January 4: Listen, Build, and Listen Again
Genesis 6–7; Matthew 6–7:11; Ecclesiastes 2:1–11
More often than not, what we want is not what God wants. We desire wealth, notoriety, or influence. In our ambition, we can lose sight of the very God who created us.
In the story of Noah and the flood, we see the same dichotomy: the world wants one thing and God desires another. The two aren’t congruent. In this case, selfishness has led to catastrophic levels of evil: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence … all flesh had corrupted their way on earth” (Gen 6:11–12). So God tells Noah that He is through—He’s going to end it all. But Noah and his family will be spared if they’re obedient to God’s will.
Noah listens; he builds the ark. And God honors His work by closing the door (Gen 7:16). He’s there at the end, sealing the deal. Being faithful means getting an opportunity to witness the power of God.
When our ambitions aren’t guided by God’s will and His goals, the result can mean corruption or corrupting others. We might wonder how we got there, but in reality, we know how it happened: selfishness is to blame.
Instead of doing things our way, we must listen, build what God wants, and then listen again. We have a choice: we can seek our own ambitions—like wisdom or knowledge—or we can choose Christ’s way, realizing that “in much wisdom is much vexation, and [that the one] who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Eccl 1:18).
Ambition alone does not offer a happy ending. The only ending that results in joy is the one that focuses on God’s kingdom and His desires. Rather than justify our current desires, we should acknowledge the dichotomy and the problem. Individual ambition may result in selfish desires, but a focus on Christ will result in blessings: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9).
What ambitions need to be set aside in your life? In what ways do you need to refocus your life on Christ’s goals?
JOHN D. BARRY
- So when men began to be multiplied upon the earth, and there were daughters born unto them. Then the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took them wives of all that they liked. Therefore the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, because he is but flesh, and his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days: yea, and after that the sons of God came unto the daughers of men, and they had borne them children, these were mighty men, which in old time were men of renown. When the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually, Then it repented the Lord, that he had made man in the earth, and he was sorry in his heart. Therefore the Lord said, I will destroy from the earth the man, whom I have created, from man to beast, to the creeping thing, and to the fowl of the heaven: for I repent that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just and upright man in his time: and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God: for the earth was filled with cruelty. Then God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, An end of all flesh is come before me: for the earth is filled with cruelty through them: and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an Ark of pine trees: thou shalt make cabins in the Ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And thus shalt thou make it: the length of the Ark shall be three hundred cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make in the Ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above, and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof: thou shalt make it with the low, second, and third room. And I, behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life under heaven: all that is in the earth shall perish. But with thee wil I establish my covenant, and thou shalt go into the Ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, adn thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh two of every sort shalt thou cause to come into the Ark, to keep them alive with thee: they shall be male and female. Of the fowls, after their kind, and of the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, that thou mayest keep them alive. And take thou with thee of all meat that is eaten: and thou shalt gather it to thee, that it may be meat for thee and for them. Noah therefore did according unto all that God commanded him: even so did he. And the lord said unto Noah, Enter thou and all thine house into the Ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me in this age. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: but of unclean beasts by couples, the male and his female. Of the fowls also of the heaven by sevens, male and female, to keep seed alive upon the whole earth. For seven days hence I will cause it rain upon the earth forty days, and forty nights, and all the substance that I hve made, will I destroy from off the earth. Noah therefore did according to all that the Lord commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old, when the flood of waters was upon the earth. So Noah entered and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him into the Ark, because of the waters of the flood. Of the clean beasts, and of the unclean beasts, and of the fowls, and of all that creepeth upon the earth. There came two and two unto Noah into the Ark, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. And so after seven days, the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, in the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the selfsame day entered Noah and Shem, and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them into the Ark. In the selfsame day entered Noah with Shem, and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wieves of his sons with them into the Ark. They and every beast after his kind, and all cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth and moveth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, even every bird of every feather. For they came to Noah into the Ark, two and two, of all flesh wherein is the breath of life. And they entering in, came male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in. Then the flood was forty days upon the earth, and the waters were increased, and bare up the Ark, which was lifted up above the earth. The waters also waxed strong, and were increased exceedingly upon the earth, and the Ark went upon the waters. The waters prevailed so exceedingly upn the earth, that all the high mountains, that are under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail, when the mountains were covered. Then all flesh perished that moved upon the earth, both fowl and cattle and beast, and everything that creepeth and moveth upon the earth, and every man. Everything in whose nostrils the spirit of life did breathe, whatsoever they were in the dry land, they died. So he destroyed everything that was upon the earth, from man to beast, to the creeping thing, and to the fowl of the heaven: they were even destroyed from the earth. And Noah only remained, and they that were with him in the Ark. And the waters prevailed pon the earth an hundred and fifty days. Genesis 6–7
