Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Solomon begins and ends the great book of Ecclesiastes with the same thought - "'Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher, 'All is vanity'" (12:8; 1:2). Nothing has redeeming or lasting value. All is futile and useless. No matter what a person can accomplish or possess, it's all pointless from the physical standpoint. But, with God in one's life, there is purpose and fulfillment, as Solomon explains in the closing verses of the book.

However, before his conclusion, he records some miscellaneous thoughts in Ecclesiastes 12:9-12 regarding his pursuit of wisdom and the sharing of it - "And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright--words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."

Solomon enjoyed sharing knowledge verbally and in writing (even though such can be tiresome). He sought to find the best way to express truth. Every preacher, teacher, and parent must do likewise as they endeavor to communicate God's truth to precious souls. Words of wisdom--ultimately given by God--are like "goads" in that they should move people to action. A heart may be pricked in a beneficial way when the truth is properly "driven" home (e.g., Acts 2:37).

Solomon concludes the book with what he affirms is "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 judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (12:13,14). After all the evidence had been considered, this was Solomon's verdict.

True fulfillment is found in: (1) fearing God and (2) keeping His commandments. Both components are needed and the order is significant. Those who do not fear God will not keep His commands--or at least not all of them (cf. John 14:15; I John 5:3). To fear Him is to recognize His power and authority and respect Him for the awesome Being that He is.

The final verse supplies another reason for fearing God. Everything will be exposed by God--both good and evil--on that final day (cf. John 5:28,29; II Cor. 5:10). This shows the all-inclusiveness of God's judgment, as well as the reality of life after death.

Let us close with a list of the major lessons we have learned from this marvelous book:

  1. Without God, all is vanity--even the things that man values greatly such as beauty, wisdom, money, power, and pleasure (1:2ff).
  2. Enjoy the ordinary things of life, all of which are God-given (2:24).
  3. Live one day at a time, remembering that only God knows the whole plan (3:1-15).
  4. Faithful friends and companions are a treasured blessing (4:7-12).
  5. The true worshipper must guard his speech (5:1-7).
  6. Since death is universal (for both the rich and poor, the righteous and wicked, the wise and foolish, and man and beast), life should be used energetically while its powers remain (8:10-9:12).
  7. One should begin seeking God in his youth, for old age weakens the faculties (11:9-12:8).
  8. True fulfillment is only found in successfully completing one's duty--that is, to fear God and keep His commandments (12:13,14)