Apr

24

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Numbers 2; Psalm 36; Ecclesiastes 12; Philemon

Numbers 2; Psalm 36; Ecclesiastes 12; Philemon

ALTHOUGH THE TEACHER NEVER arrives at the fullness of perspective that characterizes the writers of the new covenant Scriptures, his skepticism now shrinks as he encourages some fundamental stances that depend absolutely on a just God who knows the end from the beginning, even if we do not. In this vein, he has already told his readers two things: (a) refuse to live just for today; boldly invest in the future, remembering that this world is God’s (Eccl. 11:1-6); (b) live gratefully and joyfully with the good gifts you have received (Eccl. 11:7-10).

In Ecclesiastes 12, Qoheleth offers one final exhortation: be godly, beginning in your youth; for whether or not we find meaning “from below,” we may be certain that God brings everything to judgment. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1), the Teacher writes. To “remember” God is not simply to recall the bare fact of his existence, but to abandon all illusions of independence and self-sufficiency as God regains his rightful centrality in our lives. God made everything, he alone sees the entire pattern, he is the One who has put eternity into our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). He is the One who made everything good, and we are the ones who have done so much damage with our schemes (Eccl. 7:29).

So remember him, Qoheleth exhorts us, “before the days of trouble come” (Eccl. 12:1)—and then in graphic terms he spells out what old age looks like. In advanced years we may no longer find pleasure in our days (Eccl. 12:1). We reach the winter of life (Eccl. 12:2); we become like an old, decaying house, falling apart, with only a few relics left (Eccl. 12:3). Our hearing fades (Eccl. 12:4b); instead of robust walking or skipping over rocks, we are afraid of heights and fearful of being jostled in the streets. The almond tree has a dark head in winter and turns white with spring blossoms, just as our hair turns white (Eccl. 12:5). Suffering from arthritis and worn-out joints, we hobble along like an ungainly grasshopper (Eccl. 12:5). The silver cord is probably the spinal cord, the golden bowl the skull; the pitcher is the heart: everything decays, and we return to the dust from which we sprang—as God himself, this side of the curse, has said we would (Gen. 3:19). It is far from clear that by “our eternal home” (Eccl. 12:5) and “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7) Qoheleth means everything that New Testament writers mean by such expressions, yet even he is now quite certain that “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing” (Eccl. 12:14). So, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

 
 

Apr

23

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecclesiastes 11; Titus 3

Numbers 1; Psalm 35; Ecclesiastes 11; Titus 3

“WARN A DIVISIVE PERSON ONCE, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him” (Titus 3:10). It is worth reflecting a little on what this does and does not mean, and how it fits into broader streams of biblical theology.

First, the passage is written to a church leader responsible for maintaining church discipline. It does not sanction a personal vendetta: Christian X decides that Christian Y is rather divisive and therefore decides to have nothing further to do with Y. (Indeed, that itself would exemplify a divisive spirit!) This is written to a Christian who has responsibility for leading and disciplining the church.

Second, the passage focuses on discipline at the local level; it is not introducing infinitely broad approval of all ecumenical thrusts—a kind of condemnation of anyone who does not approve the latest inter-church project or confession. Of course, there may be implications for the broader work of the Gospel, but we must above all grasp what force the text has in its own context.

Third, the immediate evidence of a divisive spirit, in this context, is an unrepentant argumentativeness about peripherals: Christians must “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9). Undoubtedly there is some common understanding between Paul and Titus on these matters that is a little difficult to probe. Paul is certainly not saying, for instance, that every question about the Law is a waste of time; he himself elsewhere discusses the subject. But controversies calculated to divide Christians without producing any gospel strength or moral improvement are “unprofitable and useless.” One begins to suspect that those who are stirring up such strife have invested so much of their own egos in their eccentric positions that they can neither be corrected nor back down.

Fourth, if “have nothing to do with him” entails excommunication from the local church (as I think it does), we should reflect on the categories of sin that call forth this sanction in the New Testament. One is major doctrinal aberration, especially among teachers; a second is major moral defection, such as the case described in 1 Corinthians 5; and the third is here—a loveless, untransformed stance that refuses to see the centrality and glory of the Gospel but proves so divisive, despite repeated warnings, that the only solution is to cut the canker from the body. These three categories are the inverse of the patterns of life set out as the three primary tests of genuine Christianity in 1 John: doctrinal probity, moral conformity, and love for the brothers and sisters.

