Ecclesiastes 12 & Philemon

Ecclesiastes 12

    Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low—they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

    Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

    The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

    The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

(Ecclesiastes 12 ESV)

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Philemon

    Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

    To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

    Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus—I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

    So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

    Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

    Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

(Philemon ESV)

Philemon: The apostle Paul’s brief letter to Philemon is a powerful portrait of true gospel reconciliation for various levels of Christian relationships. Philemon had been wronged by his bondservant, Onesimus, who stole from his master and fled his master’s house. However, at some point after fleeing, Onesimus encountered the apostle Paul and under his teaching and mentorship became a Christian in the process. Rather than forgetting his wrong and encouraging him to walk free as a new man in Christ, the apostle Paul encourages Onesimus to go back and make things right with his former master Philemon. 

Repentance and regeneration doesn’t take away the responsibility to reconcile damaged relationships. Salvation in Christ seeks the restoration of what’s previously been broken. 

As the apostle sends Onesimus back to Philemon, he sends with him this letter appealing to Philemon to forgive his bondservant and receive him as a brother in Christ. In His sovereignty, our Lord had turned a sinful situation of theft and desertion into an action that led to a man’s redemption and a restored relationship between a master and bondservant that was better than it had ever been before. May we rejoice at our gospel that can turn a stealing bondservant into his master’s beloved brother, and like Philemon, may we be willing to endure loss if it inevitably leads to eternal life for those who have wronged us.