Tag Archive | "who are God’s elect"

Have You Been Amazed?

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In many verses, the Bible tells us something about itself and how it relates to man.  Some verses show us how we got the Bible.  For example, in 2 Peter 1:21 we read:


For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.


On some occasions, God’s prophets actually heard His voice speak to them and later recorded what God had said.   Moses, for example, was one of these men (see Exodus 33:11).  In most cases, however, it seems that the “holy men of God” who recorded the various books of the Bible didn’t actually hear God’s voice in their ears.  Rather, they simply recorded the words that came into their minds.  They sat down to write and wrote the words God wanted them to write.  God gave them the words by putting into their minds exactly what He wanted them to record.


Some of the verses they recorded deal with the Bible itself, even though there may be no obvious words in them to suggest that.  For example, in Matthew 7:6 we read:


Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.


Is this verse telling us not to give any holy objects to dogs, and to be careful with any pearls we may have if we are ever around swine?  Of course not; but it is telling us something about the Bible.   That which is holy is God’s word, and the truths we find in it are like precious pearls.  However, many people will not accept those truths.  Even some people who appear to be very devout Christians have no real interest in God’s word.  That’s because God motivates His people to search His word for truth.



Eyes to See, Ears to Hear


If God has truly allowed someone to hear or read His word with understanding, it’s because he or she is one of the elect.  God reveals spiritual truth to such people through His word.


When God tells or shows us that a person has ears to hear or eyes to see – and we find verses like that in several places in the Bible – He is telling us about someone who understands spiritual truth and has a desire to do God’s will.  For instance, in Proverbs 20:12 we read:


The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them. 


This verse is telling us about God’s children: they have hearing ears and seeing eyes.  The Lord Jesus also used this idea when He was teaching.  In Matthew 13:43, He said:


Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Most people cannot really “hear” God’s word.  However, those who can will inherit eternal life.  We find these ideas in John 10:26-28:


But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.



Multiple Meanings


Even those whom God hasn’t saved can understand certain things in the Bible.  That’s because many verses teach truth on more than one level.  A verse may have one or more spiritual meanings, but also teach about morality.  Such verses tell us how man should conduct himself with his fellow man.  God gave such teachings to anyone who might take a little time to read His word.


In some Bible verses, we find what can be called practical wisdom.  Their spiritual meaning may not be apparent, but they may very obviously teach morality or something helpful.  People from different cultures all over the world have such sayings based on common sense or practical experience.  Here are a few of them:


“If you want your dinner, don’t insult the cook.”

Chinese proverb


“A stitch in time saves nine.”

English proverb


“He who refuses to obey cannot command.”

African proverb


“There are those that cluck but never lay an egg.”

Mexican proverb


“Little by little, the bird builds its nest.”

French proverb


The above proverbs (even the ones about birds!) tell us something about man and various aspects of life.  They are based on worldly experience.  The Bible, on the other hand, is a spiritual book.  If we find a Bible verse that appears to be like one of the world’s proverbs, we should expect it to have more meaning than we see at first.



Ecclesiastes 12:12: A Proverb About God’s Word


It isn’t only in the book of Proverbs that we find Biblical proverbs.  For example, earlier we saw that in Matthew 7:6 the Lord Jesus spoke about dogs and swine in a verse that looks very much like a proverb.  We might say it is a proverb for God’s people, to teach them something about living in a world where most people are unsaved.


In Ecclesiastes 12:12, we find another verse that looks very much like a proverb:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


Without doing any investigating, we might think this verse is telling us something about all the books men write and about the effort required to learn by studying those books.  However, notice the verse that precedes it.  Ecclesiastes 12:11 states:


The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.


When we read about “words of the wise,” we should expect the verse to be about God’s word.   Many Bible verses are concerned with wisdom, and wisdom is associated with God’s word.  We also know that the Lord Jesus compared Himself with a shepherd caring for a flock of sheep, as in John 10:14:


I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.


Our Good Shepherd is also the Word of God who gave us the Bible (John 1:1).  Therefore, based on the context of Ecclesiastes 12:12 we expect it to be about God’s word.  But if it has to do with God’s word, there is a problem understanding it.   How can the “making of many books” continue?   After all, we know that the Bible is complete and nothing else will ever be added to it (Revelation 22:18).  So how can it be that the “making of many books” has no end?


In Ecclesiastes 12:12, the word translated “books” is Strong’s number H5612 (“cepher”).  It appears in many verses and is most often translated as “book” or “letter.”   For example, in Isaiah 30:8, we read:


Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:


The word for “book” here is the same word we find as “books” in the phrase “of making many books there is no end.”  Also, notice that here the “book” is compared with a “table.”  The word translated “table” in this verse is the same word God used in some verses about the Ten Commandments: those commandments were written on tables of stone and were God’s words.   However, Isaiah’s book was a scroll – the same kind as Jeremiah’s.  In Jeremiah 36:2, we read:


Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.   


The “books” of Ecclesiastes 12:12 have the words of God, just like the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah.  The original language word used for “books” certainly agrees with the verse’s context.  It indicates that the verse is concerned with God’s word.  But why is there “no end” to the making of these books?


