This is King Solomon’s conclusion to his investigation of life. He started out Ecclesiastes wondering what the point of all of life was, and we’ve gone on this journey with him, seeing all the things he explored, all the rocks he uncovered. He’s laid it all out for us; all of his wisdom, his experiences, his mistakes. He’s given us all the evidence and now here’s the verdict in verse 13: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.” He’s found something that’s good and right and has purpose for us, for all of us. Did you hear it?
Fear God. That doesn’t sound like what I want to build my life around, being afraid of someone. Solomon you’re telling me that the who point of my life, all of our lives, is to be afraid of God? Yes. But probably not the way we typically think of fear. Solomon’s not talking about the dreadful fear of someone who’s gonna harm you, but the kind of fear like a kid would have for her good parents. There’s a love, adoration, and respect she has for them that motivates her wanting to please them and make them smile.
Which is why he says to keep God’s commands. Fear God, and keep his commands. Now, again, upfront that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, and definitely not a way that I want to spend my life. But that IS how some people spend their lives. They find every single command that God makes in the Bible, and then go even farther than what God said. They make their own rules that are more restrictive than God’s rules, and then think it’s a sin to break those man-made rules for themselves, and for others. But Solomon’s not talking about living a life that’s focused on God’s commands in that way, because Jesus hated that. He went on this righteously angry rant in Matthew 23 at people who were only focused on keeping God’s commands, because they’d missed God himself. God’s commands were meant to show us that we’re not holy on our own. We fall short, we’re broken, and so we need someone to save us from our inability to keep God’s commands. God’s commands were meant to drive us to Jesus, who saves us from our disobedience.
So to keep God’s commands goes beyond just following the specific commands. It’s good and right for us to do that. But God wants our hearts, not just our obedience. To keep God’s commands here means to love God so much that our desire is to please him in everything. To find joy in Him in all of life.
So to fear God and keep his commands means to love, adore, and respect God so much that we want to please him in every part of our lives.
And just in case someone might say, hey that’s great for you, but that’s not for me. He makes this statement: This is For all Humanity. All humanity. This is what life is all about for all of us.
So Solomon’s really telling us about now not to miss out on everything. Because it’s possible to live a life, even a comfortable, enjoyable life of experiencing all the best things in this world, but still totally miss what this is all about. So how do we do that?
Look back at verse 1: “So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”;” So this is a command. Remember your creator. It’s not a good idea or a suggestion, Solomon commands it. When you’re flying out the door and someone tells you, “remember your keys!” You become totally focused on your keys in that moment, right? Where are they, do I have them, where could my kid have hid them. So Solomon wants us to be totally focused on our creator in the days of our youth. All over the Bible we read about how young people are driven and usually ruled by their passions. Whatever they’re passionate about, they go all in on, right? Like I remember my brother’s stages. There was the vitamins stage. There was the Blue’s Clues stage. There was the legos stage. The batman stage. The hot wheels stage. And on and on. Kids go all in on the things they’re passionate about. And here’s what Solomon’s telling us in verse 1, if you don’t wanna miss out on the whole purpose of life, then BE PASSIONATE ABOUT JESUS. Especially when you’re young. There’s something about shaping our passions before the days of adversity come, and we get older in life, that’s critical in Solomon’s mind.
What passions are you feeding? How could you begin to feed and grow in your passion for Jesus?
Because the years are coming when, if you haven’t grown in your passion for Jesus, it’ll be almost impossible at that point. What years are those? Old age. This whole next section is a metaphor about aging. Check it out in verse 2: “before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble,” those are like our arms…as you get older, your arms get weaker… “and the strong men stoop,” …the strong men are our legs, the strongest muscles in our bodies, they’ll begin to stoop, to buckle… “the women who grind grain cease because they are few,” …man that’s our teeth…those things are gonna cease grinding, probably because they’re gonna fall out… “and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,” …our eyes are gonna get weaker… “the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. …our hearing’s gonna go… “Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, everything slows down and gets more dangerous and the caper berry has no effect; for the mere mortal is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the gold bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Eventually every part of our body is gonna turn to dust man. That’s where this physical thing is heading. That’s where we’re all heading. So Solomon says “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.” Everything in this life is just empty, heading to dust. So here’s what Solomon’s saying. Secondly, if you don’t want to miss out on the whole purpose of life, then HOLD YOUR LIFE LOOSELY.
Here’s what I mean by that: we need to guard against making the temporal our idol. Our bodies, this life, it’s temporary. We’re all heading back to dust and so to idolize our physical bodies is to idolize emptiness. You’re body’s gonna fail you.
