Showing posts from January, 2023

The Timing of God

The Timing of God Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 “He has made everything appropriate in its time.”               Often we look upon life; it seems like a series of chance events interrupt our life without meaning or purpose and incomprehensible to us.  There is a time to be born and a time to die. Yet the time is not only undetermined by us but entirely beyond our ability to grasp.  Just as we had no say in determining when we were born, we also have no say concerning the timing of our death.  The length of time and the events along the timeline of our lives are utterly undetermined by us.  The list of 14 different pairs of opposite ends of the spectrum illustrates that our lives are governed by a series of fixed events but not fixed by us.  Even though these events happen, we are powerless to cause or stop them in the end. These events happen whether we are ready for them or not.  But this is not meant to lead us down a road to fatalism, in which these events are predetermined and inevitable, an

The Paradox of Life

The Paradox of Life Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 “Vanities of Vanities, says the preacher, Vanities of vanities! All is vanity.”               The book of  Ecclesiastes has long been an enigma to readers and scholars alike.  At first glance, the book seems to be the musing of a disillusioned sage who sees the world as hopelessly distorted.  In verse 2, we find a central theme of the book that seems to introduce the reader to the hopelessness of life.  The word “vanity” is used 37 times throughout the book and stands in contrast to the word wisdom/wise, which occurs 49 times.  However, surprisingly, in a book that is part of the wisdom literature of the bible (along with the book of Proverbs), even wisdom itself is seen as a source of grief and pain rather than joy and meaning.               The word “vanity” literally means a “vapor or breath.”  Thus it speaks of that which has no genuine substance. Throughout the book, the Preacher (Solomon) examines all aspects of life here on this earth in s

The Wise Recognize Their Ignorance

The Wise Recognize their Ignorance Proverbs 20:1-9 “Surely I am more stupid than any man… Every word of God is tested.”               Wisdom does not start with knowledge; wisdom begins with recognizing our ignorance.  At first, it seems that Agur contradicts the search for wisdom that has permeated the book.  Throughout the book, wisdom calls out for people to come and find her and gain knowledge and understanding of life.  However, for the writer, this starts by confessing his lack of wisdom and understanding.  This is not false humility nor a depressing confession of his inability to gain any insight.  The issue is not how little he knows; the problem is the standard by which he compares his knowledge.  The standard he uses to evaluate his understanding is God himself.  Rather than comparing himself to others, he looks at God, and in relationship to God’s wisdom, he knows nothing.  In his words, he echoes Job’s confession.  After Job is confronted with God's infinite power and k

The God of Wisdom

The God of Wisdom Provers 3:13-26 “The Lord by wisdom found the earth, but understanding He established the heavens.” Vs. 19   Wisdom is more than just an attribute we must strive to ingrain in our lives.  Wisdom is an expression of the character of God that served as the foundation for all his creative works.  In Proverbs, wisdom is extolled as the foundation for all decisions.  The wise and fool are contrasted, not by their intellectual ability or even their successful ventures in business, but by their ability to operate within the framework of God's moral law.  While a person can be successful from a worldly perspective, it can be nullified if achieved outside God’s moral order.  Because of this, wisdom and understanding are the most valuable possessions one can have.  They are more precious than everything this world places value upon (vs. 14).  Wisdom is desired above all things, and no possession or attainment in life is more desirable than wisdom (vs. 15). If wisdom is to b

The Appeal of Wisdom

The Appeal of Wisdom Proverbs 8 “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice?   In chapter 7, folly is presented as a harlot calling out in the streets.  Like a seductress woman of the streets, she makes proud and boisterous calls to lure individuals with her appeal.  She promises pleasure and happiness, but her appeal brings only destruction in the end.  With her appeal for pleasure without consequences, she entices people to her sin.  But in the end, she brings death and destruction to those who follow her.  She even gives the false illusion of religious devotion in that she has fulfilled her spiritual vows and offered up her peace offerings (vs. 15). Yet, her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death (vs27).  Such is the appeal of folly today.  With the same appeal, folly continues to entice people to embrace the new morality of pleasure (both sexual and material). The mantra of her enticement is the same:  Throw aside the laws of God, and you will

