Be content: Ecclesiastes 6.1–7 (18 April 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The Religious Festivals

1The LORD gave Moses 2the following regulations for the religious festivals, when the people of Israel are to gather for worship. 3You have six days in which to do your work, but remember that the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a day of rest. On that day do not work, but gather for worship. The Sabbath belongs to the LORD, no matter where you live. 4Proclaim the following festivals at the appointed times.

Passover and Unleavened Bread

(Num 28.16–25)

5The Passover, celebrated to honour the LORD, begins at sunset on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6On the fifteenth day the Festival of Unleavened Bread begins, and for seven days you must not eat any bread made with yeast. 7On the first of these days you shall gather for worship and do none of your daily work. 8Offer your food offerings to the LORD for seven days. On the seventh day you shall again gather for worship, but you shall do none of your daily work.

9-10When you come into the land that the LORD is giving you and you harvest your corn, take the first sheaf to the priest. 11He shall present it as a special offering to the LORD, so that you may be accepted. The priest shall present it the day after the Sabbath. 12On the day you present the offering of corn, also sacrifice as a burnt offering a one-year-old male lamb that has no defects. 13With it you shall present two kilogrammes of flour mixed with olive oil as a food offering. The smell of this offering is pleasing to the LORD. You shall also present with it an offering of one litre of wine. 14Do not eat any of the new corn, whether raw, roasted, or baked into bread, until you have brought this offering to God. This regulation is to be observed by all your descendants for all time to come.

The Harvest Festival

(Num 28.26–31)

15Count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath on which you bring your sheaf of corn to present to the LORD. 16On the fiftieth day, the day after the seventh Sabbath, present to the LORD another new offering of corn. 17Each family is to bring two loaves of bread and present them to the LORD as a special gift. Each loaf shall be made of two kilogrammes of flour baked with yeast and shall be presented to the Lord as an offering of the first corn to be harvested. 18And with the bread the community is to present seven one-year-old lambs, one bull, and two rams, none of which may have any defects. They shall be offered as a burnt offering to the LORD, together with a grain offering and a wine offering. The smell of this offering is pleasing to the LORD. 19Also offer one male goat as a sin offering and two one-year-old male lambs as a fellowship offering. 20The priest shall present the bread with the two lambs as a special gift to the LORD for the priests. These offerings are holy. 21On that day do none of your daily work, but gather for worship. Your descendants are to observe this regulation for all time to come, no matter where they live.

22When you harvest your fields, do not cut the corn at the edges of the fields, and do not go back to cut the ears of corn that were left; leave them for poor people and foreigners. The LORD is your God.

The New Year Festival

(Num 29.1–6)

23-24On the first day of the seventh month observe a special day of rest, and come together for worship when the trumpets sound. 25Present a food offering to the LORD and do none of your daily work.

The Day of Atonement

(Num 29.7–11)

26-27The tenth day of the seventh month is the day when the annual ritual is to be performed to take away the sins of the people. On that day do not eat anything at all; come together for worship, and present a food offering to the Lord. 28Do no work on that day, because it is the day for performing the ritual to take away sin. 29Anyone who eats anything on that day will no longer be considered one of God's people. 30And if anyone does any work on that day, the LORD himself will put him to death. 31This regulation applies to all your descendants, no matter where they live. 32From sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth observe this day as a special day of rest, during which nothing may be eaten.

The Festival of Shelters

(Num 29.12–40)

33-34The Festival of Shelters begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and continues for seven days. 35On the first of these days come together for worship and do none of your daily work. 36Each day for seven days you shall present a food offering. On the eighth day come together again for worship and present a food offering. It is a day for worship, and you shall do no work.

37(These are the religious festivals on which you honour the LORD by gathering together for worship and presenting food offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, sacrifices, and wine offerings, as required day by day. 38These festivals are in addition to the regular Sabbaths, and these offerings are in addition to your regular gifts, your offerings in fulfilment of vows, and your freewill offerings that you give to the LORD.)

39When you have harvested your fields, celebrate this festival for seven days, beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The first day shall be a special day of rest. 40On that day take some of the best fruit from your trees, take palm branches and the branches of leafy trees, and begin a religious festival to honour the LORD your God. 41Celebrate it for seven days. This regulation is to be kept by your descendants for all time to come. 42All the people of Israel shall live in shelters for seven days, 43so that your descendants may know that the LORD made the people of Israel live in simple shelters when he led them out of Egypt. He is the LORD your God.

44So in this way Moses gave the people of Israel the regulations for observing the religious festivals to honour the LORD.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

1I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me

and kept my enemies from gloating over me.

2I cried to you for help, O LORD my God,

and you healed me;

3you kept me from the grave.

I was on my way to the depths below,

but you restored my life.

 

4Sing praise to the LORD,

all his faithful people!

Remember what the Holy One has done,

and give him thanks!

5His anger lasts only a moment,

his goodness for a lifetime.

