Showing posts with label Ecclesiastes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ecclesiastes. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ecclesiastes 12

Continuing the topic of fearing LORD from the youth, King Solomon sounds a warning to remember the LORD before the day of trouble arrives.
He recommends us to grow intimate with LORD as those pleasures will not be pleasurable for long.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”
After having seen everything in life, King Solomon now speaks of the aging process. He refers to fading memory, and the house trembeling. Here, he refers to one's hands beginning to tremble as old age approaches. Hands that once used to protect an individual tend to tremble with age. Men stoop down and even become shorter by few inches. Loss of teeth results in 'loss of grinders'.

A person's activities are limited, they are easily startled and even begin to sound softer like a bird.

We are told about bodily pains and the fear of security - in olden days, along with ache on back, hip and knee, those elderly were vulnerable to the attack of wild animals as well.

With old age, several desires tend to die down as well - a person becomes frusturated and angry over the challenges he now has to face.

"Remember the LORD" is the advice King Solomon has for us.

The Conclusion of the Matter
In this book, King Solomon told us are few basic truths to ensure the reader lives wisely. Here is how the book of Ecclesiastes concludes:
Ecclesiastes 12:9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails - given by one shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 11

King Solomon tells us about taking calculated risks and diversifying our investment portfolios, due to the uncertainty of life. We are supposed to be working hard and shrewd in conducting business - we never know how LORD will bless us.

We are told not to stay passive by adhering to a neutral zone, and doing nothing. We are not to be too impulsive either - but strike a balance.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
    whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
Another verse that tells us about diversification of investment:
Ecclesiastes 11:6 Sow your seed in the morning,
    and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
    whether this or that,
    or whether both will do equally well.
A wonderful advice is about remembering LORD the creator while we are young. The young need to be coached by able and godly people about the fear and love of LORD. Further, they are to be told and taught about LORD's judgement.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.

My Thoughts
Many parents, tend to think, "Let my children learn about the LORD when they are still young. I have already come this far in life (without learning much) - there are so many fantasies which I am exposed to, and I still have to try them out and taste those pleasures. While I focus on those activities, let my children study about God and be safe. That way, I am fulfilling my parental duties."

Unless parents know about the LORD, they will be unable to lead their children to Him. One purpose of having family prayers at home along with children is to demonstrate how humble we become in front of the LORD - as He is so great. Children should see how we tremble with fear in His presence. Parents should show how to revere the LORD everyday.

Same is the reason for attending church in a group setting - to show our children how the so called leaders, regardless of their profession, age, wealth, strength, beauty, etc., humbling and bowing themselves in the presence of LORD almighty and seeking His grace and mercy. If we are unable to show this to our children, we are not taking them to the right place and showing the the true reason of group worship.

It is the responsibility of parents to lead the young towards the LORD - He expects us to do so, as they are gifts from Him. I wish parents take children to the church not only to teach them how to dress in traditional clothes and to taste traditional meal, but also to show them their father -  Our LORD.


Ecclesiastes 10

Here King Solomon reminds us to pay attention to those small things. He stresses on the importance of minute details. He tells us how easy to downplay those "little tasks" which can have a lasting impression in our lives. A learned person can tell the difference.
Ecclesiastes 10:3 Even as fools walk along the road,
    they lack sense
    and show everyone how stupid they are.
He next tells us about staying calm under stress - something all of us could use.

Anyone who indulges in "little foolishness" can bring some grave consequences. He is ready to point us that foolishness is displayed at every level within our society.
Ecclesiastes 10:6 Fools are put in many high positions,
    while the rich occupy the low ones.
Next, he tells us the popular phrase, "Work Smarter, Not Harder." He wants us to prepare for any task of undertaking. Any danger that may come from mundane activities need to be addressed beforehand.

Moving on, we encounter a series of vignettes of foolish and wise living. In a nutshell, we gotta control our tongue.

