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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Wisdom and Security

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:11–14 (ESV)
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

An inheritance is a source of security. In the times of the Old Testament, when these verses were written, this was especially true. However, wisdom needs to go along with such an inheritance or it will not go very far and will not give the security it otherwise could. In fact, wisdom is a source of security itself.

The wise understands that God holds the future in his hands. What God has set in place cannot be changed. This is true in times of prosperity and in days of adversity. When we realize this through wisdom, we can rest knowing that we are in the hands of God and that is the truest source of our security.


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Pining for Yesterday

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:7–10 (ESV)
7 Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The four verses we read today tell us of the effects of four different types of trials. The first is oppression, which can cause even the wise to do things they normally would not, such as take a bribe. The second verse calls for patience, as the end of a thing is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride. The third tells us not to rush into anger. Doing so is the way of fools. And the fourth tells us not to wish for former days. To do so is unwise. Much like the Israelites who wished to be back in Egypt, pining for the past distracts us from living in the present and fulfilling the things we are called to do now.

Life is a constant challenge, but we must learn to live every day to the glory of God. Each day has its own set of difficulties and distractions, but with God’s help, we can live for him no matter what comes our way. We must always remember that God has placed us right where we are at this very time for his purposes. It is our proper response to live faithfully and proclaim the gospel so that Jesus Christ might be made known to the world. May we seek to live today and every day for the glory of God.


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Sorrow Is Better than Laughter

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 7:1–6 (ESV)
1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We all want to live lives of comfort, ease, and happiness. Why does Solomon tell us that it is better to mourn than feast? Why does he tell us that sorrow is better than laughter? And why does he say that the heart of the wise is in the house of morning rather than the house of mirth?

The greatest lessons of life are learned in the struggles and difficulties. When things are going well, we hardly stop to consider the deeper matters of life. We do not ask what life is about or what the most important things in life are when we are laughing and having fun and it seems like things will continue on forever as they are. It is when our world is falling apart that we think long and hard about life. It is through sorrow and tears that we search for answers to life’s most important questions. The wise stop to consider these things and make sure they are focused on what is right and good and lasting. The fool, by contrast, seeks only pleasure.


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Our Appetites Are Never Satisfied

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 6:7–12 (ESV)
7 All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied.
8 For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living?
9 Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.
10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.
11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?
12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

Understanding and Applying the Word

What good is constant toil? Man works all day to supply his food for that day, but the appetite is never satisfied. We only become hungry again and must continue to toil day after day. What advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does a poor man have who learns how to conduct himself in the world? It is all vanity. The end is the same for all.

Verse 10 reminds us that everything that comes to be has already been named. It is not in our power to change these things and they are under the authority of One greater. God is in control and there is no disputing with him. Our lives are fleeting and finding meaning in the daily labor is vanity as our end still comes.

When we stop to think about our daily routines and the things we work hard for, we can become disillusioned. It can all become so meaningless. In fact, if this life is all there is, it is meaningless. However, if there is One greater who is in authority over all things, then we do not lose heart. In fact, because God does exist, we know there is meaning to it all. We are not simply feeding our appetites and then dying, but we live for something greater and lasting. Do you want to find the ultimate reason for your life? Look to Jesus Christ.


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