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All we have to fear is… the Lord Himself…

June 21, 2011

13The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  14For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Imagine these verses as the dying words of “the Preacher” or Solomon.  For 12 chapters he has conveyed wisdom and instruction about life.  The thrust of that instruction has been that all life is vanity.  Here we have a king, a wise man, a lover, a ruler, fellow human being who has gone to the effort to communicate to us the meaning of life and instruct us as to how we should spend our time.  All life is vanity.  It is a vapor.  But should you think that Solomon is preaching nihilism you’re mistaken.  He is not saying, “he you might as well throw yourself off a cliff because nothing in life is worth pursuing.”  One thing matters: Your relationship with and your pursuit of God.

Some have described John 3:16 as an encapsulation of the whole Bible.  Within one verse lies the most important message anyone can ever hear; that God loves His creation, sacrificed His son to redeem it and if you believe in Him you shall not perish but live forever with Him in Glory.  Verses 13 and 14 of Ecclesiastes serve as an encapsulation of the rest of the book and serve as a good guide for life.  Time is precious.  The book is about to close and after all is cleared away; this is what you need to know.  In these last words He re-emphasizes what he has said previously three other times.  Just in case you haven’t gotten the message.  “Fear the Lord and keep His Commandments, because this applies to every person, God will bring every act into judgment, everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.”

This fear is a reverence which motivates rather than a revelation which paralyzes.  Solomon has spent the last 12 chapters speaking on the vanity of life, people’s opinions, oppositions, desires, and pursuits.  None of those should be feared.  None of those should motivate us to do anything.  The only thing we should allow to motivate us is a healthy fear and respect for the One who made us.  Jesus instructs His disciples of the very same thing; “do not fear the one who can destroy your body… but rather fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)  This is a recognition of who God is, He is our creator and our sustainer, we live because He formed us and we exist for Him, our lives are not our own, they are set apart for His glory.

If we think that we can merely pay lip service to this and say, “oh I fear God, but I still want to live the way I think is best.”  Or worse, if we give all appearances that we fear God, but hidden in our hearts is rebellion against Him then we will be in for a rude awakening.  God is not fooled and He is not mocked.  He will bring everything into the light (judgment) and expose every hidden thing.  He is concerned with your heart.  You can act holy, you can act righteous, but if hidden in your heart is sin, un-confessed and un-crucified you will likely hear on that Day of Judgment, “depart from me, for I never knew you.”

So how do we as Christians read this book and understand these verses?  We are besieged with books telling us how to live our lives and please God.  Walk into any bookstore, listen to any podcast, and you will find countless opinions about how to please God and find His favor.  Solomon even alludes to these opinions in verse 12, “be warned: the writing of many books is endless and devotion to books is wearying to the body.”  If we were to follow all the advice written in all the books or heard on all the podcasts we would soon become weary and overburdened.  There is no end to man’s effort to find favor with God.  But the gift of God and the glory of the gospel is that favor is not found in books, podcasts, websites or advice.  Favor is found in the One who takes the judgment we deserve upon Himself cleanses us from all sin.  Through Christ we can truly obey.  Through Christ obedience, rather than being a burden, becomes an act of love from a child to a Father.

If we are in Christ we approach God with reverence but also confidence; committed to obey His commandments, the greatest of which are these: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”  If these commandments are hidden in our hearts, and our lives are lived in their pursuit, when we are exposed on the Day of Judgment we will have no cause for fear.   Knowing that hidden in us is His glory rather than our condemnation.  And we will hear those comforting words, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

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