God Doesn’t Change, But Don’t Try to Put Him in a Box

“For I am the Lord, I do not change…” (Malachi 3:6, N.K.J.V.)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17, N.K.J.V.)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8, N.K.J.V.)

These three verses all convey the same basic truth: God doesn’t change. However, we shouldn’t take this basic truth to mean that God never changes the ways in which He accomplishes His purposes. To the contrary, He is wildly creative and adaptive when it comes to bringing His will to pass.

We see evidence of this throughout the pages of scripture, particularly in the major thematic differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here are a few of those differences:

  • In the Old Testament, the hard times that come upon God’s people are typically the result of God chastising/judging His people because of sin. In the New Testament, the hard times are typically the result of God’s people suffering persecution simply because they are serving Him well.
  • In the Old Testament, human warfare occurs frequently as God’s people get attacked and oppressed by enemy nations (the Egyptians, the Moabites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, etc.). In the New Testament, the warfare turns much more spiritual in nature as God’s people get attacked and oppressed by Satan and the other fallen angels (demons).
  • In the Old Testament, God grants earthly blessings as the result of obedience to Him. We see this in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, David, Solomon, etc. In the New Testament, treasure in heaven becomes the promised reward for obedience.

In his colloquial, Texas-country-boy way, football coach Bum Phillips once famously said of fellow coach Don Shula, “Don Shula can take his’n and beat your’n. Or he can take your’n and beat his’n.” That was Bum’s way of saying that Shula could make a winner out of any team regardless of who the players were. Well, the same thing can be said with even more accuracy about God. Even though He never changes in terms of His character and nature, He is a master at adapting His ways to fit any given situation in order to bring about His desired result.

Keep this mind the next time you ask God to grant a prayer request. Assuming that granting the request is His will at all, don’t try to put Him in a box as to how He does it. For example, if you have a legitimate financial need, feel free to ask Him to meet that need, but don’t attempt to name a specific way (e.g. “Lord, let me win the lottery”) by which He must meet it. Just make your request, have faith, and let God handle things His way. It’s been my experience that you’ll be surprised — dare I say amazed — at not only what he does but how He does it.

Posted in Faith, God's Omnipotence, God's Provision, God's Will, Needs, Prayer Requests, Trusting In God | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Genesis 12:3 & Modern Israel

Genesis 12:3 is one of the most famous verses in the Old Testament. It’s the foundational verse for what is known as the Abrahamic covenant, the covenant that God entered into with Abraham. The record of the actual ceremony that took place between Abraham  and God to formally seal that covenant is found in Genesis chapter 15.

At its core, Genesis 12:3 is a three-fold promise that God speaks to Abraham. The promise goes as follows:

I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3, N.K.J.V.)

The meaning of this three-fold promise isn’t hard to understand. If a person, a group of people, or even an entire nation blessed Abraham, God would bless them. On the other hand, to curse Abraham was to evoke God’s cursing. As for the part about all the families of the earth being blessed in Abraham, that found its highest fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who as a genetic descendant of Abraham died for the sins of the world.

We know from the book of Genesis that God honored His promise concerning Abraham. When Egypt’s Pharaoh naively attempted to make Sarah (Abraham’s wife) his wife, God plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues (Genesis 12:17). Years later, when Abimelech tried the same thing, God came to Abimelech in a dream and began the conversation by saying, “You are a dead man” (Genesis 20:3). For good measure, God also closed up all the wombs of the women of Abimelch’s house as long as Sarah was under Abimelech’s roof (Genesis 20:18).

But the question that concerns us today is, are we right to carry the Genesis 12:3 promise over from Abraham to modern Jews? Putting the question another way, is the promise that God specifically made to Abraham long ago transferable to the current nation of Israel? Well, the answer you get depends upon whom you ask.

Those who say the promise is transferable cite Numbers 24:9, where the prophet Balaam, in clear reference to the entire nation of Israel (not just to Abraham, who was long since dead), says:

…Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you. (Numbers 24:9, N.K.J.V.)

Furthermore, these people point out that just a few verses beyond Genesis 12:3, in Genesis 12:7 to be exact, God appears to Abraham and says concerning the land of Canaan, “To your descendants I will give this land.” By placing Genesis 12:3 and Genesis 12:7 alongside each other, we can see the divine link between Abraham, who never actually possessed Canaan, and his descendants, who eventually did possess it. Obviously, God wasn’t just interested in Abraham; He was interested in Abraham’s descendants as well.

