Bible reading for weekend April 16 -- 18
Apr 16 -- Ecclesiastes 3 and 1 Timothy 5
Apr 17 -- Ecclesiastes 4 and 1 Timothy 6
Apr 18 -- Ecclesiastes 5 and 2 Timothy 1
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)
SEASONS. Last night I received word that a beloved friend and fellow pastor had gone to be with the Lord. His destination is sure and glorious. In the words of Tolkien, our brother left the Grey Havens bound for Valinor, the land of immortality. The juxtaposition of our loss with the beauty of spring all around us should not be missed. Maybe the older you become the more you see it: "a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die..." (vv 1-2). In his wisdom Solomon is telling us about the seasons and the cycles of life under the sun. Life is full of limitations -- in our understanding, in our abilities, and in our experiences. The sad times come on the heels of the good times, and then a good season often returns. Once a king challenged his wise men to come up with a truth, one statement, that would make a sad person happy and a happy person sad. One sage came up with this statement: "Things will change." For the sorrowful this is a word of hope, and for the happy a word of realism.
LESSONS. There are seasons in life (3:1-8). God's eternal plan is beautiful, though we cannot fully comprehend it (3:9-15). We are morally responsible before God, and his judgment is coming (3:16-22). We face many evils in life and solving them seems beyond us, like chasing the wind (4:1-8). Friendship, marriage, and community go a long way in helping us cope with life (4:9-12). Solomon gives a parable of two leaders, one young and one old, both humble, but the older finishes poorly (4:13-16). Alas, both are unremembered by succeeding generations, and their contributions forgotten. We are to be careful and reserved with our words (5:1-7). We should not trust those in power nor in our prosperity (5:8-17). Money does not ultimately satisfy, and indeed, even sprouts wings and flies away. In light of all this, men and women should enjoy their work, and their lot in life from the Lord (3:12-13; 5:18-20). We should be content with our limitations and be joyful with what he provides.
REFLECT. Did not our Lord Jesus say, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matt 6:25) And the Apostle Paul agreed: "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:12-13)
ONE MORE TIME: Here's one of my favorite songs from the 1960s, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" It was written by Pete Seeger in the 1950s, but best known as it was performed by the Byrds (1965).
"Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world." (1 Timothy 6:6-7)
CARE FOR WIDOWS (ch 5). Paul instructs Timothy on the care of widows in the churches (vv 3-16). As seen in Acts 6, widows in that time were most vulnerable, especially if they had no family to care for them. Paul then writes of the support and accountability of elders (vv 17-25). In speaking of elders receiving financial support, Paul begins with "the Scripture says" (v 18), and then quotes the OT (Deut 25:4) and the words of Jesus (Luke 10:7). This shows that Paul gave equal authority to the OT law and the NT gospels. We see in this chapter how important it is that churches help care for those in need.
WHAT IS TRULY LIFE (ch 6). The Christian life and ministry should never be about gaining money and possessions. Rather than pursue worldly riches, the man (or woman) of God should pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (v 11; cf Matt 6:33). Notice the active imperative verbs: "Flee... pursue... fight... take hold... keep the commandment..." (vv 11-14). Contentment, doing good, and sharing with others become a "good foundation for the future" (v 19). We do these things because that's the kind of world we are going to! Our attitude toward money and possessions can be a help or hindrance to that end. Note how Paul ends with a beautiful doxology (vv 15-16). Sound doctrine should result in resounding praise to God!
REFLECT. Both OT and NT readings this weekend pertain to being content with what God has provided. Jerry Bridges wrote, "Contentment with what we have is absolutely vital to our spiritual health." Do you find it difficult to be content with what God has provided?
I'll pick up on 2 Timothy after the weekend...
About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.