Fear God and Keep His Commandment (Ecclesiastes 12)

So now we come to the final chapter.  Solomon has taken us on a journey.  He has pointed out the vanity of pursuing many things singularly to the neglect of others.  He has shown us the profit for work seldom actually satisfies.  He has told us that we long for eternity but live a few short years.  He has exhausted reason on why its better to be still born than to be under the oppression of others.  Finally we are ready for the answer.  And what is the answer?

Fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  This is what it means to be human.  This is how to live a fulfilled life.  This is how you keep yourself from destroying yourself.  An old Hymn writer put it this way, “Trust and Obey, for their is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  It wasn’t our first thought.  It didn’t come to us naturally.  We enjoyed small pleasures so much we thought we would pursue pleasure but it never satisfied.  Then we sought wisdom, but that increased our grief.  Then we thought if we could just own stuff, but then we realized we have to give it away when we die.  So we moved on to being better at something than others, but then we realized we were letting life pass us by.

Application: Fear God and keep his commandments.  Have you tried it?  It really does bring a peace and happiness that outlasts the current situation.  You were made to know God.  Are you trusting him and obeying his council in your life today?

A Few Great Resources for Studying Ecclesiastes

So we have been spending a little time reading through Ecclesiastes for the last week and a half and we will wrap things up tomorrow with Ecclesiastes 12.  Some of you may have had your interest piqued by the book of Ecclesiastes and want to go deeper.  Here are a couple of great resources I pulled off my shelf and have helped me get some meaning and application from the book of Ecclesiastes.

The first book I would recommend is A Life Well Lived: A Study of the Book of Ecclesiastes (affiliate link) by Tommy Nelson.  This book is written in a regular non-fiction book format and is an easy read for someone who isn’t used to using commentaries.  The author uses lots of great illustrations and packs in a great deal of application.  You can catch it at Amazon.com for about $11.00 (affiliate links).

The second book I would recommend is Ecclesiastes: Total Life (Everyman’s Bible Commentary)(affiliate link) By Walter Kaiser.  It is a great resource to get into the grit of what Ecclesiastes is all about.  Several years ago when I lead a college group through the book of Ecclesiastes I picked this book up.  Its no long in print and I think the only way you can get it now is from a used book seller.  I think I found my copy on Amazon.com (affiliate like) or maybe allbookstores.com (which is where I go to compare amazon against the other book retailers and get the best price or find an old book no longer out of print).

Diversify your Investments and Give Generously (Ecclesiastes 11)

Ecclesiastes 11

Solomon tells us to cast our bread upon the water.  He is not stating that we should literally go throw bread out at the lake, but rather this is probably a shipping term.  In Solomon’s day comerce would take grain and goods from one country to anther via the shipping lanes (on the water).  Yet, they didn’t have weather tracking systems and sometimes ships would go to sea never to be heard from again.  But, often ships would make it to port.  Sell the grain and goods and bring home a hefty profit.  Solomon says it is better to go ahead and invest in many places than place all your eggs in one basket (so to speak).  You don’t know where the hurricane will strike, the oil leak will emerge, or the demand for 8-tracks will hit rock bottom.  However, one thing is sure.  If you stare at the sky and try to calculate the weather and never invest, you won’t receive a profit (11:4).  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  So invest in lots of places and spread out the risk.

I think the application here is for more than how you are going to manage your retirement portfolio.  Sometimes we can be paralised by the obstacles ahead of us.  Your sitting there staring at the sky looking for the right conditions.  You don’t know the future.  The only way to live life is to take some calculated risk.  Things will not always work out according to your plan.  Better to attempt something great rather than use the excuse that you were just waiting for the right moment and it never came.

Make investments where it really counts. Be generous in your relationships.  Give to others.  Be a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, open your home to others, show grace, forgive, look for opportunities to share Jesus.  Don’t be disappointed if you are not immediately met with success in these areas of your life.  Cast your bread on the water.  Live soberly knowing that one day we will all give an account to God (Ecclesiastes11:9).

