1. A Call to the Thirsty

Studies in Isaiah 55: 1. A Call to the Thirsty

Isa 55:1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Overall Approach:  Whether this chapter flows on from the previous one or stands on its own, I leave you to decide. I am going to take it as it stands, on its own, for the moment at least. Reading the whole chapter, it seems that most of the time Isaiah is linking thoughts in pairs, two verses at a time, although because there is a steady flow of thought from one piece to the next, that is not always the case. I’m going to suggest from the outset the following structure:

v.1  Call to come

v.2,3a  Consider & listen

v.3b,4 The covenant of David

v.5  The outcome – victory

v.6,7  Call to seek the Lord & live righteously

v.8,9  The Lord’s way of thinking

v.10,11  Confidence in the Lord’s word

v.12,13  Promise of blessing

The studies in this small series within Isaiah 55 will be as follows:

  1. A Call to the Thirsty Isa 55:1
  2. Reject the Fruitless Life Isa 55:2
  3. The Example of David Isa 55:3b
  4. Getting Right with God Isa 55:6
  5. Getting a God Perspective Isa 55:8,9
  6. The Accomplishing Word Isa 55:8,9
  7. Transformation Isa 55:12

Fourfold invitation: Let’s note, first of all, what is here in v.1 and then when it means. There are two separate ‘calls’ here with a fourfold invitation to ‘come’. Interestingly, both the ‘calls’ are to those who are needy. The first are those who are thirsty and the second are those who are poor, without money, and yet both end up offering provision. The first two invitations are to come to a place where you can drink. The first one acknowledges need – thirst – and the second one the means of satisfying that need – water. The second two invitations are more intriguing because they take us beyond merely drinking, to first of all buying food without money, but then drink without money. The twofold acknowledgment of absence of money is what must surely grab our attention. How can you buy when you have no money?

Further clarification?  Let’s recap what is here. The call is to needy people, those who are thirsty and (by implication within the text) who also have no food. The call is to change the circumstances by first of all finding water to drink, but then buying wine and milk. Perhaps we should also note a progression here. Water is a basic need, a fundamental need to sustain life. Wine and milk are the products of farming and are indicative of a higher standard of living than just sustainability. The twice use of the word ‘buy’ implies taking action to barter or purchase, i.e. taking action to legitimately obtain the required provisions.

The Twofold action. The first is a call to acknowledge your need – thirst – and then simply seek the resource that satisfies that particular need. It is that simple. What are the ‘waters’ that are initially referred to? Well, rather than make unfounded assumptions, let’s just hold on to these thoughts and see how the chapter opens up. Finding the waters is the first thing. But then there is this call to buy (without money) food and drink that makes life more manageable. Somehow this requires a greater action than simply finding water and drinking. ‘Buying’ requires interaction with another, the provider of the resource.  Who is that provider? If you jump to the conclusion, the Lord, why? Imagine you have never seen the Bible before and all you have is this chapter. To whom does it guide you?

The Provider: We have to assume, surely, that the provider is the one speaking and making these calls. Is the speaker just Isaiah or is it one beyond him, the one inspiring him to prophesy?  In verse 3 we find, “come to me” and this person says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you,”  and then goes on to speak about how He (yes, it has to be God) made David a witness to Him to all the peoples.  The verses that follow are a real mix in terms of origin and the best one can say is that the prophet is so attuned to his Lord that it is difficult to know when one begins and the other ends. But it is God!

Eating & Drinking? Now here’s the strange thing: there are no further references to eating or drinking in the rest of the chapter except in verse 2 where it is as if the whole picture pivots about and the eating and drinking is transformed into listening: “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” If you listen to God, “you will delight in the richest of fare.”  i.e. what you hear will act as wonderful food that will (by implication in the light of what has gone) utterly satisfy you. So how do you drink? You come to the Lord acknowledging your thirst and wait on Him and listen to all He says. How do you ‘buy’? You give Him your attention, your will, your time. That is the cost if you are to receive from Him.