 
 

Apr

22

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 27; Psalm 34; Ecclesiastes 10; Titus 2

Leviticus 27; Psalm 34; Ecclesiastes 10; Titus 2

IN 2 TIMOTHY 4 PAUL EXHORTS HIS READER to preach sound doctrine (see meditation for April 21); here in Titus 2 he exhorts them to teach “what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

The ensuing verses show us what this means. By what is “in accord” with sound doctrine Paul means how to live in accordance with sound doctrine. From the apostle’s perspective, Christian leaders must teach not only what to think but how to live in the light of what to think.

Thus older men are to be taught “to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance” (Titus 2:2). That means more than simply telling them those words from time to time. Each of these points needs to be applied and illustrated and pressed home. Similarly, in this passage there are practical things to be taught to older women (Titus 2:3), younger women (Titus 2:4-5), young men (Titus 2:6-8), and slaves (Titus 2:9-10).

Yet these things are not separate education tracks for different groups of people or something to be added to the Gospel. Far from it: what is being laid on these diverse groups is merely the outworking of the Gospel. The next paragraph makes this clear (I have italicized some of the words more traditionally associated with salvation): “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

The logic is transparent enough. If Jesus gave himself to redeem us from sin and to live godly lives in this present evil age, we must devote ourselves to determining what godly lives look like, and to living such lives. Such lives involve many common elements for all groups of Christians, but the practicalities of life mean that there are certain temptations that beset certain groups—old men, young men, and so forth. Some months before he died, my aged father wrote in his diary, “Oh God, save me from the sins of old men”—as I at the moment need to be saved from the sins of middle-aged men.

So we must teach and live what is in accord with sound doctrine. “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you” (Titus 2:15).

 
 

Apr

20

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 25; Psalm 32; Ecclesiastes 8; 2 Timothy 4

Leviticus 25; Psalm 32; Ecclesiastes 8; 2 Timothy 4

FEW PASSAGES HAVE PROVED more popular at evangelical ordination services than, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

We reflect, first, on the charge itself. It may be broken down into four components. (a) The focus of the charge: “Preach the Word.” This is central to all gospel ministry—the heraldic declaration of the content of God’s gracious self-revelation. (b) The urgency of the charge: “be prepared in season and out of season.” It is one thing to be prepared for the stated meetings, the ordinary scheduled obligations to speak, to preach; it is another to be ready to declare the whole counsel of God at the drop of a hat. Paul demands both kinds of readiness. (c) The scope of the charge: “correct, rebuke and encourage.” Preaching the Word means more than the mere conveying of information. There is information, of course, but it is so shaped and applied that it functions in one or more of these transforming ways. Thus the minister of the Gospel is necessarily a spiritual diagnostician, discerning the ailment and knowing what remedies to apply. Pity the minister of the Word who applies encouragement when rebuke is called for, or the reverse. (d) The manner of fulfilling the charge: “with great patience and careful instruction.” Paul’s view of the ministry demands a focus on the long haul, on personal patience, on great care with the substance of what is preached. This is not simply a job to be done, a job by which to support yourself and your family. This demands strong Christian character traits and a mind devoted to thinking through and implementing all that is embraced by “careful instruction.”

In the second place, we observe some of the themes surrounding this charge. (a) This charge to preach the Word Paul solemnly delivers in the name and presence of God and in the light of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead and to consummate his kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1). It is difficult to imagine a weightier introduction. (b) Paul delivers this charge in the expectation that many “will not put up with sound doctrine,” but will prefer teachers who say what they want to hear. There are more “itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3) within evangelicalism than we would like to admit. The proper response is to “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). (c) Paul’s charge is uttered in a context that insists on how important godly mentors are (2 Tim. 3:10-11), how bad the world can be (2 Tim. 3:12-13), and how unshakable the Scriptures are that must be preached (2 Tim. 3:15-16).

 
 

Apr

19

2014

Don Carson|8:00 am CT

Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

IN ECCLESIASTES 7, THE BOOK’S FORM changes, taking on the more typical structure of Wisdom Literature: a string of proverbs. But these proverbs do not, by and large, adopt the stance of the person who holds that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Prov. 9:10). Rather, Qoheleth maintains his quest, searching out the meaning of things explored “from below.” These “common sense” proverbs are touched with an edge of cynicism that is brutally honest but not leavened with godly faith.