And then there is Deuteronomy 30:7, where Moses quite bluntly says to the Israelites under his leadership:

Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. (N.K.J.V.)

As for a New Testament passage that might prove that Genesis 12:3 can rightly be applied to the nation of Israel as a whole, Luke 7:1-10 could potentially be mentioned as a candidate. There we read about a Roman centurion who sent a group of Jewish elders to Jesus to ask Him to come and heal the centurion’s beloved servant, who was gravely ill. As those Jewish elders made the request to Jesus, they explained to Him why the Gentile centurion was deserving of help from a Jewish rabbi. They said of the centurion, “He loves our nation and has built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5). Because of that specific compliment, we might theorize that Jesus actually had Genesis 12:3 in mind when He agreed to go to the centurion’s home and heal the servant.

Still, though, while all these passages might seem to make the case that God really does bless those who bless the modern nation of Israel and curses those who curse it, there is a possible pushback to this interpretation. This pushback comes from the writings of the apostle Paul. Consider the following passages:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29, N.K.J.V.)

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel. (Romans 9:6, N.K.J.V.)

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7, N.K.J.V.)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26,29, N.K.J.V.)

You see, Paul taught that there are, in a very real sense, two “Israels.” As he described the situation, “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” First, there is what we might call national Israel. That consists of all Jews whose ancestral lines genetically trace back to Abraham through his son, Issac. Second, there is what we might call spiritual Israel. That consists of only those Jews who have by faith accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah/Savior and have thus become Christians.

With this in mind, our question then becomes, should we apply the Genesis 12:3 promise to all Jews (especially modern Israel as a recognized nation) or should we apply it only to Jews who have become Christians by placing their faith in Jesus as Messiah/Savior? Since it’s been well said that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, let me offer a couple more passages from Paul that are applicable to the question. The first passage is Galatians 3:16, where Paul references the Genesis 12:3 and Genesis 12:7 promises by saying:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,’ who is Christ. (N.K.J.V.)

This verse certainly brings an important new detail into the discussion, doesn’t it? Paul says, “When God spoke to Abraham about his descendants, He was actually referring to just one of those descendants: Jesus Christ. Therefore, the promises that God made to Abraham and his “seed” were made to Abraham and to Jesus.”

The second passage is Galatians 3:8-9, where Paul again references the Genesis 12:3 promise when he writes:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (N.K.J.V.)

As you read that passage, don’t miss the fact that it plainly says that Gentiles who place their faith in Jesus as Savior “…are blessed with believing Abraham.” Read that again. It doesn’t say that the Jews as a national whole are blessed with believing Abraham. No, it’s the individuals — Jews and Gentiles alike — who place their faith in Jesus who are the ones blessed in this way. As a matter of fact, an argument can be made that Christians have more of a Biblical claim upon Genesis 12:3 than the modern-day nation of Israel does. This explains why many Bible teachers do not hold the position that the Genesis 12:3 promise can be transferred to Israel as a nation today.

As for me, I agree that modern-day Israel is not a nation worthy of the spiritual legacy of Abraham. I mean, we can’t just forget about the fact that the Jews who make up that nation are in vast majority lost unbelievers who have never placed saving faith in Jesus Christ. A lost person is a lost person, whether that person be a Gentile living in Atlanta or a Jew living in Jerusalem. I’m not an anti Semite, and I certainly don’t go around persecuting Jews, but I’m not going to lie about their spiritual state, either. The irrefutable fact is that they don’t truly know Abraham’s God because they don’t truly know Abraham’s Savior.

So, does this mean that the ethic nation of Israel is doomed permanently because of its rejection of Jesus Christ? No, that’s not what the Bible teaches. What the Bible teaches is that there is coming a day when a remnant of the nation will embrace Jesus as Messiah/Savior and in so doing will experience spiritual salvation and be welcomed into Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon the earth. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this embracing will not occur until the days of the seven-year Tribulation Period that will precede Christ’s Second Coming. Until then, whatever national Israel does, it does it apart from any authentic spiritual connection to Abraham. The biological, genetic connection is there, but the spiritual connection simply isn’t.

