The Certainty of Death

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 9:1–3 (ESV)

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Understanding and Applying the Word

No matter who you are. No matter what you have done. There is one thing that is true for every one of us. We are all going to die. The wicked and the righteous, the moral and the immoral, as well as the religious and the irreligious all face the same end. This all seems like vanity. How can we make any sense of life where death is the reality for all?

The clue is in the first verse. We are all in the hand of God. It is God that makes the difference. Yes, we will all face physical death, but because Jesus conquered the grave, those who trust in him are promised that the grave is not our final destination. There is resurrection and eternal life for all who believe and belong to Jesus. So, the true final destination is not the same for all. The wicked and rebellious will face eternal condemnation, while the righteous and those of faith will live in the presence of God in a new creation where sin and death are no more. All is not vanity in Christ.


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Some Things Are a Mystery

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 8:16–17 (ESV)

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Deliverance

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read his archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com .

Psalm 140:1–13 (ESV)
1 Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men,
2 who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.
3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah
4 Guard me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet.
5 The arrogant have hidden a trap for me, and with cords they have spread a net; beside the way they have set snares for me. Selah
6 I say to the LORD, You are my God; give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD!
7 O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked; do not further their evil plot, or they will be exalted! Selah
9 As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise!
11 Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!
12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.


We need God’s deliverance from those who would do us harm. We need Him to guard us and to preserve our lives. We need Him to save us from the traps of evildoers.

The Lord is our God, and we need Him to give ear to our cries for mercy. God is the strength of our salvation who clothes us with the helmet of salvation. He protects us from the enemy’s attacks.

We don’t want evildoers to get their own way; we want them to get their comeuppance. They deserve hell, but God can graciously save the afflicted. God maintains the cause of the needy and executes justice for them.

If we’ve been made righteous through faith in God, we will give thanks to His holy name. If we’ve been set upright by God, we can have confidence that we will dwell in His presence. We deserve His condemnation for our wrongdoing, but we can graciously receive His eternal life.

“Dear Lord, thank You so much for protecting us from those who would do us harm, and please grant that we should be made righteous and dwell in Your house forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.”


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This Upside Down World

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 8:14–15 (ESV)

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In verse 14, we read what has been stated earlier in Ecclesiastes. Life does not always give us the outcomes we expect. Sometimes the wicked live long and prosperous lives and sometimes the righteous live short and difficult lives. It all seems like vanity. Solomon’s conclusion is that we should simply seek to find joy in the days that we have.

The writer of Ecclesiastes seeks to find meaning and purpose and fulfillment in life from a naturalistic perspective. He speaks of his thinking as “life under the sun”. However, he also reminds us that life is more than this. He reminds us that our lives are given to us by God. It is because of God that we can find joy and contentment in this life that often seems unfair. It is because of God that we know that there is more and that the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be judged.


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Is Evil Rewarded?

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 8:10–13 (ESV)

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 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. 13 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.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today, we read of the seeming unfairness of life. The wicked die and are buried and receive dignified burials. Even though they do many evil things, they live long lives and justice does not come soon enough. It seems like complete vanity. Should not evil be judged and the wicked be cut off from life? They certainly should not be honored in their burials. Yet, this is not what we observe in life where evil seems to be rewarded.

The second half of the passage tells us that, while evil may seem to win for a time, we can be sure that those who fear God will see justice done. The wicked will be dealt with and judged by God. Scripture tells us that there is everlasting condemnation for those who are the enemies of God and everlasting life for those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ. The final Judge will bring complete justice to all. We must live our lives according to this truth.


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Wisdom and Obedience

Due to time constraints, I was unable to include devotional thoughts on today’s passage. I have included today’s Scripture reading below. Have a great day!

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 8:1–9 (ESV)

1 Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.

2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. 6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. 7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? 8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. 9 All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.


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The Sinful Heart

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:23–29 (ESV)
23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.
24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness.
26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her.
27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—
28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found.
29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Solomon starts these verses by saying, “All this I have tested by wisdom.” He is referring to all he has said previously. He has tried to understand life and its meaning and purpose. He has especially tried to reconcile the meaning of life with the reality of death. He tells us that he is unable to understand these things even though he has sought to do so. The answers are far from him and too deep to find.

After this opening statement Solomon goes on to tell us what he has learned about mankind. People are sinful. Our lives are filled with wickedness and foolishness. He speaks of women whose hearts are snares and nets. Before you think Solomon is anti-woman, he tells us that men are no better. He sought out to find an upright man and found only one in one thousand. Solomon’s point is that such a person is rare. God created mankind upright, but we have sought out many schemes. We have gone our own way and we are sinful.

Solomon’s observation about the sinfulness of mankind is echoed throughout Scripture. We are told that every one of us is a sinner and separated from God because of our sin. Our sin deserves punishment and condemnation, but God, who is merciful, has given his Son as a sacrifice for our sin. All who trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be saved and inherit eternal life. It is an amazing thing to look out at the world and see the evil of the hearts of mankind and then realize that God is at work to save us from our sin. That is the wisdom that we need and it comes through the message of the gospel.


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Too Much Information

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:19–22 (ESV)
19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.
20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.
22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Wisdom is necessary for life in this world. True wisdom begins with a fear of the Lord and “gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.” The point is that wisdom from God is more valuable than the instruction we may receive from ten human leaders. We need the correct source of wisdom and that is God.

An aspect of wisdom that we must keep in mind is that all people are sinful. Even the most righteous among us struggles with times of sin. Remembering this, we must not take to heart all of the harmful things that others may say that could hurt us. Again, we all are sinful and we know in our own hearts that we too have sinned and said unkind and hurtful things about others. We must learn to show grace and overlook flaws in others rather than hold grudges and expect in others what we cannot do in our own lives. Let us learn to thank God for his grace towards us and then let us show that same grace towards others.


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I Have Seen Everything

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:15–18 (ESV)
15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.
16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?
18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

Knowledge

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read his archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com .

Psalm 139:1–24 (ESV)
1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!


God knows us thoroughly. He knows us inside out. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our futures when we cannot envisage them ourselves. Who of us successfully predicted 2020 would turn out the way it has so far?

God is awesome, and the reality of His omniscience is staggering. We can’t escape His comprehensive gaze. We can run, but we can’t hide.

We’re not just the product of chance, or the fertilisation of an egg by some sperm. We’re crafted by our Maker. Our parents might provide the raw ingredients, but God cooks us up in our mother’s wombs!

God is amazing how He has formed us and how He knows us completely. We can never fully mine the depths of God’s thoughts, fascinating as it is to attempt it. It’s amazing as God’s chosen people to think that, sinners that we are, God thinks enough of us to sacrifice His Son on our behalf.

We long for the day when God’s enemies and ours are no more. But we are to love our enemies and seek to convert them into friends of ours and of God. I love how open and honest the Psalmist is.

He might hate his enemies, but to his credit he asks God to reveal any grievous way in him. Considering that God commands us to love our enemies, for us to hate people is grievous. We long for God to lead us in the everlasting way.

“O Lord, You know us through and through and yet You love us still. Thank You so much for Your sovereign care of us, in Jesus’ name, amen.”


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