The first six are provocatively gloomy. Nothing in the first line prepares the reader for the rabbit punch of the second: e.g., “the day of death [is] better than the day of birth” (Eccl. 7:1b). This is not the confession of faith as in Philippians 1:21, 23. The most positive thing that could be said about this proverb is that it is bluntly realistic, and all of us would benefit from learning to live in light of the fact that we too must die—as the second part of verse 2 makes explicit: “for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (cf. Ps. 90:12). The line of thought to the end of verse 6 is similarly cheerless, but its brutal frankness has cautionary value.

The proverbs in Ecclesiastes 7:7-22 are harder to categorize. There is a kind of practical attempt to make sense of the world, but it is the attempt of the worldly person. Verses 8 and 9 are doubtless good counsel in the life of the believer, but in this context they have a merely pragmatic tinge. “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” (Eccl. 7:10). This annihilates self-indulgent nostalgia, for the Teacher is unlikely to be impressed by the hazy glow that surrounds the past: he has already shown his hand on this point (see Eccl. 1:9). True, Qoheleth praises wisdom (Eccl. 7:11-12), but with a cool affirmation of its utilitarian value—it has advantages, just as money does. In this mood Qoheleth can fluctuate between pious resignation (Eccl. 7:12) and outrageous cynicism (Eccl. 7:13-18)—what F. Derek Kidner labels “the shabby and self-regarding side of common sense.” So also verse 18 is moral cowardice tarted up with stoicism.

The ultimate failure of such wisdom, which does not begin with the fear of the Lord, is acknowledged in the closing verses of the chapter (Eccl. 7:23-29). The Teacher is determined to be wise, but his brand of wisdom “from below” leaves him unable to glimpse much of the real meaning of life; true wisdom is still beyond him (Eccl. 7:23-25), and his own wisdom is clothed with a cynicism regarding human relationships that says more about him than about the people he describes (Eccl. 7:27-28). Only when he returns to the pattern of Creation and Fall (Eccl. 7:29) does he begin to approach a more stable answer.

 
 

Apr

18

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

IN ECCLESIASTES 5:13-6:12, the Teacher enlarges upon two or three grievous evils “under the sun.” Here we focus on those described in Ecclesiastes 6.

One of life’s immense frustrations involves people who receive from God “wealth, possessions and honor” (Eccl. 6:2) such that they lack nothing their heart desires—yet they lack the ability to enjoy these things. The power to enjoy things (first introduced in Eccl. 5:19) is itself a great gift from God. To have so many other gifts and not this one is immensely troubling. The Teacher does not spell out what exactly has foreclosed on the ability to enjoy all the other gifts. It might be a business failure (Eccl. 5:13-15). But it might be chronic illness, or war, or the evil manipulation of someone more powerful, or even some form of insanity. One might die prematurely, and a “stranger” will enjoy all the things one has accumulated (Eccl. 6:2). Or perhaps a person will die not only unfulfilled and barely noticed, but unlamented (“not receiv[ing] proper burial,” Eccl. 6:3). Qoheleth insists that “a stillborn child is better off than he” (Eccl. 6:3). Such a child “comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded” (6:4). But even if someone should live ten thousand years and yet never enjoy all the prosperity God has graciously given him (Eccl. 6:6), his life is meaningless. And in the end he goes to the same place as the stillborn child (Eccl. 6:6).

The chapter ends with a series of blistering rhetorical questions, all designed to substantiate the thesis that, under the sun, everything is “utterly meaningless” (Eccl. 1:2). We work to eat, and eating gives us the strength to go on working: what is the point? (Eccl. 6:7). But if someone replies that a person may not only work and eat, but become a “wise man” (Eccl. 6:8), is it all that clear that the wise are better off than fools? After all, much wisdom may simply bring much frustration and grief, as Qoheleth has already pointed out (Eccl. 1:18). Moreover, isn’t it better to be satisfied with the material world—with what one can touch and hear and see and feel, with “what the eye sees”—than to pursue “the roving of the appetite,” i.e., all the things hidden from view that we hanker after? For this, too, “is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 6:9).

Is this too wretchedly pessimistic to be realistic? But for those who are “under the sun” (Eccl. 6:12) and nothing more, what else is there? We talk too much and know too little (Eccl. 6:11-12). God help us! We need a deliverer from outside our myopic horizons.

