Ecclesiastes – In the city is desolation, and the city is smitten with destruction.

90.

Listen carefully to these words. “The Lord makes the earth empty; and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof.” It sounds like Ecclesiastes. “All is vanity (empty).” Solomon wants to tell us why it is empty and waste, and why the inhabitants feel scattered. They do not seem to be able to make ends meet. They are all at sixes and sevens. You dig the ditch to earn the money to pay for the food to build your body, so you can dig the ditch. That is like a circle that goes round and round. You are apt to say: that is a bit empty. Where does it all lead? We know he speaks of the thing a man should do all the days of the life of this vanity. He wants us to argue against the idea of it. He wants to have an argument about it. And it is the most thrilling argument you will encounter in your life.

It does go somewhere. It does mean something, and we are going to be there when the time comes.

The image is of a business man running to catch the wind.
He needs to run because it is getting away from him.

 

James – To bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

89.

The main measure of honour in our world is a man’s wealth. It means he is successful in the struggle to get on top. There are other badges of honour, but wealth catapults us into the stratosphere. And there is a downside, because “God has purposed to stain the pride of all glory, and bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.” We do not want to be at the top of the tree when that happens. James is about the end of an age where the Law finished, because Israel were driven by the Romans out of Palestine. This is AD 70, and the religious nobles and wealthy merchants bore the brunt of Roman hostility. They believed God would defend Israel’s right to exist in the land. The were confident the honour and prestige of the nation would be preserved in the face of brutal and godless men. But God purposed to stain the pride of all glory, and bring the men who were responsible for the death of Messiah into contempt. It happened this way, and the contempt continues to this day.

James warns us not to be like that. We can be wealthy and true at the same time, and this is what we need to do. Being true means doing what you believe. If we talk about it and do not do it, then we are vain.

 

The cover image shows the Costa Concordia on it's side.
God will bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.

Galatians – Joy and gladness, the slaying of oxen and killing of sheep.

88. Galatians –

This book is considered to be about the end of the Law, but it is more about who we can fellowship. The question is: for two to walk together they need to be agreed. If they do not agree then they do not join forces. How can they be together under these conditions? The answer is: they cannot because they will fight amongst themselves about what is right and what is not.

Slaying of oxen, and killing of sheep is all about having a banquet together. It is what people do when they are agreed. They get together and celebrate. If they are not agreed in religious matters then there is nothing to celebrate. They can have a meal together but there is no celebration. It is just a Sunday lunch. To hold a feast where there is religious agreement you can have a meaningful celebration. The letter we are talking about covers this subject. We get to know on what basis we can have fellowship.

The cover image shows people of different nations united.
These people are joined in fellowship.

1st Thessalonians

87. 1st Thessalonians –

There were two horsemen just to make sure the message gets through. It is astounding news, for Babylon was as secure as can be. Many expected it to survive where others would fall. The message had to get to the people who needed to know. They had to move some money around, and re-invent allegiance to powers that would survive. What they do not realize is; there are no places to hide. Nobody wants their unlaundered money.

This is a change of governors, and since Babylon is a religious organization, a change of Bishops. This is big news to a world where these institutions have been entrenched for millennia. There will be a lot of huffing and puffing.

The cover image shows a chariot racing to tell.
The message must get through fast.

Philemon

86. Philemon –

This is the smallest of the books and one of the most powerful. We sit here today in all our refinement and sophistication, postulating on all moral issues as if we would not be squalid and amoral enough to discriminate on Race or creed. The second of the great wars was all about this issue. This is our generation that got it so wrong. And we argue how close we are to our God. It is amazing he will have anything to do with us.

It is all there in the life of his son. We saw what we needed to know. It is just that we are hard of hearing and we will not listen to things we do not want to know.

The cover image shows Jewish slaves being taken captive.
Slaves being carted away.

1st Corinthians

85. 1st Corinthians –

I had occasion to see what Egypt was, and what Egypt could have been, and the conflict there today is very sad, with no obvious solution. We are talking about a people whose wisdom and stature is clearly seen in the way they buried their leaders. It was a mighty power at the earliest time, but its fortunes founded when they came into conflict with the God of Israel and now Egypt is a base nation or at the bottom of the pile.

The book of 1st Corinthians is not about Egypt. It is about the people who inherited the wisdom and standing in their day. Egypt’s day had gone long ago and the princes of Zoan were no longer there. These princes of Zion are the wise men of Corinth, and they became fools. They were fools compared to Paul who confounded them with his wisdom of what is true. They were just like fools trying hard to press their case against Paul’s teaching. The people stopped listening to them and the victory belonged to the Truth. When Paul had gone away they rallied their forces and tried to undo what Paul had done and they were seen as the fools they were. This is what the letter is about.

The image shows a Sphinx representing the wisdom of the Egyptians
The princes of Zoan are become fools.

Nahum

84. Nahum –

It is a chilling thought that God is sitting quietly in his house resting while he thinks about what he will do to the nation that betrayed him. We are not left in any doubt. It will be like a clear heat on herbs. That will frizzel them. This is what the story is about. The greatest Empire the world has known reduced to an Island home. You think you know a thing or two about prophecy? Then try this for size.

I do not want God pondering what to do to me. It would be better if he just reacted in anger. Planning it has a chill about it, and we are in a position to know what effect it has had.

The cover image is of a WW2 Tank.
Think twice before you betray God.

Philippians

83. Philippians –

If a Gentile is going to abandon his gods and look to his Maker he must be convinced of the power and mercy of Israel’s God. That is what happened to the Philippian Jailor. He was charged with keeping them in prison. So he bound them in chains and fixed the chains to stocks inside the prison cell. They were not going anywhere on his watch. He listened to them sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs late into the night. There was an earthquake so the walls of the prison fell and the shackles fell away also. On top of that; the prisoners were all within the confines of the prison and had not escaped. This meant the keeper of the prison would not forfeit his life on losing the prisoners. And the guard was going to fall on his sword assuming the prisoners had run away, and Paul call for him to stop. There was no indication he was a religious man but with that experience he was baptised with all the members of his family. In that day will a man look to his maker. He had more proof than he needed to know who his maker was. It was the God of Paul and Silas. The proof of belief is there for everyone if they look to find it.

The cover image is of a man appealing to God.
This man has turned to his maker.

Ruth

82. Ruth –

Here is a person from Moab who found what she needed in the God of Israel, and her branches are stretched out and gone over the sea. It speaks of one who is not of Israel who connects herself to them. Your people will be my people and your God my God. The idea of coming close to Naomi by marrying one of her sons, and now departing from her because she was going back to her people after her sons died, was too much for Ruth, so she went with her. It worked out well for her, because she became a mother in the line of Messiah, and her children extend around the world. So it is a story of Gentiles connecting themselves to Israel and the outcome for them.

The cover image shows the world from a satelite.
This is the promise of God to go into all the world.

Jude

81. Jude –

It is God’s heart that breaks for these people. They were part of the family of God. Through their mother they could inherit great blessings, but they walked away from it, and that breaks God’s heart. We need to accept that God has feelings that are real, and not unlike our own. If we offend him and walk away it will hurt, like a father is hurt when his children rebel. How do we think he will react when we not only rebel but try to destroy what he is doing. He will be angry.

There is a lot at stake in the struggle to be true. If we do not care, we are part of the problem. It is one thing to walk away, and another to stand in the way. Only a bold and ignorant person would do that. Jude speaks of such people with regret.

The cover image is of a person expressing sorrow.
This is sadness.