In regards to how nations such as the United States should relate to modern Israel, all I can offer is what I would do if I was the President of the United States. I would try my best to maintain a balance between keeping a healthy alliance with Israel while at the same time recognizing that each and every Jew who doesn’t know Christ as Savior is not a part of the covenant that God has eternally made with Abraham. No, this foreign policy wouldn’t be a cop out. To the contrary, I would consider it to be an accurate application of all the relevant scriptures from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Someone says, “But Israel isn’t like other nations; they are God’s chosen nation.” Yes, that’s true, and that’s why I, as President, would tend to give that nation preferential treatment. As I’ve pointed out, though, modern Israel doesn’t even pretend to be a Christian nation, and the harsh reality is that the souls of lost Jews who die go to the same hell as the souls of lost Muslims who die. This reality applies regardless of any promise made as part of the Abrahamic Covenant, and it’s not one that is ever going to change. Merely being born as a biological descendant of Abraham just isn’t enough. Each Jew must also be “born again” as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ if he or she wants to eternally come under the umbrella of Genesis 12:3.

Posted in Christ's Second Coming, Christ's Return, Current Events, Politics, Prophecy, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christian Verses” Podcast: Ecclesiastes 3:1

Is there really a season for everything and a time for every purpose? Well, that’s what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1. Join Malcolm and me as we delve into this verse and discuss it for the latest podcast. If you are waiting for a pleasant season to come around or if you are waiting for a difficult season to end, this podcast is for you. Here’s the link:

Posted in "Christian Verses" podcast, God's Timing, God's Will, Impatience, Patience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How God Taught Nebuchadnezzar a Lesson

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, was on top of the world. His army was the most formidable one seen to date, his empire was the largest in existence, and he was the unquestioned ruler over it all. He seemed invincible and untouchable.

But then one night he had a dream (Daniel 4:4-5). In the dream, he saw a tree, already great in height, but continuing to grow until its height reached to the heavens and it could be seen to the ends of the earth (Daniel 4:10-11). The tree was covered in leaves and abundant fruit (Daniel 4:12). Animals gathered under it to enjoy its shade, and scores of birds dwelt in its massive branches (Daniel 4:12).

Everything was perfect about the tree until a “holy one” (also called a “watcher” in the K.J.V. and N.K.J.V., most likely an angel) descended from heaven and ordered that the tree be chopped down, its branches cut off, its leaves stripped, and its fruit scattered (Daniel 4:13-14). The tree’s stump and roots were to be retained, but a band of iron and bronze was to be bound around them (Daniel 4:15). This signified that the tree’s decimated condition would remain the same as long as the band was in place.

Next in the dream, the holy one explained that the tree, in actuality, represented a man. This man was to undergo an experience humbling enough to teach him that God rules in the kingdom of men and gives that kingdom to whomever he chooses (Daniel 4:16-17). The man was Nebuchadnezzar, and God wanted him to learn the lesson that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar’s own brilliance, ingenuity, or force of will that had made him the ruler of the world’s greatest empire. No, Nebuchadnezzar held that lofty place in world affairs because God had handed him the keys to open that door.

The holy one described what would happen by saying that Nebuchadnezzar’s heart would be changed from that of a man to that of a beast (Daniel 4:16). In taking on the behavior of an animal, Nebuchadnezzar would get wet with each morning’s dew and he would feed by grazing upon field grass (Daniel 4:15). He would remain in this insane condition until “seven times” (seven years) passed over him (Daniel 4:16).

Exactly one year after the prophet Daniel provided Nebuchadnezzar with the interpretation of this nightmare dream, the king was walking in his palace one day and basking in all that he had accomplished (Daniel 4:29). By now he had dismissed his odd dream and Daniel’s dire interpretation of it, and his ego at full measure. In other words, he was ripe for God’s judgment.

As he walked about his palatial palace, Nebuchadnezzar said to himself, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30, N.K.J.V.). But even while those words were still in his mouth he heard a voice from heaven telling him that the kingdom had now departed from him and that he would be driven out from men (Daniel 4:31-32). Rather than continue to dwell in his luxurious palace, he would be compelled to make his dwelling with the beasts of the field. He would eat grass like the oxen for seven years, long enough to prove to him that God (the Most High) rules in the kingdom of men and gives that kingdom to whomever He chooses (Daniel 4:32). That very hour Nebuchadnezzar’s mental state radically changed (Daniel 4:33).

