Spiritual preparedness should be the first order of business in our lives. When we are prepared spiritually, then everything else will fall into place after that including mental and emotional preparedness, and finally physical preparedness. The main focus of the Hoshana Rabbah for more than 20 years has been on spiritual preparedness. That end we have written and published thousands of articles and made nearly 600 videos. Today, however, we want to focus briefly on physical preparedness. What can we learn from the Bible about “prepping”?
The foundation of preparing for lean times goes back to the beginning of the human experience. Hunter-gatherer civilization spent much of their time preparing for the coming winter season when food was scarce. Those who grew up on farms, like me, know all about gathering in the harvest and preserving it and then storing it up for the coming winter months and into the next year while waiting for the new harvest of fruits and vegetables to come in. Even the Boy Scouts, which has been around for more than a hundred years and has been preparing boys to become self-sufficient and capable men, has as its motto: Be Prepared. More recently, in America, the U.S. Homeland Security Department, the American Red Cross, many local state and city governments along with local utility companies have been urging people to be prepared and to have at least 36 hours or even 72 hours of food, water and other supplies in case of an emergency. This is old news. However, what happens if the whole economy collapses, or the power grid goes down, or law and order breaks down, or there is a war? Then what will people do?
As we are about to learn, the concept of preparing for the coming season or for hard times is a principle that is found throughout the Bible, with numerous passages dedicated to preparedness planning and survival.
Noah was prepper for hard times—by Elohim’s command. He did not wait for the rains to start before building the ark. Needless to say, Noah did not run to the grocery store at the last minute to buy food nor did he run to the local boat dealer to buy an ark as the rain was starting to fall. He prepared for 120 years! Those who people around Noah who were unprepared physically and spiritually were wiped out.
Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.” Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. (Gen 6:14, 21–22 cp. 6:3)
Psalm 82:1,Elohim stands…the gods/Congregation of the mighty. Dr. Michael Heiser in his two books, Reversing Hermon and The Unseen Realm puts forth a convincing argument that the elohim mentioned in this verse are what Scripture refers to in many places as “the hosts of heaven” and refer to Elohim’s divine heavenly council. This same council is also referred to in Deut 33:2; 1 Kgs 22:19; 2 Chron 18:18; Job 15:8; Jer 23:18; Dan 7:9–10 and Heb 2:1; Acts 7:53.
“The congregation of the mighty” seems to be a reference to Elohim acting as the Supreme Judge among his divine, heavenly council that carries out his orders. This is more than the traditional “Godhead” (i.e., the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and also includes angelic and spirit beings, and even Satan himself.
From time to time, Elohim gathers his council together as we see in Job (Job 1:6; 2:1). Even lying spirits are subject to and do the bidding of Elohim who presides over this council also referred to as the host of heaven (1 Kgs 22:19–23). Moreover, some of the “Us” passages in the Scriptures, which have typically been attributed to the “Godhead,” according to Heiser, likely refer to this divine counsel (e.g., Gen 11:7; Ezek 44:6). This has been the view of ancient Jewish sages as well.
Modern biblical theologians have traditionally taken a non-supernaturalistic view of Psalm 82:1 by saying that the gods here refer to human rulers. While elohim may by definition and biblical usage refer to human rulers, this passage cannot be limited to this definition alone, since verse seven refers to these gods or elohim as “dying like men” as a result of Elohim’s divine judgment on them because of their wickedness. This threat makes little or no sense if it is referring only to human rulers.
For the record, Yeshua quotes verse six in reference to human rulers (John 10:34; 14:30; 16:11), so this passage should not be taken to refer only to Elohim’s divine counsel or just to human rulers, but probably to both. This is because behind human rulers are evil spirits or principalities that govern the nations (Dan 10:20; Eph 6:12; Rev 13:2) and all of these are under the aegis of Satan, who has his own kingdom (Matt 12:26) and is presently the ruler of this world (John 12:31); however, even Satan’s kingdom is under the ultimate authority of YHVH Elohim.
The idea that there were and are unseen evil spirits and demi-gods that rule the nations of the world behind the scenes is revealed in the book of First Enoch and is also found in traditional ancient Mesopotamian historical accounts and forms the basis for the ancient Greek mythos, as Heiser proves.
