Small Start

‘Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end would increase abundantly.’ Job 8:7 NKJV

Imagine the temple lying in ruins, and having to be rebuilt from the ground up. That’s what things were like when Zechariah shared his vision with the people of Israel. Some thought it couldn’t be done, and others thought that their particular contribution would make no difference. So Zechariah challenged them in these words: ‘Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.’ (Zechariah 4:10 NLT) Sometimes we can feel like there are too many changes we need to make to our life. It’s at that point we need to choose to rebuild. And that can feel overwhelming.

Maybe we don’t know where to start, or even see how such a huge task is possible. But it’s a process. Rebuilding takes time and patience. It’s a step-by-step thing. Even the smallest change we make in our lives is important. We may feel like we’re not advancing quickly enough, that we’re failing because we’re taking such small steps. But God doesn’t see it like that. He takes us on a journey, and He’s gentle with us. He helps us change and rebuild things at a pace He knows we can handle.

The Bible tells us that ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV) God doesn’t start working with us and in us, only to leave us halfway through the process. He doesn’t give up on us because we’re taking too long to change. So when we find ourselves in a place where we need to begin to rebuild, let’s remember Zechariah’s words and avoid despising the ‘day of small beginnings.’

SoulFood: Ecc 5–8, Luke 6:1–16 Ps 104:1–23, Pro 3:9–10

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2022

Today’s Readings

Ecclesiastes 5–8

5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

6:1 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. 11 The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? 12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

7:1   A good name is better than precious ointment,
    and the day of death than the day of birth.
  It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
  for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
  Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
  It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
    than to hear the song of fools.
  For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
    so is the laughter of the fools;
    this also is vanity.
  Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
  Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
    and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
  Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
    for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
10   Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11   Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
12   For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13   Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.

19 Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

23 All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 24 That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?

25 I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness. 26 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 27 Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—28 which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. 29 See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

8:1   Who is like the wise?
    And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
  A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
    and the hardness of his face is changed.

I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

Luke 6:1–16

6:1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Psalm 104:1–23

104:1   Bless the LORD, O my soul!
    O LORD my God, you are very great!
  You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
    covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent.
  He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
  he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
  he makes his messengers winds,
    his ministers a flaming fire.
  He set the earth on its foundations,
    so that it should never be moved.
  You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
  At your rebuke they fled;
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
  The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
    to the place that you appointed for them.
  You set a boundary that they may not pass,
    so that they might not again cover the earth.
10   You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
    they flow between the hills;
11   they give drink to every beast of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12   Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
    they sing among the branches.
13   From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
    the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14   You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
    and plants for man to cultivate,
  that he may bring forth food from the earth
15     and wine to gladden the heart of man,
  oil to make his face shine
    and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
16   The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17   In them the birds build their nests;
    the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18   The high mountains are for the wild goats;
    the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
19   He made the moon to mark the seasons;
    the sun knows its time for setting.
20   You make darkness, and it is night,
    when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21   The young lions roar for their prey,
    seeking their food from God.
22   When the sun rises, they steal away
    and lie down in their dens.
23   Man goes out to his work
    and to his labor until the evening.

Proverbs 3:9–10

  Honor the LORD with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10   then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

Wed 26 January, 2022


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