Why Study Ecclesiastes, Christian?

Perhaps it is the most intriguing question the brain can produce. It is the voice of the three year-old as father and daughter walk down the street, “Why is the sky blue? Why are leaves green? Why is the sun warm?” It is the mind of the scientist, “Why do these chemicals produce this reaction? Why does the feather fall at the same velocity as the bowling ball?” It is the conscience of the sinner, “Why did I give in to temptation?” Questions such as “who”, “what”, “when”, and “where” are often much easier to discern, but far less interesting than “why” and the ever-present “how”. Yet it is this question that has escaped far too many minds of Christians, and especially children of Christians.

Surf the Internet for a while and you’ll come across the discussion groups; they have names like “Evolutionists Agree”, “Debunking Creation Science”, or “Read a Textbook, Not a Bible”. Many of these groups, hosted by those hostile to God and His followers, spend a great deal of their time insisting that Christians are uneducated simpletons willing to believe whatever a Bible-thumping preacher or their parents tell them. And as frustrating as it may be to admit, certainly we must concede that to a point, it is true. While I wouldn’t level such a charge upon all believers, or even most, nor would I charge that any Christians are “simpletons”, it is evident that some Christians have never invested the time in investigating their belief in God. Some Christians have never stopped to ask themselves, “Why?” Perhaps they were raised by parents who exhibited a strong faith in God, and from childhood they always “knew” there was a God. It could be that as Americans, they just followed our cultural acceptance of God (He is still given credit in our pledge and on our money). There may be a host of other reasons, but the fact remains that some people have never asked themselves why they believe there is a God. While I am not condemning anyone’s failure to ask himself why he believes in God, I am offering that a wonderful way to get acquainted with a reasonable reason for acknowledging the existence of God is to study the book of Ecclesiastes.

We live in a world that is challenging the minds and hearts of Christians. That much is sure. Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and certainly has most of its inhabitants as citizens in his kingdom (Matt. 2:13-14, 21-23). For this reason we must prepare our minds for the spiritual battle we face each day in our communities and culture. But unlike the days of Athens and much of the ancient world, today’s battleground is not based on which god is true, but whether there is a true God at all. Paul, in his discourse at the Athenian Areopagus, did not have to promote the concept that God exists, but rather displayed which god was the true God. In his reasoning, he philosophically addressed the issue from what could be seen and sensed. He showed that it was only reasonable to believe that such a God as created earth and man could not be like those false gods which man created from earth, gold, or silver (Acts 17:22-32). If we lived in a society which prostrated itself before a pantheon of deities, we would rightly contend for God in much the same way as Paul did in Athens. However, we live in a world which largely rejects God, at least God as He is described in the Bible. We live in a world of empiricism and materialism. We struggle with the atheist and the evolutionist, not the polytheist. We contend with false science and self-blinded interpreters of evidence. Like Paul, our battles are confrontations with the educated minds of the day. But also like Paul, if we are well educated in the will of the Lord, the oracles of God will prevail over the prevalent opinions of the day.

Athens was a city respected for its elite citizenship. Children were well-rounded in their classical Greek education, being accomplished in mental knowledge, physical prowess, and social refinement. The men with which Paul spoke were no push-overs for anything new. Certainly they enjoyed discussing current trends, but discussing concepts and accepting them as truth are two entirely different things. The same attitude can be seen today in elitist academic circles -- sometimes even to the point of absurdity. For each new theory is forwarded to these scholars to discuss and test, regardless of how obviously ridiculous the concept may be to even the most common man (How many times have we seen thousands of dollars granted to academic institutions to study such grandiose topics as how baby swallows are psychologically impacted by pictures of cats placed near their nests?) However, most of these ideas are greeted with scrutiny and skepticism. It is entirely likely that this was the same type of scholasticism present in first century Athens.

These men greeted Paul with open arms, welcoming Him into their inner sanctum so they could scrutinize his claims about “strange deities” foreign to Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. Paul likewise greeted these men with the deepest concern for their souls and God’s glory. He acknowledged their belief, their passion, and evidently their intellect, but he pointed out their inconsistency as well. He was able to meet these scholars at the steps of their prestigious university because he was well aware of what he believed and why he believed it. Though he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, his ability to confront the educated elite can be possessed by any of us who choose to avail ourselves of the tools the Holy Spirit has provided. As the psalmist wrote:

I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
(Psalms 119:99-100)

Though we may not argue from precisely the same premises as Paul, we can still show that it is entirely reasonable for educated people to acknowledge that a true God exists if we are aware of what we believe and why we believe it.