Water, Wine & Milk: Note the three provisions that picture the work of God’s words in our lives. Water provides the basics for life. Wine makes the heart merry, the scriptures say. Milk provides nourishment.  When we listen to the Lord, His word provides sustenance, the basics we need. But it also fills us with joy as the wonder of it captures our hearts. But is doesn’t stop there, it feeds us, it nourishes us and it builds us up and strengthens us. Pray as you come to Him, as you read His word, as you seek to hear, pray that the reality of it will sustain you, bring joy to you and feed you so that you are stronger. May this be so every time we do that.

53. Obscure Challenge

Short Meditations in John 6:  53. Obscure Challenge

Jn 6:53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 

It gets worse! In verse 51 we read, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh” and in verse 50 we had to think about what it meant by the talk of ‘eating’ him. But now it’s like he really puts it in our face with direct talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

There is a certain part of the Church that has decided that when Jesus said about Communion, “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant,” (Mt 26:27,28) it means when we take the cup as we drink it becomes the literal blood of Jesus. I have to say I believe that is the equivalent of magic, almost a superstitious mysticism reminiscent of the Gnostics of the first century, because as we have seen in this chapter, Jesus is using graphic picture language to convey a deeply significant truth.  This is not mysticism but simple metaphor or allegory, a picture from human experience to convey a deep spiritual truth that is not open to just a few, but to all.

So what is that truth? It is, very simply, that you have to take Jesus fully into your life, his life entering your life. This is not about the Holy Spirit coming to indwell us but more about taking the very nature or character of Jesus into our lives so that our lives are changed by it. This idea of being changed to be like Jesus, we know from Paul’s teaching: “we all…. are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Cor 3:18) That is one of primary objectives of our salvation, to be changed to become like Jesus, to become like him in character and in service, related to the Father and seeking to do His will. It is not to be religious, not super-spiritual, not super-devout or super-pious, it is to become like Jesus and he was none of those things.

Perhaps we should just repeat again what we said in Study 50, that Jesus might have explained it as follows: “Follow me, learn of me, live with me, watch me, share with me, encounter me, share your life with me and let me share my life with you, join with me in doing the things our Father wants us to do.” That, I suggested, is ‘eating Jesus’, taking Jesus into your life, absorbing him, feeding on him.

And the blood? In the Law it said, “the life of a creature is in the blood,” (Lev 17:11) When the heart stops, we stop. So, if you didn’t see it with the bread, see it here with the life force that flows in each of us. Take Jesus’ life force into your life because if you don’t, you don’t really have real life. That is the teaching here.

27. Redeemed From (3)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 27. Redeemed From (3)

Eph 2:1-3    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.

Following ‘Passion’?  I’m never quite comfortable with our interpretation of Paul’s words in verse 3 above even with, “We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature,” (JBP version) and even less with, “You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat,” (Message version), or “All of us used to be just as they are, our lives expressing the evil within us, doing every wicked thing that our passions or our evil thoughts might lead us into.” (Living Bible). What these various paraphrase versions show us is that we struggle with the idea that Paul is seeking to convey here. Now when you look up synonyms for ‘passion’ you do come across such words as craving, desire, or appetite. The various paraphrases above also use such words as ‘impulses’ and ‘felt’, both implying responses to feelings.

Going on feelings? Christian preachers or teachers often say ‘don’t go on your feelings’ and that is what this is all about, but when Paul says in the NIV “gratifying the cravings of the flesh” he is implying something more than just feelings; he is directing us towards thinking about desires that stem from physical or bodily expressions so, for example, we get hungry because we haven’t eaten for a while. Sexual drive can also be linked to physical state. Now psychologists often distinguish ‘desire’ from ‘emotions’ for ‘emotions’, they say, arise from a person’s emotional state.

So we have two ideas here which come out of Paul’s writings: motivation by physical gratification and motivation by mental state, and both of these, implies Paul, are things that should be consigned to past history. However our studies in redemption have suggested that so often God’s work in us has to be an ongoing process because, although our identity has changed, and we now also have a new power source, it is so easy to allow these things of the past to still ‘echo’ in the present and hence Paul had to instruct us to Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” (Col 3:5) i.e. you make an effort, an act of will to do this. The teaching is clearly that the old is still there waiting to rear up and we have to positively put it down.   Now when we moved into the fifth Part, I thought of our sub-heading as ‘Practicalities’ but changed it to ‘Nuts & Bolts of Redemption’. These things, the nuts and bolts of our lives, have very practical outworkings in our lives.

