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Friday, November 10, 2017



The Book of Ecclesiastes is a weird fit. If the books of the Bible were puzzle pieces, you would have a hard time figuring out where to put Ecclesiastes—it's the kind of piece that needs to be jammed into place, or one that you might be tempted to adjust with a pair of scissors. So Ecclesiastes is definitely odd—Plenty of scholars and theologians agree that Ecclesiastes just feels like it's coming from another planet, one different from almost all the other books of the Bible (except maybe for Job). In fact, many of the rabbis who were putting the Hebrew Bible together didn't want to put Ecclesiastes in—but they were out-voted. Ecclesiastes was a definite original. Some people suggest that Ecclesiastes is so different from everybody else because he was influenced by Greek philosophers—like Epicurus, who was also into talking about heavy subjects like death in a big way. But there isn't any Greek influence on Ecclesiastes's language, which remains Hebrew, so this all seems sort of unlikely. Ecclesiastes is just the Greek version of Koheleth, which means "Gatherer" or "Assembler"—either because he gathered all the sayings and observations that make up this book, or he used to gather together people and teach them these sayings and observations, which led to his English nickname of "Teacher" or "Preacher. For a long time, Ecclesiastes was said to be the same as King Solomon, the wisest of Israel's kings. But in reality, he lived about half-a-millennium after Solomon. And speaking of wisdom, Koheleth challenges some of the basic points and assumptions made by nearly all the other books in the Bible. Those other books don't ever question the idea that life has a purpose, and that God is guiding that purpose towards something that's ultimately good (again, with the possible exception of Job). Yeah, human beings keep messing up, provoking God's wrath and giving him the occasional panic attack—but the long arc of the Bible seems to bend towards a final time of peace, when the Israelites and the rest of humanity will be living righteously and without endless war. Not so for Koheleth. Yet, despite how radically different the Book of Ecclesiastes is, it's had a huge impact on world literature. The American writer Thomas Wolfe said that it was "the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound." And the rock band The Byrds used an entire passage from Ecclesiastes as the lyrics to their hippie-anthem, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" But to understand the hype, you really need to dig into this often-disturbing masterpiece.

Why Should I Care?

The word "wise" is often thrown around like so many foam peanuts. For instance, "wise guy" isn't usually a term for someone who's wise, at all—we apply it to a cocky kid or a Goodfellas-style mobster much more regularly. People even say "wise man" more sarcastically than seriously. But wisdom literature was a popular style of writing in the ancient Middle East. You needed wisdom because life was hard. Assyria could invade you. Babylon could invade you. They could murder you, murder your family, pillage, and plunder. But even now, in the present day, when you're a lot less likely to get stampeded to death by a horde of Babylonian charioteers, you still stand the risk of dying at some point. In fact, recent studies show that 100% of all human beings will, eventually… die. It's science. So, death is inevitable—sorry. So, we're all going to die. (Prepare your frown-face emoticons.) But this is also why Ecclesiastes still has a lot to say. The author has done some hard livin'—he implies he's been through it all. And after these experiences—from living an intense life—Ecclesiastes has something to say. He has wisdom to impart; he wants to give you the news. But is it good news? A fair amount of Ecclesiastes focuses on death and the meaninglessness of life. It begins with the famous refrain, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" and repeats it throughout the book. Now, "vanity" here doesn't mean staring at your reflection and hoping everyone thinks you're winsome and attractive. He's not saying the whole world is just one giant Barbie Vanity Dream Playset by Mattel. Here, the word translated as "vanity" is closely related to the Hebrew word for "fog" or "mist"—the great Hebrew Bible scholar, Robert Alter, translates it as "mere breath." It means the world is a place where everything is always disappearing, dissolving, changing from one day to the next. Things vanish just like the cold breath you breathe out on a winter day. There's a sense of futility, absurdity, confusion, and meaninglessness all mixed up in it too. Basically, he's saying that life is pretty insubstantial. So is Ecclesiastes just a Debbie Downer? Is that all he has to say? Thankfully, the answer is "Not really." Some people think Ecclesiastes is totally pessimistic, but a good number also think he's got a lot more going on. He's not just looking at life and saying, "This is total lame-sauce." He's admitting that life seems meaningless—or, at least, that the plot of life isn't immediately clear. Books like the Bible or the Teachings of the Buddha or Plato's Dialogues try to show people what the plot is or might be—and if you're looking at life without a guidebook, it might easily seem like "vanity." Ecclesiastes is trying to give you the antidote to all this vanity.

FRIDAY November 10

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5, Verse 6
Despite many dreams, futilities, and a multitude of words, fear God!

Remember fear of God means reverence and love. Our dreams if not connected to our Godly purpose are unrewarding. Dreams and ambitions take hold more quickly when you share them with someone you love. Our vainness is a result of excluding God from our plans; and many words do not make a song of praise. It is not the multitude of words but one’s sincerity that counts in the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty, especially through obedience and reverence. God does not fear to make men great; but for those who are made great they must be responsible, humble and fair for those in command are thoroughly judged by God. We must be of the mindset as spoken by Charles Mayes: “Make sure the thing your living for is worth dying for.” And as leaders we must make sure that when we send others into harm’s way that it would be only if we ourselves would be willing to die to get it done. As confirmed members of the body of Christ it is our duty; no, our sacred honor to give meaning to the words of the psalmist:

“Defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy. Rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps. 82:3-4)

Fitness Friday-Hunting Workout

Recognizing that God the Father created man on Friday the 6th day I propose in this blog to have an entry that shares on how to recreate and renew yourself in strength; mind, soul and heart.

Elk hunting[2] (or indeed any rough-country hunt where drastic elevation changes are a routine part of the hunt) requires a different kind of planning and conditioning than your usual whitetail hunt. The most common problem out-of-state hunters experience is not being in good enough physical condition to handle constant up-and-down foot travel at high elevation - especially when carrying a pack. The result is a physically exhausted hunter who is unable to perform. Hours and days of precious hunting time are wasted due to need for rest and recovery. Here’s a twelve-week plan that will prep you for the high country. There are two main components to physical prep for rough-country hunting: cardiovascular and muscular. Plan on exercising thirty to forty-five minutes per weekday, alternating between cardio and muscular workouts. Be sure to stretch and warm up gradually before workouts and cool off gradually afterwards.

Week One: Start out easy on yourself to lower risk of hurting joints or tendons.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Go for a brisk 45-minute walk, preferably including up and down terrain.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: Spend 30 minutes climbing up and down the local bleacher stairs (or a nice steep hill). Take regular short rests.

Week Two: Step it up a little.
Mon/Wed/Fri cardio: Add short stints of jogging to your walk.
Tues/Thurs/Sat muscular: same 30-minute routine, just cut down on rest time.

Next Friday week 3…

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood


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