This is an excerpt from my book, just published last month. (Finally finished!) It's available at Amazon.com.
  • gokulives
    Awesome! Congrats on publishing the book! We'll grab one in the next day or two! =)
    by gokulives at 07/31/08 4:34PM
  • a_starr
    Oh, neat!! I'd love to read it!

    Is the book titled Why Study Ecclesiastes, Christian? Just want to know what I'm looking for!
    by a_starr at 07/31/08 5:41PM
  • eruve
    Ooh, I can't wait to read it! Hmmm...you'll have to come back up here so you can sign it for me! :)
    by eruve at 07/31/08 9:55PM
  • sheshbazzar
    It's titled, "Why? Addressing Our Most Foundational Question"
    by sheshbazzar at 08/01/08 3:06PM
  • jody
    Oh, that sounds really good! Very foundational.
    by jody at 08/03/08 11:42PM
  • courtcraig
    Ohhh, I've got a copy!

    I'll try not to spill any beans in the future.
    by courtcraig at 08/09/08 9:10PM

Funny Words

Have you ever noticed the similarity between the words:
weekend and weakened?

I just noticed it.

  • jody
    Funny. One time I asked a girl I worked with, "How do you say 'weak' in Spanish?" and she said, "Semana" so I had to explain that I actually mean "not strong". I love word things like that! Trying to think of others, but nothing comes to mind.
    by jody at 07/17/07 10:47PM
  • eruve
    Perhaps you noticed because your weekend's activities have left you feeling weakened?
    by eruve at 07/19/07 11:12AM
  • sheshbazzar
    Amazing! You are correct. Though I hadn't even considered that.
    Can anyone think of more?
    by sheshbazzar at 07/20/07 6:20AM
  • eruve
    Ooh! Homophones! Yay! Okay, here are a couple (with New England pronunciation, anyway) to get "ya'll" started: fair/fare; caret/carrot; a parent/apparent; medal/metal; passed/past; lay/lei; lays/laze/leis; see/sea; knight/night; et al
    by eruve at 07/20/07 11:01AM
  • wilbur
    Yeah that's really funny. (Not really)

    You got lucky this past weekend. I'll get you next time, Gadget.
    by wilbur at 09/12/07 8:40AM
  • courtcraig
    I didn't know you could predict the future...hmmm, hopefully the part about Caroline is correct.
    by courtcraig at 11/09/07 5:15PM
  • wilbur
    Would you please post something decent!
    by wilbur at 06/26/08 10:10PM
  • eruve
    Wow, it's been a whole year since you posted! I just got back from a trip to KY and I met some friends of yours (brethren who worship with the Southside church of Christ in Bowling Green). They were very excited to know that I knew you too. Hope you're doing well!
    by eruve at 07/18/08 4:24PM

New Website

Well, it's been a while...
We've got a new website up and running.
Check it out.

As for other news.
It rained yesterday and last night. It's been a while since we've seen any appreciable rain. Governor Bob Riley called all citizens of Alabama to pray for rain through the 7th of July. It's already begun...
Now I have a pond on the roof. I hope my recent "patchwork" helps prevent another leak.

That's all for now.
  • courtcraig
    Wow, you posted! The storm was loud last night.

    I hope your patch work does the trick....oh, and I'm loving the picture in the corner.
    by courtcraig at 07/02/07 5:54PM
  • a_starr
    The website looks great!
    Glad you are getting rain. KY is also starting to get some rain - in small doses - after a long dry period.

    God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him! :)
    by a_starr at 07/06/07 10:11AM
  • sailing_mousse
    You actually posted!!!! So, how have you been?
    by sailing_mousse at 07/06/07 1:01PM

Riddle time

I am a poor poster. I haven't posted in months. I need to catch up.
Here's a riddle for ya.

It can't be before.
It's never later.
It's when you should run when you see a 'gator.

or how about this one?

It makes a hole by turning 'round;
And holds things together, even upside-down.

one more, and I'm going to bed...

