January 17: Cheer Up, Preacher
Genesis 28–29; Matthew 21:23–22:22; Ecclesiastes 7:1–5
Things are getting serious for the writer of Ecclesiastes (“the Preacher”), and sometimes confusing for us, as we follow him through the labyrinth of his discourse on the meaning of life. Death is better than birth, mourning is better than feasting, and sorrow is better than laughter? What happened to his “eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil” statements from earlier (Eccl 5:18)?
The Preacher might sound like he’s contradicting himself, but the twist in his argument is meant to show us exactly what folly we may be inadvertently embracing. It’s easy to brush over these verses while thinking in terms of standard, run-of-the-mill folly, or obvious sins.
But folly can even look like a daily routine: goals, successes, and our happy, fulfilling lives. It can take the form of anything that skims the surface of life, but keeps us from confronting our greatest need and the reality of eternity.
When life is good, it’s tempting to gloss over our need for God. Everything is going as planned, and it’s easy to rely on ourselves—not on Him. But the Preacher wants us to address this temptation. It might take death, or times of extreme pain and sadness, to help us realize the truth. Only when we attend a funeral or lose a family member does the veneer start to chip; then, we get a glimpse of the turmoil bubbling under the surface. Only when we’re convicted of our great need can we admit that we truly need a Savior.
Are your successes causing you to diminish your need for Christ?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, take not a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, get thee to Padan Aram to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father, and thence take thee a wife of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God all sufficient bless thee, and make thee to increase, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of the people, And give thee the blessing of Abraham, even to thee and to thy seed with thee, that thou mayest inherit the land (wherein thou art a stranger,) which God gave unto Abraham. Thus Isaac sent forth Jacob, and he went to Padan Aram unto Laban son of Bethuel the Aramite, brother to Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him to Padan Aram, to fetch him a wife thence, and given him a charge when he blessed him, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan, And that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan Aram: Also Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan displeased Isaac his fathr, Then went Esau to Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had, Mahalath the daugher of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife. Now Jacob departed from Beersheba, and went to Haran, And he came unto a certain place, and tarried there all night because the sun was down, and took of the stones of the place, and laid under his head and slept in the same place. Then he dreamed, and behold, there stood a ladder upon the earth, and the top of it reached up to heaven: and lo, the Angels of God went up and down by it. And behold, the Lord stood before it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land, upon the which thou sleepest, will I give thee and thy seed. And thy seed shal be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the West, and to the East, and to the North, and to the South, and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And lo, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I wil not forsake thee until I have performed that, that I have promised thee. Then Jacob awoke out of his sleep and said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware. And he was afraid, and said, How fearful is this place this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Then Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had laid under his head, and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the anme of that place Bethel: notwithstanding the name of that city was at the first called Luz. Then Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this journey which I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothes to put on: So that I come again unto my father’s house in safety, then shall the Lord be my God. And this stone, wehich I have set up as a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me, will I give the stength unto thee. Then Jacob lift up his feet and came into the East country. And as he looked about, behold, there was a well in the field, and lo, three flocks of sheep lay thereby (for at that well were the flocks watered) and there was great stone upon the well’s mouth. And thither were all the flocks gathered, and they rolled the stone from teh well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the wells mouth in his place. And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they answered, We are of Haran. Then he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? Who said, We know him. Again he said unto them, Is he in good health? And they answered, He is in good health, and behold, his daughter Rachel cometh with the sheep. Then he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep and go feed them. And as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother ,and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. (For Jacob told Rachel, that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son) then she ran and told her father. And when Laban heard tell of Jacob hs sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house: and he told Laban all these things. To whom Laban said, Well, thou art my bone and my flesh, and he abode with him the space of a month. For Laban said unto Jacob, Though thou be my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall bethy wages? Now Laban had two daughters, the elder called Leah, and the younger called Rachel. And Leah was tender eyed, but Rachel was beautiful and fair. And Jacob loved Rachel, and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Then Laban answered, It is better that I give her thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days, because he loved her. Then Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife, that I may go in to her: for my term is ended. Wherefore Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. But when the evening was come, he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him, and he went in unto her. And Laban