Additionally, we learn from Genesis chapter ten (in the Table of the Nations) that, at that time, there were seventy nations of the world that rebelled against YHVH at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). Interestingly, and a little later, Jacob had 70 descendants who went down to Egypt (Exod 1:5) and who become the children of Israel. From them, Moses chose 70 elders to rule over Israel (Exod 24:1), which would eventually became the Great Sanhedrin that ruled the Jewish people. YHVH then commissioned Israel to evangelize the apostate nations by being a spiritual light to them (Deut 4:5–8)—a task they utterly failed to perform. Picking up where ancient Israel failed in its mission, Yeshua chose 70 disciples not only to replace the Jewish Sanhedrin in spiritual authority over the people of Elohim, but to go forth and to preach the gospel to the 70 nations (Luke 10:1–12, 17; Acts 1:8 cp. Matt 28:18–20) that had been lost to the kingdom of Satan at the Tower of Babel, thereby to reclaim the world for the kingdom of Elohim at the devil’s expense.
Eventually, and hopefully in the not too distant future, the resurrected and glorified saints, who will become the sons of Elohim and will be adopted into his divine family as small E elohim (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1; Gal 3:26; Rom 8:14; Eph 1:5), will rule and reign with Elohim (capital E Elohim, Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) over the new heavens and new earth. This will all be to Satan and his kingdom’s detriment and to that of the small E elohim human rulers of his present-day earthly kingdom, all of whom will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the age (Rev 20:10).
Psalm 82:6,You are gods…children of the Most High.This statement likely has a dual meaning or double entendré. It can refer to the righteous saints as Yeshua alludes to in John 10:34, or possibly to the demon-nephilim of Genesis 6:4–6 who were the spawn of the heavenly angelic hosts who became the fallen angels and who cohabited with women in the pre-flood world as the context of this psalm seems to suggest.
Psalm 83:6–8,Edom. This is a ten-nation confederacy of Muslim nations led by Edom, Israel’s archenemy, who have conspired against Israel. This seems to be prophetic, since this event has yet to occur. The territories of these ancient peoples include the modern nations of Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey. The territory of the ancient Edomites is in the modern nations of Jordan, Ishmael are in northern Saudi Arabia, Moab and Ammon are in Jordan, Hagrites are in Jordan in the ancient area of Gilead, Gebal is in Jordan, Amalek (grandson of Esau) were found in the Negev Desert and Sinai Peninsula, Philistia are modern day Palestinians in the Gaza Strip area, and Assyria was centered on the upper Tigris River, in northern Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey). At the pinnacle of its power, the Assyrian empire stretched from the island of Cyprus to Persia (Iran), and from the Caucasus Mountains (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan) to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
Ecclesiastes 11:1–2, 6,Cast your bread. Go through life being a giver, for it will come back to you. Some people call it karma (a Hindu expression reflecting the pagan idea of reincarnation). In the Bible, on the other hand, it can be referred to as the law of reaping and sowing or the law of reciprocity: you reap what you sow.
Ecclesiastes 11:3,If…there it shall be. Many things that happen in life are what they are, and you cannot change them, so accept them and just deal with it.
Ecclesiastes 11:4,He who observes the wind. If one spends one’s life waiting around for ideal conditions before doing anything, then one will never accomplish anything.
Ecclesiastes 11:5,You do not know. If it is impossible for us to wrap our brains around aspects of Elohim’s physical creation and how he interacts with humans on a spiritual level, then how can we understand his ways and methods? (Why even try to understand things that are above our limited capacity to do so? It is futile. Just praise, worship and obey YHVH Elohim!) For example, modern science has discovered much about the world around us, but wherever scientists’ searches take them, they eventually hit up against a wall of impenetrable mystery beyond which lays the unexplainable and ultimately the spiritual realm or dimension and the divine. Why not be a wise person and skip the middle man and go there directly by seeking, praising, worshipping and obeying YHVH Elohim?
Ecclesiastes 11:7–10,O young man. This is a final call to young people, upon whose shoulders the future rests, to wake up from the often foolish youthful ways and to face reality and the light of truth while they are still young and before it is too late. The old and wise Preacher instructs the youth to enjoy life, but that while doing so, not forget that a day of reckoning is coming. Even though ultimately everything in life is vanity or empty, meaningless nothingness, there is nevertheless something else beyond it all that is there for those who are wise and will open their eyes to the reality of this truth.
