I remember when I first read the book of Ecclesiastes – it made me depressed. All the talk of vanity and meaningless really bothered me. I even heard a Kingdom minister say, “It’s [Ecclesiastes] not the word of God”. To be fair, he was suggesting that God didn’t literally speak the words unlike when He spoke to Moses in the burning bush. However, Paul teaches us that “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16) Like when God breathed on Adam, life is released through scripture because God is breathing on it. All scripture has life because it is inspired by God; if I didn’t receive life from the book of Ecclesiastes, then I missed something. So, I decided to read it again.
Going through the book again, familiar feelings arose. Confusion, frustration, even hopelessness, all came back. No wonder I stayed away from it for so long! I sincerely asked God, to show me what I was missing. What was it that I wasn’t considering? Then I got to the end and Solomon summed up the entire book in two verses that have since become two of my favorites. Ecc 12:16-17 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” There it is, the conclusion of the whole matter.
Remember when you were in high School and you had to write those dreadful essays? Every good essay has an introduction, body, and a conclusion. The introduction introduces the topic, the body makes the argument, and the conclusion sums up the entirety of the work. The conclusion put the finishing touches on the essay and reminds the readers of why they just read your work. I recently self published a book called “The Elisha Principle” and used the same format on a larger scale. Solomon’s conclusion sums up the purpose for the book. And when you go back and read the book with the end in mind, what he wrote begins to make sense.
Through this book God is saying that no matter what my station in life, whether I am young or old, rich or poor, king or peasant, free or slave the only thing that matters is that I fear God and keep His commandments. My dreams, desires, plans, even legacy are nothing compared to my love and obedience. Here is a man who had everything. In fact, Solomon indulged in all kinds pleasures. He was a man full of wisdom and wealthy beyond belief. As he reflected on his own life, he realized that it was all useless. He couldn’t take any of his wealth with him to the grave, he had no control over how the next generation would manage his kingdom, nothing mattered except those two things: Fear God and obey His commandments.
Solomon is right. The only thing a believer needs to do is fear God and obey His commandments. Why should we fear God? Because fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10). And Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 30). As we live our lives in reverence of God, we move closer to Christ. Should we obey God? Of course! Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Moreover, the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt 22:37-40). If we obey that command we will expand the Kingdom on earth.
Ecclesiastes is misunderstood and offensive because it is a radically counter cultural book. Which is even more reason believers need to pay close attention to it. Our culture is selfish and that selfishness has seeped into the church. We’ve made God into Santa Claus. We’ve reduced our faith down to my blessing, my increase, my breakthrough, my ministry, my dreams. Does God want to do those things? Yes, but He is more than that and should be treated as such. Through these words, God challenges all of our selfishness through a man who had the largest ego in all of scripture. Solomon learned, despite his life of over indulgence, that the only thing that matters is God. Everything else is but a candle in the light of the sun who is our God. What King Solomon finally learned at the end of life is something we need to capture today.