Physical Desires: We shy away from such words as ‘greed’ or ‘gluttony’ but they are words that fit when it comes to physical appetites. However, as Christians, perhaps we should call a spade a spade and call these things ‘lack of self-control’. Food: Obesity is the Western pandemic and is clearly (in the vast majority of cases) a consequence of lack of self-control. But that lack of self-control may have two origins. First, it may just be giving way to greed: I like this and I want more and more and more. Second, it may be what we call ‘comfort eating’, it is a way we deal with mental anguishes (I feel rubbish about me) and seek to bring physical pleasure to compensate for the loss of mental peace.  The first needs simple self-control, the second needs a reality check about identity, realizing afresh the truth about ourselves, loved by God and special to Him, people with purpose in life. All of these things need working through and really taking on board.

Drink: So far we have been considering desires that focus on food, but they can equally apply (if not more so) to alcohol. Now I don’t have a problem with drinking alcohol within limits (though I rarely drink) but I am sure there is a common assumption (and it appears in Christian circles) that alcohol creates a social environment that promotes sociability. There may be an element of truth in that but there are at least two difficulties with it. First, it is false that you cannot be sociable without alcohol and if for you it is true, then you have a personal identity problem again. Second, regular drinking (‘to be sociable’) becomes a pattern and a pattern often develops into a bondage and that brings about what we call alcoholism and all the health and social problems that go with that. In passing, may I note that in all these sorts of things there is so often deception here, for the individual strongly denies that there is a problem, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of sex.

Sex: All of these things we consider here, that God is seeking to lead us away from, are excesses of things that He gave us as a gift to be used within confines. Sex, the Bible reveals, is for within a lifetime committed relationship. Now I am aware that when we say that in the Western world it is like calling for light in darkness, it is so alien, but merely because the world casts off God’s design criteria, that should not be true of us Christians. It is almost impossible to watch TV without being bombarded by the philosophy that sex is all right with whoever you like, whenever you like, and however you like, and becomes no more significant than eating a cheese sandwich. The result is to debase sex and create whole rafts of relationship problems and where to speak of love is banned except after the relationship based on sex has existed for a long time (watch long running historical ‘soaps’ such as ‘Friends’ or ‘Big Bang Theory’ to see the truth of this.) Deception reigns! Fortunately voices are gradually (if only occasionally) being raised by newspaper or magazine columnists that this approach is having disastrous effects, and we will have to face some of these things as we progress down the path of redemption. For some, sex comes by computer screen and is called pornography but all that does is stimulate mind and body in ways that are less than God had in mind with His design for couples.

Wandering in the Desert: My feeling about all these things that are rising up in the Western world, is that they are expressions of life in the wilderness or the desert, life that is arid and where people are resorting to things outside the parameters of  God’s design for human beings, to try to make sense of this crazy godless world, and try to find pleasure in it, yet trying by eating more and more, or drinking more and more, or having more and more sex, simply works on what economists call ‘the law of diminishing returns’. As any junkie would tell you, you need more and more to get the same pleasure. But we’re not meant to live in deserts; the truth is that at the edge of every desert is a wonderful world that is lush and green and full of good things. This ‘desert living’ is what God seeks to deliver us from and so perhaps we should move on in the next study and move away from the depressing area (when you have eyes to see it) of the desperate scrabbling for pleasure and meaning that is so prevalent in modern Western society. So let’s move out of the desert and see the world that the Lord seeks to deliver us in to.

And So? But before we do that, let’s go right back to the beginning and remind ourselves what Paul has been saying: don’t base your life on desires or emotions, there is a better way. It is a way that is first and foremost founded on a relationship with the Lord and out of that relationship we live according to His design parameters and know His blessing in all aspect of our lives. His word, His will, His way, His wonder, and all these bring light and life and blessing and goodness, and that is what He is working to lead us towards in this path of redemption. He HAS redeemed us from that old life of self-orientation, of self-pleasures, self-concerns, self-desires, self-based-emotions, and He is now in the process of redeeming us on a daily basis into a new world. We’ll see more on to that in the next study.