Ecclesiastes 12:1,Creator[s]. Heb. boreka, plural. (For more examples of the plurality of the Creator, see also Job 35:10; Isa 54:5; Ps 149:2 according to Bible commentators Keil and Delitzsch, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, Jamison Faucett and Brown, and John Gill.)
Ecclesiastes 12:1,Remember. Remember means “do not forget.” With youth comes the zest for life, idealism, much energy, many distractions and the notion that one will live forever, that is, that old age is so far down the road that who needs to think about end of life issues? The wise Preacher says, “No! Stop now while you are young and remember your Creator.” Remember is the Hebrew word zakar meaning “to think about, meditate upon, pay attention, recollect, commemorate, invoke and confess.” This word indicates deep thoughtfulness and critical thinking. How many young people (and even older folks) stop even for a moment from the busyness of life to deeply ponder the long term consequences of their actions before the difficult days of old age come? When one is young is the time to make the necessary adjustments in one’s life, so that one will end up in a good place at the end of life when it is too late to do so. And the missing ingredient to insuring this, according to the Preacher, is to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” This is such a simple instruction, yet so hard for most young people to implement. Very few heed this advice, and if so, only marginally. Sadly, most young people end up only giving their Creator the left over crumbs of their time, energy and attention.
Ecclesiastes 12:2–8,The rigors of old age. In this section, the Preacher describes in the most graphic and poetic terms the perils and difficulties of old age. He especially focuses on health issues and the deterioration of the body along with life’s desires and passions. All begins to die until there is little left to live for and mere existence becomes a painful and burdensome task.
Ecclesiastes 12:6,Remember your Creator. Even though this phrase is not in the original Hebrew text, it is implied, which is why the translators inserted it here. So once again, the wise Preacher, after describing the perils and plight of old age, challenges the youth to factor their Creator into the equation of life while they are young before it is too late—before death stops the time clock of life and the judges’s gavel falls and the final judgment on one’s life is rendered. As Scripture reveals elsewhere, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” (Heb 9:27), and “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
Ecclesiastes 12:7,The spirit will return to Elohim. Previously, the Preacher almost provokes if not taunts the reader into thinking about end of life issues by asking the question, “Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (Eccl 3:21). Now at the end of his dissertation, he affirmatively declares that the spirit of man returns to Elohim who gave it. This is an important fact to consider in that there is a part of each of us that returns to Elohim at the time of death. Even though each man possesses as an aspect of his makeup a immortal substance called spirit (along with his soul and body; see 1 Thess 5:23; see also Heb 4:12; Luke 23:46; Ps 90:10), this in no way implies that the spirit of man is conscious after the body’s death. Scripture is silent on this subject. Yet one thing is clear. Physical death is not the end of the human. There is more, yet the Preacher fails to elucidate on this point.
Ecclesiastes 12:8,Vanity of vanities. As we have noted before, this phrase is found only twice in Ecclesiastes: once at the beginning of the book (Eccl 1:2) and here again at the end. Also, as discussed previously vanity is the Hebrew word hebel meaning “vapor, breath, wind” or figuratively, as the author of this book often uses it, “worthless, senseless, empty, futile or vacuous.” The root of the word hebel is the verb “to act emptily.” Thus, as we have seen after examining Ecclesiastes, the vast majority of human activities can be summed up as nothing more than being emptiness, meaningless and senseless. As the Preacher starts the book, so he ends the book with this terse and seemingly hopeless summation of life…yet he does not actually leave the reader in this hopeless place.
Ecclesiastes 12:13–14,Hear the conclusion. “Look heavenward!” the Preacher seems to declare. Through the gloomy mist and fog of life’s conundrums, the author continually encourages his readers to look up toward the heavens for the answers to the nagging questions about the meaning and purpose of life. He then concludes by saying,
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear Elohim and keep His [Torah] commandments, for this is man’s all. For Elohim will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (Eccl 12:13–14)
Couple these verses with the revelation that the human spirit returns to Elohim when we die (v. 7), and that each of us will be judged for what we have done while in our bodes and rewarded accordingly (2 Cor 5:10), and if a person heeds the advice of the Preacher, it will end up well for him eternally.