Solomon says that the way to not miss out on life isn’t to protect your life at all cost, but to recognize that there’s a greater use for our bodies than just longevity. The winner isn’t the person who lives longest. Because in the end, they still go back to dust like the rest of us. It’s the person who uses their body for what it’s meant to be used for that doesn’t miss out on all of life.
Look at what 1 Corinthians 6: “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” Your body is God’s temple. The temple in Israel was the place where God was, and people from all over could come encounter Him in that place. But now, YOU are the temple of God, and Jesus has told us to go into all the world to show people who God is. That’s what your body is for, to display God in all that you do. You get the unbelievable opportunity to display Jesus to anyone and everyone, just by showing up. Go all in on that. Show up.
Look at verse 9: “In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and write words of truth accurately. Solomon’s describing himself and saying, you know, I asked God for wisdom and He gave me incredible wisdom. And beyond that, I spent my time weighing, exploring, arranging proverbs in a way that communicate truth.” And so you’d think that the wisest person in the world, the person who knows more than all of us and whose done all the homework and had all the life experiences, would be a person for us to follow, right? But, look at what’s said in 1 Kings 11 about the end of Solomon’s life: “Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to the Lord…The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had commanded him about this, so that he would not follow other gods, but Solomon did not do what the Lord had commanded.” Even though Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs, over 1,000 songs, he still made a mess of his life. This is a guy who was more wise than you and me, but his actions didn’t match his wisdom. Like look at what he wrote in Proverbs chapter 4 Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil. That’s good stuff. That’s worthy of a mug or a t-shirt or a bumper sticker. He knows all the right stuff to say, he knows so much truth! But Solomon didn’t take his own advice.
Solomon’s telling us that if we don’t want to miss out on all of life, we should LOVE JESUS MORE THAN FACTS ABOUT JESUS. Don’t trust in anyone or anything else for our standing before God. Not even our own knowledge and wisdom. Bible knowledge doesn’t save you. Solomon had a ton of Bible knowledge, and in the end made decisions that went totally opposite of what God wanted.
How are you and Jesus? You, personally? How are you and Jesus doing? Not what facts can you tell me about Jesus, but how are you two doing?
What do you think about Him? What do you feel about Him? What do you love about Him? How are you connected to Him? How’s he speaking to you.
Look at verse 11: “The sayings of the wise are like cattle prods, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.” Solomon talks about these wise words that are like cattle prods. A cattle prod is a long stick that was used to steer a cow back onto the right path Cows are bulky, tough animals to steer, so that prod better be solid. And Solomon says the sayings of the wise are like firmly embedded nails. There are no lose nails in these sayings he’s talking about. They all work together to produce something strong, able to keep us on the path of life. And they are sayings given by one Shepherd.
So if you don’t want to miss out on the the purpose of all of life, STAY FIXED IN GOD’S WORD. Love the Bible. Read the Bible. Meditate on the Bible. Pray the Bible. Memorize the Bible. Sing the Bible. Get parts of the Bible tattooed on your body. Jesus has his name tattooed on his body. Posture your life in a way where you just can’t get enough of it.
Solomon tells us that we’ll be tempted to Go too far beyond it. We’ll be tempted to settle with reading books about the Bible, preaching sermons about the bible, rather than actually being in the Bible.
If you want to stay laser focused on the meaning of all of life, then stay laser focused on the Bible. It’s how God told us who He is. It’s how God told us what to think about ourselves. In 2 Peter 1 it goes so far as to say that in the Bible we’ve been given everything we need for life.
Have you strayed away from it? Has your passion for it been wavering? Has your time spent in it been declining? Then you’re positioning yourself in a dangerous place, where you could possibly miss out on what life’s all about.
And then verse 14: “For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” This is one of those verses that pastors and parents would use to keep kids from making bad decisions. Usually for me, this verse was used to incite fear and a dislike for God because God was just looking, waiting for me to mess up so that he could judge me. But listen, I think Solomon’s saying that if we don’t want to miss out on all of life, then we should LOOK FORWARD TO HOW THIS LIFE ENDS.
Why can we do that? Because the cross is where that judgment happened. Jesus was judged for you. And if you have Jesus, he said that your judgment is finished. He paid it, he did it, and so this will be a day of praising Jesus for his grace in our lives.
But it all hinges on whether or not Jesus has you. Are you His kid? Have you repented of your sin, received his life and death for you, and now are pursuing him with your life? If so, then you can look forward to how life will end.
If not, then there should be some dread. Because when life ends, you’ll have to take the punishment for all of your sin on yourself.
So come to Jesus now, right now, today, and be freed to not miss out on the whole purpose of life.