My Thoughts
Walking is a skill that can be acquired by practice. Those who study body language can read a lot from observing a man's walking style - the way he holds his head, how he swings his hands, the pace at which he walks, about the sense of pride he demonstrates, whether his feet are angled outward, inward, or straight, etc. One can find elegance in the manner in which women walk as well. 

Ecclesiastes 9

King Solomon is sharing some of his conclusions with us.

The righteous and the wise have a brief and transient period in this world, we certainly should appreciate the life we have.
Ecclesiastes 9:4 Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
The same destiny awaits all of us.

Here is the general advice:
Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun - all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Next, King Solomon narrates a short story and the moral of the story is, "Wisdom is better than strength."

"Wisdom is better than weapons of war," he adds.

Ecclesiastes 8

The chapter starts with something to adorn the face. King Solomon tells us how to brighten our face.
Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like the wise?
    Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
    and changes its hard appearance.
Obey the King
We are told that submission and obedience towards those in authority is a wise choice. It is not always easy but whoever does so will not come to any harm.

We are taken through various scenarios of life and the King himself is unable to grasp it. He recommends us to fear the LORD.
Ecclesiastes 8:14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 
He recommends us to eat, drink and to be glad - the joy will accompany. After thorough searching, King Solomon tells us that there are so many things going on, "under the sun" and even the wisest of the wise cannot comprehend it all - only LORD knows.

My Thoughts
"Brightening the face" is an industry by itself - those who offer such services using cosmetics, facials, and even plastic surgeons, are in great demand. I wonder how many are interested in reading Ecclesiastes 8:1 about "How to brighten your face." Many mothers may easily recommend it to their children, but when it comes to 'brightening their own face', they will flip through those "yellow pages" looking for that parlor.

How much can a human mind comprehend? We certainly have a finite capacity.

Ecclesiastes 7

King Solomon teaches us about gaining wisdom from unlikely places.
Ecclesiastes 7:4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
He tells us there are several means of foolish living, but the path of wisdom is narrow. However, it brings great joy for those who continue their course on that narrow path of wisdom. He quotes wisdom has numerous wonderful qualities to offer.
Ecclesiastes 7:11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
    and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter
    as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
    Wisdom preserves those who have it.
LORD's perspective of a good life is different from the world's view of a successful life. This distortion confuses several individuals and puts them at crossroads.

We all have sinned. King Solomon tells us that a deep awareness about our sinfulness brings clarity and wisdom as to where we are.

Next we are told there are numerous distractions that can turn us away from the path of wisdom. Topping his list is the topic of women. While women were a large part of his life and kingdom, he shares his firsthand experience of the reality.
Ecclesiastes 7:26 I find more bitter than death
    the woman who is a snare,
whose heart is a trap
    and whose hands are chains.
The man who pleases God will escape her,
    but the sinner she will ensnare. 

My Thoughts
A wise person will know his own limitations and knowledge. He then starts to depend on the sovereign LORD for his day to day living.   

Ecclesiastes 6

King Solomon tells us, what we consider wonderful blessings cannot be enjoyed on their own. LORD is indispensable for happiness in life. He gives us two examples:
Ecclesiastes 6:1 I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: 2 God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.
3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 

Catering to ourselves, we lose our life and seldom derive happiness. When we lose ourselves in the service of others, we find happiness. When in service to others, we find the image of LORD and that's when our cravings will be satisfied.

We need to acknowledge the fact that only LORD can explain the riddle of our life. He is the one who created us and knows our purpose. We see what happens in the world only for a brief period.
Ecclesiastes 6:12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

My Thoughts
Can anyone visualize King Solomon's emotions when he writes all these? How helpless he feels with all those things he has. Materialistically, he has everything. If we were spending time with him while he wrote this, would he have told us how he felt?

Ecclesiastes 5

King Solomon tells us that numerous things can distract us from worshiping LORD. He narrates few hindrances in this chapter. The 'love for money' keeps us from the greatest treasure of all - an intimate relationship with LORD.

Fulfill Your Vow to God
We are warned about how to approach the house of LORD.
Ecclesiastes 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of LORD. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
He then warns us about making vows to the LORD. He makes us aware about whom we are dealing with.