Therefore, the overall message Ecclesiastes may seem gloomy and hopeless, there is a silver lining, so to speak, in this dark cloud called life for those who remember their Creator and look up and fear him by obeying his Word.
Ecclesiastes 10:1–20,More wise counsel. In this chapter, the Preacher gives his student more wise counsel on how to derive the most fulfillment out of an otherwise seemingly meaningless and pointless existence as a human being trapped in a spaceship called planet Earth.
Ecclesiastes 10:1,Dead flies. Even the smallest error, sin or folly (the opposite of wisdom) can lead to disastrous consequences and ruination, thus, a wise person will correct the small defects in his character, so that they do not ultimately ruin him. Regular self-examination leading to correcting one’s errant ways is to choose the path of wisdom. So deal with your sins and faux pas while they are still small and before they get out of hand.
Ecclesiastes 10:2,Right…left. A wise man follows the right hand path, while a fool goes in the left direction. In Hebraic thought, the right hand represents strength while the left hand symbolizes weakness. This is because most people are right handed and, therefore, they use their right hand more than the left hand making the right arm and hand stronger muscularly. Even in our modern vernacular we have the expression “the right way,” or “doing the right thing” as meaning to make the preferable choice between right and wrong, good and evil. Wisdom is strength while foolishness is weakness.
Ecclesiastes 10:3,Even when a fool. Sadly, a fool cannot help himself because he has become accustomed to his condition and willingly chosen to be blind. Those around him can see that he is foolish in the choices he makes, but since his eyes are shut, he continues blithely on his foolish path.
Ecclesiastes 10:4,Conciliation. When wrongs are committed whether real or imagined, especially in relationship to those in authority over you, be quick to make peace, for it will go much better for you in the long run. Moreover, stay small and keep a low profile when it comes to interaction with civil authorities, for such a position draws less attention to your actions and less chances of conflict and even persecution.
Ecclesiastes 10:5–7,There is an evil. Just because a person has attained a high position of authority does not mean that they are wise. Similarly, just because one has a low social status does not mean that they are a fool. This truth considered in the context of verse four teaches us something: Sometimes those in authority over you are fools who are incapable of make wise and equitable decisions, especially in the area of resolving controversies. This is all the more reason to make peace with these leaders be they foolish or wise when a matter of disagreement is small before it goes too far and gets blown out of proportion causing all sorts of mischief and grief for all involved.
Ecclesiastes 10:8–9,He who digs a pit. What goes around comes around. How we treat others, whether well or badly, will come back to us.
Ecclesiastes 10:10,If the ax is dull. A wise person learns to work smarter, not harder.
Ecclesiastes 10:11–14,The babbler. Beware of the words of a foolish blabber mouth, that is, one who talks incessantly and says little or nothing of meaning. Mischief and poison issue forth from such a person, for they are untrustworthy and their words means nothing. In our vernacular we refer to such a person as “a talker” as opposed to being “a doer.”
Ecclesiastes 10:11–15,The labor of fools. A fool is so lazy and lost in his foolishness that after working he is so enervated that he cannot even find his way back home. Foolishness not only robs a person of the energy to work hard, but also causes one to lose one’s direction in life.
Ecclesiastes 10:16–18,Woe to you, O land. A country suffers grievously when young and foolish people who want to play and party all of the time are its leaders. Blessed s the country whose leaders have a heritage of hard work and responsibility and not of slothfulness and partying. Decay and ruination are the result of sloth and laziness.
Ecclesiastes 10:19,Money answers everything. Partying and drinking may be fun, for it is full of boasting and bravado, but this accomplishes nothing. Unless one puts one’s money where their mouth is, nothing gets done. “Put up or shut up,” and “Show me don’t tell me,” as the sayings go.
Ecclesiastes 10:19,Do not curse the king…a bird. Bad thoughts lead to bad words which lead to bad actions that eventually come back to bite a person.
Moreover, this verse instructs us: “Do not curse the king, even in your thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird [Heb. owf] of the air may carry your voice, and a bird [Heb. baal] in flight may tell the matter.”
This verse is very revealing regarding what goes on in the unseen spiritual realm where Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2) and the ruler of this world (John 16:11).