88. Moses’ Downfall

Meditations in Exodus: 88.  Moses’ Downfall

Num 20:10  Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”

We need to identify first of all just when this all happened. In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.” (20:1) Now no year is mentioned, just a reference to “the first month” but in verses 22 to 29 of this chapter, warning of Aaron’s impending death is given. In Num 33:38 we read in respect of Aaron, “he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt.” (Num 33:38) We have clearly jumped some thirty eight years forward. Israel have obviously done their wandering and the older generation has died off.  There is no record of the things that happened in that thirty eight year gap because it was a time of shame. At the beginning of this chapter Miriam dies and at the end of it Aaron dies (Num 20:27-29). In between, Moses future is determined by an event that had similarities to what had occurred some thirty eight years earlier (Ex 17:1-7).

So thirty eight years have passed and now we are told,  “there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.” (Num 20:2) There is a real sense of deja-vu here: “They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Num 20:3-5) The only thing is that this is the NEXT generation. The previous generations have virtually all now died.

Moses falls down before the Lord and God’s glory appears to them (v.6). The Lord tells Moses to take his staff and speak to the rock and the Lord will bring water out of it, enough for everyone (v.7,8).  It is at this point that things go slightly differently from the time many years before: “So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” Num 20:9-11)

Note Moses’ language: “you rebels” and “must we bring water out”. And then he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it. Yes, water comes out, but that’s not the point. The point is that Moses is supposed to be the Lord’s representative and only do what the Lord tells him to do. Clearly Moses is utterly frustrated by the Israelites. It may be all the worse for him because thirty eight years have passed and the next generation are getting ready to enter the Land and then the same thing happens all over again! He has not handled it well. So we find, “the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (v.12) Psa 106 records, “they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” (Psa 106:33)

A great deal is yet to happen, as is spelled out in the remaining 16 chapters of Numbers (which we will only summarise) and indeed the entire book of Deuteronomy is to be written by Moses yet, but eventually we read of his death on his own on Mount Nebo, overlooking the land in Deut 34:1-8.

So how can we sum up this? Moses overstepped the mark on this occasion and for that he was not allowed to enter the Land. Why? Perhaps to show to Israel that even someone as great as Moses is answerable to the Lord and has to be held to account. Yes, the reality was that he was now 120 years old when he died and had spent the first forty years of his life as an Egyptian Prince, the second forty years of his life as a Midianite shepherd, and then the final forty years of his life as the shepherd of Israel. That last role had involved delivering them out of Egypt, taking them to Sinai, then up to the Promised Land,  but then just looking after them for nearly forty years in the wilderness before finally taking them up the east side of the Dead Sea until they were ready to cross the Jordan near Jericho to enter and take the Land. There on the plains of Moab he gave Israel a reminder of all that had happened over these past forty years, and then gave them detailed instructions about entering and living in the Land, which we now have as the book of Deuteronomy.

Commentators often disagree on dating the time of Moses life and so also of his death, but it is possible (if not probable) that from the time of striking the rock to dying on Mount Nebo was only about a year or so. If that is so, then his final year was a very active and very fruitful time. One hundred and twenty is a good age to die and he was more active in guiding Israel through the territories up the east of the Dead Sea and instructing Israel that most people would be in their sixties! No way does he let this restriction imposed on him by the Lord limit his ongoing service as the Shepherd of Israel.

In fact, I find this quite a challenge. If the Lord told me He was disciplining me and so all my hopes and aspirations were to be cut short (as happens when we find ourselves with a terminal illness) how will I feel about the months left to me? Would I sulk (I hope not) or would I seek to be as fruitful as Moses was? (I hope so). Part of our reply would also depend on how we coped with our own failure, if it had been like Moses and our shortened lifespan was a disciplinary act of God.

