Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Everything Matters



Part 16 of a series through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes

Text: 12:9-14


GOD’S WISDOM

The Preacher’s first and last words in Ecclesiastes are “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2; 12:8). This is his evaluation of “life under the sun.” If all you have is this life, in the end, you have nothing.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care (v. 9).

Though the wisdom of Ecclesiastes was taught by the Preacher, it originated from God, the “one Shepherd” (v. 11).
  • God’s wisdom contains both pleasing and painful words. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth (v. 10). The Preacher was concerned with not only what he said, but also how he said it. His words were pleasing (artistic): “For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven” (3:1). “Two are better than one” (4:9). “A dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words” (5:3). “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” (9:11). His words were also painful: “All is vanity and a striving after wind” (1:14). “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (7:20). “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (12:7).
  • God’s wisdom provides correction and stability. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd (v. 11). "Goads" were sharp sticks used to move (not injure) stubborn or wayward cattle. The wisdom of the Bible often corrects us like a goad. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Saul of Tarsus was corrected by the ascended Christ on the road to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14)."Nails" may refer to stakes that secured a shepherd's tent. If we follow the wisdom found in God's Word, our lives will gain stability.
  • God’s wisdom is often incompatible with man’s wisdom. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is weariness of the flesh (v. 12). There are thousands and thousands of books written and published every year. Many of these books are good. Many of them contradict the truth of Scripture. We don't have the time to read every book out there. We must give priority to the book that God has given us.

THE FINAL WORD

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments (v. 13a).

The book of Ecclesiastes concludes with two commands:
  1. Fear God. Fearing God is a recurring topic in Ecclesiastes (3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13).
  2. Keep God's commandments. There is a link between fearing God and keeping His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:1-2; 8:6; 10:12-13; 13:4; 31:12). The attitude of fearing God should result in the action of keeping His commandments.
Why should we fear God and keep His commandments? Two reasons: (1) This is our purpose. For this is the whole duty of man (v. 13b). “For this is man’s all” (NKJV). (2) We will face judgment. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (v. 14). When motivating children to obey, you can use one of two strategies: the threat of punishment or the promise of rewards. (Recently, I motivated my two boys to read by telling them I would give them a penny for every page they read. I called it "pennies for pages.") For the unbeliever, God’s judgment will determine the degree of punishment; for the believer, God’s judgment will determine the amount of rewards.

If there is no God, there is no Judge. If there is no Judge, there is no final judgment. If there is not final judgment, there is no ultimate meaning to life. If there is not ultimate meaning to life, nothing matters. But there is a God. There is a Judge. There is a final judgment. There is ultimate meaning to live. So everything matters!

Two attitudes toward keeping God’s commandments: (1) “I have to obey God” or “I want to obey God.” For example, people often ask, "Is tithing mandated for today, or is it just an Old Testament command?" Others, who believe in tithing, ask, "Do I have to give a tenth of my gross income or my net income?" As Christians, instead of asking "What do I have to give?" we should ask, "How much can I give?" Remember, God didn’t give us 10%. He gave us Jesus.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Are you demonstrating your fear of God and love for God by keeping His commandments?