The Basis for Wisdom

The Source of Wisdom Proverbs 3:1-12 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”               What is the basis by which we determine moral truth?  This question has become hotly debated as traditional values conflict with post-modern values.  In this debate, the question we must ask is, “Whom do we believe?”  Do we turn to God and his morality revealed in the Bible or do we turn to popular culture and the ethics of our present culture?               Having stated that the basis of all wisdom is the fear of the Lord, the sage now turns our attention to the question: how do we determine right and wrong?  Where do we turn to find moral and spiritual truth?  In response to the question, the Sage confronts us with two options:  Do we trust in the wisdom of men, or do we turn to the wisdom of God?  The sage begins by warning us of the dangers of trusting in our own wisdom.   Verse 3 warns us not to “lean on our own understanding.”  The picture is of a walking

The Foundation for Wisdom

  The foundation for Wisdom Proverbs 1:1-7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”               The book of Proverbs is widely regarded as one of the most practical books of the Bible.  Filled with proverbial statements and insightful wisdom, the book provides guidance and direction in the nitty-gritty of life.  It is a book that provides guidance and direction for almost every situation in life.               In the book of Proverbs, the wise is not necessarily the smartest. Even though the individual has an excellent intellect that enables the person to excel and succeed in business, the person may still lack wisdom.  In the world, people with incredible IQ and intellectual prowess are looked up to.  We see financial prosperity and career advancement as the measure of success.  The smartest, the richest, and the most powerful are celebrated.             But this is not the case in the book of Proverbs.  Throughout the book, there is a constant interplay between the wis

The Wonder of God's Presence

The Wonder of God’s Presence Psalm 139 “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.”               When we think of God, even though we affirm his presence, we often think of him as remote and distant.  We think of God residing in heaven, in some far corner of space unreached by man’s telescope.  Because we are spatially limited, we think of God also as one who is also spatially limited—just bigger.  So we struggle with the idea that god is present at all places at all times in every nook and cranny of the universe.  The Idea of God’s omnipresence (that he is in all places, at all times, in all his glory) is difficult for us to grasp.               When we go through times of difficulty and trials, we feel the absence of God more than his presence.  God seems far removed and even inattentive to our needs and the crisis we face. Job expressed this feeling when he was going through his deep depression.  In Job 23:8-9 he searches for God but cannot find him.  He struggles because God seems

The Freedom of Forgiveness

The Blessing of God’s Forgiveness Psalm 32 “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’               There is nothing more vexing than a guilty conscience.  When we have sinned and violated God’s law, guilt leaves us sleepless at night and tormented by day.  It drives sleep away, and it destroys joy in the day. David understood the guilt of sin.  While we often remember David as a man of faith who was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22),  he also knew the pain of deep sin.  A study of the life of David leads us to a man of contradictions.  On the one hand, the richness and depth of his faith are revealed in the number of Psalms he wrote proclaiming his love for God; he was a man who yearned for a deeper relationship with God. On the other hand, he was also a man of deep sin.  He committed adultery and, in an attempt to conceal his sin, committed murder.  He was successful as a king but a failure as a father.  He raised a son who wou

The Beauty of the Lord

The Beauty of the Lord Psalm 27   “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”               As Israel’s king, David would have faced many challenges.  Leading a nation demands complete dedication of time and energy as decisions must be made, dignitaries must be engaged, and pressures of the nation require constant attention.  Along with these, he faced the constant threat of invaders and internal plots to overthrow him. In this Psalm 27, we see David give us clues about the many challenges he faced as a king. He mentions evildoers who seek to devour him (vs. 2), the threat of war (vs. 3), days of trouble (vs. 5), and the perils of enemies (vs. 6).  Even his own family has forsaken him (vs. 10), and people have spread lies about him to discredit and dethrone him (vs. 12).  It would have been easy for David to allow fear to grip and paralyze h