Riches Are Meaningless
This lesson on riches is coming from the richest and wisest King.

Injustice causes a person to question the goodness of our LORD. We are bound to observe the poor being oppressed.

King Solomon wars us against the love of money (not money).
Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has enough;
    whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
    This too is meaningless.
The advice he gives us is to eat, drink and find satisfaction in our labor. It is a person's relationship with the LORD that brings joy to one's life.

My Thoughts
I have noticed the way parents with their children come into the house of LORD. For many, it is a place for party and fellowship - a weekend activity for social gathering. These individuals "see and meet" everyone - but the LORD. They purposely arrive towards the end, when it is "almost time" to meet other families, share gossip and eat those delicacies. Who else can this be, other than a bunch of hypocrites. So true what King Solomon stated in verse 1 - they are a bunch of fools who come to offer sacrifices who do not know what they do wrong. It blows my mind away when I notice these spiritual leaders promoting this practice as well. Alas - these leaders become silenced when the people make hefty donations.

May LORD help them open their inner eyes.

Injustice - how sad it is to watch people safeguarding themselves (in front of others by looking good) when it is time to voice their opinion. I wonder at times when people keep quiet by observing injustice - aren't they (silently) supporting the evil?

The circumstances of life do not bring us any joy whatsoever. True happiness can be found in that wonderful relationship with the LORD - it really is! Though the path is not easy, it is worth it - truly epic!

Ecclesiastes 4

Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness
Now King Solomon hearkens on the theme of injustice which causes us to lose heart, especially if we on on it's receiving end. During such circumstances, loyal friends can comfort us to a certain extent.

People have various options, to exist in the world filled with injustice, selfish ambition and the pursuit to be number one. Being all alone with wealth is no fun, he says.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 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.

Advancement Is Meaningless
A poor substitute for friendship is the temptation of belief that having power over others is good. Many believe it is wonderful to have people whom they can depend upon and call - which King Solomon describes as foolish.

My Thoughts
To have a meaningful friendship with another individual, he too should understand this philosophy listed in verse 9 and agree upon. That's the beauty of having friends with same faith.

Building a meaningful relationship followed by a loyal friendship may seem impossible. Understand that pride and ambition are two factors which keep us apart.

With the help of the LORD, it is easy to find people who think and view life alike. I am fortunate for having met several wonderful families who share similar values in life, with whom I share and discuss the scripture. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything
We live in a time obsessed society where time is treated as a commodity. We have heard, "Time is Money" which tells us we should protect and guard it. A byproduct of this obsession led to a word - busy, which makes people 'look' important.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
King Solomon hits us with a long list of events - extensive, but certainly not exhaustive to cover a wide range of human activities. He tells us that there is a time and season for everything. It teaches us that things should be done at the right time in the right way.

While on earth, several things will remain unclear to us. One option lies ahead of us:
Will we submit ourselves to the LORD's plan even though several things are unclear and hidden from us?

LORD has set the concept of eternity in human hearts.
Ecclesiastes 3:12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
In the end, man will die, just like animals.

Nobody wants to accept the fact that they are just like animals, made out of dust, walking on this planet with the help of LORD.
Ecclesiastes 3:20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 

My Thoughts
If you ask me, every so called "busy executive" has time at their disposal. It is the priority and commitment individuals lack.

The concept of multitasking and multi-focusing sound good to ears, but how practical are they?

Right time in the right way, by the right person at the right place - is that exhaustive?

It is a wonderful experience to finally submit to LORD's plan - essentially, it means, "LORD, here I am, take me and use me according to Your will, if You find me worthy. Please include me in Your team, as I have allegiance only towards You - search out my heart, O' LORD. I already understood that I cannot create or change anything down here without Your help. Use me as your servant and allow me to stand in Your presence in that everlasting life. I will do my very best, to live by your commandments as your son." 