The phrase in this verse is a parallelism—a form of Hebrew poetry where two phrases are juxtaposed and appear to be saying the same thing, but, in this case, a subtle spiritual truth is being revealed in the second phrase. In the first phrase, the word for bird is a generic Hebrew word meaning “a bird, a winged creature or a winged insect.” The second phrase reveals the subtle truth. It is telling us to be careful what you say or even think—even in private, for a god (or demon) might reveal it to its lord or king. In other words, a false god or demon spirit might convey what you’ve thought or said to its demon master, or even to Satan, who is the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4). And who knows where it will go from there.
With regard to prayer, we must remember this: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:1). In light of this reality and concerning prayer, it is vital that we remember this: When making intercession for situations or people or praying against the enemies of Elohim or engaging in spiritual warfare against Satan and his plans, ask YHVH to cover your prayers under the blood of Yeshua (Rev 12:11), to bind the (demonic) strong man (Matt 12:29; Mark 3:26–27 cp. Rev 20:2), to send his angels to protect you against the enemy’s plans to thwart your prayers (Ps 91:11–12; Heb 1:14), and to send confusion to our spiritual enemies (Ps 35:4, 26; 40:14; Jer 20:11).
It is essential that we employ this strategy against our spiritual adversary, so that he will not be able to hear our prayers and thus be able to prepare a defensive plan or a punishing backlash against us to prevent our prayers from being effective. When he succeeds in this, the result is often unanswered prayers causing the saint to become discouraged, so that he prays less often rather than more—a victory for the evil one.
Perhaps this is why some of our prayers go unanswered or seem ineffective; it is because we are inadvertently revealing our plans to the enemy thus allowing him to thwart them.
Ecclesiastes 9:1,The hand of Elohim. As the Preacher comes to the end of his treatise on the meaning (or lack thereof) of life, he begins to narrow his focus on the missing link, the key ingredient that gives an otherwise pointless life any meaning whatsoever, and that missing piece of the puzzle is the God principle.
Solomon begins by stating that those who are righteous and wise along with all that they do are in the hands of Elohim. In other words, Elohim is with those who seek him and he guides their activities. This is huge! Up to this point, the Preacher has demonstrated that all of life’s activities are basically meaningless and pointless, although one can squeeze some bits of joy out of life here and there, but even then, all humans end up in the same place—dead. Everyone is a condemned prisoner, who is a victim to the never-ending cycles of the time space continuum called life on this earth. So what is the point of it all? Minus some outside entity or force from without reaching down to man and lifting him out of his trapped condition, there is no hope of escape. However, the Preacher tosses the God principle into the mix and offers his reader a glimmer of hope. Somehow, if one will follow the path of wisdom and righteousness, the Creator will actually take notice of this poor, hapless human creature and will an alternative to those who will begin to look up. This is the beginning point of faith…
So who are righteous and wise? Righteousness and wisdom are not terms that are open to capricious and subjective human interpretations, but are specifically defined in Scripture.
Righteous is the Hebrew word saddiq meaning “just, lawful or righteous” and derives from the root verb sadeq meaning “to be just or righteous.” The root verb basically connotes conformity to a moral or ethical standard, according to The TWOT. So in a biblical context, what is the moral and ethical standard by which a righteous person is defined? It is the laws or commandments of YHVH Elohim, who is ultimately the Source of the Truth found in the Bible. So biblically, a righteous person is one who obeys the commandments and instructions of YHVH including his Torah-laws.
My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness. (Ps 119:172)
Your testimonies, which You have commanded, are righteous and very faithful. (Ps 119:138)
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your Torah-law is truth. (Ps 119:142)
Wisdom is the Hebrew word chockma and derives from the Hebrew root verb chokam meaning “to be wise or act wisely.” According to The TWOT, the essential idea of chokam represents a manner of thinking and attitude concerning life’s experiences. This includes matters of general interest and morality. These concerns relate to prudence in secular affairs, skills in the arts and moral sensitivity, and experience in the ways of YHVH. Scripture reveals that the beginning of wisdom is the fear and reverential awe of YHVH Elohim. Moreover, wisdom, fearing Elohim and walking in his ways are all synonymous concepts.
The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. (Ps 111:10)
The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10)
Love or hatred. Love, perhaps, is the number one thing that people are seeking their entire lives. We are creatures who want, no need, to be accepted, to be appreciated, to be loved. We are social beings; we were not made to be alone. Not only that, to one degree or another, each of us is dependent upon other people.