He went what we would now call “out of his mind” and lived outside like an animal in the field. He stopped cutting his hair and nails, so much so that eventually his hair became as coarse as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws (Daniel 4:33). There is a known medical condition called boanthropy that is a psychological disorder that causes a person to believe that he or she is an ox or a cow. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with this condition. Then again, lycanthropy is a similar disorder that causes a person to believe that he or she is a wolf. This condition is considered the basis for the werewolf folklore.

Whatever exactly went wrong with Nebuchadnezzar, what we can say with certainty is that the humbling did its work and produced its intended result. At the end of the seven years, his understanding returned to him and he reverted back to his old self. All his earthly blessings, including his royal staff, that he had previously enjoyed were restored to him and he quickly returned to his former place of majesty (Daniel 4:36). He was, however, permanently altered in one very important way in that he was now ready to sing the praises of the Most High God. Believe it or not, most conservative commentators believe that Nebuchadnezzar actually got saved and that his soul is in heaven right now. You talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse to an even greater penthouse!

Okay, so what truths can we learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s weird experience? Allow me to offer five of them as the close to this post. Needless to say, I trust these will find a lodging place in your own understanding. Ready? Here we go:

  1. God, in His sovereignty, decides whom He will place in positions of prominence and leadership. No Nebuchadnezzar, either from the ancient past or the current age, gets to the top without God’s aid. For this reason, every leader’s ego should be checked at the door.
  2. Current success doesn’t automatically ensure future success. God raising up a person to a place of prominence and leadership doesn’t obligate Him to keep that person in that seat continually. How God treats the person going forward has much to do with how the person handles the big chair.
  3. God’s judgment doesn’t always come to pass quickly. In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, a full year elapsed before God made good on the dream. Typically, God’s delay in judgment is an act of longsuffering on His part as He gives the person every last chance to repent and avert what is coming.
  4. God humbles us to teach us the lesson that He despises pride. He will not share His glory with another, and that includes us anytime we start thinking too highly of ourselves.
  5. When God’s judgment is received in the way it should be, it can produce tremendous spiritual benefits. Unfortunately, more often than not the judgment is received in a way that causes the person to become bitter toward God rather than be drawn closer to Him. In this way, we might say that Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to God’s judgment was the minority reaction.
Posted in Adversity, Angels, Attitude, Brokenness, Character, Dreams, God's Judgment, God's Sovereignty, Humility, Politics, Pride | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Word About Church Work

A youth Sunday School teacher asked her students to use their Sunday afternoon to write a letter to God. The letters were then returned to her the following Sunday. One little boy wrote, “Dear God, we had a good time at church today. Wish you could have been there.”

While most people will chuckle at that little story, those of us who know the ins and outs of church work might think the boy’s comment hits a little too close to home. Does God truly have a voice in every decision that gets made in our churches? Uh, no, I can’t say that He does. Does His full measure of support rest upon everything that we do in our churches? Again, I’d have to answer no on that.

Truth be told, the problem with church work is the problem with church workers. I could write a book on this subject, but for the purposes of this post let me just list five of the problems that any church faces in regards to church work (or church workers):

  1. So much of what we today call church work has no Biblical basis. For example, try to find a passage where the apostle Paul lays out the qualifications for a nursery worker, a chairman of the Building & Grounds committee, a choir director, or a church secretary. Trust me, such passages do not exist. I’m not saying that all of these roles (and others like them) can’t possibly be of God because they aren’t mentioned in scripture. I’m just pointing out that things get debatable pretty quickly anytime we can’t consult scripture for specific guidance regarding a matter.
  2. Potential workers who are talented and gifted to play certain roles in church aren’t dedicated enough to volunteer to do them. What this does is leave vacancies open that need to be filled if the church work is going to keep rolling.
  3. Workers who aren’t necessarily talented or gifted to play those roles get plugged into the vacancies simply because they are willing to fill them. While these peoples’ willingness to do something for the Lord is certainly commendable, let’s not pretend that church work functions at a high level when workers attempt to do jobs they aren’t equipped to do well.
  4. Church work is different than work that gets done in a place of employment in that you can’t just demote people (without repercussion) for inefficiency. If you demote someone, not only will that hurt that person’s feelings, it will also anger the friends the person has in the church. In other words, if you think there won’t be fallout you’d better think again.
  5. Even workers who have the talent, gifting, and dedication to play the roles they are playing don’t always seek God’s will regarding every decision in those roles. The funny thing about the talented, gifted person is that he or she is the one most likely to think, “I can handle this on my own. I know what’s best in this situation.”