Real Failure Comes From a Lack of Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10)

Chapter 10 is much like Solomon’s speech to the graduating class.  Its a reminder that God is sovereign, people should be humble, and that apart from God’s wisdom you will make a mess of your life.

I know a man who lived well and for a majority of his life he trusted God.  Yet near the end he became a fool and made some bad decisions.  We are all only one bad decision away from ruining it all.  It’s not how you start the race its how it ends that matters. (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Sometimes we meet resistance in life just because we are foolish.  There is story I once heard of a young man who wanted to be a lumberjack.  He was younger and more athletic than the other lumberjacks in his crew.  He showed up to the forest the first day and made the claim that he could chop down more trees than anyone else on the crew by the end of the week.  So they went to work and sure enough the young and athletic lumberjack was leading the way and cutting down trees almost twice as fast as the rest of the crew.  Eager to make his mark on the lumberjack world he worked through his lunches and while the other guys took a break. Somewhere around mid-week things began to slow and the young and athletic lumberjack was cutting fewer and fewer trees.  Finally by the end of the week he had cut the least amount of trees and the foreman had to let him go.  On his way out of the camp he went up to one of the older men who had been cutting down trees for years.  He said, “I don’t get it.  I am stronger and faster than anyone out here.  I never took breaks.  I worked through lunch.  How did you cut down more trees than me?”  The older lumber jack simply replied, “I took time to sharpen my axe.”  Sometimes it’s not about how hard you swing or how fast you are.  Sometimes as the old business proverb goes, “Work smarter, not harder.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

Application:   Where do you need wisdom in your life? There are decisions that you need to make in your life right now.  Some of them are somewhat small and inconsequential (like what will you eat for lunch).  Others of them really  matter.  Like what kind of husband, father, son,  or leader will you be.

Things are not always as they apear (Ecclesiastes 9)

Solomon takes a look around and he notes that from man’s perspective things are rough. Death really changes everything. Good people die and bad people die. It seems from first glance that it doesn’t pay off to be righteous or seek good because all of mankind is met with a similar fate.

But we are reminded that we are only looking at this from a human perspective. We didn’t create the world. We don’t control it. God does. And he isn’t a respector of persons. God truly does what he pleases. (Psalm 115:3) His ways are unfathomable to us.

Application: live each day as a gift from God. Know that we are all ultimately accountable to God. You won’t have the ability to change the way you lived after you die, but you can change while you are still alive.

Do the right thing, even when no one else cares (Ecclesiastes 8)

Solomon offers us some great perspective in the first few verses of chapter 8. Sometimes people want to blame God for all the evil and injustice in the world. Yet, if we are observant we will notice that mankind is the one responsible for much of the injustice in the world.

But we shouldn’t be deceived. God will not let evil go unchecked forever (maybe it’s a good thing that we die). Ultimately there will be justice. God will bring Justice.

Wisdom isn’t knowing why God commands a certain thing, it’s obeying God’s commands even if you don’t know the “why” or “how.” You cannot know all of Gods ways, but you can know what he requires of you.

Application: trust God. He always does the right thing and while He may lead you down an unpopular path or at least beyond your comfort zone, it’s better to follow Him than to be popular or comefortable. Though we cannot know all of Gods ways we can trust God to lead us rightly.

Everybody hurts sometimes (Ecclesiastes 7)

Sometimes a little pain is good for us. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should pursue pain, just that maybe pain gets a bad rap sometimes. When I touch a hot stove, it’s the pain that tells me not to keep touching the stove or I’ll burn my hand off. When I work out or run after a long time of keeping my muscles dormant, it’s the pain that tells me they are growing (no pain, no gain). The emotional risk of trying something new reminds me that I’m not growing if I’m not out of my comfort zone.

In Ecclesiastes 7:1-15 Solomon is answering the question posed in Ecclesiastes 6:12, “what is good.” Suprisingly pain makes the list.

So you may be having a rough day. Maybe even a rough week. Don’t be quick to say,”woe is me.” be patient and wait for the end (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9). You may find out that the pain was worth it. Don’t judge a situation just because it’s difficult or it’s full of adversity. See what happens. A fool worries about the “what if’s” in life. A wise man deals with the “What is.” sometimes it takes a little while to know what you are dealing with.

