I’ve really struggled the past few weeks with the Bible study. I feel completely alone through this process and it is eating away at me.
Introduction to Ecclesiastes: It’s interesting to read that one of the two main voices in this book is a person referred to as “the teacher.” This book is still part of the wisdom literature. Overall I’ve been impressed with the wisdom literature. Well, except with the majority of the psalms. Oh well. It’s also interesting that it’s unclear who the teacher was. A fun mystery indeed.
According to the notes in the CEB study bible, the three main recurring themes throughout this book are “the pointlessness of human endeavors, the mysterious nature of God, and the inevitability of death” (p. 1054 OT). The teacher emphasizes the importance of enjoying all aspects of life (aka…live life to the fullest). Specifically, “the teacher says that we have to pay serious attention to living our lives joyfully and rightly, despite any limits imposed on us by death, our lack of knowledge, or our uncertainties about God” (p. 1054 OT). I like this quote. I like that it suggests that it’s ok to be uncertain and to question. I especially like this quote:
Ecclesiastes authorizes an edgy spirituality that makes room for doubt or skepticism (within limits) about various matters. The book shows that skepticism and intelligence don’t have to result in unbelief or be an excuse to opt out of a faithful life. The teacher is both skeptical (Eccl 3:21) and very wise (Eccl 12:9-10), but throughout his reflections, he realizes that he must do his thinking with God. Ecclesiastes will repay close and repeated study, even though it isn’t always easy, because the life of wisdom and the life of faith are often marked by difficulty and the pain of learning. (p. 1054 OT)
This just seems to line up with how I feel about things. Kinda nice.
Ecclesiastes 1: This first chapter is a little strange. It seems like the author, in this case a teacher, is just stating that no matter what we do, the world will stay as it is. There is nothing new, even if it is “new” to us. The Teacher then lays out his purpose or quest: to apply his mind to learning everything he could. To become wise. The Teacher seems to have done everything and argued that the more we know, the more we will hurt. Yeah…not totally getting this chapter.
There’s all this talk about everything being pointless. And this verse is kinda weird: “I applied my mind to investigate and to explore by wisdom all that happens under heaven. It’s an unhappy obsession that God has given to human beings.” (1:13)
It ends with this phrase: “Remember: In much wisdom is much aggravation; the more knowledge, the more pain.” (1:18) Um…ok.
Like I said, I don’t really get this chapter.
Ecclesiastes 2: Another strange chapter. I have to admit that reading this book doesn’t make me feel very good about myself, at least up to this point. It may change, but I’m not a fan at the moment. The main argument in this chapter is that no matter how hard we work and what we do, we all experience the same thing in the end: death. So pretty much everything is pointless. Amassing wealth is pointless. Hard work is pointless. Joy is pointless. Wisdom is pointless. This is just a barrel of fun to read. Ugh.
This chapter ends with the following verses:
24 There’s nothing better for human beings than to eat, drink, and experience pleasure in their hard work. I also saw that this is from God’s hand— 25 Who can eat and find enjoyment otherwise?— 26 because God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please God. But to those who are offensive, God gives the task of hoarding and accumulating, but only so as to give it all to those who do please God. This too is pointless and a chasing after wind.
Ecclesiastes 3: The teacher starts this chapter with seven sets of conflicting statements (this is the “season for everything” poem). We then see a shift back to an emphasis on hard work. We then see something about enjoying what we do now and being happy with what we have. We still see more about humans are no better than animals and we all reach the same final end which is death.
I was on a run the other day discussing this book and my overall thoughts and my F3 brother made a good point. He helped me understand that the purpose of this chapter is to help us understand that in the grand scheme of things we (humans) aren’t as important as we think we are.
I’m struggling through this book overall. I do hope it gets better soon.
Matthew 10: According to the notes this is the second major sermon of Matthew. This chapter focuses on his disciples (apostles). Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness” (10:1). Jesus sends his disciples out to do his work, to cure and help those in need. According to Matthew Jesus specifically tells them the following: “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city” (10:5). As with the first sermon, this doesn’t align with Paul’s letters and Paul’s emphasis on working with the Gentiles.
We get more information on how Jesus prepared the apostles to address expected harassment. He tells them not to be afraid of anything. He then goes on to say the following:
34 “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. 35 I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 People’s enemies are members of their own households.
37 “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. 38 Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. 39 Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.
This is similar to a passage in Luke. I didn’t like that passage either. What does “people’s enemies are members of their own households” mean? That’s a little nutty to me. I just don’t get this passage and it’s something I want to explore at a later date.