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A fly in the ointment

—  Doctor, Doctor, there’s a fly in the ointment! —  Yes, he’s recovering from a nasty soup burn. Ehem. “A fly in the ointment” is that minor detail that causes major irritation. The phrase has evolved from its biblical origins in Ecclesiastes: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking […]

Eat, drink and be merry

“A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:15) Here is very good advice.  There is nothing better in life than to […]

To every thing there is a season

Aside from the title – “Turn, Turn, Turn” – Pete Seeger wrote 6 words.   Solomon wrote the other 173.  Yet , today, it’s probably the Byrds’ cover version that’s more famous than either! There has never been a chart-topper with older lyrics than this song.  Yet, of all Scripture, why have these words from […]

There is nothing new under the sun

–  “History repeats itself.” –  “What goes around comes around.” –  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Anyone who lives long enough will observe a relentless circularity to life.  That was certainly Solomon’s experience.  And it bred in him a desperate world-weariness. Here’s how he began his spiritual journal: “4 One […]

Vanity of vanities

In Proverbs we heard the wisdom of Solomon, here in Ecclesiastes we listen in on his despair. “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.  Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2) So begins the spiritual journal of the richest, wisest and most famous […]

Spare the rod and spoil the child

This phrase is biblical in origin, but distilled through the poetry of Samuel Butler: “Love is a Boy, by Poets styl’d, Then Spare the Rod, and spill the Child.” In 1662 “spill” was an alternative spelling for “spoil.”  But it seems that Butler relied on a yet more ancient poet.  In 1377 William Langland wrote: […]

A soft answer turneth away wrath

Why doesn’t God simply forgive us of our sins?  Why the mess and the agony of the cross?  Why the elaborate nature of atonement – prefigured through millions of animal deaths, and then purchased by the death of Christ Himself? Surely God could go to our sin folder, hit “Select all” and drag it into the […]

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart

This is many people’s favourite Scripture.  It was the verse written by my mother into my confirmation bible: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:4-5) I wonder what approach you take to the […]

The words of the wise

We’ve seen Job and the Psalms, now the books of “wisdom literature” continue as we turn to the book of Proverbs.   Here we have a long and colourful fireside chat.  It’s the words of a father to his son.  Verse 1 introduces us to the father: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king […]

Praise the LORD

The book of Psalms concludes the way all things will conclude – with noisy, joyful praise.  Psalm 150: “Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.  Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.  Praise him with the sound of the […]