As evidence of the importance of love and acceptance, the marriage and family unit remains the bedrock basis of the society, and this is where it all starts. After that come the extended family including clans and tribes, villages, towns, cities, counties, states or provinces and, finally, nations. These are all social constructs where humans interact with each other in a somewhat orderly manner based on their need for and dependence on other humans.
Love for one’s fellow man, in fact, is the glue that holds society together. Hatred is what tears it apart resulting in conflicts.
People talk about love, but do they really know what it means? For example, a large percentage of our popular music concerns the subject of “love.” Many if not most movies either have “love” and romance as a main theme or at least as a subtheme woven into the main plot. Dogs are the most popular pet of humans in part because they transmit so much unconditional love. The sad things, though, is that according to the wise Preacher, what the popular culture considers to be love is not love at all. What is even sadder is that as vital to human existence as love is, few have discovered its true definition. This is because the true definition of love cannot even be discovered by looking to the popular culture.
Ecclesiastes 9:2,One events happens. Even though the Preacher has just stated that one the righteous and wise are in the hand of Elohim, death still happens to everyone whether they are righteous or wicked, religious or non-religious, a good person or a sinner and whether one fears Elohim or not.
Ecclesiastes 9:3,This is an evil. In this physical existence, the Preacher views death as the ultimate evil to befall every human. What person can disagree with the fact that death is the ultimate enemy?
Ecclesiastes 9:4,There is hope. As long as one is alive, there is hope. But what is that hope that the Preacher seems to be dangling in front of his reader, but still remains just out of reach?
Ecclesiastes 9:5–10,Enjoy life to the fullest. Even though death comes to all people, and after that, “the dead know nothing” and “the memory of them is forgotten” (v. 5), the Preacher encourages each of us to go and live one’s life to the fullest. “Eat your bread with joy,” “drink your wine with a merry heart,” (v. 7), wear nice clothes and keep yourself looking good (v. 8), enjoy your marriage and family (v. 9), and enjoy your work, for when the grave comes, there is nothing (v. 10).
Ecclesiastes 9:11–12,Time and chance. Life is full of countless unexpected twists and turns. Things that seem that they should be a certain way often are not. No one knows what evil will suddenly befall him or when he will die. So in the face of such stress-causing uncertainties, what is one to do? How does one cope with this?
Ecclesiastes 9:13–18,Wisdom. Wisdom is better than folly, yet even those who are wise and are able to avert many of the evils of life through the employment of wisdom still die and are forgotten. So now where does this live the reader?
As I rapidly move through my sixth decade of life, I have watched many people come and go, rise and fall, live and die. I have travelled to more than 20 countries on four continents, 25 U.S. states, lived in Europe, started businesses and ministries, been married for decades, raised four children, pastored a church for years, and written and published many writings. I have traversed, climbed and skied the mountains, hung from dizzying heights on ropes, swam in rivers, lakes and oceans, climbed 15 to 20 thousand trees, encountered demons, stared death in the face too many times to remember, and even been sprayed by a skunk. I have been loved as well as hated by those I thought were my friends. Much water has passed under the bridge called life, and now it is time to ponder it all.
Each of us has a story to tell, and as we grow older, we feel the need to share it, but why bother? Who will listen to it anyway? Most people are too wrapped in their own lives to care. Nevertheless, this all causes us to keep searching for meaning and purpose for our existence. And this compels me to return again and again to the Rock of Ages—the Bible, the Word of Elohim and to the source of the Truth that is above and way beyond each of us, for understanding and wisdom in order that I may more fully comprehend the complexities, that is, the whys and wherefores of life.
This all brings me to the book of Ecclesiastes (in Hebrew Kohelet meaning “the Preacher”) to hear from a wise man who had done it all. Here are my recent reflections on the wisdom found in this often overlooked and forgotten book of the Bible. Please enjoy and maybe something said will resonate and bless the reader. —Natan
Ecclesiastes 7:1–15,Practical keys to lessening the vanity or emptiness of life. So far the Preacher has taught us that life’s endeavors ultimately amount to vanity or nothingness. In spite of this, he has also taught us how to find some meaningful, though temporal, enjoyment in this physical life although all humans are in the endless cycles of this earthly prison of time and space. Now the preacher gives us some more practical wisdom on how to squeeze some meaning out of an ultimately meaningless existence (if this physical life is all that there is).
