MISSION WOODS CHURCH
Worship, Sunday, January 22, 2023
      • Bible Trivia
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  • Seek Ye First
  • Lord, Be Glorified
  • Just a Closer Walk with Thee
  • Change My Heart, O God
  • Our journey through the book of Ecclesiastes, one of the books of wisdom of the Bible. The key phrase that we’ve heard thus far and that Qoholet opens with is, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” And we’ve learned that the term vanity can be translated as vapor. In other words so much of what we chase after is here today and in a moment disappears. Yet for some reason, in our humanness, and to our discredit, we deem these passing things as what is of primary importance.
    Since the beginning of our journey through this book the author has been making a point of the idea that without God all of these things we might pursue amount to nothing.
    Our chapter this morning opens with those words that perhaps found their way into the common vernacular through the Byrd’s song in the 60’s, with “Turn, Turn, Turn,”
    Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 ESV
    For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
    If you’re like me, it is difficult to hear these words from Scripture without inserting the Byrd’s refrain, from the Byrd’s song after just about every phrase. “For everything, turn, turn, turn..” It’s poetic, and what you might miss about this poetry, and what the Byrd’s left out is that it sets ups the verses that immediately follow.
    Let’s look at them:
    Ecclesiastes 3:9–15 ESV
    What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

    A Matter of Context

    It comes down to a matter of context.
    Throughout the message of Qoholet, we discover that our toil, pleasure, and all of it is a vapor, a chasing after the wind. If ever there could be a depressing message it would be that all of our efforts are worthless. And for many that is the message that people take away from this book. Yet, that is not the message of Ecclesiastes. There is a caveat to that message.
    We learn Ecc 3:11
    Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV)
    [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.
    and
    Ecclesiastes 3:14 ESV
    I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
    The author clearly is reminding us of the words of Solomon in the book of Proverbs:
    Proverbs 1:7 ESV
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    Yet still the Preacher continues in what so many have deemed as a downer of a message.
    Continuing on in our reading from verse 16:
    Ecclesiastes 3:16–22 ESV
    Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
    You may have recognized verse 20:
    Ecclesiastes 3:20 ESV
    All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
    You’ve heard a phrase similar, perhaps used on Ash Wednesday, or perhaps at a funeral, from the book of common Prayer:
    We therefore commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes dust to dust...
    From Genesis we learn that we were Adam was made from the dust of the ground.
    According to scientists, the elements that make up our body would fetch the enourmous price of about $1 in the market place.
    As we go into the next chapter, I’m not going to read it all, just to focus on one verse:
    Ecclesiastes 4:4 ESV
    Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
    We are made of dust. Still, we try and measure our worth by comparing ourselves to our neighbors. We envy them for what they are, have, do; or perhaps we compare ourselves and see ourselves better than they are by what we are, have or do. All of this is vanity and a striving after the wind. It is a vapor.
    So what in all of this is the message the Preacher is getting at. If everything under the sun is vanity, if there is nothing new under the sun, if all my work, possessions, and toil amount to nothing more than a chasing after the wind…what is the value in this life? What is it that gives any of us value?
    Again, and again, the Preacher comes back to God. Eccl 3:14
    Ecclesiastes 3:14 ESV
    I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.
    For everything there is a season… well, God is the one who sets the seasons
    Genesis 1:14 ESV
    And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,
    Ultimately, God is in control. And it is God who assigns all of us value:
    John 3:16 ESV
    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    God valued each of us enough to send Jesus. And since God created this world of ours, and loved us enough to send Jesus, and is continuing to work in us...
    Philippians 1:6 ESV
    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
    Our salvation is not through our work, but the work of God.
    Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
    The striving after wind, the vanity of our toil is in the idea that we can somehow earn God’s favor.
    So what are we to take away? Should we just do evil? No, that’s not what Qoholet is getting at at all. the Preacher writes:
    Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 ESV
    I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
    Our work, our toil is a gift from God. Our ability to create is a gift from God and a reflection of the fact that we are made in God’s (Our Creator’s) image. And we can take joy in what we create.
      • Ecclesiastes 3:1–8ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:9–15ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:14ESV

      • Proverbs 1:7ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:16–22ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:20ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 4:4ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:14ESV

      • Genesis 1:14ESV

      • John 3:16ESV

      • Philippians 1:6ESV

      • Ephesians 2:8–9ESV

      • Ecclesiastes 3:12–13ESV

  • More Precious Than Silver
  • My Life Is In You
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