Prayer Psalm: 68
Prayer Point: What makes God the Father unique among the gods of this world is that he identifies himself with the weak rather than the powerful. “He is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” Think about the most vulnerable among us and pray that God will act on their behalf. Pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What attracted these massive crowds to come to Jesus? How does Jesus feel about the needy people who came to him? Why does Jesus’ concern for the crowds unnerve the disciples? Have you ever felt this way when you were confronted by the needs of the world?
What does Jesus ask of his disciples? What does Jesus provide himself? Is there enough? What does this tell you about our resources, God, and the needs of the world?
The false teachers had divided the followers of Christ into two camps. The “real” Christians who followed Jewish Law and practiced circumcision and the Gentiles who were outside of God’s grace unless they became practicing Jews. Paul turns this division on its head reinterpreting the story of Abraham.
Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, had two sons. Ishmael, the son born in the ordinary way, that is when Abraham’s wife Sarah was unable to have children, Sarah’s servant bore a son in the place of Sarah. Isaac was the other son whom Sarah miraculously conceived in her nineties. Ishmael had persecuted Isaac seeing him as a threat to his inheritance. In the end, Abraham sent Ishmael away leaving Isaac as the sole heir. The Jews had assumed that because they were physically descended from Isaac they were the “children of the promise.” Here is where Paul turns the story on the opponents.
Hagar, the slave woman, represents the Old Testament Law. Sarah represents the children of the promise. Who does Paul say can rightly claim that Sarah (‘the Jerusalem that is above’) as his mother and Isaac as his brother? Who are the true children of promise, those biologically descended from Isaac or those who are born by the power of the Spirit? Who are considered to be children of the slave woman? Do the Galatians need to become circumcised to be considered children of promise?
Ecclesiastes 8:14-9:10 A Common Destiny for All
What is the thing called “meaningless” by the in verse 14? (“Righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.”(Eccl. 8:14 NIV))
Why does the Teacher “commend the enjoyment of life? (“…because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (Eccl. 8:15 NIV))
What is it that “no one can comprehend” under the sun according to verse 17? (“Then I saw all that God has done. … Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (Eccl. 8:17 NIV) There are people (philosophers) who firmly believe that ultimately one cannot “know” anything; it is all speculation and conjecture.)
What is the common destiny described in verses 1-2 in Chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes? (Death) It is my considered opinion that no one really wants to talk of death.
[Let me take a break here to recount a personal anecdote. A couple of years ago as I was waiting for one of our church’s famous pot-luck luncheons to begin, I happened to see a friend of mine sitting at a table by herself. Olli was eighty-two at the time; this becomes important as the story unfolds. Since I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk much with Olli for some time I thought this a good time to catch up. So I asked her how she was. Well, Olli launched into a litany of aches and pains the like of which I had never experienced from her. She had never complained about anything before. When she finished I told her that while I was hardly a doctor it seemed to me that she was experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease. “That’s what my doctor had suggested to me,” said Olli. “Well, Olli, if that is the case, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that if they catch the disease in time you will only need one treatment. The bad news is that if they don’t catch it in time you’ll have to have treatments for the rest of your life…… well, in your case, how long can it be?” What happened next nearly frightened me to death. Olli was laughing so loudly and so lustily that I thought she was on the verge of hyperventilating or worse a seizure. “No one has ever talked to me about death quite like that before,” said she. I am of that school of thought that says the more one talks about something, like fears, the more one disarms them.]
Back to Chapter 9…
So death has a claim on all of us. If you’re old enough (and you don’t have to be too old either) you will have experienced a close encounter with the enemy.
What is the “evil in everything that happens under the sun?” (“The same destiny overtakes all.” (Eccl. 9:3 NIV))
What is the quaint expression that the Teacher uses to describe the hope of those who are living in verse 4? (“… even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.” (NIV) I actually heard this expression used (ahem: “this scripture quoted”) in a movie (Lady Jane) by someone who was awaiting the axe man.)
“For the living know ________ _________ _______ _________ (that they will die), but the dead _________ ____________ (know nothing).
In light of the above, what is the Teacher’s advice (verse 7)? (“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart…”(NIV))
“Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil.” (Eccl. 9:8 NIV) What do you think this means? (Unfair! The answer is not in the text. I had to seek the help of the Life Application Bible for this one: The wearing of white and the anointing of oil was indicative of celebrating. Jesus talked about anointing once but it had more to do with fasting and not celebrating. Anoint yourself so that no one will know that you are fasting. See Matthew Chapter 6 verses 16-18.)
How does the Teacher want you to enjoy your “meaningless” life for all of your “meaningless” days? (“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love. … For this is your lot in life. …Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Eccl. 9:10 NIV))