Ecclesiastes 7:16–17,Do not be overly. Moderation in all things is a key to happiness and will help to prolong life.
Ecclesiastes 7:18, He who fears Elohim. The fear of Elohim is a recurring them in Ecclesiastes. It is as if the Preacher is toying with the reader to provoke him to look beyond the ultimately meaningless existence of this physical life. He seems to be teasing us with the proverbial carrot on a stick in front of the mule routine. Despite the ultimated meaninglessness of life on this earth, in the Preacher’s mind there must be some over-arching benefit to both acknowledging and fearing the Creator. Is this perhaps a key that unlocks the iron door to the prison called life and is the only means to escape the empty vanity and meaninglessness of it all?
Ecclesiastes 7:19–24, More practical keys to lessening the vanity or emptiness of life.
Ecclesiastes 7:27–29, Here is what I found. The Preacher sums up what he has found to this point in diligently seeking to find the meaning of life. The more he searches, the deeper he drills down to find the answer to this perennial and universal questions as to the meaning of life, the more the answer still eludes him.
Elohim made man upright. Man was initially created upright and righteous, but the serpent in the tree conned man into disobeying the Creator’s laws, and man has been scheming to circumvent them ever since.
Ecclesiastes 8:1–17,More ponderings on the conundrums of life. In this chapter, the Preacher continues his musings trying to make sense of the injustices and ironies of life. But through it all he is certain of one thing: It will be well with those who fear Elohim, but it will not be well with the wicked (vv. 12–13). For certain, the Preacher knows that there is a wrong way and a right way to live one’s life, and that those who chose the path of good will be better off than those who do not. This may not seem like a stunning revelations, but a rather simple truth. But this truth escapes many people who blithely and thoughtlessly go about the business of life from day to day satiating the lust of the eyes and flesh and the pride of life and think nothing more about it.
So once again, the Preacher tosses into the mix a “God principle” to encourage us to take our eyes off of the mundaneness of the endless cycles life and begin to begin, if every so slightly, to fix our gaze heavenward.
Ecclesiastes 3:1–8,There is a season. A major aspect of coping with and even finding some happiness in one’s life while, at the same time, a prisoner to this physical time-space continuum called life on earth is having an understanding of the right timing of things, that is, knowing when and when not to do something. Many activities in life may be acceptable to do at one time, but not at another time. The consequences of doing the right thing at the wrong time can blow-back disastrously on a person. Therefore, learning the difference between when and when not to act is essential to finding some happiness in this life and requires knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
There Is a Time…and There Is Not a Time
There is a time and season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This sounds like an innocuously bland and self-evident statement, but not really as we are about to discover.
There is a time do to things, as the wise preacher informs us in his famous Ecclesiastes three passage, which begins with the famous words, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…” and so on.
But the more the years and decades slide past me and am not in the grandparenting season of my life, the more I realize that there is, perhaps, more importantly, a time not to do a lot of things that I might have done at an earlier time in my life. There are battles not to fight, things not to thing (for a Scripture declares elsewhere, “As a man thinketh, so is he”—a scary thought!) things not to do, and definitely things not to say. There are several reasons that immediately come to mind for not doing these things.
First, and, perhaps, most importantly, it’s about priorities. As one reaches the top of the hill of one’s life and begins the descent on the other side toward death, one can see more circumspectly one’s past life as well as that which remains whether it be a long or a short time. With the stark reality of one’s life in full view and the idealizations of past expectations unfulfilled gone like dust in the wind, that which remains in one’s life suddenly becomes as valued treasure. Add to this the unexpected deaths of loved ones and friends around you, which, to any young people reading this, occurs more frequently the older one gets, suddenly, every breath and heartbeat becomes a cherished gift from the Creator.
The second reason for not doing or saying many things that I might have in earlier years has to do with following the leading of the Set-Apart Spirit of Elohim more precisely instead of jumping unquestioningly in lockstep to the demanding impulses of my impatient, impetuous and sin-oriented flesh. This too has to do with priorities—desiring to be in the perfect will of the Almighty by seeking first the kingdom of Elohim as Yeshua instructed his disciples to do instead of seeking all those other carnal and earthly things.
