18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).
12 When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12–15, NKJV)
Acts of worship do not conceal evil hearts and sinful conduct from the eyes of God. God took no pleasure in the many sacrifices Israel offered Him (Isa. 1:10-11). Her heart was far from God; her hands were full of death (Isa. 29:13). Even when Israel offered sacrifices and observed days taught in God’s law, He refused them. This shows contempt for God and for His holy worship. True worship must combine a pure heart of reverent honor for God with the acts of worship God’s word approves. This is worship “in spirit and truth.” This is the worshiper God continues to seek (Jno. 4:23-24).
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, NKJV)
Vital teaching is given here on the nature of faith and worship that is “by faith.” First, we learn what is evident from Cain and Abel; not all worship pleases God (Gen. 4:4-5). Why? Because not all worship is “by faith.” Faith results from hearing God’s word and following it (Rom. 10:17). Abel did that, but Cain did not. Like Abel, we must hear and follow God’s word concerning acceptable worship. Otherwise, we follow Cain’s path of worthless, faithless worship. Second, God testified Abel was righteous based on his gifts. God said Abel’s “by faith” worship pleased Him (cf. Heb. 11:6). The question for us is, “Who is bearing witness that our worship is by faith and pleasing to God?” We can rule out our personal feelings. Cain felt his worship was good (see his angry reaction, Gen. 4:5). Acceptable worship is not defined by how a person feels about it, or by how he feels when he offers it. Billions of souls feel their worship pleases God, yet that does not make it so (Prov. 14:12). God’s word testifies that worship in spirit and truth is “by faith” (Jno. 4:23-24). All other worship, by definition, is not by faith. What is God testifying about the gifts we bring Him? Are they “by faith,” or are they faithless?
“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8, NKJV)
Paul posed this challenging question to Herod Agrippa II during his defense before the king (Acts 26:1-29). It is a question that still drives to the heart of faith or faithlessness of each person (the word translated “incredible” means “without faith”). Either God has the power to raise the dead, or He does not. The God who created life and sustains life has the power to resurrect life from the dead. That was Paul’s premise. Paul was imprisoned and under the threat of death from the Jewish rulers for preaching the resurrection of Jesus (through which God fulfilled His promise to the Jewish fathers, Acts 26:6-7). The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead includes 1) The empty tomb (Lk. 24:1-3), 2) Eyewitness accounts of resurrection appearances of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:4-8), 3) The bribes and lies of the enemies of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15), and 4) The Old Testament resurrection prophecies and their fulfillment (Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 2:24-31). It is not faithless to believe God raises the dead. He raised Jesus. One day, He will raise all of us, too (1 Cor. 15:20-23). The faithful will be raised to eternal life, and the faithless will be raised to eternal condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). This is our incentive to believe in Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jno. 11:25-27).
The Lord has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: “I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.” (Psalm 132:11, NKJV)
God’s promise to David, while initially kept by the ascension of Solomon to the throne, had a much grander objective (2 Sam. 7:12-13; 1 Chron. 22:9-10; 28:5-6). The Davidic promise of a king from the fruit of his body was fulfilled in the coronation of Jesus. The angel Gabriel announced that God would give Mary’s child “the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32). On Pentecost, the apostle Peter proclaimed God had indeed fulfilled His promise to David by the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:30-36; Psa. 110:1-2). Later, James (the brother of Jesus) said God had rebuilt the ruling monarchy of the house of David, which Amos predicted (Acts 15:13-19; Amos 9:11-12). The kingdom over which the son of David reigns today is the church, composed of all who come to Jesus Christ in faith through His gospel (Matt. 16:18-19; Rom. 1:16-17; Col. 1:13-14). God keeps His word – always. King Jesus reigns today over a kingdom that is enduring, unshaken by “every wind of doctrine” and the “trickery of men” (Heb. 12:28; Eph. 4:14). Salvation is in Christ’s kingdom (Acts 2:30-41, 47). Christ’s kingdom was promised by God, prophesied by His prophets, and proclaimed by the gospel. It fills the whole earth, and it “shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:34-35, 44; Mk. 1:14-15; 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 36-41, 47). The pressing question is, are you a citizen of His kingdom (Col. 1:13; Acts 2:37-38, 47)?
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; 12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth. (Psalm 96:11–13, NKJV)
Throughout history, the Lord God has come in judgment against sin. The most notable being the flood in the days of Noah, which is a type of the fiery day of the Lord yet to come (2 Pet. 3:5-10). The Bible records God coming in judgment against cities and nations (Jude 5, 7). He stirred up nation against nation to render His punishments against their sins (Isa. 13:1, 17-22; Isa. 14-24). God’s creation in heaven and on earth rejoice when God applies His justice against evil. Righteousness and truth are His standards of judgment (Rom. 2:1-5). We dare not minimize and forget that God reigns and blesses good while calling evil to account. Jesus promised a day of judgment for all who reject Him and His word (John 12:48). If you cannot rejoice in God’s righteous judgments of truth, then it is time to repent and honor God (Rom. 2:4-5). James’ exhortation still rings true, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jas. 5:8-9).
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit gave miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians during the initial period of the church, which ceased with the completion of revelation (Acts 8:14-18; 1 Cor. 12:11; 13:8-13). We can learn how to be edified even as this passage taught them how they were to use their miraculous gifts in an orderly way to edify the church. Edification results from things happening “when the whole church comes together in one place” (1 Cor. 14:23, 26). Edification is the process of building up, of spiritual strengthening. Both miraculous and non-miraculous songs and teaching of God’s word (revelation) was to produce edification. Singing edifies by “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). Prayers edify the church through our mutual giving of thanks (1 Cor. 14:15-19). The Lord’s Supper edifies us as we remember the Lord’s death and proclaim it to one another (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Giving is arranged as a cheerful expression of thanksgiving to God and of devotion to His work and His people (1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). Teaching God’s word feeds the church with God’s truth that sustains our lives (Matt. 4:4; Acts 20:32). Edification is not about stirring up feelings (even though emotions naturally result from edification). It is the spiritual strengthening that takes place when we follow God’s word and worship together in spirit and truth.