Indeed, how we learn to live with our failures is a big part of many of our lives. When we have blown it (and I have on more than one occasion) will we sink into a self-centred morass of gloom and doom, or will we receive the grace of God and get up and say, “Lord, please yet do what you need to with me, but please continue to use me.” We can yet be fruitful for that is always the Lord’s intent for us, even after He has had to pick us up and set us going again after some failure.

I think one of the greatest examples of this that I have observed in my lifetime was the life of Charles (Chuck) Colson, indicted and imprisoned for his part in the Watergate Affair when working for President Nixon. Through this he came to the Lord and went on to found Prison Fellowship  and was greatly used in a teaching ministry. His failure was able to be used by the Lord to bring a new son to glory. Failure was not the end, and it was clearly not so for Moses. May it not be so for you and me.

41. Contentment (3)

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 41 :  Learning to be Content (3)

Eccles 4:7,8 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless– a miserable business!

You may remember at the beginning of Ecclesiastes Solomon started off, Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Eccles 1:2) A number of times he has put content to that initial declaration and so now we find yet another thing that he has seen that he considers meaningless or pointless. Perhaps that word ‘pointless’ is one that might ring more bells for us than simply ‘meaningless’. There is no point in this, is what Solomon is saying.

Look, he says here, I have see one of these people that I have been talking about, who struggle and strive for meaning through work, to achieve greater and greater things, but this particular man has been working all the days God gives but the trouble is that he hasn’t got any close relative to leave it to or who could even benefit from it now. He’s just working for himself and as he comes to this realization of having no close family, he wonders why ever he is working and working like this. His work just goes on and on and yet there is no one else to benefit from it. Meanwhile as he is working away all the hours he has, he has no time to enjoy life; it is just passing him by.

I have observed a number of people who do exactly the same as the man in Solomon’s illustration. There are of course, those workaholics who use every waking hour to prosper their business but have no enjoyment of life. Their family never sees them so they cannot enjoy their wife or children and so becomes a virtual stranger to them. They may benefit from the wealth he accumulates but when it comes to relationships, their lives are empty.

Over the years I have watched a number of Christian leaders, good men given over to serving God, but as I have observed their lives I’ve sometimes wondered at the lack of variety, lack of creativity and indeed lack of enjoyment of life generally for these men. We may give ourselves over to sharing the Gospel and building up the church, but if we ourselves are not living in the good of God’s world and having time to build relationships with those closest to us, surely we are missing something and surely the form of Christianity we portray is seriously lacking!

There is another group of people in the world today that I have become aware of who are missing out on life. This isn’t to do with work though, so I am going off at a slight tangent here. I am thinking about the thousands and thousands of young people who are addicted to computer games or addicted to a social networking sites such as Facebook. Many young people (and no-so-young as well!) are spending hours and hours and hours on their computers or mobile phones while all around them the wonder of the world is being ignored. These are the new addictions to be added to those of drink and drugs. All such addictions mean that such people are missing out on the wonderful world that God has given us. Oh yes, it’s not just work that does this to us.

Perhaps we might sum it up by suggesting that contentment, real contentment, that is not one-sided or single-focused, involves having balance.  Balance here means keeping work in proportion and ensuring that it doesn’t take over your life. In fact, I would suggest, anything that takes over your life means that it robs you of the wonder of the experience of being a human being who has been designed by God to enjoy His world. Many of us forget that being a human being means we are a combination of capabilities and so we miss out on one of more of them. For instance, God has made us physical beings and so we have the capacity to enjoy the use of our senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch – all of these things given to us by the Lord for our enjoyment of His world. But we also have mental capabilities so we can read or write, think, reason and plan. We have a full range of emotional abilities and so we may laugh or cry, feel for others, enjoy, anguish and so on. But we are also spiritual beings and so we have the capacity to seek and know the Lord and be aware of the spiritual dimension to life.

A balanced person seeks to use all these capabilities, but even that needs the wisdom of God, for He has laid down boundaries and if we cross them, we harm ourselves. Over emphasis of our physical abilities means we fall into gluttony, alcohol abuse and so much more.  Over emphasis of the intellect can lead us into pride and arrogance. Spiritual ignorance means we miss out on the most exciting side of our lives – encounter with the living God, the Creator of all things. In all these things we need to come to Him and ask Him to show us how to live our lives, show us how to avoid the pitfalls that Sin and Satan would lead us into. Failure to do this means we are likely to fall into a jaded view of life that Solomon ended up with. May that not happen!

