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March 22: Wisdom for Life Under the Sun (Ecclesiastes 8:1-17)

We hope that you will find this guide helpful as you worship alone or together with others. 

CALL TO WORSHIP

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” As we worship, we come to join our voices with theirs, to declare the glory of God. That’s the very essence of worship, declaring to God his glory.

We praise him for who he is and we give thanks to him for what he has done for us. And there is nothing for which we give thanks more than the gift he gave us in the person of Jesus Christ. We needed a rescuer, a savior, and God met our need by sending us Jesus. 

The world may seem to be spinning in a thousand different directions. And your own life may give you reasons for doubt, disappointment, and despair. But then we remember that Jesus was given to us. Jesus, the one who looked into the tomb and says, "Lazaraus, come forth," who looks into the storm and says, "Peace be still," who hangs on the cross and says, "It is finished," who rises from the dead and says, "I am with you," and who now stands in heaven interceding for us, and says, "I am coming soon!"

Because of him, because his work is finished and because he is coming soon, we have reason to worship and even to celebrate, so let’s do that now from our hearts in prayer and through the words of these songs.

PRAY TOGETHER

"The sky above proclaims his handiwork." Father, we look at the sky above and immediately recognize that you are great and majestic. You have created all things, and creation displays your glory. We are your creatures, and it is right for us to be humble before you and to worship you. We give thanks for your Son Jesus Christ, through whom we come into your presence. By his cleansing blood, because of his perfect righteousness, we are accepted by you. Unworthy of your goodness and trusting in him alone, we give thanks to you. Hear us now for Christ's sake. Amen.

SING TOGETHER

 

GIVE

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PRAY TOGETHER

Lord we are happy to come to you in prayer. You reign in the heavens and there is nothing that is too difficult for you. You judge all the earth and in your judgments you are both just and full or mercy. You are holy in all your ways and there’s not a hint of deceit in you. Though your throne is in the heavens, you see the needy and you take up the cause of the widow and the orphan. You are truly compassionate, full of mercy.

We are grateful that though you reign in the heavens, you hear us. This is a privilege we do not deserve because of our sin. This week we have been tempted, and have chosen to sin when we knew to do what was right. Christ has been full of patience toward our repeated offences, and yet we have been the opposite towards those even in our own families who sin against us. We have seethed with anger, we have used our words to tear others down. You have given us good gifts and we have made idols out of them. We have looked to them rather than to you for fulfillment. We have been unhappy with you and looked for satisfaction elsewhere. Lord, we are like deep wells full of muddy water.

And your kindness leads us to repentance, so please, give us grace to mourn over our sin and to turn from it. Help us to be like that crowd that saw Jesus crucified and walked away beating their chests in sorrow. We want to see what our sin cost Jesus, and grieve over it. 

But you have given us Christ – and we have every reason to come before you with confidence because his blood is the only confidence we need.  Our hope is built on nothing less than his blood and righteousness. He cleanses and restores our fellowship, and destroys sins stranglehold over us. Through this man Jesus we have been forgiven and freed from all those things which we could never be free from apart from him.

So Holy Father, humbled by these truths, we come before you and ask that you would hear our prayers.

We pray for Capital Community Church and their pastor Grant Castleberry, as well as their elders and deacons and the many members of that church, that you would cause them to grow in faith in you during these unusual days. Would you help them as a church to grow in their love for your word and their faithfulness in good works in our community

We pray for the Ghunzib of Russia, that you would raise up a gospel witness among this group where currenlty there is none. Lord of the harvest, would you send workers into this harvest field, for it is ripe.

We pray that you would use this time of global anxiety over the coronavirus to turn many hearts to you. Help us as your people to be full of faith and not of anxiety. Help us to be ready for every good work, that others may see our good works and give glory to you. At the same time, cause those who do not know you to seek refuge in you. May many repent of sin and find hope in the gospel.

Now as we read your word and then hear it preached, would you give us ears that are ready to hear, a mind that is attentive, a heart that bends to do your will, and thus helps us be doers and not hearers only. 

READ THE BIBLE

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17
[1] 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.

[2] I say: Keep the king's command, because of God's oath to him. [3] Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. [4] For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” [5] Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. [6] For there is a time and a way for everything, although man's trouble lies heavy on him. [7] For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? [8] 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. [9] 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.

[10] Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. [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.

[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. (ESV)

WATCH THE SERMON

Summary: The book of Ecclesiastes offers instruction to living well "under the sun."  This phrase, "under the sun," refers to this time of exile, this age in which we live apart from God's presence, the time between the garden of Eden and our entrance into the new heavens and new earth. How do we live in these times? The preacher, like me, wants us to understand the business of life under the sun. While he begins with the benefits of wisdom (Ecc 8:1), he then shows us how to use this wisdom in various contexts: 1) rendering our civic duty, 2) facing uncertainties in life, and 3) facing the injustices in this world, so that we live content and satisfied lives. We need wisdom for all this. To what degree do you value wisdom? The wisdom offered will lead us to live in a way that results in joy and satisfaction in spite of various hardships and challenges that come to us in this life under the sun.  

PRAY TOGETHER

Father, we have heard your word, now may your Spirit bring conviction where we have sinned, and may he strengthen us where we are weak, and may he give us wisdom where we do not have it. Help us to receive your word as our daily bread, that it may sustain us. Help us to receive it as light, to guide us today and all the days of our lives. And may we receive it as a great treasure, cherishing your word for it reveals you to us. We pray this for your glory through the name of Christ. Amen.

REVIEW AND APPLY

1.  In what ways do you intentionally seek wisdom?  If not why not?
2.  What authority has God placed over you?  What is your attitude to it?  How have you responded to it? Give both godly and ungodly examples.  
3.  How do you face uncertainties in this life?  how can others in your church help?
4.  What injustice frustrates you the most?  How can you respond in godly ways?
5.  What does it mean to 'fear the Lord?'  How do you practice this?
6.  How good are you at having fun and enjoying life? What prevents you from enjoying the simple things in greater measure?
7.  Give the top three ordinary things you are most happy about?  How can you begin to cultivate a practice of being more grateful?