Psalm 127 The Voice (VOICE)
A song of Solomon for those journeying to worship.
Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon, underscoring the futility of human endeavor apart from God. It is similar in tone and theme to other wisdom literature.
1 Unless the Eternal builds the house,
3 Know this: children are a gift from the Eternal;
Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 The Voice (VOICE)
The contrast between God and humanity could not be starker. The teacher drives this point home by reminding his reader that human lives and earthly accomplishments are fleeting. Nothing tangible is permanent. No work lasts. It all slips away and vanishes into thin air. Compare that to God. Everything God does is substantial. Everything God accomplishes lasts forever. Every word God speaks makes a difference. And so, God places within every person a sense of eternity to know yet not understand Him. This world with all its goodness and beauty is not as good as it gets. There is more, so much more, and we are made for that reality too. But not now, not yet.
The creation story in Genesis 2 recognizes the common origin of humanity and the animals. There God forms the first human from the “dirt out of the ground” and breathes into him the breath of life, and the man known as Adam becomes a living being. But within a few short verses, God declares that it is “not good” for Adam to be alone and seeks a “perfectly suited partner” for the human. So God forms from the “ground” every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and He brings them to Adam to see if any of them are a “right and proper partner.” Finally, when no suitable companion has been found, God fashions another creature from Adam’s own human flesh. When Adam sees her, he knows he has met a perfect partner. Clearly, both Genesis and Ecclesiastes stress how much humanity shares in common with the animals. While we may be different—as explained in the Genesis story—we are all creatures, made of the same stuff, breathing the same air. And perhaps most to the point, we share a common destiny: death.
Teacher: 16 Again, I looked at everything that goes on under the sun and realized that in place of justice, wickedness prevails. In place of righteousness, wrongdoing succeeds. 17 I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a right time for every pursuit and for every action.”[a] 18 I thought about how people act: “God often puts them to the test to show them how much they are like the animals.” 19 The fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so does the other, for we have the same breath within us. In the end, we have no advantage over the animals. For as I have said, it’s all fleeting. 20 Humans and animals alike go to one place; all are formed from dust, and all return to the dust once more. 21 Who really knows whether the spirits of human beings go up and the spirits of animals go down into the earth? 22 So I realized there is nothing better for us than to find joy in the work we do, for work is its own reward. For who will bring us back to see what will be after we are gone?
4 Teacher: Then I looked again and saw all the oppression that happens under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, and no one offered to help and comfort them. The oppressors exercise all the power, while the powerless have no one to help and comfort them. 2 It struck me that the dead are actually better off than the living who must go on living; 3 and, even better, are those who were never born in the first place. At least they have never had to witness all of the injustices that take place under the sun.
The imbalance of power creates many victims. Worldly power, sourced in corrupt systems “under the sun,” is on the side of the oppressor. Few are in the ditches with the broken and poor.
Teacher: 4 Then I saw yet another thing: envy fuels achievement. All the work and skills people develop come from their desire to be better than their neighbors. Even this is fleeting, like trying to embrace the wind.
5 As the saying goes:
7 Again I observed another example of how fleeting life is under the sun: 8 a person who is all alone—with no child, no sibling—yet he works hard his entire life. Still he is never satisfied with the wealth he gains. Does he stop to ask, “Why am I working so hard?” or “Why am I depriving myself of life’s simple pleasures?” This, too, is fleeting, like trying to catch hold of a breath; it’s a miserable situation.
Colossians 4:2-6 The Voice (VOICE)
Family life has changed since Paul’s day. Today, sociologists talk about modern families as “nuclear”: two parents with one or two children. In Colossae, as elsewhere in Paul’s world, families were extended by nature: they consisted of a husband, a wife, lots of children, servants, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others. So when Paul addresses the family, he does not envision the modern version of it. He addresses the main family members: wives, husbands, children, fathers, and then slaves. The family reflects the order God desires in the church. Each member is to be responsible to the whole, and love and respect are to serve as the guiding principles within family relationships. Paul and Peter both use the term “submission” within family and church relationships as a description of order and support.
2 Pray, and keep praying. Be alert and thankful when you pray. 3 And while you are at it, add us to your prayers. Pray that God would open doors and windows and minds and eyes and hearts for the word so we can go on telling the mystery of the Anointed, for this is exactly why I am currently imprisoned. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message clearly and fearlessly as I should.
5 Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. 6 When you speak the word, speak it gracefully (as if seasoned with salt), so you will know how to respond to everyone rightly.