- Take heed that ye give not your alms before men to be seen of them, or else ye shall have no reward of your Father which is in heven. Therefore when thou givest thine alms, thou shalt not make a trumpet to be blown before thee, as the hypocrites do in the Synagogues and in the streets, to be praised of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father that seeth in secret, he will reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, be not as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the Synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, because they would be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber: and when thou hast shut thy door, pray unto thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Also when ye pray, use no vain reptitions as the Heathen: for they think to be heard for their much babbling. Be ye not like them therefore: for your Father knoweth whereof ye have need, before ye ask of him. After this manner therefore pray ye, Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done even in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the flory for ever.Amen. For if ye do not forgive men their trespasses, no more will your father forgive you your trespasses. Moreover, when ye fast, look not sour as the hypocrites: for they disfigure their faces, that they might seem unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you that they have their reward. But when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face. That thou seem not unto men to fast, but unt othy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, will reward thee openly. Lay not up treasures for yourselves upon the earth, where the moth and canker corrupt, and twhere thieves dig through and steal. But lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither the moth nor canker corrupteth, and where thieves neither dig through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if then thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be light. But if thine eyes be wicked, then all thy body shall be dark. Wherefore if the light that is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness? No man can serve two masters: for either he shall hat ehe one, and love the other, or else he shall lean to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and riches. Therefore I say unto you, be not careful for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shal ldrink: nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more worth than meat? and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of teh heaven: for they sow not, neither reap, nor carry into the barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking care is able to add one cubit unto his stature? And why care ye for raiment? Learn how the Lilies of the field do grow: they are not wearied, neither spin: Yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these .Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not do much more unto you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewith shall we be clothed? (For after all these things seek the Gentiles) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all thse things shall be ministered unto you. Care not then for the morrow, for the morrow shall care for itself: the day hath enough with his own grief. Matthew 6–7:11
- I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with joy: therefore take thou pleasure in pleasant things: and behold, this also is vain. I said of laughter, Thou art mad: and of joy, What is this that thou doest? I sought in mine heart to give myself to wine, and to lead mine heart in wisdom, and to take hold of folly, till I might see where is that goodness of the children of men, which they enjoy under the Sun, the whole number of the days of their life. I have made great works: I have built me houses: I have planted me vineyards. I have made me gardens and orchards, and planted in them trees of all fruit. I have made me cisterns of water, to water therewith the woods that grow with trees. I have gotten servants and maids, and had children born in the house: also I had great Possession of beeves and sheep above all that were before me in Jerusalem. I have gathered unto me also silver and gold, and the chief treasures of Kings and provinces: I have provided me men singers, and women singers, and the delights of the sons ofmen, as a woman taken captive, and women taken captives. And I was great, and incrased above all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired, I withheld it not from them: I withdrew not mine hart from any joy: for mine heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my travail. Then I looked on all my works that mine hands had wrought, and on the travail that I had laboured to do: and behold, all is vanity and vexation of the spirit: and there is no profit under the Sun. And I turned to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: (for who is the man that will come after the King in things, which men now have done?) Then I saw that there is profit in wisdom more than in folly: as the light is more excellent than darkness. For the wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walketh in darkness: yet I know also that the same condition falleth to them all. Then I thought in mind heart, It befalleth unto me, as it befalleth to the fool. Why therefore do I then labor to be more wise? And I said in mine heart, that this also is vanity. For there shall be no remembrance of the wise, nor of the fool forever: for that that now is, in the days to come, shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man, as doth the fool? Therefore I hated life: for the work that is wrought under the Sun, which I shall leave to the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be wise or foolish? yet shall he have rule over all my labor, wherein I have travailed, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the Sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to make mine heart abhor all the labor, wherein I had travailed under the Sun. For there is a man whose travail is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity: yet to a man that hath not travaileth herein, shall he give his portion: this also is vanity, and a great grief. For what hath man of all his travail and grief of his heart, wherein he hath travailed under the Sun? For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief: his heart also taketh not rest in the night: which also is vanity. There is no profit to man, but that he eat and drink, and delight his soul withthe profit of his labor: I saw also this, that it was of the hand of God. For who could eat, and who could hast to outward things more than I? Surely to a man that is good in his sight, God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth pain to gather, and to heap to give to him that is good before God: this also is vanity, and vexation of the spirit. Ecclesiastes 2:1–11