Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 What Life Is All About Part 2

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Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 What Life Is All About Part 2

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 What Life Is All About Part 2 (A School and a Stewardship)

We come to the final section of the final chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. For eleven chapters, Solomon has described ways that people try to find meaning in life and how that effort fails. He then turns to his take on “what life is all about.” Last week we looked at life as an adventure and life as a gift. Today we end this section as well as the book with the last two ways to view life. One should view life as a school and as a stewardship.

1. Life is a school. Learn your lessons (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12)

Someone has said that life is like a school, except that sometimes you don’t know what the lessons are until you have failed the examination. God teaches us primarily from His Word; but He also teaches us through creation, history, and the various experiences of life.1

CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S CURRICULUM IN THE SCHOOL OF LIFE

1. God’s curriculum is wise (Ecclesiastes 12:9)

In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge…” (Ecclesiastes 12:9, CSB)

As always in wisdom literature, “knowledge” is much more than information.

for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man—” (Proverbs 1:4, CSB)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7, CSB)

It involves the “know-how” of understanding and applying God’s will in everyday life, and even more it entails the “know-whom” of a relationship of fear, obedience, and loyalty toward God.2

2. God’s curriculum is orderly (Ecclesiastes 12:9)

“…he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs.” (Ecclesiastes 12:9, CSB)

God’s Word may be difficult to read, but it does have an order, a pattern, a grand story or narrative. Once you understand that, then learning God’s curriculum is easier to understand. In this case, Solomon is describing the fact that he collected different sayings that God showed him. He is referring not just to the book of Proverbs, but also the words that God revealed to him here in Ecclesiastes.

3. God’s curriculum is accurate (Ecclesiastes 12:10)

The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and write words of truth accurately.” (Ecclesiastes 12:10, CSB)

The truth that God’s Word shares is accurate. There may be parts of the Bible that we don’t understand. There may be parts of the Word of God that seem to contradict other parts. There are truths that seem to be in conflict or opposition. Yet, the more one learns from God’s Word, the more one will find answers to the seeming paradoxes that immature people see in the Bible.

A twelfth-grade student has a better understanding of English than a first grader. The reason is that student has spent much more time with the subject matter. The same is true with the Word of God.

4. God’s curriculum is inspired (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

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.” (Ecclesiastes 12:11, CSB)

Marshall McLuhan said the printed word is “obsolete.” To prove it he wrote fifteen books.3 He is also famous for saying that “the medium is the message.” The point he was making was that the way the message is transmitted impacts the message itself. He argues that technologies — from clothing to the wheel to the book, and beyond — are the messages themselves, not the content of the communication. In essence, The Medium is the Massage is a graphical and creative representation of his “medium is the message” thesis seen in Understanding Media.4

McLuham embodies the post-modern argument that people make today. You hear it with these words:

“Love is love.”

“It doesn’t matter how you believe as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.”

The reason I bring up McLuhan is that Solomon is arguing that the content of the communication, in this case, God’s Word, is just as important as the way it is transmitted. It doesn’t matter if you read it in a printed Bible or a smartphone, God’s Word will works. It is inspired.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, CSB)

It has a purpose. And it doesn’t matter the method of transmission. The message will be meaningful for eternity. Jesus said it this way.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:31, CSB)

The One Shepherd in Ecclesiastes is Jesus. Because it is inspired, it will make an impact in your life. Sometimes, that take painful words.

A goad is a pointed stick used to guide and prod animals in the direction the herder wants them to go. A wise teacher sometimes uses sharp and painful words to guide students as they think through difficult issues.5

5. God’s curriculum is sufficient (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, CSB)

Reading other books is like taking elective courses. Electives are not necessary to complete the learning in school. Being in band and sports may give you a wider understanding and experience, but they are not necessary to graduate from school. The same is true spiritually. You can read devotional books from famous authors to gain insight. However, they are like elective courses. They are not the Bible.

