It is not always easy to get ahead. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it seems like our financial situation just continues to get worse. There are always unexpected expenses which drain our resources. Opportunities which looked like a “sure thing” fade away like the mist. We work hard; we try to be wise in the use of money; we do not waste what we have, yet we cannot make any progress.
This situation is not unique to us or to our time. Thousands of years ago God made this observation concerning the Israelites, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:6 NIV)
We like to think of ourselves as good and righteous. We may be willing to concede that we are not entirely perfect, but we still contend that we are better than most other people. After all, we haven’t done the horrible things they do!
At one point in their history, the ancient Israelites faced a tremendous problem. As a result of their unfaithfulness, God sent the Babylonians to invade them. The Babylonians captured many of the people and exiled them to Babylonia. Though they were captives, the exiles were relatively free to live their lives how they liked in Babylonia. What should they do? Should they put down roots in their new environment, or should they do the minimum to survive while they waited for the opportunity to move back to their homeland? In addition, what should their attitude be toward the people who had captured and exiled them? Should they oppose and do their best to subvert the Babylonians, or should they cooperate and get along with them?
We learn by doing. No matter how many facts we cram into our heads we will not really understand a subject until we put our knowledge into practice. For example, memorizing a textbook on bookkeeping is a very different thing from handling the accounts of a real business. Unless someone has actually kept the accounts and posted to the ledgers he cannot truly claim to understand to know bookkeeping.
Everywhere we look we are bombarded with advertisements. We are constantly urged to buy this, or go there. We are told that if only we have this gadget or use that product we will be so much happier or so much more successful. If we buy the latest fashion we will find acceptance. This lotion or cream will make us more beautiful.
There are many differences between people. Those who live in different areas of the world look different from one another. Their societies and cultures, their music, their concepts of beauty and their ways of thinking are quite different. However, one thing which all societies have in common is that they practice marriage. The rituals and ceremonies concerning marriage in one part of the world may be different than somewhere else, yet all peoples recognize the joining of a man and woman together to form a household.
We like to have control. We enjoy it when something responds to our command or touch upon the controls. To operate a machine which enables us to do more that we are physically capable of gives us a sense of power. We touch a lever and a power shovel takes a bite out of the earth. We twist a small wheel and it turns a huge truck or a ship. We press a key and a computer begins a complex task or computation. The bigger, more powerful, complex or dangerous the machine the greater the thrill there is in operating it.
When we look at the beauty of what God has made, our hearts rejoice. Like the Psalmist we cannot help but pour forth words of praise and thanksgiving. “Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” (Psalm 147:7-9 NIV)
Though we take delight in what God has made and in the bounty He gives us, it also raises a question. Does God take delight in us? How can we please Him?
The prophet Isaiah noticed something very strange about the people of his day. He wrote, “The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”” (Isaiah 44:13-19 NIV)
One of the greatest mysteries in the universe is the mutual attraction which exists between men and women. It is not something which can be predicted with any certainty – people who seem totally unsuited to each other fall in love and happily marry, while others who, on the surface, seem to be totally compatible with each other detest one another. A wise man once wrote, “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden.” (Proverbs 30:18-19 NIV)