“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl. 12:13-14).
A conclusion is reached after summarizing the things that have gone before, therefore is the judgment, opinion, or decision after investigation or serious thought. Solomon had asked God for wisdom, which was granted. However, it did not always come without cost. In fact, in his case it often arrived too late to benefit Solomon. By recording his experiences we can profit from them by a careful reflection on the experiences themselves as well as the results that followed soon or later. One would not be amiss to say that the entire book of Ecclesiastes is summed up in verse thirteen and fourteen of chapter twelve. The verse stated one of if not the most important consideration anyone may make of life itself. In this chapter (if considered by itself), the conclusion is a just one. Solomon began by a perspective from a youthful viewpoint. We are not to think as some do that he is speaking of children or adolescence, rather he is speaking of those who have ventured out in like with the problems that occur generally. Like the youthful Timothy whose youth was not to be despised, (most think he was in his late 30’s), these challenges as high as the mountains or deep as the valleys are met with all the vigor and strength of young adults. Plodding forward solutions are found to the confronting problems. Solomon then suggests the aging process and finally death. In all situations God is to be “remembered and revered.” Written during the previous dispensation some think these words lack benefit for us today, however, I hope to show that the principles stated herein find repetition in our time during the dispensation of Christ. They certainly “are for our learning, that we though patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4). I shall remind you of these things by using the text as an outline for those of us enjoying the good things of Christ.
Viewing God as the being Supreme is the beginning, foundation, expansion and height of wisdom. So natural is the exhibition of a Being above man that to deny His existence and power one must teach himself or allow others to teach him that there is “no God.” This is the realm of the reprobate. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Rom. 1:28). When people wish to do those things that are improper the first thing prioritized is crowding God out of the mind as only then can one live with himself for an extended time. Through the ages God has been recognized in a greater or lesser way by the learned and unlearned alike. Solomon having explored the good things of the world and pursued the evil as well could not escape the conclusion that God is and that His way is right above all the ideas, plans and works of mankind. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6). Where does that leave the unbeliever in God? We are not left to guess or wonder about it, like a sledgehammer the father of Solomon had declared and this son finally came to grips with it. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1).
Fear in the common conception is to tremble. That concept cannot be successfully denied in our passage since standing before God in judgment is attached. All of us surely have this disposition when we think of the possibility of displeasing the one who dispatched His Son to this earth procuring salvation from sin and offering without cost to us the hope of eternal life where we can join with the saints of the ages in praising Him. We for this reason, continually humiliate ourselves in body and spirit seeking His approval. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” I Pet. 3:15, Marg. “reverence”) . This helps us to broaden the meaning to respect for God. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” (Heb. 12:28). The Greek word here translated “reverence” is used but one other time in the New Testament, In I Tim. 2:9 it is an adverb describing modesty. Translated shamefacedness it refers to the manner of dress worn by women to reflect or indicate her position or station in life. It means a sense of shame, modesty or bashfulness in respect to men. In serving God we are to have in our heart and exhibit in our manners this same attitude before and toward God magnifying His greatness before our fellow human beings.
TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS
The Hebrew word translated “keep” comes from a root word meaning to observe or to heed. As we are all aware the commandments of God have always been for the good or well being of humanity, whether they are positive or negative. In a word when God tells us to do something we are to do it, when asking us to refrain then we are to abstain under any and every circumstance. Since creation man has found it difficult to submit to God’s will issued through commandments. In Eden disobedience prevailed, soon after the commandments from the quaking Sinai God’s commands were set aside and human will captivated the Israelites. Solomon recognized the importance for Divine authority assuring us the need to know God’s will ending in obedience. “…Because thou has rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” (Hosea 4:6).
God’s Commandments are set forth in this dispensation through His Son Jesus Christ. Christ obtained our salvation by shedding His blood which we receive by obeying Him, He is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). We obey Jesus because of our love for Him and what He has done for us. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15). It cannot be successfully declared that one loves the Lord while disobeying Him. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments,. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (I Jn. 5:2-3). John speaks not of God’s love for us, rather he is declaring the way we show our love for Him. It is through obedience. The Gospel presents the commandments of Christ to us—these men must keep if we are to be blessed spiritually now and eternally in the unseen future. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21). James vividly describes the place of obedience in chapter two under the term “works.” While the cry from unbelievers has always been against obeying the Lord or doing the works asked of us, as strange as it seems, they have been joined by religions claiming friendship to God and Christ who disdain submitting to the commandments outlined in the Book of inspiration. The New Testament clearly shows the place of and the need for doing good works. We have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). Put them in mind to…be ready to every good work.” (Tit. 3:1). “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha…full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36). A widow taken into the care of a congregation must be “well reported of for good works.” (I Tim. 5:9). But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.” (Acts 10:35). Doing good works, or works of righteousness is necessary to be accepted by God. Why? Because he is in back of every ordinance, law or commandment that we are to obey.