 
 

Apr

17

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 22; Psalms 28-29; Ecclesiastes 5; 2 Timothy 1

Leviticus 22; Psalms 28-29; Ecclesiastes 5; 2 Timothy 1

THE TEACHER PAUSES IN HIS ARGUMENT to offer some reflections and home truths regarding how to live in the world as we find it, including the religious world. His argument now takes a pragmatic turn that runs from Ecclesiastes 4:9 to 5:12. Here we focus on Ecclesiastes 5:1-12, which can be divided into two blocks of material.

In the first, Qoheleth describes and condemns the merely pious man. His target is not the full-blown hypocrite so often denounced by the prophets, but the subtler hypocrite who likes to participate in worship services, chatters piously, and who rarely keeps his promises or performs what he has volunteered to do for God. “Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools” (Eccl. 5:1), the Teacher counsels. “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:2). But if you do make a vow to God, “do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it” (Eccl. 5:4-5). “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God” (Eccl. 5:7).

Corporate worship is not a time for daydreaming, a retreat for mental scribbling. This is the worship of a fool. All the pious words and corporate expressions and confessions of faith are reduced to meaninglessness. As you pick your way through the apparent meaninglessness of life, remain steady at least on this point: stand in awe of God.

The second block warns against the meaninglessness of riches. In a fallen and broken world, we should not be surprised by corruption that rips off the people at the bottom of the pecking order (Eccl. 5:8-9). Of course, we should support government administration; officialdom is better than anarchy. Nevertheless in many cultures corruption is so endemic that the predators higher up the ladder are constantly scrambling to grab bigger and bigger pieces of the pie. The Teacher’s comments are dry and entirely in line with cynical secularism.

The sad fact is that love of money creates greater love of money (Eccl. 5:10). Inevitably it attracts a range of parasites, people who fawn over you, whom you cannot really trust (Eccl. 5:11). And at the end of the day, money leaves you with sleepless nights—unlike the nights of the laborer, who works his shift, tires himself out, and enjoys a good night’s sleep (Eccl. 5:12).

The arguments are pragmatic as the Teacher works his way through life pictured from below.

 
 

Apr

16

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 21; Psalms 26-27; Ecclesiastes 4; 1 Timothy 6

Leviticus 21; Psalms 26-27; Ecclesiastes 4; 1 Timothy 6

ONE OF THE INTRIGUING FEATURES OF 1 Timothy 6:3-19 is the way Paul’s argument cuts back and forth. There are four blocks. In the first (1 Tim. 6:3-5), Paul warns against those who teach false doctrines and describes the character of the false teachers with whom he is dealing. One of their motives is “financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:5): they are less interested in the Gospel and in genuine godliness than in sporting an assumed “godliness” to rake in a good living. That introduces the second block (1 Tim. 6:6-10), which warns against the love of money. It is “a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). The proper Christian attitude should be committed contentment, for “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6); moreover, at the end of our lives we take out exactly what we brought in (1 Tim. 6:7). Focusing on the transient things of this life serves only to plunge people into “ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). By contrast, Paul tells Timothy what sort of man he should be: that is the third block (1 Tim. 6:11-16). The apostle then moves to the fourth block (1 Tim. 6:17-19) and tells Timothy to command those who are rich how to conduct themselves. They are to repudiate arrogance, to put no confidence in wealth “which is so uncertain” (1 Tim. 6:17), but to put their confidence in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17). They must use their wealth to do good, to be generous, to share. In this way they will really be laying up treasure for themselves in heaven (1 Tim. 6:19), as the Lord Jesus taught us (Matt. 6:20). Thus Paul insists not on asceticism but on committed generosity as the best Christian response to greed.

So the four blocks deal with, respectively, false teachers and their conduct, the dangers of wealth, a true teacher and his conduct, and the dangers of wealth again. Thus the section that tells Timothy what kind of man he should be (1 Tim. 6:11-16) must be seen, in part, as an antidote to both false teaching and greed.

What is striking about this paragraph is what Paul places over against false doctrine and love of materialism. Paul tells Timothy, in effect, that a focus on eternal things will drive a far healthier Christian ambition. If Timothy is to flee from “all this” (1 Tim. 6:11)—from the crass materialism Paul has just condemned—he must set himself to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11). While he maintains his “good confession”—as Christ maintained his—(1 Tim. 6:12-13), he is to take hold of “eternal life” and persevere until “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:12, 14)—living and serving in the glory of God’s unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:14, 16).

