Ecclesiastes Bible Study: Week 8

In Chapter 8, the Preacher again returns to the medium of prose/narrative to continue providing us with his investigation into wisdom. He asks, “Who is like the wise?” And tells us in so many words that when you have true wisdom you will literally have a different appearance — in other words, God’s wisdom will be “written all over your face.”

Please see the left side bar for the Week 8: Ecclesiastes 8:1 – 10:20 Summary Notes and Week 9 Homework.

As we approach the final week of our Bible study on Ecclesiastes, I want to thank everyone again for their participation and encouragement. Your feedback has been very helpful!

See you next week!

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Ecclesiastes Bible Study: Week 7

Beginning in Chapter 7, the Preacher begins using the medium of proverb to provide us with his observations and continued attempts to determine the good (“tob”) in life. He addresses prosperity and adversity, wickedness and righteousness, wisdom and folly, only to conclude that the nature of existence is so remote or distant from our understanding that it is essentially unsearchable. But our Preacher’s quest does not stop there! He has a confirmed commitment to see his quest through to the end.

Please see the left side bar for the Week 7: Ecclesiastes 7:1 – 7:29 Summary Notes and Week 8 Homework.

Thanks to Karen for bringing yummy cupcakes and to Abby for bringing the fruits of her garden to share with the group. But even more, thanks to everyone for stimulating and encouraging discussion.

See you next week!

The Gospel according to Jane Eyre

I am re-reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and loving every minute of it. The language and style of writing of this novel, first published in 1847, make me smile and occasionally frown at the same time because I have grown so accustomed to reading very plain, simple, and (at times) not-so-well-written English (eg, Internet news). And, alas, my career in medical writing does not lend itself to flowery prose.

Much to my delight, at the end of Chapter 6, I found the following most eloquent presentation of the gospel as spoken by the character Helen Burns. This childhood friend of Jane Eyre would soon die of consumption. (Did death from consumption only truly exist in Gothic novels?)

I even suggest that you read this passage aloud — it sounds so wonderful rolling off of the tongue. Enjoy!!

“We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain, — the impalpable principle of life and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being higher than man — perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend? No I cannot believe that: I hold another creed which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest — a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his rime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last: with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live in calm, looking to the end.”

Ecclesiastes Bible Study: Week 6

In Week 6 we studied what Ecclesiastes says about responding to God’ perfect and intentional design of His creation and the blessings that God provides when we walk in His world on His terms. Our approach, our words, and our intentions matter!

Please see the left side bar for the Week 6: Ecclesiastes 5:1 – 6:12 Summary Notes and Week 7 Homework.

I’m so encouraged by the group of committed and thoughtful women who faithfully attend our Ecclesiastes Bible Study at Grace Chapel! Thanks to you all for the great discussion this week.

See you next week!

Father, forgive us for inventing overtime

The deeper one gets into the message of Ecclesiastes, the more you can look around and see this fallen world “living” Ecclesiastes. Toil without contentment. Loneliness and isolation. A creation lost without the salvation of Christ.

The Japanese Labor Bureau ruled today that one of Toyota’s top engineers, age 45, recently died from overwork. He was under “severe pressure” to develop a new hybrid version of the Toyota Camry — averaging more than 80 hours of overtime per month. In 2002, another Toyota employee collapsed and died at work at the age of 30. Was it all worth it?

There is another way. This is not how God intends for us to live the gift of life that we are given. “Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.” (Ecc 3:12-13)

Ecclesiastes Bible Study: Week 5

Last week we were introduced to the Hebrew meanings of the experiences that happen under heaven and some of them were hard to grasp. Alongside the pleasant experiences of birth, healing, building up, laughing, dancing, loving, and peace, we are told that there are times in life for death (even killing), slaying (murder or destruction), tearing down (even using violence), weeping (in bitterness or even humiliation), wailing (in such deep grief that one tears the hair and beats the breast), hating (of man, wisdom, or even God), and war.

In Week 5 we looked at the final portion of Chapter 3 and the beginning of Chapter 4, which continue to present us with very difficult material to understand: the anomalies in God’s creation. In other words, the realities of life under the sun that don’t seem to “fit” into God’s plan.

Please see the left side bar for the Week 5: Ecclesiastes 3:16 – 4:16 Summary Notes and Week 6 Homework.

Even in light of the fact that injustice, death, social oppression, toil without contentment, loneliness, and isolation are part of our world, we can rejoice that God looks upon a sinful and rebellious creation and provides the just and perfect plan for our redemption. Praise be to God!

See you next week!

Ecclesiastes Bible Study: Week 4

In Week 4 of our study, we looked at the portion of Ecclesiastes that inspired the famous song lyrics: “To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and a time for every purpose under heaven…” In Chapter 3, the Preacher’s attention turns from investigating what is “hebel” (good) in life to investigating God’s perfect and intentional design of His creation. We took apart each verse and looked closely at the Hebrew meanings of the key words to help us more completely understand what God is telling us about His nature and His perfect will.

Please see the left side bar for the Week 4: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 Summary Notes and Week 5 Homework.

How awesome that God has put the deep sense of His intentional design in our minds and on our hearts — the deep knowing that there is a larger plan into which all of our life experiences (good, bad, unexplainable) are somehow meant to fit. Placing eternity (‘ôlâm) in our minds keeps us connected to our Creator, constantly reminding us of His sovereignty in our lives. What an incredible gift!

See you next week!