Tears may flow in the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 

6I felt secure and said to myself,

“I will never be defeated.”

7You were good to me, LORD;

you protected me like a mountain fortress.

But then you hid yourself from me,

and I was afraid.

 

8I called to you, LORD;

I begged for your help:

9“What will you gain from my death?

What profit from my going to the grave?

Are dead people able to praise you?

Can they proclaim your unfailing goodness?

10Hear me, LORD, and be merciful!

Help me, LORD!”

 

11You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;

you have taken away my sorrow

and surrounded me with joy.

12So I will not be silent;

I will sing praise to you.

LORD, you are my God,

I will give you thanks for ever.

1I have noticed that in this world a serious injustice is done. 2God will give someone wealth, honour, and property, yes, everything he wants, but then will not let him enjoy it. Some stranger will enjoy it instead. It is useless, and it's all wrong. 3A person may have a hundred children and live a long time, but no matter how long he lives, if he does not get his share of happiness and does not receive a decent burial, then I say that a baby born dead is better off. 4It does that baby no good to be born; it disappears into darkness, where it is forgotten. 5It never sees the light of day or knows what life is like, but at least it has found rest — 6more so than the man who never enjoys life, though he may live 2,000 years. After all, both of them are going to the same place.

7People do all their work just to get something to eat, but they never have enough. 8How are the wise better off than fools? What good does it do the poor to know how to face life? 9It is useless; it is like chasing the wind. It is better to be satisfied with what you have than to be always wanting something else.

10Everything that happens was already determined long ago, and we all know that you cannot argue with someone who is stronger than you are. 11The longer you argue, the more useless it is, and you are no better off. 12How can anyone know what is best for us in this short, useless life of ours — a life that passes like a shadow? How can we know what will happen in the world after we die?

A Loyal Soldier of Christ Jesus

1As for you, my son, be strong through the grace that is ours in union with Christ Jesus. 2Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also.

3Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus. 4A soldier on active service wants to please his commanding officer and so does not get mixed up in the affairs of civilian life. 5An athlete who runs in a race cannot win the prize unless he obeys the rules. 6The farmer who has done the hard work should have the first share of the harvest. 7Think about what I am saying, because the Lord will enable you to understand it all.

8Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from death, who was a descendant of David, as is taught in the Good News I preach. 9Because I preach the Good News, I suffer and I am even chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not in chains, 10and so I endure everything for the sake of God's chosen people, in order that they too may obtain the salvation that comes through Christ Jesus and brings eternal glory. 11This is a true saying:

“If we have died with him,

we shall also live with him.

12If we continue to endure,

we shall also rule with him.

If we deny him,

he also will deny us.

13If we are not faithful,

he remains faithful,

because he cannot be false to himself.”

An Approved Worker

14Remind your people of this, and give them a solemn warning in God's presence not to fight over words. It does no good, but only ruins the people who listen. 15Do your best to win full approval in God's sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God's truth. 16Keep away from profane and foolish discussions, which only drive people further away from God. 17Such teaching is like an open sore that eats away the flesh. Two men who have taught such things are Hymenaeus and Philetus. 18They have left the way of truth and are upsetting the faith of some believers by saying that our resurrection has already taken place. 19But the solid foundation that God has laid cannot be shaken; and on it are written these words: “The Lord knows those who are his” and “All who say that they belong to the Lord must turn away from wrongdoing.”

20In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. 21If anyone makes himself or herself clean from all those evil things, they will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed. 22Avoid the passions of youth, and strive for righteousness, faith, love, and peace, together with those who with a pure heart call out to the Lord for help. 23But keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. 24As the Lord's servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind towards all, a good and patient teacher, 25gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. 26And then they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: Ecclesiastes 6

The beginning of Ecclesiastes 6 should be read with Ecclesiastes 5 in mind. In verses 18–20 of chapter 5, the author speaks of someone who has wealth, food and work, with the ability to enjoy these things being the gift of God. In contrast, in chapter 6 we see that someone who has these things but doesn’t have the ability to enjoy them is afflicted.

The key difference in each of these scenarios is the ability of the person to be content with what they have. For some, even when they have abundant food, wealth, a long life and many children, they cannot enjoy these things because ‘the appetite is never satisfied’ (verse 7) and they keep wanting more. The author again sees this as part of the vanity or meaninglessness of a life without God, as no matter how much we have, unchecked greed can lead us to always want more and so have no peace. We can compare this to Philippians 4.11–13 in which the ‘secret of contentment’ is something that the apostle Paul exemplifies, through being satisfied with or without food or belongings. For him, contentment comes from ‘Christ who gives [him] strength’, and the author of Ecclesiastes also implies that we can more easily find satisfaction by accepting that our belongings and wealth are the gifts of God rather than something we need to struggle for.

Pray

Pray

Dear Lord, thank you for all that you have given me. Please help me to control my desire for more of what I already have, knowing that all my desires and needs are in your hands.

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