It may be up; It may be down.
You may even want to drive around.
It may be your home, even if it's small.
What one word will fit them all?
  • sheshbazzar
    Sleep on it. Hey, I can see your lights on from here!
    by sheshbazzar at 02/17/07 12:30AM
  • courtcraig
    You can not!
    by courtcraig at 02/17/07 12:30AM
  • sheshbazzar
    Just kidding. Nice to have y'all in the neighborhood, though.
    by sheshbazzar at 02/17/07 12:31AM
  • courtcraig
    I posted something about you on my blog!
    by courtcraig at 02/17/07 12:33AM
  • sailing_mousse
    by sailing_mousse at 02/17/07 12:03PM
  • sailing_mousse
    BTW, it's not RI anymore, I'm in VA now.
    by sailing_mousse at 02/17/07 12:03PM
  • sheshbazzar
    Thanks, Rob -- I'll change that!
    by sheshbazzar at 02/17/07 12:29PM
  • gravyboat
    Had fun at the game...thanks for going. The Toppers rule all (except maybe the Bulldogs).
    by gravyboat at 02/17/07 11:37PM
  • a_starr
    second one: screw?
    by a_starr at 02/18/07 9:09PM
  • sheshbazzar
    Right, Amy.
    by sheshbazzar at 02/19/07 7:04AM
  • a_starr
    by the way.... my husband grew up with Courtney. :)
    by a_starr at 02/19/07 9:33AM
  • sheshbazzar
    I just heard. It's a small world. I mentioned Tim last Thursday or Friday night and found out they had just been talking about you and Tim the night before. Small world.
    by sheshbazzar at 02/19/07 2:38PM
  • courtcraig
    That sounds bad! I saw some pictures of Tim's wedding on Miriam's blog and just put together that you and Tim were brother and sister. My husband and I went to FC with him!
    by courtcraig at 02/19/07 5:44PM
  • jody
    Sweet! Riddles are great! :)
    by jody at 02/22/07 9:53AM
  • courtcraig
    did you call me Helena? :)
    by courtcraig at 02/22/07 4:16PM
  • courtcraig
    thanks for coming over! we had a good time and i really like that game! have you started reading yet??? you have no excuse, i gave the book to jess today!
    by courtcraig at 02/23/07 10:20PM
  • courtcraig
    I just found out the wedding is the weekend before you have to go to Nashville.
    by courtcraig at 02/24/07 12:17PM
  • courtcraig
    by courtcraig at 03/25/07 2:29PM
  • eruve
    Hi Stuart. It had been a while since I dropped by to say hello, so I'm remedying that. How've you been?
    by eruve at 03/30/07 4:40PM
  • courtcraig
    Gravy...you need to post. How about posting a pic of your ten-year-younger self??? I meant to take pics at the drive-in and the cookout...but I forgot both times!
    by courtcraig at 05/31/07 10:56AM

Regarding Sheshbazzar Tim Starr asked about my screen name, so...

Upon the Israelites' return from Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, they began construction of the temple in Jerusalem. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was the builder of this temple, in keeping with the word of God spoken through the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 7:12-13). This Zerubbabel was governor of Judah as the Israelites made their way back into their homeland at the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 3:8; Haggai 1:1,14; 2:2,21). Other passages credit Sheshbazzar, the appointed governor of Judah, with the construction of the temple (Ezra 5:14,16). Since both are called "governor of Judah" at the same time, and both are considered the builder of the temple, it seems reasonable to me to assume that both names refer to the same individual -- Zerubbabel being his Hebrew name and Sheshbazzar, his Babylonian. This was not uncommon: Daniel was called Belteshazzar; his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

So why did I choose this relatively unknown name as my screen name?

Paul considered his calling to be one of "temple-building" as well, in a manner of speaking. He wrote to the Corinthian brethren...
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. (1 Cor. 3:5-10)

The church, here, is called "God's field, God's building." This is congruent with the passage in Ephesians where the church is referred to as the temple of God, His dwelling-place (Eph. 2:21-22). While I realize that individual Christians are also called "the temple" (1 Cor. 6:19), the church is also presented as "the temple." In this way, preachers can be said to be "temple builders", adding "living stones" to the foundation which God has laid (1 Cor. 3:11-17, 1 Peter 2:5). Temple-building is both and honor and a great responsibility. So I often choose this name to remind myself of my obligation and the grace which God has allowed me to be about this work from day to day.

