It may be the last coin we get, or we may get many more. Once spent, you can never get the coins back to spend them differently. The art of living wisely is largely a matter of spending your coins on the things that really matter in light of eternity and not frivolously wasting them. Living wisely is difficult because often the choice is not between the bad and the good, but between the good and the best. The Book of Haggai, second shortest in the Old Testament, has a potent message.
It tells us to put first things first in our lives. It was written to people, like us, who would have told you that God must be first. They believed that; we believe that. But, they had drifted into a way of life where their intellectual belief in the supremacy of God was not reflected in the way they were living. They gave lip service to the priority of God, but in fact they lived with other priorities. God sent this prophet to help His people get their priorities in line with what they knew they should be.
The historical setting is the early chapters of Ezra see Ezra 5: They quickly rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. Two years after returning, they had laid the foundation to rebuild the temple. Their Samaritan neighbors had offered to join in the work, but the Jews refused their offer. The Samaritans, in turn, threatened the workers and sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt. At least 14 years had passed. The people got caught up in the routine of life—farming, building houses, raising families, and that sort of thing.
They got used to life without a temple. Even their leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, had gotten used to things as they were. Into that scene, God raised up Haggai and two months later Zechariah to proclaim His message to this returned remnant. The Book of Haggai consists of four precisely dated messages from the Lord. To sum up the first message:.
- Book of Ecclesiastes.
- The Forgiving Hour.
- I Never Knew That About Scotland!
We all know this, but …. All of us who have trusted Christ as Savior know intellectually that it is foolish and vain to live for the things of this world. We know that these things never deliver the satisfaction that they promise. We know that we will not find true happiness apart from God.
They had homes and jobs in Babylon. Most of them had been born and raised there. By faith they had responded to the call to return and had committed themselves to the hardships of getting re-established in the land that had been devastated by war. Probably most of them made that commitment because of their commitment to God. Shortly after returning, they had made an attempt to rebuild the Temple, but the opposition had stopped the project.
Book of Ecclesiastes – Read, Study Bible Verses
They probably viewed it as nice, but not necessary; extra, but not essential. We need to see ourselves in this picture. If you know Christ, there was a time when you made a personal commitment to Him. You decided to follow Jesus, as the chorus goes. At first, you were zealous for spiritual things. You read your Bible every day. You got involved with groups like Campus Crusade or Inter-Varsity during college. You got involved serving in a local church. But perhaps your efforts met with difficulties.
Meanwhile, life moved on. You started a career and a family.
You had bills to pay and other demands on your time. It also gives us the over — all teaching of the theme. The first six verses of the book are an introduction to the whole of the Book of Proverbs. This sets the theme of the first division, and also to all of Proverbs. All else, according to the author of this section, is subsidiary to this main principle. And what is the next step to wisdom? Who was the author of this first division? We are not told precisely, but there are some hints.
Such a person was Joseph Gen.
Basic Christian Doctrine
And what are the proverbs in Division One really about? As said before, they are statements that mean more than at first meets the eye. One must dig beneath the surface to understand the real meaning. Note that the main textual subject of this division is Wisdom 1: Israel and Judah are called daughters Ezekiel The next thirteen chapters of the book are short proverbial statements made exclusively by King Solomon.
The simple title to the section is: And what is its primary emphasis? Look at the first proverb of this division: Whereas in the first division the thrust is mainly upon spiritual things: Wisdom, Understanding, Faithfulness and Duty to God, in this second section it is foremostly the relationships between humans. Of course, the most important association is that of children and parents, and that is emphasized first.
There is nothing especially esoteric about these short and to-the-point statements, yet the order in which they occur could be significant. This is one of the most interesting sections in the whole of Proverbs.
One who reads the King James Version would hardly realize that a new division was being introduced — but it is clearly evident in the original text. Division Three actually begins in the middle of chapter The title to it is found from Proverbs Let us look at it. Understand that the verses that now follow are not individual proverbs in themselves.
They represent an introduction to Division Three. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them [the following proverbs of Division Three] within you; they [these particular proverbs] shall withal be fitted in your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to you this day, even to you. Have not I written to your excellent things [or, as the Revised Standard Version has it: After this long introduction, we then find the first proverb of Division Three. It is Proverbs There are actually thirty sections to this Third Division Proverbs The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and most modern translations realize that this is the meaning of the key words in Proverbs Why do they know this?
The Hebrew of Proverbs There is an ancient document in the British Museum a writing of the early Egyptian priests which is a parallel to the Third Division of the Book of Proverbs. His wisdom cannot penetrate beyond that last horizon; he can only observe the phenomenon of death and perceive the limits it places on human beings. Within the limits of human experience and observation, he is concerned to spell out what is "good" for people to do.
And he represents a devout wisdom. Life in the world is under God -- for all its enigmas. Hence what begins with "Meaningless!
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With a wisdom matured by many years, he takes the measure of human beings, examining their limits and their lot. He has attempted to see what human wisdom can do 1: Most significantly, it cannot find out the larger purposes of God or the ultimate meaning of human existence.
With respect to these it can only pose questions. Nevertheless, he does take a hard look at the human enterprise -- an enterprise in which he himself has fully participated.
He sees a busy, busy human ant hill in mad pursuit of many things, trying now this, now that, laboring away as if by dint of effort humans could master the world, lay bare its deepest secrets, change its fundamental structures, somehow burst through the bounds of human limitations, build for themselves enduring monuments, control their destiny, achieve a state of secure and lasting happiness -- people laboring at life with an overblown conception of human powers and consequently pursuing unrealistic hopes and aspirations.
He takes a hard look and concludes that human life in this mode is "meaningless," its efforts all futile. To sum up, Ecclesiastes provides instruction on how to live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully within the theocratic arrangement -- primarily by placing God at the center of one's life, work and activities, by contentedly accepting one's divinely appointed lot in life, and by reverently trusting in and obeying the Creator-King. The argument of Ecclesiastes does not flow smoothly.
It meanders, with jumps and starts, through the general messiness of human experience, to which it is a response. There is also an intermingling of poetry and prose. Nevertheless, the following outline seeks to reflect, at least in a general way, the structure of the book and its main discourses. The announced theme of "meaninglessness" futility provides a literary frame around the whole 1: And the movement from the unrelieved disillusionment of chs.
A striking feature of the book is its frequent use of key words and phrases: Also to be noted is the presence of passages interwoven throughout the book that serve as key indicators of the author's theme and purpose: