VIII. Fear God and Keep His Commands (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14)


VIII. Fear God and Keep His Commands (12:1-14)

There’s nothing like the thrill of a roller coaster ride. But when it ends, you return to standing in the next line, longing for a few more moments of exhilaration. Fireworks are captivating and exciting. But it doesn’t take long before the show concludes and the sky turns dark once more. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon has considered the ups and downs of life, noting that even a good today can be quickly forgotten with a bad tomorrow. “Under the sun,” life is unpredictable. Our real, physical world is filled with real people, real problems, and real pain. It’s an uncertain reality in which we live, work, play, raise families, and die.

Yet, throughout the book, Solomon highlights the greater spiritual truth and meaning that only God can provide. Solomon wants us to see that life’s ultimate meaning can only be found in him—not in the continually changing circumstances of life. To avoid living futile and meaningless lives, we need to make an awareness of God’s kingdom rule a regular, ongoing, and strategic part of how we define, observe, and engage life.

12:1 The key to developing this divine perspective is to start early: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Children, then, should be urged to start looking at the world through the lens of God’s Word while they’re young, so sow the seeds of God consciousness into your children. Exhort them to make their Creator—the source and sustainer of life—their reference point. Why? Because the days of adversity are coming. In other words, old age and its frustrations are approaching all of us.

12:2-6 Solomon uses a variety of metaphors to talk about the aging process and what inevitably follows it: The sun and the light are darkened (12:2); strong men stoop (12:3); the sound of the mill fades (12:4); man is headed to his eternal home (12:5); the silver cord is snapped (12:6); the wheel is broken (12:6). He’s talking about the body’s operating systems breaking down. Given enough time, the aging process will take away your vigor and vitality. Sickness and weariness will become routine. Bones turn brittle; hands tremble; muscles weaken; disease invades. Therefore, before the gloom of old age sets in, make God’s viewpoint your own. While you still have strength, remember your Creator. Adopt a God-perspective. If while you’re young you’re always “dying to do this” and “dying to do that,” one day you’ll be old and discover that you’re just dying.

12:7-8 The dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (12:7). We began as dust, and we return to dust (see Gen 2:7). Therefore, Solomon ends where he started (1:2): everything is futile (12:8). He is certain that life under the sun is meaningless. While you can find some occasional enjoyment in it, it’s mixed with disappointment. So if this is all you have to look forward to, it’s empty. There’s no ultimate meaning in it. To find true meaning, you have to bring God to bear on your life and let him bring perspective and higher purpose into this emptiness.

12:9-11 Solomon taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs (12:9). God graciously gave Solomon wisdom so that he might teach us, and Solomon composed this wisdom into delightful sayings (12:10). His descriptions and illustrations are vital because they grab our attention, help us understand truth, and emphasize its relevance to our lives. (Preachers, take note!) He communicates in such a way that readers can’t miss his points.

In a sense, Solomon’s wise sayings are like cattle prods used to poke and motivate an ox; they provoke us and push us to a response. They provide a divine frame of reference and enable us to discern the best choices to make in life. When read and digested, they work like firmly embedded nails driven into our hearts and minds.

Ultimately, the sayings we find in this book are given by one Shepherd (12:11). The Lord Jesus Christ works through them to prick our consciences and apply them to our hearts.

12:12 There is no end to the making of many books, so while we should read what God has given us through Solomon and other biblical writers, we should also study other good books faithfully based on Scripture too. There’s a seemingly endless supply of resources based on this one book. That’s because the Bible is so deep that theologians can’t touch the bottom, but it’s so shallow that babies won’t drown. Nevertheless, we must remember that much study wearies the body. There comes a time when you must put down the books and choose wisely.

12:13-14 Here Solomon says in essence, Let’s bring it all home: The conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity (12:13). This truth applies to everyone. You are not an exception. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil (12:14).

Life isn’t over when it’s over. The actions of humanity—good and evil—are all on tape. And while you can’t erase what’s on your tape, you can create new and better footage. As long as you draw breath, the recorder is still running. Therefore, don’t waste your days. Take God seriously and conform your will to his. Maximize the time God has given you, enjoy the legitimate pleasures he provides, and thank him in both good times and bad. Seek his divine perspective for your day-to-day decisions and make your life count toward the fulfillment of his kingdom agenda.