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A Word to the Wise (Part 1 of 2)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18
Program

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes wrote that he'd seen all the things done under the sun, and all of them were meaningless. Has anything changed? How do we make sense of our days? Hear a brisk overview of Ecclesiastes on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.

From the Sermon

A Word to the Wise

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Series: A Study in Ecclesiastes

Sermon Includes Transcript 42:08 ID: 2286

A Yoke of Freedom

A Yoke of Freedom

Come to me … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

A yoke is a wooden frame placed across the back of oxen or other strong animals, joining them together in order to haul a heavy load. The yoke’s purpose is to evenly distribute the weight on both sides, making it possible for the animals to walk while bearing it.

Jesus uses this illustration to offer those who might follow Him the chance to find unparalleled freedom under His yoke. With His invitation to take His “easy” and “light” yoke, Jesus distinguishes Himself from mere religion, with its heavy burden of rules and regulations. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were consumed with doing what was right—not only seeking to abide by God’s law but adding a great number of their own rules as well. Such man-made obligations and expectations create crushing burdens. Repeatedly saying, “Come on now, try harder; come on now, do this,” will figuratively wear down anyone’s neck.

But Jesus’ yoke is different.

To be under the yoke—the authority—of Jesus is not a burden; it is a delight. How can this be? There is a freedom found in Christ—not a freedom to do what we want but a freedom to do what we ought. Since by nature we cannot do what we ought, we are yoked to our own desires. That path promises much but delivers little. We need somebody—Jesus—to set us free from our bondage to sin so that we might live in freedom and obedience to God’s will: to become the people we were designed to be. So it is that Christ’s commands are “the perfect law that gives freedom,” and so it is that those who obey them “will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25, NIV).

This is why we declare with joy, “Jesus is my Lord.” This is His identity—and because of His lordship, when we respond to His invitation and receive His yoke upon our shoulders, we accept a newfound obligation to live freely under His perfect will. The issues of morality, sexuality, business, family—all these things and more are gathered under the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For those who still feel yoked to a burdensome weight, be it impossible rules or sinful desires, Jesus extends the invitation to come and let Him lift these burdens. You need to hear this today. Where are you struggling with sin? How are you seeing the commands of the Lord as burdensome? In what ways might you be struggling against His ways? Hear Him again: Come to Me. I’m humble. I’m gentle. Your burden is so severe that I had to die on the cross for you, and I did so willingly. Come and be yoked to Me. My burden is light.

head heart hand Going Deeper

Slaves to Righteousness

15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,3 you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Footnotes
3 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface (twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20)

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.

Clean Hands

Clean Hands

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Outward practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. If our hands are not clean, let us wash them in Jesus’ precious blood, and so let us lift up pure hands unto God. But “clean hands” will not suffice unless they are connected with “a pure heart.” True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the plate as long as we please, but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are. The very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. The pure in heart shall see God; all others are but blind bats.

The man who is born for heaven “does not lift up his soul to what is false.” All men have their joys by which their souls are lifted up. The worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with husks will be reckoned with the swine. Does the world satisfy you? Then you have your reward and portion in this life; make much of it, for you will know no other joy.

Does not swear deceitfully.” The saints are men of honor still. The Christian man’s word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God’s house, whatever may be his professions or doings. Reader, does the text before us condemn you, or do you hope to ascend into the hill of the Lord?

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.

6So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”

8And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

12Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

15On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.2 Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

22But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute's house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25But Rahab the prostitute and her father's household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

26Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he

lay its foundation,

and at the cost of his youngest son

shall he set up its gates.”

27So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.

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Footnotes
2 6:17 That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); also verses 18, 21

Psalm 135

Your Name, O Lord, Endures Forever

1Praise the Lord!

Praise the name of the Lord,

give praise, O servants of the Lord,

2who stand in the house of the Lord,

in the courts of the house of our God!

3Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;

sing to his name, for it is pleasant!1

4For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,

Israel as his own possession.

5For I know that the Lord is great,

and that our Lord is above all gods.

6Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,

in heaven and on earth,

in the seas and all deeps.

