3 Things: Week 24

1.    An Anonymous Source
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.  –Ecclesiastes 1:1
Let’s start from the beginning. The first verse in Ecclesiastes is the closest thing we are given to the identity of the author. This is intentional. The mystery of the author allows us to focus less on the individual who wrote the book, and more on the familiar journey of wrestling with God.
We are meant to identify with the struggle the author is going through. “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless.” This phrase is repeated over and over, questioning the significance that our life has. 
While later in the book, more clues are dropped of the author’s identity, no name is specifically given. The consensus among biblical scholars is that Solomon wrote it. Whoever the author was, let’s take this as a message to every person, from an individual who is struggling in the same ways we are.
2.    Distance From God
As you read through Ecclesiastes, something begins to strike you as odd. Ecclesiastes is a sermon, given to individuals to share its wisdom. However, the language of the sermon never becomes personal with God. If you look, you will not find “Yahweh”, “the Lord”, or “God of Israel” written anywhere.
Like many of us, the author is struggling with an internal battle. This battle has caused him to distance himself from God. However, just because we distance ourselves from God, doesn’t mean God finds us out of reach. We cannot go anywhere God cannot find us.
With the author specifically, God blessed him with wisdom. Much like lifting weights, in which we tear down our muscles in order to build them up stronger, God is allowing the author to go through this struggle in order to build greater strength in the end.
3.    The Conclusion of the Matter
Now all has been heard;
    Here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    For this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    Including every hidden thing,
    Whether it is good or evil.  –Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Say what you will about the author, but the guy can really bring it home! After all of the internal struggles, all of the arguments, and all of the conflict, the author comes to a strong conclusion in the end. Our purpose, as the children of God, is to fear him and follow his commandments for our lives.
This is comforting, because how many times do we find ourselves asking why we’re here? Why am I made this way? What is the significance of my life? It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone. In the grand scheme of things, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, Michael Jordan, Tom Cruise, and I all have the same purpose. “Fear God and keep his commandments”.
The last part of the author’s conclusion is also uplifting. God will bring judgement to everything we do. While this usually brings up grim images in our minds because of all the sin in our lives, the author specifically states that God will remember the good and the evil. God wants to rejoice in our good works with us. He finds pleasure when he sees us living out our lives the way we were created to. Just like a parent glowing about their child, God wants to celebrate these things with us.


3 Things: Week 22

  1. The Pride of Youth
    “But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.”  -Job 32:2-3

    Elihu is an interesting character in the story of Job. While Job has spent the majority of the book arguing with his three friends about why such tragedies have happened to him, Elihu finds himself in the lonely place of disagreeing with both parties. Out of respect (he is quite a bit younger than the rest), he attempts to keep his opinions to himself, but eventually becomes too overwhelmed with emotion to hold back.

    As the classic, angry young man, Elihu burst into his argument; generally making an argument that is partly correct but deeply flawed. Even with Elihu most likely being an educated individual (the listing of his genealogy gives us a clue to this), his argument at times gets bogged down by raw emotion, which distracts and obscures his message.

    This is a problem many young individuals face today. Many have a wealth of knowledge on subjects that are very relevant. However, many of them become so emotionally invested, they take away from their own message. Wisdom is not only knowledge and facts. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge in an effective manner.
  2. Half-Truths, Part 2
    Last week, we pointed out the half-truths of the arguments the individuals were making. This week, we can point out the same issue with Elihu. While Elihu continues his long lecture (it ends up being five chapters of the book) at Job, he makes the following statement about God.

    “If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?”  -Job 35:7

    This is an interesting statement because in one sense, there is nothing we, as humans, can give God that He doesn’t already have. He created us. He created the world. The heavens surround Him. Anything we could possibly come up with would have already been made by His hand.

    However, there is also a line of thinking in which this comment is false. We, as humans, are not irrelevant to God. Scripture tells us over and over again that God loves us. God is angered when we act in defiance and disrespect, and He is honored when we are “blameless and upright”, just as Job was. So, we can give God our praise and devotion; things he finds joy in.
  3. But God is LOVE

    So far, we’ve covered Elihu’s flaws in his emotional response and murky arguments. However, this should not persuade us to ignore everything he has to say. Just because a person is wrong on one topic (or half-wrong like we covered above), does not mean the rest of their words hold no weight. Elihu was still a very intelligent individual who was educated enough to even consider bringing his perspective into this argument. One moment that demonstrates his pure wisdom and knowledge comes in Job 36:5.

    “God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.”

