Day 296: Ending Remarks

Ecclesiastes 10-121 Thessalonians 5

Wow! I think this might be the first time in 296 posts that we come to the end of both an Old and New Testament book on the same day! So yes, we end both Job and 1 Thessalonians today :)

After Paul reassures the young Thessalonian church of their salvation and exhorts them to continue working (as opposed to being idle) until the day of the Lord comes, like a thief in the night…Paul ends his book with a plethora of miscellaneous commands.

Similarly, after Solomon makes his case that wisdom is better than folly, he spends the last few chapters of Ecclesiastes giving a plethora of wisdom sayings.

With so much miscellaneous information, it’s hard to find a common thread! But each man makes a focused summary at the end of his book.

Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with the decisive statement:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

And Paul ends his letter to the Thessalonian church with profound encouragement:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

I can’t think of better ending sentiments… A command to fear God, a prayer for God’s sanctification, and the assurance of God’s faithfulness to complete the work he’s started in us. That sounds like the gospel. That sounds like good news!

Day 295: Life beyond the grave

Ecclesiastes 7-91 Thessalonians 4

Paul continues his letter to the Thessalonians by exhorting them to continue in their faith “more and more,” encouraging them in their sanctification. And then Paul turns to address a great concern of the young converts in Thessalonica.

Some of the new Christians had died, and not knowing what happened to a Christian at death, the people fell into a hopeless depression. They assumed that since they died before Jesus’ 2nd coming, they were lost, and missed the promised salvation.

Can you imagine how grieved these new Christians would have been without the hope of life after death?

The writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely Solomon) gives us insight into the hopelessness of life “under the sun,” as if there were no spiritual realm beyond this life – no eternal hope for which to live…

But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6).

But Solomon also knows that divine revelation is more trustworthy than his limited perspective, so he writes,

Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

Yes, without God’s clear instruction on the eternal nature of life, every possible human conception leads to despair.

Solomon despaired because death was inevitable for both the righteous and the wicked.
The Thessalonians despaired because they believed death prevented the salvation of the righteous.

Paul gives us the truth about life after death… that those who have died before the 2nd coming of the Lord go ahead of those on earth to be with God (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15). And when Jesus comes again, all believers on earth will be “caught up together [with those who have died] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). So all believers both asleep and on earth will be “with the Lord.”

The details of this passage can be difficult to comprehend or imagine, but the heart of Paul’s words are clear. All believers will be with the Lord! Death has lost its sting. It no longer has any power over the believer. No longer are the days of our lives as “the wind,” meaningless or “vanity.”

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection give us hope beyond the grave!

Day 294: Our purpose

Ecclesiastes 4-61 Thessalonians 3

In the first half of Acts 17 we read of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica. He spent a relatively short time there, but long enough to preach the gospel effectively to see the beginnings of a small church. Paul’s presence angered the Jews, and they tried to capture Paul…

But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd (Acts 17:5).

The new Thessalonian converts helped Paul and Silas escape by nightfall to Berea which was 50 miles southwest of Thessalonica. But the persecution did not end after Paul and Silas left. The Thessalonians continued to endure hardship as a church, and Paul was anxious…worried they might fall away from the faith. So he sent Timothy to visit them (1 Thess. 3:5), and to Paul’s joy, Timothy reported back that they were steadfast in the faith (1 Thess. 3:6; 8).

What would enable these new converts to stay faithful amidst harsh affliction?

Christ. Christ’s love. Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s promises. Christ, alone.

The writer of Ecclesiastes knew that life lived apart from the eternal purposes of God was meaningless. This world is fallen and to work for possessions that will only endure one’s lifetime is vanity. It lacks purpose.

The fact that the Sovereign and Righteous God has made a way for us to be in relationship with him now and throughout eternity gives our lives meaning in this fallen world. Each small pleasure is a gift of God, and therefore, more meaningful. Suffering can be endured because of our hope in an eternal home. We can take joy in the work of our hands because a job done for the Lord brings glory to him and makes an impact for eternity.

God’s love is our song and His word is our guide. In Him, we find our purpose!

Day 293: Vanity, Vanity

Ecclesiastes 1-31 Thessalonians 1-2

I think Ecclesiastes is an apt counterpoint to Job in that both the afflicted Job and the prosperous author of Ecclesiastes conclude that the fear of God is the only satisfying pursuit of man.

Even though the author of Ecclesiastes is anonymous, many scholars believe the author to be Solomon because no other king in the line of David possessed such wisdom and possessions as described in the book of Ecclesiastes. If the author is indeed Solomon, it makes the book all the more meaningful because Solomon had every worldly possession and privilege known to man – yet he still concluded it was all “vanity” apart from God.

Wisdom, Possessions, Pleasure, even hard work – Solomon argued that they were all meaningless “under the sun.” When Solomon used the phrase, “under the sun,” he was referring to all things in this fallen world.

Without God placing eternal value on our lives, everything “under the sun” is fleeting and meaningless – leading to death.

Solomon writes about the vanity of “work”…

So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. (Ecclesiastes 2:20-21).

In contrast, Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, speaks about the eternal significance of his work. Paul says that coming to Thessalonica was “not in vain” (1 Thess. 2:1). And Paul also speaks of “toil” but his “toil” has purpose…

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

Paul finds value in his work because of the gospel. His work supports, enables, and is motivated by the gospel. The gospel is eternal, so Paul’s work has eternal significance. In fact, Paul even calls the church at Thessalonica his “glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:20) because they signify his eternal work in this fallen world.

As Solomon considers the temporary nature of work in this fallen world, he turns to look at God’s eternal nature…

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 (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

Without the fear of the Lord, Solomon concluded that life was vanity.
Without the fear of the Lord, Job’s suffering was hopeless.
Without the fear of the Lord, Paul’s work was purposeless.

Everything is “vanity” apart from the fear of the Lord!