God-Focused Endeavors

[Posts in “fictional conversations” are sometimes (but not always) adapted and edited from non-fictional correspondence. They are usually lightly edited with intelligibility in mind.  All underlining mine.]

Christian:  “I returned and saw under the sun that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty; nor even bread to the wise; nor even riches to the men of discernment; nor even favor to knowing men. For time and occurrence happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Dr. Missing-the-Point:  So being swift, mighty, wise, discerning, and knowledgeable is bad?  Being swift, mighty, wise, discerning, and knowledgeable is bad, then.

Christian:  Reposing inordinate, intoxicated, and presumptuous confidence in equine strength and aquiline intellect is bad.  As one of your own unbelieving poets wrote (concerning Psalm 33:16-17):

“By this [verse 16—CD] the inspired writer means to teach us, that the safety of men’s lives depends not upon their own strength, but upon the favor of God. He names particularly kings and giants rather than others; because, as they are not of the common class of men, but of a higher condition, they appear to themselves to be beyond the reach of all danger from darts, and if any adversity befall them, they promise themselves an easy deliverance from it. In short, intoxicated with a presumptuous confidence of their own strength, they scarcely think themselves mortal. They are still more hardened in this pride by the foolish admiration of the common people, who stand amazed at the greatness of their power. If, therefore, neither a king is saved by his troops, nor a giant by his strength, when they are exposed to danger, in vain do mankind neglect the providence of God, and look around them for human help. From this it follows, that the condition, both of the strong and the weak, is miserable, until they learn to rely on the protection of God” (John Calvin).

“In this verse [verse 17–CD], the Psalmist, by the figure synecdoche under the name of horse, is to be understood as meaning any kind of help. The sense is, that in general those who conceive that their life is well protected by earthly means, are commonly disappointed at the very crisis of danger, and are miserably beguiled to their utter undoing, so that God therein clearly shows them their folly. It is true, that kings are not armed with the sword in vain, nor is the use of horses superfluous, nor are the treasures and resources which God furnishes to defend men’s lives unnecessary, provided a right method of employing them be observed. But as the greater part of men the more they are surrounded with human defences, withdraw themselves the farther from God, and by a false imagination persuade themselves that they are in a haven safe from all disturbance, God acts most justly in disappointing this madness” (John Calvin).

Christian:  True Christians make it their thankful God-focused endeavor to look through the gifts or means to the Giver (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:11).

“And the battle was very hard on that day, and the men of Israel and Abner were stricken before David’s servants. And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel. And Asahel [was] swift with his feet, like one of the gazelles in the field. And Asahel ran after Abner, and did not turn to go to the right or to the left from following Abner. And Abner looked behind him, and said, [Are] you Asahel? And he said, I [am]. And Abner said to him, Turn aside to your right, or to your left, and seize one of the young men for yourself, and take his spoil for yourself. And Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him. And Abner said again to Asahel, Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the earth? And how shall I lift up my face to your brother Joab? And he refused to turn aside. And Abner struck him in the belly with the butt of the spear. And the spear came out from behind him; and he fell there, and died in his place. And it happened that all who came to the place, there where Asahel fell and died, they stood still” (2 Samuel 2:17-23).

“Set in order the buckler and shield, and draw near to battle. Harness the horses, and mount, O horsemen. Yea, stand with helmets, polish the spears, put on coats of mail. Why have I seen [that] they [are] afraid [and] turned backward? And their mighty ones are beaten down, and have fled [for] refuge, and do not look back. Terror [is] all around, says Jehovah. Do not let the swift flee away, nor the mighty man escape. They stumbled and fell to the north, by the side of the river Euphrates. Who [is] this rising up like the Nile, whose waters surge about like the rivers? Egypt rises up like the Nile, and [his] waters surge about like the rivers. And he says, I will go up [and] will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and its people. Come up, horses; and rage, chariots! And let the mighty men come forth, the Ethiopians and the Libyans who handle the shield, and the Lydians who handle [and] tread the bow. For this [is] the day of the Lord Jehovah of Hosts, a day of vengeance, that He may avenge Himself of His foes. And the sword shall devour, and be sated, and made drunk with their blood, for [there] is a sacrifice to the Lord Jehovah of Hosts in the north country by the river Euphrates” (Jeremiah 46:3-10).

“And I raised up from your sons for prophets, and for Nazarites from your young men. [Is this] not even so, O sons of Israel? declares Jehovah. But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and you commanded the prophets, saying, Do not prophesy. Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart full [with] produce [is] pressed. And refuge shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver his life, and he who handles the bow shall not stand, and the swift footed shall not save, and the horse rider shall not save his life. And the strong one in his heart among the mighty shall run away naked in that day, declares Jehovah” (Amos 2:11-16).

“The king is not saved by great force; a mighty man is not saved by great strength. A horse [is] a vain thing for safety; nor does he save by his great strength. Behold the eye of Jehovah [is] to those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for Jehovah; He [is] our help and shield. For our heart rejoices in Him because we trust in His holy name. Let Your mercy be upon us, O Jehovah, even as we trust in You” (Psalm 33:16-22).

“God [is]known in Judah; His name [is] great in Israel. And His abode is in Salem; and His dwelling-place in Zion. There He broke the fiery arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah. You [are] glorious, [more] excellent than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted have been stripped; they slept their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands. By Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the horse and chariot have sunk into a sleep. You, [even] You, are terrifying; and who can stand before You when You are angry? You have caused judgment to be heard from Heaven; the earth feared and was stilled; when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah” (Psalm 76:1-9).