    God is powerful enough to destroy the earth. He has wiped the Earth out (aside from Noah’s family) before and tells of a time when it will happen again (Revelations). He has destroyed cities, led Israel to massacre entire civilizations, and plagued communities with disease as punishment for their sins. However, God desires to be with us. He desires for us to be faithful to him. He loves us.

    God punished Israel numerous times, but they never stopped being his chosen people. He is the same with us today. God hates sin. He HATES it! But sin does not define us. Sin does not cut us off from God (because of Jesus). And because of this, God loves every person who has ever walked the earth. He detests choices we have all made (for all have sinned) but love is still there.

    This statement reminded me of a song from Gungor:

So what did you think about this week’s readings? What stood out to you? Let us know.


3 Things: Week 21

1.     You’re Not the Main Character

In Job 1, we repeatedly read about God telling Satan “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8) So if Job is so awesome, then why did God allow so many bad things to happen to him? How could a good God possibly put Job in so much pain?

To answer these questions, we must have the correct perspective. You see, this story isn’t actually about Job. His name might be the title of the book, but this story is much bigger than him. Instead, it’s about Him. It’s about God. More specifically, this story is about God’s interaction with Satan.

Job was a very upright man, but as we read on through the book, we see Job’s lack of perspective. He wants to plead his innocence to God. He wants to show God how he has done nothing wrong. But what Job doesn’t understand is that he is merely a supporting role in God’s story. Bad things aren’t happening to Job because he’s being punished; bad things are happening to Job so God can show his glory and squash Satan.

Job is not the most important person in the world. Job’s happiness isn’t what the universe revolves around. There is something bigger going on.

We can apply the same perspective to our lives. How many times do we fall into self-pity? How many times do we ask “why me?” How many times do we covet what someone else is blessed with? And when we do these things, we try to make the story about us.

Louie Giglio gave a great representation of a Godly perspective. “I am not, but I know I AM.”

2.     Half-Truths

After Job has gone through all of his tragedy, he laments his troubles to friends who came to be with him, as well as lamenting to God. As we read this, we need to remember that Job is still an outstanding individual. This is still the person that God said “There is no one on earth like him; blameless and upright.” Job still whole heartedly believes in God. He still loves God. He still respects God. However, he is confused about why this has happened to him.

The only logical reason Job can come up with to explain all his misery is that he must have done something wrong, or that he is being wrongfully punished. He’s begging for an opportunity to plead his case to God. And it is during this time, when he is still simultaneously lamenting his troubles and praising God, that he says:

"It is all the same; that is why I say,

‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’"  -Job 9:22

In this statement, Job is both right and wrong. To recall from the first point above, Job is still missing perspective. Job is correct that he is a righteous individual. He is correct in saying that he did not deserve all of the suffering that has plagued him. And he is also correct in saying that this all came from God. However, he doesn’t realize the context of the situation. As a human, he was not able to even conceive the spiritual battle that was going on over his soul.

Job is only human. He longed for reasoning and answers in the midst of distress like we all do. He wasn’t capable of seeing where God was, only where he had been. This gave him hints of the plan God had for him, but he didn’t understand the entire story.

3.     Stay In Your Lane

Job has a few friends who come to see him after all of his troubles had ruined his once pleasant life. The discussion between the friends and Job becomes heated when they are all trying to explain why these bad things happened to Job. While Job continues to claim that he is being punished for something he did not do, his acquaintances are trying to convince him that he needs to repent of whatever secret sin he is hiding. Job becomes quite angry at this and responds:

"Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf?

Will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you show him partiality?

Will you argue the case for God?"  -Job 13:7-8

Even in the midst of all this physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, Job speaks truth of something that directly applies to us today. Everyone in this conversation was hurting for Job. All of his friends wanted to know why this happened to him as well. They are there, arguing with Job because they care about him. They are all desperately searching for answers.

The problem arises when these individuals attempt to use their own reasoning to explain God’s plan, and pass it off as God’s word. They are trying to speak for God, and when they do this, they become guilty of blasphemy.

This can happen to us also. How many times have we been engaged in a conversation, and we try to use our own reasoning to “argue the case for God.” We try to put up the perception that we have more biblical knowledge than we actually do, and we end up attempting to pass off our opinions as God’s. Our pride and desire to win an argument goes beyond our knowledge of God’s word.

When we step beyond the bounds of scripture, out from what we can take for fact because it is God breathed, and we attempt to “argue the case of God” for God through our own reasoning, we step into sin, pride, and arrogance.

What do you think? What did you find this week? Did anything stand out to you?

