A couple of people have asked me why we are working through Ecclesiastes at the moment. Granted, it’s a peculiar and unique book in the Bible, and the Christ-centred applications are perhaps harder to find, but should that stop us digging into it?
A seminary professor once told me that ‘James, bigger picture Jesus is King. When reading His Word, context is king.’ With Ecclesiastes, context is really important. The teacher, the main voice we hear in the book, is going to sound very pessimistic and negative. We need to understand why he is saying these things, we need to understand the world in which he said these things. We need to understand that Jesus said that all Scripture, all of it, bears witness to Him (John 5.39-40). We can’t ignore the seemingly obscure and always reach for the low-hanging fruit. There needs to be times when we look deeper than the surface.
If we ignore context and only ever read at surface level, what are we missing?
Take the Great Commission as an example:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
It’s wonderful, its instructive, but it’s the filling of the sandwich. Whenever we see the word ‘therefore’, we are to do something as a result of something else.
So often with the Great Commission we focus too much on the middle part of things and forget to look before and after what we, with our fallible human minds, have decided is the important bit. Let’s look either side of the Great Commission’s key sentence:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What do we see?
We see that this statement comes from a very human environment – there was worship mixed with human doubt.
We that Jesus answers their doubt categorically and unequivocally – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
This then sets us up for Go, therefore. So, because Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, we are to go, therefore, and make disciples of Him, baptising them in the name of the Triune God, teaching them observe all that He taught, lived, demonstrated, showed, and commanded.
Then, we see the other often-forgotten, but equally important phrase, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We see that Jesus has all authority, therefore we are to go and make disciples in His name, and He will be there with us, always – I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The Great Commission is a truly wonderful parting speech, so to speak, given by our Lord. Let’s not miss half of it because we have decided to focus on the middle.
Remember today – Jesus is King. When reading His Word, context is king.
Remember today that as we are going about His business making disciples, that we do it in His power, for His glory, and that He is with us.