17. More than work

Meditations in Ecclesiastes : 17 :  More than just work

Eccles 2:24,25 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

It’s taken two chapters of pondering before Solomon comes up with this conclusion. But isn’t that how it is with us foolish, sinful human beings. We have to rumble through all the possibilities until we see that most of them are futile and there is only one answer worth holding onto. The trouble is today that most people will not work their way through these things like Solomon did. One of the enemy’s strategies is to say, “It’s all right, you don’t want to think about such things, only religious people do that. You’re all right as you are!” This is true about the futility of the sin of mankind and it is true of the wonderful good news that the Gospel brings us: most people just don’t want to bother to think about it.

Somebody once wrote: “Cannon J.B.Phillips  recalls in The Ring of Truth, ‘hundreds of conversations with people, many of them of higher intellectual calibre than myself, who quite obviously had no idea what Christianity is about.’   He concluded that ‘they knew virtually nothing’ about the New Testament. The Resurrection ‘the most important even event in human history is politely and quietly by-passed. For it is not as though the evidence had been examined and found unconvincing; it had simply never been examined.’”  This is the horrifying truth, that millions of people will go to hell because they could not be bothered to think about the truth about life and the truth about the Gospel.

Solomon has been thinking, admittedly from a jaded perspective where his relationship with the Lord has lost its power, but even from there he comes to this wise conclusion. Remember, he has just been going through a number of reasons why struggling and striving to achieve through work or a career can be a thankless task, and so his conclusion is as a result of all of that thinking. You can struggle and strive and achieve great things, he had said, but at the end of it all, you hand it over to others to enjoy, you die and have to leave it all behind. If you think your work is going to have eternal impact, don’t waste your time; it won’t and it can’t!

So what does that leave you with? It leaves you with the only conclusion possible: you must learn to enjoy each day as it comes, and get fulfilment from what you do, because that is all God has allowed of you.  Now that is interesting because it is only the second time in two chapters that he has mentioned God. The first one was in chapter one when he said what a burden God has put on mankind giving them so much to learn. These references to God, seem a grudging acknowledgement of the Lord, the One who at one time had been the all-important person in Solomon’s life. Sadly now, that is no longer so, and all he is left with is the grudging acknowledgment of how God has designed things to be.

So is this truth, this statement of Solomon’s?  A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. Is it true that all we can do is get on with life on a daily basis, enjoy our food, enjoy our drink, and find some satisfaction in our work?  Well from the standpoint of a person who does not know the Lord – or who has lost contact with the Lord – yes, it is true. What else is there? But there is, as it keeps on coming up in these meditations,  the crux of the matter. It is all about knowing the Lord or not knowing the Lord?

Notorious atheist Richard Dawkins, making waves in the early part of the twenty-first century with his writings and TV programmes inadvertently reveals the truth. He complains that atheists are not having impact and it’s been the Christians who have made all the running. Well yes, it is the Christians who have made the running! Christians who have been motivated by the love of God to start schools, build hospitals and orphanages, start Unions and so on. It hasn’t just been ‘work’ it’s been the God-given vision of meeting the needs of the poor and of blessing others. The energy and life of God in them has taken them outside themselves.

Yesterday I wrote about the balance of “the Lord, family, work, recreation, and giving out.” Many people omit the first and the last of those five things, and their lives are meaningless. It is when you add the first and the last that meaning and purpose and fulfillment truly come. It is that last one that Christians have been known for – giving out – and that has resulted in the world being blessed and God being glorified. If we do the ‘giving out’ without God, it just becomes a self-centred, godless thing, and it is seen as something just to build our egos. When it comes with God’s motivation, out of a relationship with Him, then it comes with a selflessness that is good to behold. This is the dimension that takes us beyond merely eating and drinking and getting satisfaction from our work. Tragically so many miss out and have never seen it. See it, live it, be blessed and be a blessing!