Ecclesiastes 2

Pleasures are meaningless
King Solomon made several poignant observations to see what was good for people to do on this earth, while they were alive for a short period of time. He tried out laughter, pleasures, cheering with wine, embracing folly, undertaking large challenging projects, etc. He occupied his mind with several distractions and finally realized that the effort was futile and not worthy of his time.
Ecclesiastes 2:11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.
Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
King Solomon considered whether a wise person is better than a fool.
Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.
He noticed that both the wise and foolish will die. Moreover, both wise and fools will not be remembered forever.

Toil Is Meaningless
He hated life and came to understand that whatever he creates, he has to handover to the next generation. His research took a new turn when he noticed that LORD intervenes in every affair of mankind.
Ecclesiastes 2:24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

My Thoughts
OMG - what a research project did King Solomon undertake. He is documenting his findings for us. A wise person does not have to travel those paths again, to taste or learn the same things he discovered. Let's just listen to what he has to tell us, from his valuable experience.

Isn't this the same research work people all around us try to conduct? I wonder - how many are willing to listen to King Solomon's experience and research results? The modern man is dealing with the digital age, where things are packaged differently - but the desire for possessions, power, and pleasure is the same old one.

Ecclesiastes 1

Now that you know what meaningless means, pay attention to the verse:
Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
Man does not gain anything from his labor, Generation after generation comes and goes, but earth stays in it's place. Everyday, the sun rises and sets, rivers run – all things are full of labor, and in a constant cycle. There is nothing newly formed under the sun.

King Solomon then says that wisdom is meaningless.

Wisdom Is Meaningless
Ecclesiastes 1:12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
    what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

My Thoughts
I truly hope that my readers understands the meaning of meaningless. 
For your easy reference, remember that Hebrew words can have a wide range of meaning. The word Hebel should not be interpreted in a narrow way. Hebel is parallel with 'ruah' which means wind or breath.

It refers to the worthless of worldly or human life, without the presence of LORD. Every human accomplishment will be left behind at some point in time. 

Ecclesiastes - An Executive Summary

Ecclesiastes is a philosophical book, in which wisdom is expressed in an everlasting and profound fashion. Biblical scholars attribute the Book of Ecclesiastes to King Solomon. King Solomon was led away from the LORD towards immoral activities including idol worship. It is believed that in his later years, he repented his sinful life and composed the book of Ecclesiastes. In it, he says that nothing has meaning without the presence of LORD. King Solomon is our Preacher, or Teacher in this book.

In an ironic relation, Ecclesiastes stands as a sharp antitheses to Proverbs which applies to everyone equally. For example, death comes to both the wise and foolish, and obliterates the distinction between the two.

Three phrases are repeated often in Ecclesiastes.

Under the Sun
This refers to a man's perspective of life without considering LORD - call it the moral world. We are reminded about those temporary things in life.

It refers to the worthless of worldly or human life, without the presence of LORD. Every human accomplishment will be left behind at some point.

Chasing the wind
A metaphor that evokes a strong image - a child chasing wind, that changes direction every now and then. The effort is useless, and results cannot be accomplished.

The first seven chapters describe all of those worldly things “under the sun” that the Teacher tries to find fulfillment in. He tries out the following:
- Scientific discovery (1:10-11),
- Wisdom and philosophy (1:13-18),
- Mirth (2:1),
- Alcohol (2:3),
- Architecture (2:4),
- Property (2:7-8), and
- Luxury (2:8).

Our teacher then turned his mind towards different philosophies to find meaning, such as:
- Materialism (2:19-20), and
- Moral codes (including chapters 8-9).

He found that everything was a temporary diversion of attention and meaningless without LORD - they had no purpose or longevity.

Chapters 8-12 of Ecclesiastes describe the Teacher’s suggestions and comments on how a human life should be lived. He comes to the conclusion that without LORD, there is no truth or meaning to life. He has seen many evils and realized that even the best of man’s achievements are worthless in the long run. He therefore recommends the readers to acknowledge LORD from youth (12:1) and to follow His will (12:13-14).