Reflections and Blog

Take Time to Read the Instructions

Earlier this week, I put together a new piece of Ikea furniture, a shoe dresser. I started by unpacking all the different pieces and opening the assembly instruction booklet to step one. I then proceeded to put the pieces together, constantly consulting the booklet for what I was supposed to do next. Even with the instructions, putting together the dresser wasn’t as quick and easy as I expected. Some of the steps didn’t make sense to me at first, and I had to look ahead to better understand exactly what pieces I was supposed to use and how. I also had to redo a few steps after I realized I had not followed the instructions correctly. However, after about three hours, the dresser was complete and successfully installed in our apartment. I felt satisfied with the result, though I did wonder why I had a wooden dowel left over at the end.

As I worked on the dresser, I found myself thinking about the Sunday sermon and especially Ecclesiastes 10:8-11; folly fails to prepare and often only looks for help after great damage has been done. What would assembling the dresser have been like if I had had no instructions, or had them but ignored them, or consulted them but rejected their direction? No doubt, I could have made some progress and maybe even have completed the dresser on my own, but only after much trial and error. The task would have taken much longer, I probably would have gotten repeatedly frustrated in the process, and the end result—if I ever got there—likely would have been less beautiful and less secure than if I had followed the instructions. Of course, Ikea furniture is relatively simple to put together, and the stakes are not exactly high, but what about putting together one’s life?

As Solomon has reminded us throughout Ecclesiastes, we only get one shot at life (Eccl 9:4-10). Because life is so mysterious (Eccl 8:16-17), and because the stakes of miscarrying our lives are so high (Eccl 6:3-6), we dare not proceed in life without the wisdom of God’s gracious instruction booklet: the Bible. We not only need his wisdom at the beginning of our way (Eccl 12:1), but also we need to regularly consult it throughout our way (Eccl 9:16-18; Prov 2:1-5). But do we do this? We shouldn’t be surprised that the world remains largely unconcerned about God’s instructions, but what about Christians? Are you yourself carefully building your life, the life of your family, and the life of your church with God’s instructions? Are you devoted to God’s wisdom of the Bible, meditating on it day and night (Psa 1:1-3)? Or do you find that you never get around to it? Do you leave unopened the gift of God’s wisdom?

In the Bible, two realities are called “the beginning of wisdom:” “the fear of Yahweh” (Prov 1:7; 9:10; Ps 111:10) and “acquire wisdom!” (Prov 4:7) Indeed, recognizing our great and continual need for God’s wisdom is a fundamental step in building our lives well. Therefore, let’s make sure we take the time to read God’s instructions.

Ecclesiastes 10:10-11 (NASB95), If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.

Questions to Consider:
1. Why do people choose not to read instructions? How is this true with the Bible as well?
2. Practically speaking, how can you arrange your personal devotions and church involvement to grow in God’s wisdom?
3. Practically speaking, how can help the next generation at home and in the church also to grow in God’s wisdom?