The problem (Acts 15:24)

“We have heard

That certain people

Who have gone out

From us,

Though with no instructions

From us,

Have said things

To disturb you.

They have unsettled

Your minds.”

Ἐπειδὴ ἠκούσαμεν ὅτι τινὲς ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐτάραξαν ὑμᾶς λόγοις ἀνασκευάζοντες τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, οἷς οὐ διεστειλάμεθα,

The author of Acts indicated that this letter said that they had heard (Ἐπειδὴ ἠκούσαμεν) that certain people (ὅτι τινὲς) who had gone out from them (ἐξ ἡμῶν), but with no instructions from them (οἷς οὐ διεστειλάμεθα), have said things (ὑμᾶς λόγοις) to disturb or trouble them (ἐτάραξαν).  These people have unsettled (ἀνασκευάζοντες) their minds or souls (τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν).  Acts was the only Greek biblical writing that used this word ἀνασκευάζοντες, that means to dismantle, pervert, subvert, unsettle, overthrow, or destroy.  The leaders of the church or assembly of Christian believers in Jerusalem had heard that some unauthorized people from them in Jerusalem had disturbed them and unsettled or perverted their minds with their instructions.  Some ancient texts indicated that they added that these instructions included circumcision and following the law of Moses, but the major texts do not have these comments.  The Christian people in Jerusalem wanted them to know in Antioch that not everyone spoke for their Jerusalem assembly or church.  This letter was the official stance of the emerging Christian church in Jerusalem.  They should not be upset.  Who should speak for the church?

Which is worse death or captivity? (Jer 22:10-22:10)

“Do not weep for him

Who is dead!

Do not bemoan him!

Rather weep for him

Who goes away!

He shall return no more

To see his native land.”

Jeremiah poses the problem. Which is worse? Was it better to die or to be sent into captivity? In fact, Jeremiah says that they should not weep or bemoan the dead. Instead they should weep for those who are going away, never to see their native land. Jeremiah maintains that captivity was worse than death. Was that a common thought? That is a strange way to look at it, but it does denote the great importance of the Promised Land to the Israelites.

The pride of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer 13:8-13:11)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Thus says Yahweh.

I will ruin the pride of Judah.

I will ruin the great pride of Jerusalem.

This is an evil people.

They refuse to hear my words.

They stubbornly follow their own will.

They have gone after other gods.

They serve them.

They worship them.

They shall be like this loincloth,

That is good for nothing.

Just as the loincloth clings

To one’s loins,

So I made the whole house of Israel

With the whole house of Judah

Cling to me.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Thus they might be for me

A people,

A name,

A praise,

A glory.

But they would not listen.’”

Now Yahweh explains to Jeremiah the problem and story of the loincloth. Just as the loincloth was ruined, so too would the great pride of Judah and Jerusalem also be ruined. These were evil people who would not listen to the words of Yahweh. They would rather follow their own will and ways. Besides, they have gone after other gods serving and worshipping them. Thus they will be like Jeremiah’s ruined loincloth, good for nothing. Just as the loincloth clung to Jeremiah’s loins, both the house of Judah and Israel had clung to Yahweh. He wanted to make them a great people with a great name that everyone would praise and glory, but they would not listen.

The vanity of hard work (Eccl 2:18-2:23)

“I hated all my toil

In which I had toiled under the sun.

I must leave it to

Those who will come after me.

Who knows

Whether they will be a wise or foolish?

Yet they will be

Master of all for which I toiled.

I used my wisdom under the sun.

This also is vanity.

So I turned about.

I gave my heart up to despair

Concerning all the toil of

My labors under the sun.

Sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom,

Toiled with knowledge,

Toiled with skill,

Must leave all to be enjoyed by another

Who did not toil for it.

This also is vanity.

This is a great evil.

What do mortals get from all the toil?

What do mortals gat from the strain

With which they toil under the sun?

All their days are full of pain.

Their work is a vexation.

Even at night

Their minds do not rest.

This also is vanity.”

Now Qoheleth addressed the problem of hard work. What is its value? He had been a hard working wise man, but he would have to leave all his work to those who would come after him. There was no telling if they would be wise or foolish, but still they would be in charge of all his things. He then realized that with all his wisdom under the sun, everything that he had accomplished was in vain. He then fell into despair, much like Job. He would not enjoy the fruit of his hard work. He had worked with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he had to leave the results of his work to be enjoyed by those who would not work hard. This is the problem with parents who work hard to see their children succeed, only to have them dissipate their life away. This painful useless work is a great evil. He wanted to know if there was a reward for this hard work. This work was nothing but a painful troubling vexation that kept him from sleeping at night. Hard work was useless, in vain, vanity itself. This is a very strong indictment against hard work.