Bible in 90 Days 21: ECCLESIASTES

Today is Day 50 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

Only 40 days left, can you believe it?!

Ecclesiastes is 1 of 3 books ascribed to the pen of King Solomon (the other 2 are Proverbs and Song of Solomon). This trifecta of Bible books summarizes Solomon’s life well…

Proverbs is full of wisdom and was compiled throughout his life.

Song of Solomon was probably written when he was young and in love.

Ecclesiastes was written toward the end of his life, when he had experienced it all.

2 words or phrases you read throughout Ecclesiastes are “vanity” and “under the sun.” “Vanity” is used 36 times in just 29 verses and “under the sun” is found 29 times in 27 verses.

“Vanity” describes something that is useless (like “grasping for the wind” – Ecc. 2:11) and “under the sun” describes the earthly (non-eternal) way of living. Chapter 2 gives a good summary of the book and Solomon’s experiences, as he lists things he tried to find fulfillment in: buildings, gold, silver, women, drinking, and more. What was his conclusion?

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done 
And on the labor in which I had toiled; 
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. 
There was no profit under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:11

At times, Solomon seems to go on rants about how useless life is and how meaningless his existence has been. It’s the sad state of someone who has turned to the world for satisfaction and found out that the world had nothing to offer.

His rants of vanity and uselessness are punctuated by deep recollections on the eternal God…

I know that whatever God does, 
It shall be forever. 
Nothing can be added to it, 
And nothing taken from it. 
God does it, that men should fear before Him. – Ecclesiastes 3:14

God is in heaven, and you on earth; 
Therefore let your words be few. – Ecclesiastes 5:2

If anyone had the right to write about the experiences of the senses and their inability to satisfy, it was Solomon. 1 Kings 3:13 says that since Solomon requested wisdom instead of riches, God gave him wisdom as well as riches – more than anyone who ever lived or ever would live!

1 Kings 10:14 says that his annual income was 666 talents of gold. According to the current price of gold per ounce, 666 talents of gold in our day would be $1,102,948,747.20! The guy was raking in $1.1 billion per year! And that wasn’t even all of it – the verse goes on to say that that doesn’t even include his income from merchants, traders, kings, and governors!

A few more things that King Solomon had…

- 40,000 stalls of horses (1 Kings 4:26)

- a staff of 183,300 workers building the Temple, carrying & mining rocks and minerals, etc. (1 Kings 5:13-15)

- a fleet of ships that he built for the purpose of going to get more gold (420 talents, to be exact – the modern equivalent of $695,553,264)

- 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines at his beck and call (1 Kings 11:3)

…and that’s just the beginning.

In other words, he experienced it ALL. If he wanted it, he got it. But where did it leave him? The same place it will leave anyone who tries to find satisfaction apart from God…

EMPTY.

He closes the book with some very important words. Take these words to heart, coming from a man who experienced it all…

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: 
Fear God and keep His commandments, 
For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment, 
Including every secret thing, 
Whether good or evil.

- Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

ALL of Scripture is relevant, but in a culture obsessed with getting, having, experiencing, and feeling, Ecclesiastes hits the nail on the head.

When Galileo & Newton wrote their findings on gravity, you didn’t go out and test them yourself – you took them at their word. After all, they’re the pros – they know what they’re talking ahout.

Solomon is a pro. He knows what he’s talking about. Take him at his word – the world is empty. Find satisfaction in Christ alone.

Bible in 90 Days 14: 2 CHRONICLES

Today is Day 35 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

Today we finish up the final chapter of 2 Chronicles and move right into Ezra, another amazing book (more about that tomorrow)!

As I mentioned in my blog about 1 Chronicles, both books of Chronicles can seem a bit like a re-run when you first read them. It’s understandable – in a way, they are. Reading through 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings took you through much of the same information, history, and kings. So why write it again?

Well, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Most believe that 1 & 2 Chronicles were written after Judah’s captivity and return. And speaking of 20/20, one key verse in the book is 2 Chronicles 20:20

“Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.'”

Had they lived by that command, they could have avoided the whole defeat and captivity thing in the first place.

Unfortunately, they did not, and as a result, suffered for years in captivity because of it.

What can we learn from 2 Chronicles?

1) Don’t follow their example. Although there were some Godly kings, many were evil. The evil kings, in turn, led the people into evil practices, putting them into the hands of evil men. That’s always how sin works – it’s a downward spiral.

2) Learn from your mistakes. We can all look back and remember the times and events that hurt us the most. Learn from those and make sure not to repeat them. If it helps, write it down, like Ezra did in Chronicles. Don’t go back – move forward.

3) Don’t dwell in the past. Sure, you made mistakes. We all have. Repent and get over it. You aren’t what you did – move on!

Get ready for Ezra – it’s a great encouragement of the power of God’s Word and what can happen when people obey it!

Bible in 90 Days 12: 2 KINGS

Today is Day 29 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

We’re almost 1/3 of the way there! And don’t worry if you’re a little behind – tomorrow is catch up day. If you’re behind, catch up, and if you’re on schedule, get ahead!

2 Kings continues a long line of kings in Judah & Israel.

One phrase that you read throughout the book is “and he did what was ____________ in the eyes of the Lord.”For some kings, we’d fill in the blank with “good,” but unfortunately for most, we’d fill it in with “evil.”

Each king had to answer to the King of Kings. Ultimately, whether what he did was ok in his eyes or the eyes of the people didn’t matter – God saw his actions as well as his motives behind them.