The Self-Revelation of God

The Self-Revelation of God. Psalm 19 The Heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”               The irony is that what God reveals, man conceals.  In Psalm 19, David marvels at the self-disclosure of God. In the previous Psalm, David described God as one who “Made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around him.”  The imagery he portrays is the inaccessible majesty of God in which God is mysterious and unknowable to man (see also 2 Sam 22:12; 1 Kings 8:12; Job 37:22).  He is so far exalted above us that there no man can understand and grasp him.  Job 36:26 affirms that “God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.”  God is beyond our limited understanding.   How can the finite grasp the infinite?  We cannot unless God communicates and reveals himself to us in ways we understand.  As he gazes into heaven on a cloudless night, David suddenly has a genuine epiphany.  The God who was hidden in darkn

The God who Delivers

  The God who Delivers.   Psalm 13 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?”   It is one thing to praise God in the blessings of life, but how do you praise God in the pains of life?  Psalm 13 is known as one of the Psalms of lament.  The Psalms of lament were written as a prayer when an individual or the nation faced severe trials. It was a time when heaven seemed silent and God seemed to have forsaken the people.  We can handle many circumstances in life, but the one overwhelming situation is when we lose hope, and heaven seems silent and indifferent to our plight.  The Scriptures seem more like a mockery than a promise during these times.              Such is the case of David in this Psalm. David was in deep despair. What the circumstances were that surrounded this cry, we can only surmise.  A close examination of David’s life reveals several times when his affairs must have seemed overwhelming, and David felt abandoned and alone.  T

The Basis for Life

The Basis for Life Job 34-42 “Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.”               Elihu is an enigma.  He appears in the story without introduction and speaks as a youth who defines the normal conventions of wisdom that affirm the elders are the wise teachers and the young men are the learners.  Throughout the interaction between Job and his three friends Elihu has remained silent.  But finally, he had enough. He was deeply troubled, for Job was more concerned about vindicating himself than God, and the three friends were more concerned about condemning Job than they were about comforting Job.  In response, he begins a lengthy defense of God’s righteousness and his actions.  For Elihu, the wisdom and folly of a person were not measured by the blessing they received or the adversity they faced.  It is measured by the degree we acknowledge God as the supreme God who has the right to do as he pleases.  God is not under the constraints of man.  He d

The Danger of Human Reason

The danger of Human reason. Job 20 “I listen to the reproof which insults me, and the spirit of my understanding makes me answer.”               Zophar was a man who was confident he had all the correct answers and all the right doctrine.  As he listened to Job’s complaint, he concluded that Job was sputtering endless nonsense and showing his arrogance in questioning God.  Like the other three friends, he condemns Job for claiming innocence, for like his friends, he believes God blesses the righteous and condemns the wicked. While Eliphaz appealed to his personal experience and Bildad appealed to tradition, Zophar appealed to human wisdom.  However, this wisdom was not derived from divine revelation but wisdom determined by men.  Zophar was confident he was right, for in his mind, the fact that Job questioned his three friends was proof of his guilt.             To illustrate his point, Zophar draws the picture of a monarch who rises to great power and swells in pride to the point that

The Danger of Tradition

The Danger of Tradition Job 8 “Please inquire of past generations and consider the things searched out by their fathers.             After Job rejects Eliphaz’s theology of experience, Bildad is the next to speak.  For Bildad, our understanding of God and the basis for wisdom comes from tradition.  For Bildad, the way to discover truth is to look back at past generations.  To glean from their knowledge and their wisdom. In an age when we embrace the new and the latest without discernment, Bildad calls upon us not to neglect the wisdom and the values of the previous generation.  Morality is not shifting sand.  It is established by God from the very foundation of creation so to reject the wisdom of the past is to depart from the foundations of God’s moral and spiritual law.  Youth is deceptive, for, in reality, we know nothing (8:9).               Like Eliphaz’s focus on experience, Bildad’s focus on tradition also has some merit.  A central theme of wisdom is that we need to listen to t

