My New Year’s Resolution: Striving With God – Ecclesiastes 1:12-14

“I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-14, ESV).

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is presumably written by King Solomon, king over Israel, in his old age. In this treatise Solomon proffers a philosophical perspective of life that advances the notion that much of human life on Earth is occupied with striving after what’s not really so important in life after all.

Solomon observes that it’s like spending your life chasing after the wind. And, in case his point doesn’t resonate with the reader the first time, he repeats this thought eight more times!

Striving seems to be in our DNA. It’s what we human beings do. We strive after happiness. We strive for health and long life. We strive after success. We strive for money. We strive for love and friendship. We strive over political ideologies and religious beliefs. We strive with one another for dominance and control.

Striving….it’s human nature!

In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestles with an angel (or a theophany). While they wrestled, the angelic man touched Jacob’s hip and dislocated it (isn’t that cheating?). But even with a dislocated hip Jacob continued to wrestle with Him and would not let go until He promised to bless Jacob: “But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed’” (Genesis 32:26-28, ESV).

God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel,” which means “strives with God” and reaffirmed His covenant with Jacob, now Israel. From Jacob’s descendants came the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, whose history as recorded in the Old Testament is certainly one of striving with God.

Striving with God is Israel’s story. And Israel’s story is humanity’s story. As Solomon aptly states, striving is the business God has given to human beings. Striving is the story of our human  existence. We human beings strive with one another and with God.

But, what if more of our striving was concentrated on striving after God?

What if we stopped striving so much after the unimportant things of this world and we prayed, read the Bible and sought God’s will unrelentingly?

Could we be transformed from Jacob, the deceiver, the embezzler of his father’s blessing, to Israel, the striver with God, the receiver of God’s blessing?

So, my New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is this: to strive more with God…. and less with men!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)

The Shining- 2 Corinthians 3:13-18

shining“We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away… All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:13,18,CEB).

The Old Testament story of Moses’ practice of veiling his face that the Apostle Paul is referencing in these verses is found in Exodus 34:33-35. The Old Testament story is one of my favorites because it’s theologically rich and yet, counter-intuitive.

Moses periodically entered into the presence of God at the Tent of Meeting. When he left the Tent of Meeting and returned to the people, he fastened a veil over his face. It seemed that Moses hid his face so as not to scare the already fearful Israelites with the shining glory of God that was reflected on his face.

But, that’s not really the case!

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Drift, Part 1: Spiritual Workout – Hebrews 2:1-3

boat-adrift“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it… how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭2‬:‭1,3; NASB).

The greatest affliction of the Christian life, in my opinion, is drift! Drift occurs when we neglect our Christianity, our relationship with Christ, our salvation!

The reason I know this is because I, too, suffer from drift. I don’t always apply to my life what I’ve been taught in church since I was a child. I don’t always read and study my Bible regularly. I get busy and neglect my prayer life. And consequently, I neglect my salvation. Then I start to drift.

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The Gideon Leadership Strategy – Judges 6

Gideon_Sword“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (Judges 6::1, NASB).

After the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, each of the tribes settled in the land allocated to them. Since, the Israelites had not completely conquered or subdued all the various Canaanite people-groups as a nation, it was left to the tribes to fight against the Canaanites still remaining in the land they occupied.

The Israelite tribes often formed regional alliances among themselves to fight against the Canaanites. And the Canaanites often formed coalitions with one another and with people groups surrounding the land of Canaan to fight against the Israelites.

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Eraser – Deuteronomy 12:2-5

erasing_sin“When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods… Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars… Completely erase the names of their gods…. you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored.”(Deuteronomy 12:2-5, NLT).

When the Israelites were about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses instructed them on an important aspect of possessing the promised land. He said they must dispossess the evil that was in the land! They must completely eradicate it!

Because, God cannot cohabit with sin and evil. God’s glory and presence won’t abide where evil dwells!

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Eternal Preparation – Mark 9:43-48

prepare_yourself“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48, NASB).

This saying of Jesus alludes to the very last verse of Isaiah, which speaks of the punishment for rebellion against God as endless destruction.

John had asked Jesus what to do about someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but was not part of the group of His disciples. Jesus answered not to be so concerned about someone doing good in His name but be concerned about false teachers. Be more concerned about someone who causes others to stop trusting in God or prevents them from ever starting to trust in God.

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Holy Cooking Pots – Zechariah 14:20-21

cooking_pot“On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: Holy to the Lord. And the cooking pots in the Temple of the Lord will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar. In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices” (Zechariah 14:20-21, NLT).

The last chapter of the book of Zechariah closes with visions of both the salvation and judgment that occurs at the coming of God’s universal Kingdom–“the day of the Lord.”

These last verses of the chapter and the book describe the pervasiveness of God’s holiness in His Kingdom. So much so that even the inscription on the harness bells of horses and the cooking pots in the Temple will be holy.

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