gave his made Zilpah to his daughter Leah, to be her servant. But when the morning was come, behold, it was Leah. Then said he to Laban, Wherefore hast thou done this to me? did not I sere thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban answered, It is not the manner of this place, to give the younger before the elder. Fulfill seven years for her, and we will also give thee this for the service, which thou shalt serve me yet seven years more. Then Jacob did so, and fulfilled her seven years, so he gave him Rachel his daughter, Bilhah his maid to be her servant. So entered he in to Rachel also, and loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served him et seven years more. When the Lord saw that Leah was despised, he made her fruitful: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Because the Lord hath looed upon my tribulation, now therefore mine husband will love me. And she conceived again and bare a son, and said, Because the Lord heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also, and she called his name Simeon. And she conceived again and bare a son, and said, Now at this time will my husband keep me company, because I have borne him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. Moreover she conceived again and bare a son, saying, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah, and left bearing .. Genesis 28–29
- And when he was come into the Temple, the chief Priests, and the Elders of the people came unto him, as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? Then Jesus answered, and said unto them, I also will ask of you a certain thing, which if ye tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? Then they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? And if we say, Of men, we fear the multitude, for all hold John as a Prophet, Then they answered Jesus, and said, We can not tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons, and came to the elder, and said, Son, go and work today in my vineyard. But he answered, and said, I will not: yet afterward he repented himself, and went. Then came he to the second, and said likewise. And he answered, and said, I will, Sir: yet he went not. Whether of them twain did the will of the father? They said unto him, The first, Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the Publicans and the harlots go before you into the kingdom of God. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him, and ye though ye saw it, were not moved with repentance afterward, that ye might believe him. Hear another parable, There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and made a winepress therein, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a strange country. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen to receive the fruits thereof. And the husbandmen took his servants and beat one, adn killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first: and they did the like unto them. But last of all he sent unto them his own son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when thehusbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us take his inheritance. So they took him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When therefore the Lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen? they said unto him, He will cruelly destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall deliver him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus said unto them, Read ye never inthe Scriptures, The stone which the builders refused, the same is made the head of the corner? This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation, which shall bring forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone, he shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will dash him to pieces. And when the chief Priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. And they seeking to lay hands on him, feared the people, because they took him as a Prophet. Then Jesus answered, and spake unto them again in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which married his son, And sent forth his servants, to call them that were bidden to the wedding, but they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saying Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: mine oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another about his merchandise. And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them sharply, and slew them. But when the king heard it, he was wroth, and sent forth his warriors, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. Then said he to his servants, Truly the wedding is preapred: but they which were hidden, were not worthy. Go ye therefore out into the highways, and as many as ye find, bid them to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all that ever they found, both good and bad: so the wedding was furnished with guests. Then the king came in, to see the guests, and saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. And he said unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, and hast not on a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot: take him away, and cast him into utter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen. Then went the Pharisees and took counsel how they might tangle him in talk. And they sent unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God truly, neither carest for any man: for thou considerest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, how thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought him a penny. And he said unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They said unto him, Caesar’s. Then said he unto them, Give therefore to Caesar, the things which are Caesar’s, and give unto God, those things which are God’s. And when they heard it, they marveled, and left him, and went their way. Matthew 21:23–22:22
- Surely there be many things that increase vanity, and what availeth it a man? For who knoweth what is good form man in the life, and in the number of his days of the life of his vanity, seeing he maketh them as a shadow? for who can sho unto man what shall be after him under the sun? A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of death, than the day that one is born. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting, because this is the end of all men: and the living shall lay it to his heart. Anger is better than laughter: for by a sad look the heart is made better. Ecclesiastes 7:1–5