Theology of Experience

  Theology Based Upon Experience. Job 4   “Now when Jobs three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him…they made an appointment together to come and sympathize with him and comfort him.”               The friends of Job are often maligned for their criticism of Job and their accusations against Job.  However, before we look closer at their arguments, we must affirm that they genuinely cared for Job. They were friends in the truest sense.  They were deeply touched and wept when they saw Job, and they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and nights, just being present with Job.  The problem was not in their concern for Job.  Their love for him they dramatically demonstrated.  Their problem was in their understanding of God.  As the three friends gather, they represent traditional wisdom, focusing on the truth that God blesses the righteous and judges the wicked.  However, they also represented three different perspectives of how we know and understand God.  T

Affirming Trust in the Midst of Confusion

Affirming Trust in the Midst of Confusion Job 1 “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” When Job awoke in the morning, everything in his life revealed the blessing of God. He was enjoying financial success. His family was a model of a godly family. His children were following the footsteps of his faith, and his family was close-knit, with his sons and daughters genuinely loving one another. It is not a stretch of the imagination to imagine Job walking outside the entrance of his tent, looking at the sunrise, and offering a deeply felt prayer of thanksgiving to God for his bountiful blessings. At that moment, everything seemed to be perfect. However, as he reflected upon his life, little did he realize that by the end of the day, his life would be entirely ruined, and everything he believed about God would be questioned. By the end of the day, his world would be destroyed and his faith shaken to its very foundation. The first hint of trouble came when a messenger arrive

The Divine Conductor

  The Divine Conductor Esther 6-10 “For Mordecai, the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus and great among the Jews and in favor with his many kinsmen, one who sought the good of his people and one who spoke for the welfare of his whole nation.” (10:3).               Imagine that you are blind and attend a Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra concert.  You would hear rapturous music, with each instrument playing in perfect harmony to achieve the beauty of the music.  You would listen to the rhythm of the drums, the soothing sound of the violins, and the crescendo of the trumpets.  As you hear, you wonder how all these musicians keep in perfect time and blend together.  What enables them to play in such perfect harmony? Then, as the music captures you, you realize that there must be one person guiding the music, one who serves to unite all the instruments into one harmonious song.  That one person is the Conductor.  Unseen by you but manifested by the music.             In the book of Esther

When Faith Overcomes

When Faith Overcomes Esther 4:15-5:8   “And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”               Fear paralyzes, but faith empowers.  When Mordecai first appealed to Esther to intercede on behalf of the people, Esther was reluctant.  To enter the throne room without an invitation was against the law and was seen as a threat.  Any individual who walked into the king's presence without permission would be immediately put to death. Consequently, Esther was fearful of following Mordecai’s advice.  It is easy to affirm our faith in God and walk in obedience when there is no threat and no cost.  However, it is a different story when there are risks and adversity, and the choice to obey God can be costly.  Fear arises when we face adversity that is beyond our ability and control. When fear, anxiety, and apprehension grip our soul, our focus shifts from the power of God to the circumstances we face and our inability to respond. It para

Living between a rock and a hard place.

Living between a Rock and a Hard Place Esther 4   “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Verse 14)               Esther was faced with a conundrum.  The decree had been established, and once it was declared, there was no turning reversal.  Haman’s hatred for Mordecai had turned into a hatred for all Jews, and so he had established a plot to destroy the whole Jewish people.  Under the guise that the Jews were rebellious and insurrectionists, Haman manipulated King Ahasuerus to declare that they would be annihilated on a specific date.  Because of Haman's distortion, the King saw the Jews as a threat to be destroyed.  Yet the general population was thrown into confusion.  Why would the king make such an edict to destroy a segment of the people that had shown no signs of rebellion? Finally, the King and Haman sat down to drink in a display of remarkable indifference to life. Much like events throughout history, people quickly become indifferent