Week 24: Proverbs 28-31; Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs
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Job introduced us to the truth that reverence for God — obedience to His commands — was the beginning of wisdom. In Proverbs, we get extensive details about how to observe His commands and the benefits of obedience. Ecclesiastes shows us that a life that is led apart from a relationship with God is meaningless. Finally, Song of Songs teaches that loving God is important, but service to God is equally essential.
The Christian life consists of three components: Salvation, sanctification and service. We enter into a relationship with God by believing that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Jesus died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sin and we rely on this for our salvation.
Next, we keep the first commandment: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). We fulfill this commandment by being obedient to His instructions — this is also known as the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process that allows us to live more and more as Jesus did.
Finally, we are asked to keep the second commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We fulfill this through our service to God. Service consists of sharing the good news of salvation with others and in providing for their physical needs as God directs us.
Ecclesiastes calls those in relationship with God to sanctification and service: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Wealth, pleasure, career and political power are meaningless unless they are used in serving others and enjoyed within the boundaries of God’s commandments. When they become the goals of our lives they will lead to sin and emptiness.
Song of Songs expresses God’s love for His people — Israel and the church, and His call to service. Throughout the poems we see a faithful woman but one that is often asleep. The shepherd repeatedly calls her to come and work with him. She does not join him and her failure leads to them being separated. She does not lose her relationship with him but she misses out on an important opportunity to be continuously at his side by joining with him in shepherding his flock. She misses out on fully experiencing His love.
We will see in the Book of Esther that she is called to be God’s instrument to deliver His people from annihilation. But she is told if she will not that God will work through another person to accomplish His goals (Esther 4:14). Also, when Jesus restores His relationship with Peter after Peter has denied Him he makes service the evidence of the restored relationship — “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
As we complete our study of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament we carry with us the practical instructions on obedience and loving God.