Daily Reflections April 14, 2017
You will likely not find many inspirational or prosperity gospel books based in Ecclesiastes. It seems very pessimistic and depressing, especially on the first couple of readings. But even though we may be tempted to skim over it, that would not be good for us. In our world of immediate gratification, it is beneficial for us to sometimes sit in anticipation. As we read Ecclesiastes, let the longing for hope, meaning, and freedom swell until your heart is thoroughly about to rupture. When we do this, the grace of God that bursts onto the scene will appear so much more glorious.
In fact, building anticipation to coming fulfillment is what the entire Old Testament does. So, in one sense, the book of Ecclesiastes can be thought of as a truncated summary of the Old Testament. For instance, in chapter one, the Preacher tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. Things happen in cycles that never seem to progress. Men toil and later the same work must be done again. Generations go and come. Without an intervention, mankind and this world vainly strive in the same ways. Isn’t that what we see throughout the Old Testament: cycles of man-made effort going nowhere? In the last part of chapter one, the Preacher also tells us that the pursuit of wisdom was like chasing after the wind and only produced increased sorrow. Isn’t that what we see throughout the Old Testament: a chase after man-made wisdom that holds no power or results in more distress? Thanks be to God for the New Testament!
So as we read Ecclesiastes, feel free to have a little angst. Because when we know our state without God we will appreciate and be able to proclaim the beauty of how he has made all things new. The commentator C. Bridges beautifully puts our reading of Ecclesiastes like this:
“We are permitted to taste the bitter wormwood of earthly streams, in order that, standing by the heavenly fountain, we may point our fellow sinners to the world of vanity we have left, and to the surpassing glory and delights of the world we have newly found.”1
Yours in Christ,
Assistant Pastor Evan Webster
1C. Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (1960 reprint, pp. xiv-xv).
1 Timothy 3
If yesterday’s chapter is the most controversial chapter in our time, then chapter 3 is a close second. This chapter gives the qualifications of pastor, elders, and deacons. What comes off as controversial are the lines in verses 2 and 12. “The husband of one wife.” Further cementing the complimentary nature of church leadership. The first verse of the chapter states that desiring to be an elder or pastor is a good thing, however that person has to be sold out for Jesus, and live a self-controlled life. Leadership in the church is a position of service and not iron-fisted authority. Jesus said that in Matthew chapter 20:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)
Likewise, it is imperative that leaders be qualified for the position. Remember, leaders in the church are public figures, and as such, their behavior reflects on the gospel of Christ. We have seen through history how highly public figures can tarnish the gospel through non-biblical living. That is why it is important for leaders in the church to live self-controlled lives, not given to excess in anything but following Christ.
In the second part of the chapter, Paul discusses deacons and hands them almost the same qualifications. Deacons were the table servers in the early church. They distributed to the needy and cared for the congregation physically. It is interesting to me that even those who do work that many see as trivial or beneath them is looked upon as so important in Christ’s kingdom. Those who are the hands and feet of Jesus need to live as Jesus has called them to live.
Paul ends the chapter with his reason for writing. He plainly tells Timothy that he is writing to give instruction in how to run the church. These imperatives on leadership and order are for the good of the body of Christ and for the glory of Christ. Jesus is the image of the invisible, God made flesh who dwelt among us. He alone is the mystery and yes He is great indeed!
Associate Pastor Jonathan Welch