September 21: Ecclesiastes 1–3; Philemon 1–3; Psalm 76; Proverbs 24:5–6


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Ecclesiastes 1–3

All Is Vanity

The words of the Preacher,Or Convener, or Collector; Hebrew Qoheleth (so throughout Ecclesiastes)’>1 the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

  VanityThe Hebrew term hebel, translated vanity or vain, refers concretely to a “mist,” “vapor,” or “mere breath,” and metaphorically to something that is fleeting or elusive (with different nuances depending on the context). It appears five times in this verse and in 29 other verses in Ecclesiastes’>2 of vanities, says the Preacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
  What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
  A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
  The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastensOr and returns panting‘>3 to the place where it rises.
  The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
  around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
  All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
  to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
  All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
  the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
  What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
10   Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
  It has been already
    in the ages before us.
11   There is no remembrance of former things,Or former people‘>4
    nor will there be any remembrance
  of later thingsOr later people‘>5 yet to be
    among those who come after.

The Vanity of Wisdom

12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I applied my heartThe Hebrew term denotes the center of one’s inner life, including mind, will, and emotions”>6 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. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanityThe Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)’>7 and a striving after wind.Or a feeding on wind; compare Hosea 12:1 (also in Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9)’>8

15   What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

18   For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The Vanity of Self-Indulgence

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity.The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also verses 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26 (see note on 1:2)’>9 I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines,The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain’>10 the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

The Vanity of Living Wisely

12 So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. 14 The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. 15 Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. 16 For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

The Vanity of Toil

18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, 19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoymentOr and make his soul see good‘>11 in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from himSome Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts apart from me‘>12 who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

  a time to be born, and a time to die;
  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
  a time to kill, and a time to heal;
  a time to break down, and a time to build up;
  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
  a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
  a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
  a time to seek, and a time to lose;
  a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
  a time to tear, and a time to sew;
  a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
  a time to love, and a time to hate;
  a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.Hebrew what has been pursued‘>13

From Dust to Dust

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)’>14 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Philemon 1–3

Greeting

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 76

Who Can Stand Before You?

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

76   In Judah God is known;
    his name is great in Israel.
  His abode has been established in Salem,
    his dwelling place in Zion.
  There he broke the flashing arrows,
    the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah

  Glorious are you, more majestic
    than the mountains full of prey.
  The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
    they sank into sleep;
  all the men of war
    were unable to use their hands.
  At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
    both rider and horse lay stunned.

  But you, you are to be feared!
    Who can stand before you
    when once your anger is roused?
  From the heavens you uttered judgment;
    the earth feared and was still,
  when God arose to establish judgment,
    to save all the humble of the earth. Selah

10   Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
    the remnantOr extremity‘>1 of wrath you will put on like a belt.
11   Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
    let all around him bring gifts
    to him who is to be feared,
12   who cuts off the spirit of princes,
    who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

Proverbs 24:5–6

  A wise man is full of strength,
    and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
  for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
    and in abundance of counselors there is victory.


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