3 Things: Week 20

1. Old Names Make an Appearance

“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy,
and Jacob will possess his inheritance.
Jacob will be a fire
and Joseph a flame;
Esau will be stubble,
and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
There will be no survivors
from Esau.”
The Lord has spoken.  –Obadiah 1:17-18

There’s a blast from the past! Jacob and Esau! Remember them? They were the first twins in the Bible. Sons of Isaac and Rebekah. They’re famous for the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Then, Jacob and Rebekah later created a scheme that tricked Isaac into giving Jacob his blessing over Esau.

This led to jealousy and rage as Esau threatened to kill Jacob, causing Jacob to flee. Now, all this time later, the jealousy still remained. As judgement was raining down on Israel (Jacob’s descendants), causing them to flee their homeland, the Edomites (Esau’s descendants) apprehended them and handed them over to their invaders. They showed no kindness to Israel. This shows the actions of these two individuals having a significant impact on the lives of an enormous amount of people all this time later.

2. No Happy Ending

I remember growing up and learning about the story of Jonah. It was a nice, interesting tale of a guy disobeying God andgetting eaten by a fish. Eventually, Jonah tells God sorry and gets spit out. Then Jonah walks off into the sunset, whistling happily and going off to do what God originally told him to do. And they all lived happily ever after…

What a great story! Even look at this picture they showed us during Sunday School! A fish’s stomach may be a little boring, but it’s not too bad.



While this might be a nice story and a good way to introduce the Bible to small children, it’s important for us to realize that there is so much more to it! Jonah committed a great sin. He deliberately disobeyed God. On the boat, he was thrust into the middle of a storm that was so supernatural the sailors recognized that it must have come from a god. He was swallowed by a fish, and absolutely suffered in the fish’s stomach for three days. Devine intervention was the only thing that kept him alive during that time. He then turns to God and begs for forgiveness, before being puked out by the fish.

He is then sent to Nineveh (just like the original plan) and tells the city that eminent doom is near. And how does the city react? They repent, ask for, and get grace from God.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.”  -Jonah 4:1

Jonah was ticked that he had to go through all of his suffering just for God to relent the destruction he sent Jonah to foretell. He became so angry that he told God that He might as well just kill him. He leaves the city to pout. It is during this time God again tries to show his love to Jonah by giving him a nice shade tree to sit under. But when Jonah continues to pout, God takes it away and turns the tree into an illustration.

The last we hear of Jonah is him still being angry with God.This is a big reminder that the Bible is filled with very flawed people who do great things for God. There was no happy ending to this story for Jonah. We don’t know if he ever went on to get right with God. What we do know is God used individuals as flawed as us to do great things. And this should give us hope to do great things as well.

3. What Is Your Profession?

Another interesting tidbit that came from Jonah’s story involved the sailors that were taking Jonah to Tarshish so he could flee from God.

When the storm came upon them and the waters became extremely dangerous, they all started praying to their Gods. This shows how bad the storm must have been. These are sea hardened sailors who live on the boat. For a storm to be so severe that they go to their last resort of pleading with their gods to save them should tell us the magnitude of the situation.

After they go down to wake Jonah, they eventually decide this supernatural storm has come upon them because of him. What they do next is odd.

“So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”  -Jonah 1: 8

The chapter goes on to tell us Jonah answered their questions. Why is this important? It is important because of the question “What kind of work do you do?” Jonah’s answer to this would have struck fear into the hearts of all the men. We don’t have an exact quote from Jonah, but what he would have answered is “I am a prophet.”

With the sailors already admitting that the storm was supernatural, and having already decided that it was Jonah’s fault, for Jonah to tell them he has devoted his life to telling people God’s word would have been awful news. How should they respond to that? This God that they don’t know has placed them in a life threatening situation. They’re afraid of throwing Jonah overboard because he is a prophet of this great God, but their ship also can’t take much more of this storm.

However, like everything else in history, all things are working for His good, and this near death experience is the catalyst that leads all of these sailor to turn to the one, true God.

3 Things: Week 19

1.    The House of Wickedness

In the book of Hosea, Judah somewhat gets the “little brother” treatment in relation to Israel. One place this particularly stands out is chapter 4, verse 15:

"“Though you, Israel, commit adultery,
do not let Judah become guilty.
“Do not go to Gilgal;
do not go up to Beth Aven.
And do not swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives.”

In this verse, God commands Judah to not go to Gilgal, Beth Aven and to not swear “As surely as the LORD live.” When we dig deeper, these three specific commands give us a greater insight into the time Hosea was speaking in.