I decided to use "Sheshbazzar" rather than "Zerubbabel" for two reasons:
(1) Most people wouldn't know why I'm using it, therefore the term reminds me of my work while not necessarily putting it before others as a designation of "honor".
(2) It is the temple-builder's slave name, and therefore reminds me that I've chosen to be enslaved to God in this service (Exodus 21:1-6; Romans 6:16-18).

There's your answer, Tim -- and anyone else who cares to read this blog.

  • timstarr
    Thanks! I figured there was a good reason and not just "I liked that name, it's my favorite Biblical name". :)
    by timstarr at 11/09/06 4:57PM
  • timstarr
    ...and I liked your poetry on my blog - it made me laugh, but I only had gum in my mouth, so I have no mess to clean up.
    by timstarr at 11/09/06 5:00PM
  • a_starr
    Excellent reasons. I was visiting the same congregation as Tim when Sheshbazzar was discussed in the Bible study. I was amused (the first time) that the teacher shortened Sheshbazzar's name to "Baz" for the sake of the discussion in the class.

    I assumed that Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar were the same person, but, other suggestions were discussed in class such as: Sheshbazzar was the top "slave" of Zerubbabel or, as I took their inference, it was Zerubbabel's head and Sheshbazzar's hands that built the temple.
    by a_starr at 11/09/06 5:25PM
  • eruve
    Cool! Those are some great reasons. And I learned a couple things too!
    by eruve at 11/09/06 5:45PM
  • timstarr
    No, that was Shethar-Boznai that they shortened to Boz, because they figured that's what his friends called him.
    by timstarr at 11/09/06 8:44PM
  • undomiel
    Man, why don't we have good, hearty names like that today? Kidding.
    by undomiel at 11/09/06 9:15PM
  • undomiel
    That was very interesting to learn. When I first saw the name, it made me think of ... um, well I don't know how to spell it and I can't remember where to find it, but here goes ... Mahershalalhashbaz. And that definitely is not how it's spelled. Anybody know where this guy is in the Bible?
    by undomiel at 11/09/06 9:18PM
  • deusvitae
    Stuart, greetings. It is good to see you here.

    Thanks for your comments. I look forward to having association with you here on pleonast.
    by deusvitae at 11/09/06 9:22PM
  • sheshbazzar
    "Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey" -- Mahershalalhashbaz is Isaiah's son (the other is Shearjashub, I believe). I just like Mahershalalhashbaz because his name relates to Israel's future. I think it may be around Isaiah 8, but I'll have to look it up.
    by sheshbazzar at 11/09/06 9:38PM
  • undomiel
    Nice! I was thinking it was in Isaiah. Yep, sure enough, right there in 8:1. It's written with dashes here. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. So somehow I did spell it right - sans dashes.
    by undomiel at 11/09/06 9:38PM
  • timstarr
    It may be long and unsightly, but it is spelled phonetically.
    by timstarr at 11/10/06 12:51AM
  • eruve
    Hi Stuart. I noticed you were looking for some tips and tricks here in Pleoworld, so I thought I'd pass along this link to a few of the more popular "tricks."
    Click here.
    by eruve at 11/10/06 9:08AM
  • sheshbazzar
    Thank you. Very helpful.
    by sheshbazzar at 11/10/06 8:12PM
  • jaydon
    Hey there, been busy so I did not have time to respond to your being on here. It was great having you here, you certainly gave us a deeper appreciation for the Psalms. Come back with your wife and children and we will do "Boston" again "Proper"!
    by jaydon at 11/14/06 7:30AM
  • daddio6
    Not bad, 4 for 4 (abba). Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
    by daddio6 at 11/24/06 8:08PM
  • eruve
    Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, Mr. Tullis!
    by eruve at 11/24/06 10:10PM
  • deusvitae
    Hope you have a happy holiday season and a good new year. :)
    by deusvitae at 12/23/06 9:51AM
  • jaydon
    I am not sure if I thanked you for my lovely gift. I defintely will be using it this coming New Year! This is my New Year Res. is to be more focused on personal study. Last year I said that I would focus more on my mom and daughter who had fallen away and I can attest to how well a focus in one area works. My daughter is now back faithfully serving the Lord and my mom has been to several bible studies with me and has more of a desire to seek than she ever has. Tell your family hello for me and remember you always have a place to stay for your New England trip!
    by jaydon at 12/26/06 8:43AM