As PyroManiacs is about to "go dark" for nearly a month, some of our gracious readers find themselves looking at a gap in their routine.
Of course, Frank and yr obdt svt are not vanishing off the face of the earth, we'll both keep the coffee on at our places, and you'll be welcome. But many daily routines will change, if only a bit.
Minor as it is, changes do bring to mind the daily menu of our lives: the agenda of distractions, imposed from without and from within, that pushes minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, months, and years — and, ultimately, impels newborn on towards the grave.
Unless you're God, you've only got so much time. What's the plan? What's the theme? What's the metanarrative of our lives?
Younger readers will nod less enthusiastically than fellow-codgers if I talk about the phenomenon of vanishing years. When you're young, you measure years in halves: "I'm six-and-a-half." But then, you come to the time when it literally seems as if you've scarcely put away the Christmas decorations — and it's time to take them back out again. The year just went by that fast.
Nonetheless we know that a lot of moments went into that passed year. But what went into the moments?
Proverbs raises this issue more than once. Consider this pair:
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,In Hebrew, the wording of line A is identical in each; that of line B nearly so — more closely than the ESV shows.
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11)
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty (Proverbs 28:19)
Line A considers a landowner. It is his land, land he owns himself, ultimately entrusted by God into his care. For since all the earth is Yahweh's (cf. Exodus 9:29; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; 50:12, etc.), every part of the earth is also his. That part you own, therefore, is put in your stewardship by God. It was and remains His; He has loaned it to you. It is to God you and I must answer for what we do with it.
The man in question "works" his land. Solomon uses the verb `bd, which we first encounter in Genesis 2:5 and 15. There the picture is Adam, taking the garden as his first assignment in subduing the earth (cf. 1:26-28). Moses couples `bd ("work") and 'dmh ("ground," "land") in Genesis 2:5, and Solomon echoes that exact same pairing.
So when a farmer works his land, he is participating in God's created design for mankind. Not only does he serve God, he serves himself. "He will be full of bread," Solomon says literally. Not that the land grows loaves of bread, but that it produces that with which the man further labors, and from which he produces bread and all sorts of food. God has graciously ordered creation so that man is the beneficiary of his own labors, in God's service, over God's land.
Line B in each sets up a contrast. Unfortunately, the ESV simply replays the tepid rendering of the RSV, "he who follows worthless pursuits." The Hebrew text is more vivid: identically worded in each, it is "But he who pursues empty things." Solomon envisions a pursuit. It is focused, deliberate, and strenuous. It isn't that the man is aimless. He aims! The problem is his target: it is hollow, empty, insubstantial, unproductive.
The earth is potentially productive and pregnant and, if worked, will produce food. What this man chases after may be pretty, but it is hollow, and produces nothing — or, rather, nothing he wants.
In 12:11 the foolish man himself is characterized; in 28:19 it is his harvest. The man (we are told) is "short on brains." In fact, Solomon takes us on a tour of this man's field in 24:30-34 —
I passed by the field of a sluggard,This vignette actually combines the thoughts of both 12:11 and 28:19. The man actually owns a field. However, sadly, he is "short on brains," so instead of working his land and being filled with bread, he lets it go (while he pursues empty things) — and is full... of poverty.
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense ["short on brains"],
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Now as we prepare to turn out the lights for a few weeks, I leave you with a few provocative questions.
What "land" has God entrusted to you? Are you working it? Are you working it wisely, and towards a definite end? Or are you pursuing empty things?
Pastor, are you plowing up the rocks, and plucking the weeds in your fellowship? That is, do you reprove, rebuke and exhort with all patience and doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2b)? Do you show false teachers the door after a first and second warning (Titus 3:10-11)? Above all, do you richly sow the Word (2 Timothy 4:2a), so that the word of Christ richly indwells your fellowship (Colossians 3:16)?
Or have you listed to the siren call of the marketers, and started "beefing up" you worship with crunchy, insubstantial vanities, "pursuing" horizontal popularity at the cost of vertical infamy?
Christian, do you do this for your own soul? Do you test yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5), accept reproof (Proverbs 12:1), fill your heart with the Word of God (Psalm 1)? Do you do something with the Word? Or are you a well-known expert at fluffy nothings?
Parents, do you do this for your children, finding creative ways to saturate their home life with God's self-revelation out of full-out love for Him (Deuteronomy 6:5ff.)? Or is "peace and quiet," and "happy" kids, your sole aim?
These are just the lightest touch of implications we can draw on this subject. Plus, we can gain yet more wisdom and perspective on this by marrying Solomon's wisdom, as expressed both here and in another of his writings, with the Christ-centered perspective of Paul:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going (Ecclesiastes 9:10)This is an approach to life that sees it not as a mere rehearsal, but as a passing and pivotal arena. As far as we know, we shall never again have the opportunity to serve God on the battlefield. This world is not our home. We must work our fields with an eye to Christ, His judgment seat, and His kingdom.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Let's work the land God gave us.
See you at my blog, then back here on October 31, Lord willing.