First, God names Gilgal. This is noteworthy because originally, Gilgal was a sacred place where prophets would train under two of the greatest prophets of all time: Elijah and Elisha. However, in the time since then, Gilgal had been transformed into a central place of false worship. It had such a reputation for this, that it was brought up four different times in scripture (Hosea 9:15, 12:11, and Amos 4:4 and 4:5).

Next, God specifically names “Beth Aven”. When speaking of Beth Aven, the first thing people should know is that there is no such place at all. When God says Beth Aven, He is actually referring to Bethel. So why did He change the name? Look at the meanings. Bethel means “House of God”. Beth Aven on the other hand means “House of Deceit”. By comparing these, we see that Bethel had fallen so deeply into sin that God himself changed its name from His house to “House of Deceit.”

The final thing God specifically states for Judah to not do is swear “As surely as the LORD lives.” This reminded me of a talk I heard at a conference a couple years ago. The individual was from an organization called Open Doors and made this video expressing what’s wrong with using God’s name too casually. https://youtu.be/WqipNKbxq64

2.    Where is your king?

Have you ever come to God in prayer and asked Him for something, only to realize later on that you would have been better off without it? Israel made this same mistake when they begged God to give them a king. Now, after the fact, and after they have faced all of this turmoil related to that demand, God brings the reality of their request to light:

"Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’? So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away."  -Hosea 13:10-11

God is good and righteous and listens to us when we tell him what’s on our hearts. But this situation shows the importance of why we need our hearts focused on him. This also sends out a dire warning to everyone who follows: be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.

3.    Simple Good News

The third item we’ll address this week does not require much explanation. It is very simple good news.

"“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”"  -Joel 2:12

God wants us to know, that even when we are drowning in sin, He is still pursuing us, asking us to truly repent and ask for forgiveness. You are never too far gone. And there is no more true or simple message than that.

3 Things: Week 18

1.     A Light to the Gentiles

Throughout his writing, Isaiah says many incredible things. He prophecies the future and relays God’s message to the entire region. But one section stands out even among all of these amazing feats.

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."  -Isaiah 42:6-7

These two particular verses are so extremely important because the “you” God is directly talking to isn’t us. In fact, it isn’t even Israel. The “you” he is directly speaking to is the future messiah: Jesus.

When God says “to be a covenant for the people”, He is talking about the promise that Jesus will take on the sin of the entire world and die, so others may live. In doing this, Jesus will “free captives from prison” and “release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

2.     Cartoon Song.

In Isaiah 43, Isaiah tells Israel to get ready and prepare their courage because he was going to take them from Babylon back to their home. While this would seem to be a cause for celebration and praise, to many Israelites this was an intimidating prophecy. In between the land of Babylon and Israel lay hundreds of miles of wilderness filled with wild beasts and danger!

Isaiah goes on to address this fear by relaying God’s message:

"The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise."  -Isaiah 43:20-21

In these two verses, we can pull out two separate messages. The first is a very practical and relevant message to Israel. It was God saying, “Yes, you will have to go through the wilderness, but I created the wilderness and I control the wilderness. You will be safe.”

This was God directly addressing what was on the hearts of many of His people. However, there is another message that I believes carries more of an enduring weight. Verse 20 speaks of how the animals honor God. By this point in Isaiah, it has been made clear that we cannot say the same thing about God’s people. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Not only has Israel not honored God, but they have rejected him, placing idols and false gods before Him.

God points the paradox of this out in verse 21 when He hammers home the point that Israel is “my chosen” and “people I formed for myself” so “they may proclaim my praise.” How upside down is this? The wild beasts are honoring God, but His chosen people who He uniquely created to honor Him don’t!

This reminds me of a song from my childhood, “The Cartoon Song” by Chris Rice. The entire song is linked below, but to briefly summarize the plot, Rice uses all kinds of cartoons and children’s characters to sing hallelujah to God. In the closing lines Rice sings a message that is directly related to these verses:

Now, there’s a point to this looney-tune
I’m not an Anamaniac
But there’s a lot of praisin’ to do
And cartoons weren’t made for that
It’s our God
So, let’s sing hallelujah!


3.     A Most Amazing Prophecy

Prophecies are amazing things. When you read through the book of Isaiah, you come across countless numbers of them. Some of them have come true. Some of them have yet to pass. Some of them can be explained away as predictions made by observations of the time. However, some prophecies are truly astonishing.