So, in light of all these problems (and others that I didn’t even name) should we just give up on church altogether? No, that’s not what Jesus would have us do. In Matthew 16:18, He calls the church “My church.” In Ephesians 1:25, the church is referred to as “His body.” And in Ephesians 5:25 we read that He loved the church enough to give Himself for her. All of these verses show us that Jesus is very much in favor of the church, and, yes, that includes each local version of it that meets every Sunday.

One saying says, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.” Another saying says, “We could have a great church if it wasn’t for all these people.” Both sayings have a nugget of truth in them, and both help explain why church work doesn’t always get done efficiently or proficiently. Still, though, church marches on and will continue to do so until Jesus ends the church age by way of the Rapture. Therefore, it is up to each Christian to play the role that he or she is gifted to play in church and to make sure that God is there whenever and wherever we have church.

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Is Your Dagon Still Standing?

Israel’s army went to battle against the Philistines, and the result was a Philistine victory in which approximately 4,000 of Israel’s soldiers were killed (1 Samuel 4:1- 2). Fearing a similar result from a second battle, Israel’s elders had the fabled Ark of the Covenant brought from the Tabernacle in Shiloh to the site where Israel’s army was encamped near Ebenezar (1 Samuel 4:3-9). The elders believed that Israel’s army was invincible as long as it carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle.

What they didn’t realize was that God was using the Philistine army to chastise Israel for the corruption and wickedness of Eli (Israel’s high priest) and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 2:22-36). So, the second battle went even worse for Israel than the first one had as this time 30,000 of Israel’s soldiers died, including Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 4:10). Even more devastating to Israel as a nation was the fact that the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and took it with them back to Philistia (1 Samuel 4:11).

The Philistines took the Ark to Ashdod, one of their five major cities, and placed it inside the temple of their god Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1). As a matter of fact, they placed it right next to a graven image of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2). However, the next morning they found the Dagon image fallen on its face to the ground before the Ark (1 Samuel 5:3). They set the image back in its place, but the following morning they found it again fallen on its face to the ground before the Ark. To make matters worse, this time the image’s head and the palms of its hands were broken off (1 Samuel 5:4).

Furthermore, God struck the people of Ashdod and its surrounding territory with tumors (1 Samuel 5:6). The plague was so great that it convinced the Philistines to return the Ark to Israel. They had held the Ark in great respect even before all these events (1 Samuel 4:5-8), but now they were absolutely terrified of it and couldn’t get it out of their land fast enough.

While there are many spiritual lessons that we can glean from this story, the one I’d like to focus upon has to do with God refusing to share space with a false god in your life. If you have some “Dagon” (false god, idol) to which you devote the bulk of your time, energy, resources, and money, you needn’t bother trying to set God alongside it for a peaceful coexistence. Remember that God Himself has said that He is jealous enough to be called by the name “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14) and that the first of the famous ten commandments is: You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:2).

What all this means is that God isn’t going to share space with any false god. Whether that false god is work, money, power, popularity, fame, success, sports, sex, etc., He won’t share your worship with it. He’s far too jealous for that. So if you have some “Dagon” in your life, whatever or whoever it is, don’t be surprised if God knocks it down. And if you erect it again, don’t be surprised if He just go ahead and breaks it altogether.

Posted in Commitment, Discipleship, Faithfulness, God's Sovereignty, Idolatry, Money, Sex, Sports, Submission, Work, Worship | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Ain’t Any Fun Getting Old

Yesterday I celebrated my 53rd birthday. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of visiting with elderly folks in hospitals and nursing homes lately, got me to thinking about Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. Why that passage? It’s because those verses provide the Bible’s most vivid description of what it’s like to grow old. So, let’s walk through them together (all verses from the N.K.J.V.).

The passage begins by urging the reader to remember the Creator (God) in the days of youth. That’s before the difficult days hit, before the coming of the days that make you say, “I have no pleasure in them” (verse 1). Poetically, Solomon (the writer of Ecclesiastes) describes the days of youth as days in which the sun, the moon, and the stars aren’t darkened. That means that all of life still has a glisten and a sparkle to it as creation fills you with wonder and excitement both day and night. Furthermore, Solomon describes those days as being days when the clouds don’t come back around after a rain (verse 2). That’s his way of saying that when you are young even storms and periods of rain don’t get you discouraged. You know the sun will be back out soon and you have boundless optimism about the future.