EVERY DEED WILL BE BROUGHT INTO JUDGMENT
“For God shall bring every work into judgment.” The great statesman Daniel Webster is reputed to have answered the question, “what is the greatest thought to have ever enter your mind” by saying, “the thought of standing in judgment before an all knowing God.” The casual reader can see that the words of Solomon are prospective. He speaks not of a judgment that has past nor does he speak of some calamity that might cause one man to sit in judgment over another. Particular things are not at issue in this statement but it is “every work” done by men that are to be scrutinized by the all Seeing Eye of the Almighty. The judgment is the day that all days point toward. The judgment is the grand finally of all days. The judgment is the weighing of the value of all days. The judgment is the day from which all days borrow whatever value they have. The judgment makes this very day a great day. The judgment makes this day a terrible day. There has never been nor shall there ever be a day that equals the judgment day. Every believer in the Scripture given by God knows the judgment is coming to each of us and holds respect for that day. Like Mr. Webster we must tremble before the judgment day. In II Thessalonians we are admonished that “ when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints…in that day.” (1:7-10). God will be glorified in the righteous saint, and will separate the disobedient from them forever. He shall bring every deed into judgment.
“With every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” A secret is something that is hidden, concealed or covered over. Many years ago as a young man an older brother said “don’t tell me any secrets, I don’t have any secrets.” I didn’t believe that then nor do I believe it now of any human being. Most of the time people think a secret is something evil, some skeleton in the closet, but that is not necessarily so. The fact is in this context it may be an evil or bad thing alright, however it may be a righteous or good thing. Some people evidently believe that every good thing they do must be immediately told. There are preachers that spend a lot of their time telling about things they have done to the point that one begins to think they are preaching themselves rather than Christ and His Gospel. I cannot help but think that all who do such come under the banner spoken of by the Lord, “they have their reward.” Solomon’s point is: we may be able to hide things (good and bad), from our fell travelers toward the judgment, but we cannot be successful in hiding anything from God and be assured that these concealed things like those openly done will be brought out in clear view at the judgment. . “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Cor. 5:10). Sometimes people wonder why Christians stick their noses into the lives of people around us compelling them to leave sin and embrace the Lord Jesus for forgiveness. The answer is because of—the judgment. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (II Cor. 5:11). Were it not for the judgment we would do well to live to ourselves, without recognizing the will of God as many do engaging in social activities for the betterment of humanitarian and materialistic causes as the multitudes around us do. However, because of the judgment we must propel our actions into an entirely different way of thinking and living. We anticipate “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Rom. 2:16).
THE CONCLUSION: SERVING GOD IS THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN
To revere God and obey His every precept is everything contemplated in man! God made us for this purpose, as He clearly revealed in the first pair. In the paradise He made for them with nothing else to do than dress and keep the garden as it pleased their Maker and abstain from the one thing He forbade them, joy and bliss was theirs (I think,) beyond our imagination. Discontented they ventured out following their will and their way until they found themselves in a position where they in shame were unable to face the Lord. How far astray has mankind gone from this grand purpose of God today? In light of Solomon’s admonition what value is gold and precious jewels, land and houses, prestige and position, authority and might, family and friends, education and knowledge of worldly things, collectibles and money, respectability and honor? Solomon says, put them all in a sack, shake them up and turn it upside down and look at what comes out first—it is worthless. Yet, these and all the things you can add to the list that men strive for—give their life for—belittle rather than exalt us. These “things” call upon men to seek them and deny or at lest demote God in their presence. The Lord Jesus reminds us of the important things in life for all of us. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.””(Mt. 6:33). Striving to obey God cannot be number ten in our list of important thing, not even second, it must—MUST BE FIRST.
Barney Owens 1602
I have never walked a mile in the shoes of someone else, but I have
walked many a mile wishing someone else were walking with me.