Another phrase you may have noticed was “and he walked in the way of _____________” (his father, grandfather, previous king, etc.).

Many of the kings had bad examples as they grew up, watching their father, grandfather, or king run the kingdom. That doesn’t mean they were locked into evil – the choice was still theirs.

They all had a choice, and so do we. Regardless of your upbringing or your surroundings, you have a choice to follow God or do your own thing. If you’re wondering how successful you might be if you forsake God and do your own thing, keep reading (and make sure to note Chapters 17, 24, and 25, the chapters of captivity).

The worst part of 2 Kings is the captivity that comes as a direct result of their sin.

The worst part of your life will also be the direct result of the same thing. I speak from experience. Sin looks fun (and is fun, for a season), but it always catches up to you. It’s never worth it.

Contrasting the idolatry and captivity of Israel was the greatest king of Judah, Hezekiah. 2 Kings 18:5 says that there was no king like him, neither before or after, his reign. What was his secret? One word: obedience.

2 Kings 18:6-7 – For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.

Not only was his reign the best, but the slaughter that took place during his reign as king was amazing too…

The king of Assyria and his army talked a lot of trash and intimidated a lot of people. They surrounded the city to defeat it, but then the angel of the Lord showed up and it was all over for Assyria. In one night, one angel killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the people woke up, there were 185,000 dead bodies surrounding the city! I love the simplicity of the following verse…

2 Kings 19:36 – Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived Nineveh.

GAME OVER.

He learned the hard way not to mess with God and His people.

Josiah was another great man of God who became king. As they cleaned out the Temple, they found the book of the Law, which threw Josiah into deep grief and mourning. He realized that they had forsaken the Lord, so he began repairing what they had ruined. He burned the false gods, slaughtered the false priests, and restored the Passover and true worship to God’s people. He was the king they needed. Unfortunately, the reform didn’t last, and by 2 Kings 24 and 25, they are attacked and taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

2 Kings ends on a sad note with all of God’s people in captivity, the walls of the city destroyed, and the Temple looted and desolate.

It’s a heart-breaking picture of the consequences of sin. It promises a lot and delivers so little.

The key is obedience. God always blesses obedience.

Enjoy the Chronicles – they’ll sound very similar to Kings. Use it as a recap to refresh yourself with the consequences of sin and idolatry.

Bible in 90 Days 11: 1 KINGS

Today is Day 27 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

1 Kings begins a summary, in narrative form, of Israel and Judah’s many kings.

The book begins with a united kingdom under king Solomon.

Solomon began well. in Chapter 3, God gave him a chance to ask for anything he wanted. Instead of asking for the normal things people might ask for (money, fame, a lifetime supply of Fruit Roll-Ups…), he asked God for wisdom. In turn, God not only blessed him with so much wisdom that people journeyed from around the world to ask him questions, but He also gifted him with great wealth.

Solomon became the richest king who ever walked the planet. P. Diddy, 50 Cent would be so jealous of Solomon’s money (Benjamins, mullah, cash, greenbacks, C-notes) according to 1 Kings 10:27.

The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland.

Silver was so common that if you saw a bunch of silver lying around, you wouldn’t even pick it up. If you did pick it up, you might use it to skip across a lake. That is a lot of silver (and wealth in general).

He put it to good use at first by building the Temple. The Temple had been his father, David’s idea, but God told David not build it and save that for his son. So Solomon got to work on that task. The Temple was built and it was amazing – a beautiful place with gold and cedar everywhere you looked. It took 7 years to build!

He began well…but unfortunately that didn’t last. His money, fame, and desire for women took over. By 1 Kings 11, the dude had 700 wives and 300 concubines! What was the consequence of that? Exactly what God had warned of in Deuteronomy – “and his wives turned away his heart.” – 1 Kings 11:3.

Chapter 11 marks the end of the united kingdom and a long line of mostly wicked kings. The Northern Kingdom of Israel never had another Godly king. By the time we finish up 2 Kings, they’ll have gone through 20 wicked kings!

The Southern Kingdom of Judah would go on to have 11 wicked kings punctuated by 8 Godly kings.

What a solemn reminder that when God says something, He says so for a reason. He had put boundaries in place for the kings so that their hearts wouldn’t be turned away. Solomon failed, and the result was devastating not only for him, but eventually for the entire nation. Sin does not only effect you – it can devastate those around you as well.

In addition to the kings, we also met one of my favorite Bible characters, Elijah, in 1 Kings 17. This guy is incredible.

He calls a famine on the land.

He challenged hundreds of prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, defeats them, and slaughters them.

Later, he prays for rain, then outruns a chariot. You know – no big deal. A day in the life of Elijah.

He hears that Queen Jezebel wants to kill him, so he runs away and asks God to kill him (everyone hits low points in life).

The book ends with the condemnation of Ahab and his death. He had been warned by the prophet Micaiah not to go to battle or he’d be defeated. He didn’t listen, and 1 Kigns 22:34 says, “But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Isreal between the scale armor and the breastplate…”

And thus Ahab’s life was ended.

2 Kings picks up right where 1 Kings left off. In fact, most agree they were originally 1 book.

Here’s the moral of the story: let God be king. The fatal mistake for Israel began all the way back in 1 Samuel when they rejected God as king and wanted to be like every other nation with a human king. Bad mistake. Whenever your motivation is to “be like everyone else,” you can be guaranteed defeat. It’s ok to have a leader or be a leader, but make sure that whoever the human mouthpiece is, you are following God.