Okay, all that sets the stage for the bad stuff, the description of the difficult days. In verse 3, Solomon begins that description by calling this latter time of life “the day when the keepers of the house tremble.” Since the “house” is obviously the body, the “keepers of the house” must be the arms and hands. I don’t think anyone can debate the fact that elderly people have arms and hands that are shaky. In old age, the “keepers of the house” aren’t what they used to be.

Next, Solomon says, “…the strong men bow down” and “…the grinders cease because they are few” (verse 3). The term “strong men” refers to the legs and thighs. They used to be strong and straight but now they are weakened and buckled. As for the “grinders,” that’s a reference to the teeth and the job they do grinding up food. We have a full set of teeth when we are young, but we systematically lose them over the course of the years. This was especially true in Solomon’s day before there was a dentist on every corner. Even today scores of elderly people have false teeth.

Solomon then moves on to talk about the eyes. He says, “…those that look through the windows grow dim” (verse 3). Again, think back to a time before bifocals, reading glasses, contact lenses, and cataract surgeries. For example, how could the elderly Isaac mistake Jacob for Esau? It happened because Isaac was virtually blind.

In verse 4, Solomon says “…the doors are shut in the streets.” This odd phrase has been interpreted in different ways, but I think he was describing how the elderly oftentimes end up living in isolation in their homes because they don’t get out much anymore. The term “shut in” applies here.

Also in verse 4, he says, “…the sound of grinding is low,” “…one rises up at the sound of a bird,” and “…all the daughters of music are brought low.” The first description speaks of the ears and their lessened ability to hear loud noises such as the grinding of millstones. The second speaks either of how the elderly tend to get up very early in the morning or how any little sound wakes them. The third refers to the vocal chords — they are the organs that sing — and describes how they become weakened to the point of becoming crackly.

Needless to say, when a person’s body begins to suffer such serious decline, a sizable amount of inner fear ensues. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Solomon says of the elderly, “…they are afraid of height and of terrors in the way” (verse 5). Old folks like to stay close to the ground, don’t they? And they don’t like to go out alone or at night due to the fear that some terrible person or thing will harm them.

Then Solomon offers three more facts about old age. Since the almond tree’s blossom is white, the “the almond tree blossoms” (verse 5) is certainly a picture of a person’s hair turning white with age. The line “The grasshopper is a burden” (verse 5) is more difficult to understand, but it means either that the elderly person doesn’t have enough strength to lift a grasshopper or that an insect becomes disproportionately irritating to an elderly person. I myself favor that second interpretation. As for the line “And desire fails” (verse 5), can anyone read that and not equate it with the loss of sexual potency and desire?

So once a person gets in such sorry shape physically, what is left to do? In Solomon’s way of looking at things, about the only thing left is actual death. He says, “…man goes to his eternal home” and “…the mourners go about the streets” (verse 5). On the heels of these two statements, he then metaphorically portrays death in verse 6 as the time when “the silver chord is loosed,” the golden bowl is broken,” “the pitcher (is) shattered at the fountain,” and “the wheel is broken at the well.” You see, in each metaphor the primary object can no longer function. Death, then, is the time when the body no longer functions.

Lastly, Solomon closes out his all-too-real and downright depressing description by saying:

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7-8)

I’m sure you know that God’s warning to Adam and Eve regarding the forbidden fruit was, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). But did you know that experts in Hebrew tell us the original Hebrew of those words “you shall surely die” literally means “dying you shall die.” This is an important distinction to make because it brings into play the aging process that dogs mankind.

God didn’t strike Adam and Eve dead instantly the moment they ate that fruit, did He? Instead, He started the clock ticking on an aging process inside their bodies, a process of progressive decline that would ultimately culminate in physical death. And this aging process has been passed down to each of Adam’s descendants. I myself am now 53 years into the process, and I find my body aligning more and more with the words of Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. I’m just hoping that I’ve still got plenty of good years left before my silver cord is loosed, my golden bowl is broken, my pitcher is shattered, and my wheel is broken. The truth is, though, that only time will tell whether I do or not.

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