“The Yoke Is On You” – One Year Bible Reading – September 3

Old Testament:  Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12

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Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12    Life Without The Sun

“The Preacher” aka Qoheleth (literal Hebrew for “teacher/preacher”) aka Solomon continues his journey of circumstances “under the sun.”   We must remember that his perspective is from earth and, for the most part, from the vantage point of the unbeliever.

In chapter 4, he sees “man’s inhumanity to man” (v. 1-3) and determines that those who never existed or the dead are better off than the living (v. 1-3).  This guy must’ve been the life of any party.

Those who work and those who don’t are no better than the other (v. 4-8).  He does allow that it is better to have a partner, one can keep the other warm and pick the other up if one falls down (v. 9-11).  A grouping of three is best (v. 12).  He tells a parable about a man who was released from prison who took the place of a king (v. 13-16, cf. similarity to Joseph’s story who was in prison, Gen. 39:20-41:45).  Poverty does not have the problems that riches and prestige bring.

In chapter 5, Qoheleth advises everyone to take God seriously (vv. 1-3).   They should pay their vows on time.  He says that mankind should “fear God” (v. 7).  Authorities are in place to minister justice on up to the king (vv. 8-9).

Money-grubbers will not be happy with money, no matter how much they have (v. 10-11).  A poor worker can at least enjoy his sleep but rich men can’t ever get any rest (v. 12).  Some rich men just hoard their riches but often lose them to heirs.  They can’t take their money with them (v. 15-16).  He can’t usually even enjoy his riches during his lifetime (v. 17).

Q’s conclusion is that a person ought to just eat, drink and enjoy himself in his profession (v. 18).  (Are you still counting the times Q uses the phrase, “under the sun”?)  It is a gift of God to enjoy what you have (v. 19-20; cf. Phil. 4:11-13, 19; Heb. 13:5).

One of the worst tragedies in life, according to Qoheleth, is when God allows a man to have riches but then someone from a foreign country comes and takes them (Eccles. 6:1-2).  A man who lives a hundred years and has a multitude of children but doesn’t leave them enough to bury him is no better off than if he had been stillborn (v. 3 -5).  Even if the man lives to be 2,000 years-old and doesn’t enjoy anything, he ends up going to the same place as anyone else (v. 6).  The OT Jews did not have a clear understanding of the afterlife.  Everyone went to a place called “Sheol” (cf. Ps. 6:5 and about sixty-six other OT references).

Everyone lives “hand-to-mouth” but never achieves satisfaction (v. 7).  The wise and the fool have about the same chances in life though the poor man who is wise fares better (v. 8).  “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” (v. 9a, LB).  It’s all pretty stupid (v. 9b).

Whatever has been will be (v. 10) and there’s no changing it.  A preponderance of nomenclature does not necessarily lead to a promulgation of dissemination not does hyperpolysyllabicsesquipedalianism (the overuse of long words, cf. v. 11).

Who knows what to do with their lives exactly?  Who can tell how things will end up (v. 12)?  Everything is futile.

New Testament:  2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7

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2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7    The Yoke Is On You

Paul warns against partnering (literally “mismated” or “unequally yoked,” the picture is of an older, stronger ox being yoked with a younger weaker ox) with anyone who is not a believer.  It is not possible to do God’s will if bogged down in a relationship with someone who is serving the devil (“Belial,” v. 15).  Non-Christians are at war with God (Eph. 2:16, “enmity” means war).  How can a Christian be teamed with someone who is at war with God?  This would, first of all, rule out a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian but also a business partnership or even ministering with an agency or church that doesn’t uphold Biblical standards (vv. 14-16).  Matt. 11:28-30 gives the picture of Jesus being our help, pulling the brunt of the weight in our  “yoked” relationship.

Just as the Old Testament Hebrews had rules and customs that set them apart from the pagan countries around them, so Christians should live in a way that sets them apart.  Piddly things like haircuts and music is not what is in mind here but Christians should live as those who are not indebted to the whole (vv. 16-18, cf. 1 John 2:15-16, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; for all these worldly things, these evil desires– the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance– these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself,” Living Bible).

We should live lives worthy of Christ, devoid of the dirt of the world that would pollute our spirits, becoming more like God day by day (2 Cor. 7:1).  Paul’s appeal is that he has had a pure ministry and never cheated anyone (v. 2).  Paul is proud of the Corinthians for whom he has sacrificed so much (vv. 3-4).

In the region north of Greece, Macedonia, Paul experienced pressure all around him.  They were in anguish and fear but God encouraged them by sending Titus (v. 6) which resulted in even more encouragement as Titus reported that the Corinthians had deep love, affection and concern for Paul.

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