Fear God & Keep His Commands (Ecclesiastes 12)

Each year during the Festival of Booths (Sukkot), the Jewish people read Ecclesiastes. Sukkot is one of the main feasts in Judaism and it is held at the end of the harvest as they gather produce from their field. It is a seven-day festival in which they live in booths. Why were they to live in booths? Leviticus 23:42-43 says, “You are to live in booths for seven days…so that your generations may know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt to remind them of wandering in the wilderness.” Sukkot is a festival of remembrance and it is fitting that the book the Jewish people chose to meditate on during this festival is Ecclesiastes. Rabbi Barney Kasdan wrote: “In the midst of the joy of the harvest and material blessings, we are reminded of the frailty of life. Who can control the twists and turns of life? The sukkah [booth] reminds us that there is a much bigger picture than even our current situation.” 

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In Ecclesiastes, Solomon–the wisest man who ever lived–discusses the futility of life under the sun. Life on earth is vanity (e.g., fleeting and frustrating) apart from a personal relationship with God. So far, we have learned of the vanity of: wisdom, pleasure, toil, relationships, religion, wealth, and justice. These things are not necessarily bad, but are unable to provide us a life of relevance and meaning apart from Jesus Christ. We have also learned that we can have a life of meaning through Jesus as we: 1) Embrace God’s appointed seasons, 2) Recognize God’s assigned authorities, 3) Enjoy life, and 4) Reject foolishness. Our study of the book of Ecclesiastes comes to a close with these words from Solomon: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands” (Ecc 12:13). As we close, let us remember what “all has been heard” so that we can better understand and appreciate the conclusion of the matter. 

Fear God, Unbelievers!

If you are not a Christian, you should fear God. You should fear God because He is the One who has authority over your soul. Jesus said, “But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!” (Luke 12:5). God, the Creator, can stop your heart from beating at any moment. God grants us our breath and can stop our breath at any time. Not only that, He has the authority to forcefully throw your soul away from His presence into the eternal place of fiery torment. God not only has the authority to cast you into hell, His holy hatred of sin and His justice demands it. Every sin that you commit accuses you before God as a lawbreaker. James 2:9 says that when the royal law is violated “you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” God convicts unbelievers of their sin in order to bring the fear of God into their heart so that they may call upon God and be saved (Rom 10:13). Those who are not born again (John 3:3) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). No one will be able to make a special deal with God. The only thing that remains is “a terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries” (Heb 10:27).

Fear God, Believers!

Believers should fear God, but not in the same way as unbelievers. Fear in this context doesn’t mean terror because born again Christians are never in danger of God’s damnation (Rom 8:1). Fear in this context means worshipful reverence, awe, and respectful submission. The fact that “all is vanity” (Ecc 1:2) should drive people to take refuge in God, whose work endures forever (Ecc 3:14) and who is a rock for those who take shelter in Him (Ps 94:22). The fear of the Lord is something Christians need to be taught. Psalm 34:11 says, “Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Our former pastor Terry Eades said in a sermon about the fear of the Lord from this pulpit over twenty years ago:

  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).
  • The fear of the Lord is something that we must choose to practice. (Proverbs 1:29).
  • The fear of the Lord begins our journey towards God. (Proverbs 2:5).
  • The fear of the Lord helps us avoid sin. (Prov 8:13 & Prov 16:6). 
  • The fear of the Lord helps us to live longer. (Proverbs 10:27).
  • The fear of the Lord gives confidence in life. (Proverbs 14:26-27).
  • The fear of the Lord helps us be humble. (Proverbs 15:33). 
  • The fear of the Lord gives us riches, honor, and life. (Proverbs 22:4). 
  • The fear of the Lord keeps us from envying wicked people. (Proverbs 23:17).

Keep His Commands

We should fear God and keep His commands. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commands” (John 14:15). Obeying Jesus’ commands should not be controversial. It is a central aspect of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20). When we obey Jesus’ commands we align ourselves with His will. Alistair Begg described modern life as a constant attempt to outmaneuver boredom. The Christian should never be bored because we always have good work to accomplish for the glory of God and the good of others. Ecclesiastes shows us the vanity and boredom of life apart from Jesus Christ.

When we keep Jesus’ commands we acknowledge our identity as His child (John 1:12). Our old life is crucified and our new life has begun. Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:19-20). Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:50).

We obey Jesus’ commands because He is Lord. Far too many people are fans of Jesus until He makes moral demands on their life. Sadly, not everyone who speaks well of Jesus is actually talking about Jesus from the Bible. We consider ourselves slaves to God. Jesus said, “When you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” In other words, we serve the Lord because He is worthy of our service and we lament that we cannot serve Him more. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. Therefore, we want to give our lives for Him.

Published by First Baptist Church of Scott City, MO

Bringing the love of Christ to a hurting world.

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