The Words of the Assembler

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem:
— Ec 1:1

The Word

These are the words, the Dabhar, the spoken words that give birth, that give life. These words have power, but not in themselves, and not as they lay dead on the page. They only come to life when spoken and put into action. So don't just read them, say them out loud.  

Read the words of Scripture with your voice.  Give them breath and life.  In our modern world, we have lost the power of the spoken or enacted word. We have become passive in almost every aspect of our lives.  We watch. We listen. We react.  We allow life to wash over us.  If we want to have a true and abundant life, we must speak, hear, and act.

This is the heart of faith.  Faith acts in, through, with, and by compassion and Dabhar.

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
— Paul, Romans 10:17 WEB

Faith is the first of the five strengths that gives us power in our lives.

The Five Strengths

These words are the seeds of faith through which we can build the five strengths:

  1. Faith [Emunah]
  2. Effort [Ahmahl]
  3. Mindfulness (Hineini)
  4. Concentration (Kavanah)
  5. Wisdom [Chochma]).

Faith

Faith isn't what it is often said to be.  Faith is the confidence and credit we give to people, things, and ideas because they have demonstrated their trustworthiness.  Faith is not blind. Faith is not believing without evidence.

True faith is born from experience. If an idea, person, or anything else appeals to you and there is no valid evidence for or against it, and the consequences of not having an opinion is the same as choosing a side, and you feel that this idea, person, or whatever could have a positive impact on your life, you test it to see if it really is true.

We do this all the time with people we think could be a good friend, or a chair we have never sat in before.  We examine the chair to see if it looks sturdy, and if we don't find any obvious flaws, we invest a little faith in the chair and move on to effort and sit down.  With people, we gauge their trustworthiness at a glance, and if they look trustworthy, we move on to effort and talk to them.  We do this so often, we don't even realize we do it.

When it comes to ideas, we too often reject this process.  Some ideas should fail the first test, and there are valid reasons to reject them, but we have to make sure our reasons are valid.  There are no valid arguments for or against the existence of God, or any of the other concepts we are going to discuss in this study.  As a result, their truth claims must be tested and examined closely, and if you find them as compelling as I do, try them.  They will have as positive an effect on your life as they have on mine.

Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.
— Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 WEB

Effort

What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can that faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled;” and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it?

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead?

Wasn’t Abraham, our father, justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness;” and he was called the friend of God. You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith.

In like manner wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
— James, the brother of the Lord, James 2:14-26 WEB

James' argument is a powerful one.  The two most important takeaways are: "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself...  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead (James 2:17, 26)."

While we are saved by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), it is through our works that we demonstrate and strengthen our faith.  We justify our faith as Father Abraham and Rahab did before us (James 2:18).  Jesus himself said that we will be judged by our works (Matthew 25:31-46), because they are the proof of what it truly in our hearts.

Simply believing something helps no one.  True faith brings action, and those actions bear out that persons faith (Matthew 7:15-20).  How can you tell the true from the false?  Like a tree, you judge it by its fruit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
— Paul, Galatians 5:22-23 WEB

When a true faith is put into action it brings about:

  • Love, agape, compassion, benevolence
  • Joy, gladness
  • Peace, tranquillity, harmony, concord
  • Patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
  • Kindness, integrity
  • Goodness, uprightness of heart and life, kindness
  • Faithfulness, conviction, fervor
  • Gentleness, mildness of disposition, meekness
  • Self-control

These nine traits make it easy to see if our actions and in turn our faith is true.  If our actions are angry, judgmental, impatient; then our faith and our effort are flawed.  If we are not kind and compassionate, we have strayed from the truth.  

When we apply these eyes of faith to so many religious movements, doctrines, and activities; we see them for what they are.  Once we see the flaw, we then take action and change ourselves.  In so doing, we change our community and our world for the better.

So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
— Paul, Philippians 2:12

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is bringing the energy of awareness to the present moment.  It discerns the truth in the moment, and connects the heart to the truth of the moment.  Mindfulness is exhibited by Father Abraham.  

It happened after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” He said, “Here I am.”
— Genesis 22:1 WEB

Here I am (הִנֵּנִי, hineini).  With those simple words, our Father Abraham entered the presence of God.  The act of being here is less a state of mind than it is a tool, faculty, and power.  

There are five aspects of mindfulness.

  1. Awareness of the material nature of all things and flow of nature.
  2. Awareness that Emotions may be unpleasant, pleasant, or neither.  These emotions are ripples on the mind that do not change its essential nature.
  3. Awareness of that the perceived attributes of a thing are not necessarily indicative of the true nature of that thing.
  4. Awareness of our mental state, words spoken, and urges.
  5. Awareness of our senses and the thoughts that arise in our minds.

Jesus often pointed out the lack of mindfulness on the part of his detractors.

Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, “Why do you reason that it’s because you have no bread? Don’t you perceive yet, neither understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, don’t you see? Having ears, don’t you hear? Don’t you remember?
— Mark 8:17-18 WEB

Mindfulness is the salve that brings understanding to our perceptions, fosters compassion in our hearts, allows us to see clearly with our eyes and discern truth with our ears.  He ends with the question about mindfulness.  He asked his followers to be mindful of his works (Matthew 16:9), his words (John 15:20),

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it is the wellspring of life.
— Proverbs 4:23 WEB

Jesus commands the apostles to go for a mindfulness retreat (Mark 6:14-32)

In withdrawal and quietness is deliverance, and in stillness and trust is strength (Isaiah 30:15) 

Don’t be fashioned according to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
— Paul, Romans 12:2 WEB
But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind.
— Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 WEB
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ — as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.”
— Peter, 1 Peter 1:13-16 WEB
Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.
— Paul, Philippians 2:5-8 WEB

Concentration


Wisdom


The Assembler

Preacher is the hebrew word, Koheleth, which means, “collector, assembler, preacher.”  It comes from the word, Qahal, which means, “to assemble, gather, or summon an assembly.”   This describes the main task and goal presented by the Preacher.  We are learn how to see the world as it is, seeing emptiness (hevel) of all things, and learning to find Simcha in the midst of it.