"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!" Ecclesiastes 1:2
Ecclesiastes is by far the most depressing book of the Bible. But don't refuse to read it because of that. Ecclesiastes questions if there is any meaning to life. It seems to conclude that like is not worth living. This is a valid conclusion before the saving work of Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, without You we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).
"Nothing that my eyes desired did I deny them, nor did I deprive myself of any joy."Ecclesiastes 2:10
When you accomplish everything and find out it's nothing, then you're really depressed. "All was vanity and a chase after wind" (2:11, 17, 26).
Prayer: Father, thank You for the new covenant.
Promise: "There is nothing better for man than to eat and drink and provide himself with good things by his labors. Even this, I realized, is from the hand of God." 2:24
"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1
The above verse is the most famous passage of Ecclesiastes. At first glance, it is inspiring poetry. After more careful examination, however, we see that the poem is fatalistic and depressing. It maintains that things are going to happen when they're going to happen, and we can't do a thing about it.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being Lord of my life and of history. Thank You for saving me from being a mere victim of circumstances.
Promise: "I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it."3:14
"Again I considered all the oppressions that take place under the sun: the tears of the victims with none to comfort then!" Ecclesiastes 4:1
The dead are better off than the living, and the non-existent are better off than the dead. The best we can hope for is company to join us in our misery, says Qoheleth.
Prayer: Jesus, because of Your company, I'm freed from misery. I love and adore You.
Promise: "Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Let your approach be obedience."4:17
"Rather, fear God!" Ecclesiastes 5:6
Qoheleth talks about vows, injustice, kingship, covetousness, and distractions. This chapter, like life, seems confusing and to have little order.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for bringing everything into one under Your headship (Eph 1:10).
Promise: "God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let you words be few."5:1
"Who knows what is good for a man in life?" Ecclesiastes 6:12
The more we get, the more we want. We're never satisfied. It would have been better to have been born dead, says Qoheleth.
Prayer: Lord, have mercy.
"Behold, only this have I found out: God made mankind straight, but men have had recourse to many calculations." Ecclesiastes 7:29
It's better to go to the funeral home than to a party. It is better to frown than smile. It's better to be quiet than to talk. And don't talk about the "good old days" because there were no "good old days." It's best not to know too much. The more aware we are, the more burdens we have, says Qoheleth.
Prayer: Jesus, if not for You...
Promise: He who fears God will win through at all events."7:18
"The sinner does evil a hundred times and survives." Ecclesiastes 8:12
The injustice and hypocrisy of society makes you feel like forgetting the whole thing and escaping from reality.
Prayer: Jesus, I fix my eyes on You (Heb 12:2). May I not be distracted by the world.
Promise: "He who keeps the commandment experiences no evil, and the wise man's heart knows times and judgments."8:5
"A live dog is better off than a dead lion. For the living know that they are to die, but the dead no longer know anything." Ecclesiastes 9:4-5
Qoheleth revises his previous conclusions that the dead are better off than the living. Now he believes the living are better off than the dead. The advantage of living is that we know at least one thing: that we're going to die. Doesn't that make you feel better?
Prayer: "Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation! He comforts us in all our afflictions" (2 Cor 1:3-4).
Promise: "The just, the wise, and their deeds are in the hand of God." 9:1
"The fool multiplies words." Ecclesiastes 10:14
"The birds of the air may carry your voice, a winged creature may tell what you say." Ecclesiastes 10:20
"Cast your bread upon the waters; after a long time you may find it again." Ecclesiastes 11:1
This is one of the most famous versus of Ecclesiastes. It may be a call to generosity in almsgiving. Yet its meaning is unclear, and so is the meaning of life. "Remember that the days of darkness will be many" (11:8).
Prayer: Father, "in Your light we see light" (Ps 36:10).
Promise: "Rejoice, O young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth."11:9
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come." Ecclesiastes 12:1
Qoheleth graphically describes the gruesome details of growing old. He mercilessly drives home the point: "vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity!" (12:8)
Prayer: Father, thank You for loving us so mush as to send Your Son Jesus, so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).
Promise: "The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." 12:13
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Ralph J. Lawrence, November 17, 1997
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, November 19, 1997
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com