While other prophecies may be more important (I mean, how can you top prophesying about Jesus), perhaps the most jaw-dropping prophecy in the Bible comes in Isaiah 45 and speaks of a man who will lead Israel out of Babylon and back home.

"“This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut”  -Isaiah 45:1

So God is telling everyone that this king is going to be awesome, great, and free Israel from Babylon. Great right? But how is this possibly the most astonishing prophecy in the Bible? Skip down to verse 4 and read on.

“For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me."  -Isaiah 45:4

God is calling Cyrus by name to do this! Still not impressed? What’s the big deal with God saying Cyrus’s name?

What if I told you this prophecy was made over 200 years before it came to pass?

Let that sink in. God prophesied about this king 200 years before the events actually happened. He not only stated what would happen, but who would do it.

And just to add sprinkles on top of all of this (because sprinkles are for winners!), Cyrus wasn’t even an Israeli. He wasn’t one of God’s chosen people. He would become the King of Persia. God chose to anoint and pour out his spirit on the Persian king. God chose to bless him and wanted Cyrus to deliver His people to freedom.

There! Now you can be impressed.

What did you think? What stood out to you this week during your time in The Word? Let us know!


3 Things: Week 17

1.     The Terror of Judah

Isaiah is a book filled with prophesies about Israel, Judah, and the other nations in the region (along with the world as a whole). Many of these prophecies have already come true. There are many more that are yet to happen. One such prophecy occurs in chapter 19.

“In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. And the land of Judah will bring terror to the Egyptians…”  -Isaiah 19:16-17

During Isaiah’s time, this was an outlandish thing to say. For thousands of years, Egypt had been a dominant military power (going back to before Moses). There military was still an imposing force and nothing to be taken likely. So to make this claim was Isaiah really stepping out in faith.

But how right did he turn out to be? Today, Israel is a military power. The fact that the nation of Israel exists is an absolute miracle in itself, but to be a military power after only 69 years of existing in its current form is mind blowing.

Conversely, look at Egypt. The Egyptian government was recently involved in a civil war, controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, and had to regain somewhat stability when some members of the government led a “coup d’état” to take power.

It took a long time, along with many twists and turns, but Isaiah’s prophecy came true right before our eyes!

2.     The Lord’s Servant

I love Star Wars. It’s got it all. Action, comedy, drama. But possibly the biggest reason Star Wars has become so popular is the characters. The story is filled with fantastic characters who have been played by amazing actors. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and even James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader. But possibly my favorite character in all of the movies isn’t any of these. In fact, he’s hardly in the movies at all. He has 4 lines (27 words!), and only has about 20 minutes of screen time in the entire trilogy.

This character’s name is Boba Fett. In the movie, he’s a bounty hunter with a really cool suit. We don’t know much about him, but he’s just so cool, fans are drawn to him.

Similarly, some of the most interesting individuals in the Bible aren’t the main characters. In Isaiah 22, we read about an individual named Eliakim son of Hilkiah. Eliakim only appears in six versus of the Bible, and the biggest part of his story appears here:

"“In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."  -Isaiah 22:20-22

From other versus, we know that Eliakim was an assistant to King Hezekiah. He served Hezekiah with a man named Shebna. Shebna ended up in power after Hezekiah’s death, but he sought his own glory. Meanwhile, Eliakim merely did his humble job faithfully, and was continuously devoted to the Lord.

Because of this, God give Eliakim the title “my servant” and says that he will put Eliakim in power. “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (v. 22)

For a man with a humble job and not much publicity, he’s a pretty great character in the story of God.

3.     Eat Some Adversity, Drink Some Affliction"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them."  -Isaiah 30:20

This verse caught my eye because of its first part: “the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction.”

Upon first glance, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary when we’re reading through Isaiah. This book can be tough to read because there is a lot of “doom and gloom” prophecies and judgments being handed down. But, I don’t think that’s what is going on here.

The phrasing “the Lord gives” makes it seem like this is a good thing; a gift. But how could “bread of adversity and water of affliction” possibly be a gift from God? This is a similar question to what we hear in today’s society. “How can God let bad things happen?”

The truth is that God wanted Israel to prosper. God had blessed them. He gave them a beautiful place to live, a prosperous nation, and peace with neighbors while they followed His commands. But the problem with Israel is that, historically, every time God blessed them with these things, they forgot they needed to still rely on God.

While we would all like to live perfect lives without any heartache, times of adversity and affliction turn us towards God. They can be like bread and water, basic needs for us to live.

What caught your eye this week? What were your thoughts on the reading? Let us know below!