The third reason for adding the negative adverb not to the statements in Solomon’s famous Ecclesiastes three passage is that the older one gets, one starts getting a little more tired if not physically, at least emotionally from chasing the wind and ending up with little or nothing to show for it. Many things become, as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes definitively declares repeatedly, is vanity of vanities. Suddenly one wakes up and discovers the wisdom of working smarter, instead of harder. This is wisdom, which only comes with age and perspective. It’s wise to conserve energy and to save it for those things that are worth the time and effort, and for which there is a payoff especially in the next life. All else is little more than emptiness and chasing the wind.
Fourth, so much of what we do and say is an expression of human pride and vanity. We are all guilty, so raise your hand. I’ve got mine up! As I get older, I agree with the preacher’s words in Ecclesiastes verse two of chapter one, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When one gets brutally honest with oneself and analyses most of one’s words and actions, human pride and vanity is the pathetic though realistic label that must be applied to most of it. So what does the Almighty have to say about this? What reasons will we give to him on judgment day as to the motives behind most of what we have said and done? What legacy of value are we really leaving to the next generation? Will we be leaving behind a grandiose frozen-in-time, stone cold and lifeless monument to ourselves, or will we have sown seeds into the fertile ground of the lives of those around us that will hopefully bring forth fruit that will not only make the world a better place, but that will also serve to expand the kingdom of Elohim at the expense of the kingdom of darkness?
Make no mistake, every one of our thoughts, words and deeds is a pebble dropped into the vast ocean of our existence; the ripples go forth and touch many lives for good and for bad much more than we can know or imagine. We have no idea of this! The ripples travel beyond the horizon. So act and speak wisely on the front end, for who knows what the end consequences will be. This is another good reason not to do and say a lot of things.
Another reason to say less is this: Did you every wonder why we have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth? One learns more by listening and observing than by talking. Some people never stop talking! You ask them a simple yes or no or a one sentence question expecting an equally short answer and you get an epistle. I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion! A mark of wisdom is to speak volumes with few words. Yeshua the Messiah was the master of this approach. His longest sermon was only three chapters long and only takes a few minutes to read, yet these few words have turned the world on its head!
Add to all these reasons why there is a time not to speak and do is this one: The older I get, the more I realize that most people don’t care what you have to say or think anyway. They’re too preoccupied with their own stuff and too self-absorbed to care beyond that. So why waste the time, energy and breath saying it if only to hear yourself talk? This too is vanity of vanities! Those who do care—who have ears to hear—will seek you out. You don’t have to have to go after them. I found this out the frustrating way after 18 years of pastoring a local congregation and more than 30 years in continuous ministry.
Finally, you learn more by being a receiver than a transmitter. Currently, my receiver is pointed heavenward. This means waiting patiently on Yehovah to transmit. The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. To be sure, this is humbling. At the same time, the more I realize that others don’t know as well. Those who act like they have all the answers and know it all usually have something to sell you. Follow the money! Most of them, too, are fools (like the rest of us), but they’re too proud to admit it. This too is vanity of vanities.
Now that you’ve read this far, do you really want to really know what’s going on? It’s this. The world is currently in a state of hyper confusion induced by godless men under the spell of secular humanism and demonic antichrist concepts and agendas, which the Bible prophesied would occur prior to the second coming. We live in gross darkness, and there are no human spiritual leaders to guide us through this Satanic black hole cesspool. Where are they? Most are too busy making money and building their empires, and they’re clueless. It’s business as usual. That leaves the rest of us searching for answers and direction. We’ve never been this way before, for we are in the last days after all! There’s only one direction to look for guidance, and that’s up. We have only the Word of Elohim and his Set-Apart Spirit to guide us at this point, since we’re in uncharted territory. That means shutting up and listening. You can’t receive directions from heaven if you’re transmitting via your big yap and listening to yourself speak!
Let me leave you with these words of David,
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from YHVH, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. YHVH is your keeper; YHVH is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. YHVH shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. YHVH shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. (Psalm 121:1–8)
Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to YHVH our Elohim, Until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O YHVH, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorn of those who are at ease, With the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:1–4)
Ecclesiastes 3:11,Everything beautiful. Beauty and happiness can be found, even in this life of vanity resulting in emptiness and nothingness, if everything is done at the right time; therefore, finding the right timing is a major key to happiness.