The word translated as “making” in Ecclesiastes 12:12 (Strong’s number H6213, “asah”) is used over 2,000 times in the Bible.  It’s translated in many different ways.  Besides being translated as “make,” it’s also translated as “do” (over 1,300 times), and as “work,” as “deal,” as “keep,” and in some other ways.  These different meanings can tremendously change our understanding of the verse.


We know that God has finished writing the Bible, so the word translated as “making” cannot mean that He is still giving us new books to add to the Bible.  The number of Bible books is frozen at 66.  Instead of the word “making,” we can see how another one of the possible meanings for the original word allows the verse to make sense.  God isn’t “making” new books and He’s not telling us anything about books written by men; but He is telling us that there is no end to our “working” at His books!


The Bible reflects God’s mind, and there is more in it than anyone can understand in a lifetime.  God wants us to be interested in His word all of our lives; that’s why there is no end to our “doing” these books or “working” at them.



Studying to Exhaustion?


This way of understanding the verse fits with other things we find throughout the Bible.  However, there still appears to be a contradiction.  Notice the last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


In the words “much study is a weariness of the flesh,” it looks like God is telling us we might spend too much time in His word; but that doesn’t agree with other things we find in the Bible.  For example, in Joshua 1:8, we read:


This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.


Here, God told Joshua to think “day and night” about the “book of the law.”  God had even told Moses to instruct the children of Israel to sew a “ribband of blue” onto their clothes so that they would remember His commandments whenever they looked at it (“ribband” is an archaic form of “ribbon”).  We find that law in Numbers 15:37-40:


And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:  And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:  That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.


Whenever they saw that color on their own clothing or someone else’s, they would be reminded of God’s commandments.  This was one of many ceremonial laws God gave the children of Israel.  Although God’s people today are no longer required to keep the ceremonial laws (see Acts 15:28-29), they should always be aware of His commandments.  We find this idea in the New Testament too, for in Matthew 4:4 the Lord Jesus emphasized the importance of God’s word:


But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  


This verse tells us that man should live by every one of God’s words.  Like several other verses, it stresses the Bible’s importance – for that is where we find God’s word.  The last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12, on the other hand, appears to teach something entirely different.  In order to reconcile these verses, we need to do some investigating.  Perhaps there is something about the words in the original language for that last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12 to help us understand.


When we use a concordance to check the word translated “flesh,” we find many verses where it refers to man.  Whatever the last part of Ecclesiastes 12:12 means, here it definitely applies to man.


The word translated “much” (“much study is a weariness of the flesh”) is Strong’s number H7235.  It’s a verb that is most often translated as “multiply” or “increase.”  The word translated as “study” is used only that one time in the Bible.  It seems to carry the idea that someone is eager or devoted to study; so the words “much study” seem to be telling us about someone who has become more eager to study God’s word.


There’s another key word in the phrase “much study is a weariness of the flesh,” and that’s the word translated as “weariness.”  In the original language, it is Strong’s number H3024: “yegiah.”  It is used only that one time in the Bible, and it comes from H3019: “yagiya.”


“Yagiya” is also used only once (Job 3:17) and is translated “weary.”  It’s sometimes especially difficult to understand a verse having a word that’s used only once, but that is the situation with these words.   “Yagiya” in turn comes from H3021:”yaga.”


Now this word is used in 25 verses.  It conveys the idea that someone is doing hard physical work.  According to a concordance, “yaga” (a verb) is a primitive root word meaning “to gasp.”  Therefore, the idea is that someone is working so hard that he or she is gasping for breath.  However, someone reading or studying isn’t doing hard physical work.


When we think about it, we realize that physical exertion isn’t the only reason for a person to gasp: a person might also gasp in amazement.  This makes sense when we consider that people have all kinds of wrong ideas about the world, themselves and God unless He opens their eyes to truth.  If and when He does, they may be so shocked that they will gasp at what they have read.




Ecclesiastes 12:12 states:


And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.


Even though it looks like one of the world’s proverbs, we know from its context that this verse is telling us something about the Bible.  When we check a concordance for individual words in the verse, we discover a meaning very different than what the King James translators gave us.


Rather than telling us there is no end to the making of books, it tells us there is no end to our working at books of the Bible; and rather than telling us we will be fatigued by too much study, it tells us that those who are eager for God’s word will be amazed at what they find there.  This idea is also found in Psalm 119:18:


Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.


There really are wondrous things in the Bible; but no one can discover them unless God allows it.


If we only checked Ecclesiastes 12:12 in the original language, it would be difficult to state with certainty that we have understood it correctly; but when we compare it with other verses in the Bible, we find its meaning confirmed.  In several verses, God emphasizes how important His word is.  He wants us to think about it all the time, and He has hidden amazing truths in it.  He does not reveal these truths to everyone.


There’s something else about Ecclesiastes 12:12 that we should notice.  It’s the word “admonished.”  The verse tells us:  “And further, by these, my son, be admonished.”  This is a warning that some things in the Bible are disturbing and a cause for sorrow.  In Ecclesiastes 1:18, we read:


For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.


Some truths in the Bible are painful to learn.  In fact, they may cause a person to gasp, just as someone who experiences a sharp physical pain may gasp.  Perhaps it is at just such a moment that God saves people – when He opens their eyes to something in the Bible, and they are amazed.



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