 
 

Apr

15

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5

Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5

NOW QOHELETH, THE TEACHER, looks at time (Eccl. 3:1-17). In isolation, verses 2-8 could be taken in several different ways. They might relativize everything: there is a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to love and a time to hate, and so forth. For some this means that no moral distinctions are to be made. Others might hope to shape their own “times.” But in the context, it is better to read these verses as a mark of futility for those who live only “under the sun,” and a mark of God’s sovereignty for those who embrace a broader perspective.

The reader who has followed the book as far as Ecclesiastes 3:8 might well think that the poetical section of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is another way of saying, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (cf. Eccl. 1:2). The seasons pass away and return; so much of what we experience is generated by the situations we face, so few of which we control. The happy person loses a spouse and dissolves in tears; the peaceful nation finds itself at war; the bereft mourner marries again and dances at her wedding. We preach love, and learn of the Holocaust, and insist that justice demands that we hate. And it is all part of the same meaningless fabric: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). This is nothing but “the burden God has laid on men” (Eccl. 3:10).

But the rest of the passage suddenly changes the flavor. The Teacher will not allow us to remain in this miasma. God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). We see so little of the huge tapestry God is weaving. Qoheleth is not thereby relativizing evil. He of all people knows this is a broken and fallen world. But he insists that, far from meaningless repetition and boring cycles, what takes place “under the sun” can be seen instead as a reflection of God’s design, with a “beginning” and an “end” (Eccl. 3:11) to the pattern. We sometimes glimpse the spectacular, kaleidoscopic glory, but our horizon is so small and our trust in God so paltry that such visions are rare. But God “has also set eternity in our hearts.” Unlike dogs or chimpanzees, we know we are immersed in eternity, and we long to see more of the pattern than we can; we “cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11). Meanwhile, it is a “gift from God” to eat and labor and find satisfaction in one’s own patch, all the while happily aware “that everything God does will endure forever” (Eccl. 3:13-14). The cycles that the unbeliever finds meaningless and despairing incite the believer to faithfulness and worship.

 
 

Apr

14

2014

Don Carson|5:00 am CT

Leviticus 19; Psalms 23-24; Ecclesiastes 2; 1 Timothy 4

Leviticus 19; Psalms 23-24; Ecclesiastes 2; 1 Timothy 4

BEFORE PROBING THE ARGUMENT OF Ecclesiastes 2, I must pick up one line from chapter 1. Setting himself to explore by wisdom “all that is done under heaven,” the Teacher concludes, “What a heavy burden God has laid on men!” (Eccl. 1:13). Some might think this utterance springs more from bitterness than from faith, but at least it demonstrates that Qoheleth never descends into atheism. Yet those who read Ecclesiastes within the framework of the whole Bible cannot fail to see something more. This side of the Fall, God has indeed imposed on the created order an intentional discipline, a purposeful curse. Paul understands this and may be thinking of Ecclesiastes when he writes, “For the creation was subjected to frustration [or futility, or vanity, or meaninglessness], not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:20-21).

So now the Teacher begins his exploration of various domains:

(a) He pursues pleasure and wine (Eccl. 2:1-3). It is not that pleasure is never pleasurable, but that the more you chase it the more it disappears before your face, and you are “chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 1:17). It is such an ephemeral and unsatisfying thing for people to pursue “during the few days of their lives” (Eccl. 2:3).

(b) So he turns to building a vast estate, with all the pleasures tied to success and money. He is honest enough to testify that his heart took delight in his work, and this delight was the reward of his labor (Eccl. 2:10). Yet he looks back on his projects, at everything he had “toiled to achieve” (Eccl. 2:11), and he knows they have no eternal significance; they too are “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 2:11). He has to leave them all behind, whether his heir is a wise man or a fool (Eccl. 2:19).

(c) Even the pursuit of wisdom seems futile (Eccl. 2:12-16). Both the wise and the fool end up dead; neither will be remembered very long after death. Qoheleth does not deny that wisdom is better than folly (Eccl. 2:13), but insists that death swamps both. Wisdom and folly do not exist by themselves; there are only wise human beings and foolish human beings, and all human beings die.

Yet the preliminary evaluation at the end of the chapter (Eccl. 2:24-26) anticipates arguments still to come. There is God-given pleasure in work and food and drink. Part of the problem lies in trying too hard, in trying to extract from these pleasures more significance than they can provide. They are genuine pleasures from God, and to “the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness,” while the sinner’s life is profoundly meaningless.