September 23: Ecclesiastes 7–9; Philemon 8–22; Psalm 78:1–39; Proverbs 24:8


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Ecclesiastes 7–9

The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly

  A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
  It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
  for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
  Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
  It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.
  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of the fools;
    this also is vanity.The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)’>1
  Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
    and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
  Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
    for anger lodges in the heartHebrew in the bosom‘>2 of fools.
10   Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11   Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
12   For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13   Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my vainThe Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)’>3 life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Keep the King’s Command

  Who is like the wise?
    And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
  A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
    and the hardness of his face is changed.

I say:Hebrew lacks say‘>4 Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him.Or because of your oath to God‘>5 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.Or and judgment‘>6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s troubleOr evil‘>7 lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

Those Who Fear God Will Do Well

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praisedSome Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate; most Hebrew manuscripts forgotten‘>8 in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.The Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath”; also twice in verse 14 (see note on 1:2)’>9 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

Man Cannot Know God’s Ways

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Death Comes to All

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil,Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew lacks and the evil‘>10 to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Enjoy Life with the One You Love

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vainThe Hebrew term hebel can refer to a “vapor” or “mere breath” (see note on 1:2)’>11 life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,Or finds to do with your might, do it‘>12 for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Wisdom Better Than Folly

11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Philemon 8–22

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,Onesimus means useful (see verse 11) or beneficial (see verse 20)’>1 whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservantFor the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; twice in this verse’>2 but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Tell the Coming Generation

A MaskilProbably a musical or liturgical term’>1 of Asaph.

78   Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
  I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
  things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
  We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
  the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

  He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
  which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
  that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
  and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
  and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
  and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
  a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.

  The Ephraimites, armed withHebrew armed and shooting‘>2 the bow,
    turned back on the day of battle.
10   They did not keep God’s covenant,
    but refused to walk according to his law.
11   They forgot his works
    and the wonders that he had shown them.
12   In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
    in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13   He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
    and made the waters stand like a heap.
14   In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
    and all the night with a fiery light.
15   He split rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16   He made streams come out of the rock
    and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17   Yet they sinned still more against him,
    rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18   They tested God in their heart
    by demanding the food they craved.
19   They spoke against God, saying,
    “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20   He struck the rock so that water gushed out
    and streams overflowed.
  Can he also give bread
    or provide meat for his people?”

21   Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
    a fire was kindled against Jacob;
    his anger rose against Israel,
22   because they did not believe in God
    and did not trust his saving power.
23   Yet he commanded the skies above
    and opened the doors of heaven,
24   and he rained down on them manna to eat
    and gave them the grain of heaven.
25   Man ate of the bread of the angels;
    he sent them food in abundance.
26   He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
    and by his power he led out the south wind;
27   he rained meat on them like dust,
    winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28   he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
    all around their dwellings.
29   And they ate and were well filled,
    for he gave them what they craved.
30   But before they had satisfied their craving,
    while the food was still in their mouths,
31   the anger of God rose against them,
    and he killed the strongest of them
    and laid low the young men of Israel.

32   In spite of all this, they still sinned;
    despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33   So he made their days vanish likeHebrew in‘>3 a breath,Or vapor‘>4
    and their years in terror.
34   When he killed them, they sought him;
    they repented and sought God earnestly.
35   They remembered that God was their rock,
    the Most High God their redeemer.
36   But they flattered him with their mouths;
    they lied to him with their tongues.
37   Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38   Yet he, being compassionate,
    atoned for their iniquity
    and did not destroy them;
  he restrained his anger often
    and did not stir up all his wrath.
39   He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a wind that passes and comes not again.

Proverbs 24:8

  Whoever plans to do evil
    will be called a schemer.


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