As we begin Chapter 3, Solomon is going to press the argument he is making further by describing the activities of this God in our world. This is the key section in the entire book of Ecclesiastes, and it should be clear now that Solomon’s argument is not that everything is meaningless or futile - our striving may be futile, yes, but life itself cannot be, for God is, like a masterful conductor, setting every event and season of all of our lives together for his purpose. This is not the work of an absent, disinterested God, but of a God who is intimately involved in the day-to-day, moment-to-moment unfolding of our lives. And the key idea of this section - the answer Ecclesiastes gives to the problems of the breath and the dish is that: Every Moment of Our Lives is Appointed By God and Therefore, there is beauty to be found in the breath.
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We come to the last two chapters of telling the story of Jacob this morning, and, apart from the first few verses, these chapters seem pretty easy to skip over as they seem to simply record a few random stories, some deaths, and then a long genealogy. Yet these chapters, in bringing the focus on Jacob to a close, act as a summary of some of the key themes of his life. A theme that can be summarized very easily: God is Faithful. God is Faithful. If there ever was an appropriate summary to Jacob’s life, it is that God is faithful.
Abraham’s faith and obedience is tested by the providing, promise-keeping God.
The proclamation faith alone announces is that this gift is to be received solely by faith. Verse 28 became one of the most disputed verses in the reformation because when Luther translated the Bible into German for the regular people to read, he understood exactly what Paul was teaching here, and to make it so clear that no one would mistake Paul’s point, he added the word “alone” to verse 28.
The Catholic Church of Luther’s day excommunicated Luther over that word, because they felt if that word alone was added, it set Paul’s teaching in contradiction with James 2:24 which reads “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Is this a contradiction? How are we to understand this?
When’s the last time you found yourself in a dead end? You’re trying to move forward, but it seems that every door is now closed to you, no opportunity has presented itself. You try pushing on one door and it won’t budge. So you try another. And another. You call out to God, “just show me what to do already”. Your issue isn’t obedience - you’ll do whatever it is God’s leads you to - its just that right now you’re stuck. But if you’re in that place long enough, and enough doors close, you might even begin to doubt as to whether you’re even pursuing the right things in the first place. Have you been there?