you have a spouse, a dear friend, a helpful co-worker, a cherished sibling, give thanks!  Two are always better than one!

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

Hoping for Something New?

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

 

Hoping for Something New?

I finished my lectio divina study of Philippians and started Ecclesiastes.  Quite a contrast, since Philippians has been called a book about joy and Ecclesiastes — well, it’s more doom and gloom.  However, an author I read recently said Ecclesiastes isn’t depressing, it’s simply realistic.  Maybe you would like to study along with me and see what you think.

Here’s what stood out for me in chapter 1:

“Is there a thing of which it is said,  ‘See, this is new’?

It has been already in the ages before us.”  Ecclesiastes 1:10

I read a lot of historical fiction, and this has occurred to me recently.  We live as if our time is unique, and we like to think that people and life in general are getting better and better, but that’s not true.  It’s not realistic.

Take slavery.  We fought a Civil War to rid ourselves of this evil.  However, slavery existed in Bible times, and it’s still going on today.  In fact, most of us profit from it, through the goods we use and the clothing we wear.  Or genocide — this makes us think of the Holocaust, but it’s far from an isolated occurrence.  Stalin killed millions of his own people;  native Americans were slaughtered by Europeans;  Armenians were massacred during WWI.  Even the pandemic, which seems new to us, has happened before.  What about the plague?  Or the Spanish Flu epidemic in the 1900’s?

The fact of the matter is, we and the world around us are infected by sin.  It’s not going away.  It won’t get better.  That’s why we needed a savior.  That is the one new thing that has happened in the whole history of the human race.  God became a man.  He did that to save us from the same old things we keep repeating over and over.  He is our only hope

As Paul said in the book of Ephesians:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. ”  Ephesians 1:18-19

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see these posts:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Another Blast from the Past

 

How Do You Hope to Die?

Maybe this seems like a morbid topic, but for all of us, death may not be imminent but it is certain.  I lost a close family member recently — he died unexpectedly, in his sleep.  I said to my husband, “isn’t this the best way to die?  No drawn out painful last illness, no time to dwell on what we’ve lost or won’t get to accomplish.”   His answer was, “not really.  I think I would prefer to have a chance to say good bye and tell people all the things I hadn’t gotten around to saying.”

That made me remember Jesus.  He knew he was going to die.  He told his disciples clearly, over and over, although they never seemed to quite believe Him.  On his final day he took some specific actions:

  • He spent time in fellowship with his loved ones, the disciples.  He clearly planned this ahead of time, securing a place for the Passover Supper. (Luke 22:8-13)
  • He washed their feet, as a way to emphasize once more the important values of humility, sacrifice and service he had been trying to each them. (John 13:13-17)
  • He established an important tradition that would continue to evoke His presence with them and love for them. (Mark 14:22-25)
  • He prayed for them, and for the believers who would come after them. (John 17:1-26)

We’re not Jesus and we don’t know exactly when our last day will arrive:

“No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death.”  Ecclesiastes 8:8

However, in all things, we should strive to imitate Him.  John tells us:

“By this we may be sure that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way as he walked.”  1 John 2:5-6

Death is a sure thing.  Let’s focus on Jesus and make our death a good one, whenever it comes. Say and do the things that are important, now.  Don’t wait.

For more about death see these posts:

The Darkness of Death

“Even unto death”

Your Dash