This lyric poem in dialogue has been the victim of some of the most ingenious interpretations imaginable. It is probable that Solomon would be stunned to hear some of them! It seems best that we allow Solomon’s song simply to say what it says rather than attempting to force upon these eight chapters some strange, fanciful, or allegorical twist. It is an intimate, tender, romantic expression of physical love between a man and a woman—first, prior to their marriage…then, after the wedding.
The book of Ecclesiastes, as short as it is, is one of the most mysterious works in the Bible. It looms before us as the sphinx of Hebrew literature, with its knotty, unresolved struggles intermingling with its unanswered arguments and cynical observations of life.
A proverb is a pithy statement of bite-sized wisdom. Up until now in this study of the Bible, we’ve found history and biography, prophecy and poetry in Scripture…but not much philosophy except, perhaps, in Job. The book of Proverbs offers a wealth of information to aid us in wise living. What the Psalms are to our devotional life, the book of Proverbs is to our practical life. In terse and striking ways, the profound genius of these maxims lies in their shrewd concentration of truth. As we shall see, they remain to this day a marvellous source of insightful and penetrating information.
Virtually every emotion that ever swept across the human soul is recorded in the Psalms. This book is the epitome, the very nucleus of worship…and yet it drips with the whole gamut of humanity. As we shall see, the Psalms address the full spectrum of human needs. More than any other Old Testament book, we turn to the Psalms for direction, comfort, and encouragement. No richer bank of wisdom and soul-giving peace is found in the whole world.
The subject of pain and suffering is a popular one for a very simple reason—humans experience a lot of it. At this very moment, vast numbers of people around the globe are enduring physical and emotional trauma like heartache, illness, death. Ours is a life of suffering. We enter the world crying. We walk through it with our shoulders bent into the fiery blast and icy blizzard of affliction. And we leave it in death. As one writer put it: “Man is born for trouble, / As sparks fly upward.” Who offered this insight? A philosopher in an ivory tower or a monk in cloistered monastery? No.
The book of Esther could appear, at first glance, to be a fictional work. It bears all the marks of a short story: a dramatic plot, a villain, a hero, a damsel in distress, and a surprising climax, followed by everyone living happily ever after. But it is absolutely authentic, bearing all the marks of inspired literature. It is, in fact, a vital link in the chain of Jewish history, as it reveals what neither Ezra nor Nehemiah includes: crucial experiences of the Jews who remained in Persia. As we dig into this account, keep an eye on the central crisis driving the work.
Nehemiah is one of the great lesser-knowns of the Bible. A man of great zeal, Nehemiah also exhibited tenderness toward the Lord that balanced his character like few people in Scripture. Nehemiah was a man who saw a need—a need to travel from his home in Babylon and rebuild the destroyed walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah couldn’t do this alone; he needed the king’s support. And with much prayer, he approached the king and received the backing he needed. What Nehemiah didn’t realize was his toughest tasks were still before him.
Some people stand out from the crowd—charismatic, confrontational, and colourful, while others tend to blend—quiet, contemplative, and studious. While the popular opinion might be that only the first group has the greatest spiritual impact on the world, Scripture is filled with people from both groups who have impacted the world positively for the Lord. Ezra, who falls into that latter group, is certainly no exception.
“What a waste!” That’s the common response of a novice when the Chronicles are opened. At first glance, the books seem boring, tedious, and needless. Even after wading through nine chapters of genealogies, the remaining sections appear redundant and dry—a little like spending the afternoon reading telephone listings or searching the holdings of your public library. But God preserved these books. With meticulous care, He watched over their composition and preservation. To bore us? Never! Somehow, He is pleased to have this account on record for reasons not obvious to most.
Second Kings revolves around a life principle not even God violates: persistent sin may be forgiven, but its consequences cannot be erased. The book of 2 Kings plays out this truth on a national scale, as the newly divided nation of Israel faltered time and again in its commitment to God’s plan for them. Where they were to be a light to the world, they instead wallowed in the darkness of the surrounding people. The few faithful followers of God during this time struggled against the tide of sin and rebellion.