January 21: Power, Authority, and Its Result
Genesis 34:1–35:15; Matthew 25:14–26:13; Ecclesiastes 8:1–9
“For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?” (Eccl 8:6).
We all struggle with the future and the vast uncertainty it creates in our minds. It’s rarely the present that keeps us awake at night; it’s our concerns about what will happen if the present changes for better or worse.
But unlike other places in the Bible when we’re told not to worry, the words of Ecclesiastes 8:6 are set in the context of a request to obey the king of the land. This is not because the king is offered as a solution to the problems, although he could potentially help, but because like many other things, there is nothing that can be done about him. Why worry about that which you cannot change?
This situation is equated to life and death itself: “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the way of death” (Eccl 8:8). The Preacher of Ecclesiastes then goes on to reflect the cultural reality of the time: “There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.” Again, what can you change about it? If the king is corrupt, it will destroy him, like it will destroy others—it’s only a matter of time. Wickedness has no power to deliver; only the power to destroy.
And this is most pressing for reflection: Sin is often cast as an escape from life’s pains and sometimes feelings of meaninglessness, yet it really destroys life. (If only this reasoning was present in our thinking every time we were tempted.)
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes begins to draw his thoughts to a close by telling us: People’s power over one another is “hurt”—it’s painful (Eccl 8:9). Here in a passage about the need for people to be governed (that’s likely written by one in power), we see the author admit that power will inflict pain, or more literally “evil” or “badness.”
This startling reality forms another realization: In a world that was meant to have God as its king and ruler—in a world where that power only shifted after people sinned and were no longer allowed in the presence of their creator—it makes sense that power would corrupt. But we’re told: what can we do about it? The only thing we can do is to be people who choose to follow the good—the good God—and work toward the overthrowing of evil and the battle against corruption. But we must, along the way, realize that worry and anxiety will only paralyze, not help.
What do you need to pray about that is a worry or anxiety of yours? In what ways can you be an agent of change in the world, without succumbing to the pains it can bring?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of that country. Whom when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite lord of that country saw, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. So his heart clave unto Dinah the daughrer of Jacob: and he loved the maid, and spake kindly to the maid. Then said Shechem to his father Hamor, saying, Get me this maid to wife. (Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter, and his sons were with his cattle in the field: therefore Jacob held his peace, until they were come.) Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. And when the sons of Jacob were come out of the field and heard it, it grieved the men, and they were very angry, because he had wrought villany in Israel, in that he had lain with Jacob’s daughter: which thing ought not to be done. And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son: Shechem longeth for your daughter, give her to him to wife, I pray you. So make affinity with us, give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you, dwell, and do your business in it, and have your possessions therein. Shechem also said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find favor in our eyes, and I will give whatsoever ye shall appoint me. Ask of me abundantly both dowry, and gifts, and I will give as ye appoint me, so that ye give me the maid to wife. Then the sons of Jacob answered, Shechem and Hamor his father, talking deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to an uncircumcised man: for that were a reproof unto us. But in this we will consent unto you, if ye will be as we are, that every man child among you be circumcised, Then will we give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us, and will dwell with you, and be one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us to be circumcised, then will we take our daughter and depart. Now their word pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son. And the young man deferred not to do the thing because he loved Jacob’s daughter: he was also the most set by all of his father’s house. Then Hamor and Shechem his son were unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, These men are peaceable with us: and that they may dwell in the land, and do their affairs therein (for behold, the land hath room enough for them) let us take their daughters to wives, and give them our daughters. Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, and to be one people, if all the men children among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. Shall not their flocks and their substancce and all their cattle be ours? only let us consent herein unto them and they will dwell with us. And unto Hamor, and Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city: and all the men children were circumcised, even all that went out of the gate of his city. And on the third day (when they were sore) two fo the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren took either of them his sword and went into the city boldly, and slew every male. They slew also Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went their way. Again, the other sons of Jacob came upon the dead, and spoiled the city, because they had defied their sister. They took their sheep and their beeves, and their asses, and whatsoever was in the city and in their fields. Also they carried away captive and spoiled all their goods, and all their children and their wives, and all that was in the houses. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me, and made me stink among the inhabitants of the land, as well the Canaanites, as the Perizzites, and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me, and so shall I, and my house be destroyed. And they answerd, Should he abuse our sister as a whore? Then God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee, when thou fleddest from Esau thy brother.Then said Jacob unto his household and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and cleanse yourselves, and change your garments: For we will rise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there unto God, which heard me in the day of tribulation, and was with me in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods, which were in their hands, and all their earrings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under an oak, which was by Shechem. Then they went on their journey, and the far of God was upon their cities that were round about them: so that they did not follow after the sons of Jacob. So came Jacob to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan: (the same is Bethel) he and all the people that were with him. And he built there an altar, and had called the place, The God of Bethel, because that God appeared unto him there, when he fled from his brother. But Deborah Rebekah’s died, and was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and he called the name of it Allon Bachuth. Again God appeared unto Jacob, after he came to Padran Aram, and blessed him. Moreover God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall be no more called Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, i am God all-sufficient: grow, and multiply: a a nation and a multitude of nations shall spring of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins. Also I will give the land, which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, unto thee: and unto thy seed after thee will I give that land. So God ascended from him in the place where he had talked with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had talked with him, a pillar of stone, and poured drink offerings thereon: also he poured oil theron. And Jacob called the name of that place where God spake with him, Bethel. Genesis 34:1–35:15
- For the kingdom of heaven is as a man that going into a strange country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every man after his own ability, and straightway went from home. Then he that had received the five talents, went and occupied with them, and gained other five talents. Likewise also he that received two, he also gained other two. But he that received that one, went and dug it in the earth, and hid his master’s money. But after a long seasons, the master of those servants came, and reckoned with them. Then came he that had received five talents, and brought other five talents, saying, Master, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained with them other five talents. Then his master said unto him, It is well done good servant and faithful, Thou hast been faithful in little, I will make thee ruler over much: enter into thy master’s joy. Also he that had received two talents, came, and said, Master thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents more. His master said unto him, It is well done good servant, and faithful, Thou hast been faithful in little, I will make thee ruler over much: enter into thy master’s joy. Then he that had received the one talent, came, and said, Master, I knew that thou wast an hard man, which reapest where thou sowedst not, and gatherest where thou strawedst not: I was therefore afraid, and went, and hid thy talent in the earth: behold, thou hast thine own. And his master answered, and said unto him, Thou evil servant, and slothful, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather wehre I strawded not. Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming should I have received mine own with vantage. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every man that hath, it shall be given, and he shall have abundance, and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away. Cast therefoer that unprofitable servant into utter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And when the Son of man cometh in his glory and all the holy Angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left. Then shall the king say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my father: take the inheritance of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I thirsted, and ye gave me drink: I was a strnager, and ye took me in unto you. I was naked, and ye clothe me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink? And when saw we thee a strnager, and took thee in unto us? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the king shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it uto one of the lest of these my brethren, ye have done it to me. Then shall he say to them on the left hand, Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meaat: I thirsted, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in unto you: I was naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answr him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, and say, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go into everlasting pain, and the righteous into life eternal. And it came to pass, when Jesus had finised all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of man shall be delivered to be crucified. Then assembled together the chief Priests, and the Scribes, and the Elders of the people into the hall of the high Priest called Caiaphas: And consulted together that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest any uproar be among the people. And when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, Ther came unto him a woman, which had a box of very costly ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at the table. And when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, What needed this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and been given to the poor. And Jesus knowing it, said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you, but me shall ye not have always. For in that she poured this ointment on my body, she did it to bury me. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout all the world, there shall also this that she hath done, be spoken of for a memorial of her. Matthew 25:14–26:13
- Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? the wisdom of a man doth make his face to shine: and the strength of his face shall be changed. I advertise thee to take heed to the mouth of the king, and to the word of the oath of God. Haste not to go forth of his sight: stand not in an evil thing: for he will do whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of the King is, there is power, and who shall say unto him, What doest thou? He that keepeth teh commandment, shall know none evil thing, and the heart of the wise shall know the time, and judgment. For to every purpose there is a time and judgment, because the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shal be: for who can tell him when it shall be? Man is not Lord over the spirit to retain the spirit: neither hath he power inthe day of death, nor deliverance in the battle, neither shall wickedness deliver the possesions thereof. All this have I seen, and have given mine heart to every work which is wrought under the sun, and I saw a time that an ruleth over man to his own hurt. Ecclesiastes 8:1–9