7He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,

who makes lightnings for the rain

and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

8He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,

both of man and of beast;

9who in your midst, O Egypt,

sent signs and wonders

against Pharaoh and all his servants;

10who struck down many nations

and killed mighty kings,

11Sihon, king of the Amorites,

and Og, king of Bashan,

and all the kingdoms of Canaan,

12and gave their land as a heritage,

a heritage to his people Israel.

13Your name, O Lord, endures forever,

your renown,2 O Lord, throughout all ages.

14For the Lord will vindicate his people

and have compassion on his servants.

15The idols of the nations are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

16They have mouths, but do not speak;

they have eyes, but do not see;

17they have ears, but do not hear,

nor is there any breath in their mouths.

18Those who make them become like them,

so do all who trust in them.

19O house of Israel, bless the Lord!

O house of Aaron, bless the Lord!

20O house of Levi, bless the Lord!

You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord!

21Blessed be the Lord from Zion,

he who dwells in Jerusalem!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 136

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

3Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

4to him who alone does great wonders,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

5to him who by understanding made the heavens,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

6to him who spread out the earth above the waters,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

7to him who made the great lights,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

8the sun to rule over the day,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

9the moon and stars to rule over the night,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

10to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

11and brought Israel out from among them,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

12with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

13to him who divided the Red Sea in two,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

14and made Israel pass through the midst of it,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

15but overthrew1 Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

16to him who led his people through the wilderness,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

17to him who struck down great kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

18and killed mighty kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

19Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

20and Og, king of Bashan,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

21and gave their land as a heritage,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

22a heritage to Israel his servant,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

23It is he who remembered us in our low estate,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

24and rescued us from our foes,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

25he who gives food to all flesh,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

26Give thanks to the God of heaven,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

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Footnotes
1 135:3 Or for he is beautiful
2 135:13 Or remembrance
1 136:15 Hebrew shook off

The Humble and Contrite in Spirit

1Thus says the Lord:

“Heaven is my throne,

and the earth is my footstool;

what is the house that you would build for me,

and what is the place of my rest?

2All these things my hand has made,

and so all these things came to be,

declares the Lord.

But this is the one to whom I will look:

he who is humble and contrite in spirit

and trembles at my word.

3“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;

he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck;

he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig's blood;

he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.

These have chosen their own ways,

and their soul delights in their abominations;

4I also will choose harsh treatment for them

and bring their fears upon them,

because when I called, no one answered,

when I spoke, they did not listen;

but they did what was evil in my eyes

and chose that in which I did not delight.”

5Hear the word of the Lord,

you who tremble at his word:

“Your brothers who hate you

and cast you out for my name's sake

have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified,

that we may see your joy’;

but it is they who shall be put to shame.

6“The sound of an uproar from the city!

A sound from the temple!

The sound of the Lord,

rendering recompense to his enemies!

Rejoice with Jerusalem

7“Before she was in labor

she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her

she delivered a son.

8Who has heard such a thing?

Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one day?

Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?

For as soon as Zion was in labor

she brought forth her children.

9Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”

says the Lord;

“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”

says your God.

10“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy,

all you who mourn over her;

11that you may nurse and be satisfied

from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight

from her glorious abundance.”1

12For thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,

and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,

and bounced upon her knees.

13As one whom his mother comforts,

so I will comfort you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

your bones shall flourish like the grass;

and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,

and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

Final Judgment and Glory of the Lord

15“For behold, the Lord will come in fire,

and his chariots like the whirlwind,

to render his anger in fury,

and his rebuke with flames of fire.

16For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment,

and by his sword, with all flesh;

and those slain by the Lord shall be many.

17“Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.

18“For I know2 their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming3 to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.

22“For as the new heavens and the new earth

that I make

shall remain before me, says the Lord,

so shall your offspring and your name remain.

23From new moon to new moon,

and from Sabbath to Sabbath,

all flesh shall come to worship before me,

declares the Lord.

24“And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

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Footnotes
1 66:11 Or breast
2 66:18 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew lacks know
3 66:18 Hebrew and it is coming

The Death of John the Baptist

1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,1 4because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus Walks on the Water

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way2 from the land,3 beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind,4 he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

34And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

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Footnotes
1 14:3 Some manuscripts his brother's wife
2 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters
3 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea
4 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

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