Sometimes the good times fool us. We think we have it made. I’ve found that it is the hard times that shape us and really make us who we are.

Again. We don’t need to seek hard things. If your suffering because of a toothe ache… Go to the dentist. You have the power to change that. Of your suffering because of your sinfulness, repent and make amends. If you have no power to change the suffering in your life, then embrace it and know that God can cause something good can come out of it.

The second part of this chapter reminds us that we can’t know everything. We need to be humble and trust God.

How to Fail by Success (ecclesiastes 6)

In the first few verses solomon writes about a man who has success, but can’t really enjoy it, because he doesn’t know the God that gave him the success. (Ecclesiastes 6:1-2)

Near the end of the chapter Solomon warns us of roving appetites. I’m going to have to keep making trips to the grocery store because we keep getting hungry at my house. My hunger is only satisfied temporarily. We are tempted to wander in our appetites. We may have a cabinent full of food, but none of it satisfy the initial hunger we have because we have set our appetite on food that isn’t available. Solomon warns that it is better to be satisfied with today than to put all of our stock in being full tomorrow. (Ecclesiastes 6:7-9)

Application: enjoy today! Spend time with friends and family. Thank God for the blessings you do have. When you leave work, leave it behind. Enjoy living today.

Friends are Better Than Money (Ecclesiastes 4)

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

Solomon looks around and notices the oppressed.  Some people are abused and mistreated their whole lives and then they die.  They really didn’t have a chance to take pleasure in anything and there is no one to provide them with comfort. I don’t like it when the bad guys win, but the truth is that while we live in a fallen world we will suffer injustice. 


Ecclesiastes 4:4-8

Now Solomon notices that in life there is rivalry.  At the end of the day what does being the richest man in the world get you?  What does a nicer car really achieve?  What does being the number one company in your division actually acomplish? 

We can’t really quit on life simply because people will be jelous, but we don’t need to waste our lives jockeying for position either (4:5-6).

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Here Solomon remindes us of one of the blessings of life… people.  Have friends.  Share a good meal with company.  Have someone that labors with you and you can share your struggles with.  Keep up with your old buddies.  Don’t be lonely because you went after riches or spent all you time trying to be the biggest and best at something (4:8).

Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

Now Solomon warns from pursuing popularity.  While friends, real friends are a good thing, popularity never lasts.

Application: Tommy Neslson in his book A Life Well Lived sums it up well.

Do some things that will matter for eternity.  Serve Christ as long as you can until your number comes up, then die well. Enjoy the things you do know and don’t be so distraught about the things you don’t (A Life Well Lived, 70).

  Do you have friends that stick with yo through thick and thin?  What keeps you from forming deep and abiding relationshis with others?

What are your thoughts on Ecclesiastes 4?

Problems in Paridise (Ecclesiastes 3)

Ok here is the drill. I’ve been keeping up with chris aiken’s blog. He posts his devotional thoughts in real time via his daily blog post. So somewhere between 6-7am you can catch his thoughts.

I wish I functioned like Chris does in the mornings. I post earlier in the morning before I go to bed (it’s around 12:30 as I write this). There is a lot more to it than that, but it should explain why I post earlier than my good friend and pastor Chris Aiken.

Everything has it’s time
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)

This is a sobering reality in the world in which we live. God has a plan and a purpose for everything. This makes God a little difficult to understand when we are hurting in the short term. We wonder at how God can take the bad things, even evil things and use them for our good (Genesis 50:20). We wonder, “how can God cause anything good to come out of this?”

Quite frankly that’s how this week started for me. Sunday from sun-up to sun-down I was dealing with the darker shades of life. Many of the situations were well beyond my control.

Solomon’s advice here is to not let what “we cannot know destroy what we can enjoy” (Tommy Nelson). God is good and ultimately what He decrees will prevail, even through short term pain (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

There is a time for everything and God is good. Ultimately his goodness will shine through, even on the darkest days.

How do you handle it when bad things happen? Are you quick to blame others for your circumstances?

What are your thoughts on Ecclesiastes 3?