I have found that reading something from another author may help me understand something, but the best place to go is the Bible. As my experience in the school of life continues, I have come to the conclusion that the Bible can still be my primary teaching tool. I learn something new and relevant from the Bible. It happened again this week. So now, I am on the hunt for wisdom in different areas in my life. I begin with the Bible. I may support my discovery with other books and resources, but I start with the Bible.

This is why spending time with God in the Bible each day is so important. You can have to keep learning. You never stop learning in life.

2. Life is a stewardship. Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Jesus summarized the Old Testament with the following two commands:

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, CSB)

Here in Ecclesiastes, we have a summary of the Old Testament from Solomon’s point of view:

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14, CSB)

The editor in Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 does something like this by reminding us to fear God and keep God’s commandments. In similar vein, Anabaptist martyr Hendrick Alewiins commended this text to his children as the “sum and conclusion of all books”.6

Fear God

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, CSB)

Ecclesiastes ends where the Book of Proverbs begins, with an admonition for us to fear the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7, CSB)

“The remarkable thing about fearing God,” wrote Oswald Chambers, “is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”7

If I fear God (and by fear, I mean give proper respect to God), then I will want to keep His commands.

Keep His commands

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, CSB)

If God’s Word lasts forever, then it is best that one learns to keep His commands.

Prepare for the final judgment

For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14, CSB)

If there is no God, then there is no Judge. If there is no Judge, then there will be no Final Judgment. If there is no Final Judgment, there is no ultimate meaning to life. Nothing matters.

This is the logic of Quentin’s argument in After the Fall by Arthur Miller. Quentin says:

For many years I looked at life like a case at law. It was a series of proofs. When you’re young you prove how brave you are, or smart; then, what a good lover; then, a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful.… But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That one moved … on an upward path toward some elevation, where … God knows what … I would be justified, or even condemned. A verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day … and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was the endless argument with oneself, this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench.… Which, of course, is another way of saying—despair.8

If there is no God to judge the world, then human existence is a pointless litigation that ends in meaningless despair. The Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes would have agreed. From the beginning of his book he has been saying that if there is no God, there is no meaning. Nothing matters.

However, as Christians, we believe that life on Earth does matter. That there is a Heaven and a Hell. There is going to be a judgment. It says here that there will be two judgments. The good and the bad judgment. The New Testament clarifies that a rewards judgment for Christians. The “bad” judgment is for those who don’t know Jesus.

In the spring of 1995 columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote an article explaining why the 1994 baseball strike dealt a fatal blow to many fans.

The cancellation of the [World] Series reduced the entire ’94 season to meaninglessness, a string of exhibition games masquerading for a while as a “championship season.” No championship, no season.

The real scandal of the ’94 season is not the games that were canceled but the games that were played. The whole season was a phony. The fans who invested dollars and enthusiasm in the expectation that the winners and losers and homers and averages would count were cheated.

More than cheated. By canceling the season in a dispute over money, the players and owners mocked the fan who really cared whether Ken Griffey broke Roger Maris’s record or Tony Gwynn hit .400.

Hitting records and the World Series give meaning to the regular season. Judgment day gives meaning to life. Because God will call every deed into account, everything we do matters.9

Is life worth living? Yes, if you are truly alive through faith in Jesus Christ. Then you can be satisfied, no matter what God may permit to come to your life.10

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 133.

2 David A. Hubbard and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, vol. 16, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1991), 249.

3 PreachingToday.com, More Perfect Illustrations: For Every Topic and Occasion (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003), 30. Originally from Marshall McLuhan, Saturday Review, quoted in “Reflections,” Christianity Today (4-24-00)

4 Wikipedia, “The Medium Is The Massage,” Internet, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Medium_Is_the_Massage, accessed on 18 August 2017.

5 Edward M. Curtis, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 107.

6 Douglas B. Miller, Ecclesiastes, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 2010), 211. Originally from Martyrs Mirror. Edited by Thieleman J. van Braght. 8th English ed. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1968, 753.

7 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 135.

8 Arthur Miller, After the Fall (1964), quoted in Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), pp. 156–157. Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010).

9 Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 280.

10 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 136.

Photo by Harry Sandhu on Unsplash

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