The 3 Musts
Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:12-14
Wise King Solomon wrote three books of our Bible. The Song of Solomon describes Solomon’s marriage to the first of his many wives, and thus fits well with the youth of Solomon. He wrote that book when he was young. He describes the beauty of marriage. Song of Solomon is a wonderful book for a couple to read together on their honeymoon, or on their anniversary. The book of Proverbs, mostly written by Solomon, records the mature wisdom of the man in many statements; some of these statements are so profound that they are still puzzling to the wisest scholars today. And then in his old age, Solomon penned the book of Ecclesiastes to add a cap to his entire life. This time, Solomon, the fool married many wives and sinned grievously against marriage. Some of his wives led him away from the Lord into idolatry. It seems that Solomon actually lost his faith in the promised Savior for a time. Then in his older age he returned to faith in the true God, and wrote an account of his whole life in the book of Ecclesiastes. Then finally at the end of his book he writes down his conclusion, what he has learned from his life, the kernel or the gem of his wisdom. To what should we devote our lives? He mentioned three things we must do: fear God which is actually to take God seriously, obey him or do what He says which is actually obeying his commandments and thirdly live life in the light of eternity in view.
When God speaks to us, when we receive instruction, through reading the scripture, hearing the message of God from the pulpit, even hearing the voice of God speaking to us to our spirit or an audible voice, we must not always presume that God’s aim is to comfort us, encourage us, love us, or speak nicely to us. At times it is also to admonish us, to give us clear information, with hard truths to warn of us against sins and hazard ahead of us.
Two born-again people but by nature willful and do things that are totally contrary to God’s way. Then life became hard for them. One of them in the midst of the pain asked why God punished her and it was so hurtful and it was so hard and she had no rest. Of course she remembered her past, that her ways were contrary to God and she sensed that God’s purpose was to change her. She told the other person that what happened to her was because God was punishing her. But the other person declared arrogantly: ‘No, God can never punish us. He always loves us. It doesn’t mean that when we go through tough times in our lives, it is God punishing us.’ I think this second person’s doctrine is wrong. This person’s theology is not God’s theology. The God that she knows is not the same God that I serve. Because the Bible says God does chasten us. The fact that God often comes into judgment with men, in the course of human history is validated in these words of Ecclesiastes 12:12-14.
I look at my own life. God does punish me when I walk out of his will. And many times the punishment is very painful. We must remember that God takes knowledge of all things, literally everything is heard. And verse 14 gives the certainty of judgment. There are three things we must take note of in life – three musts. What are these three? Fear God which is actually to take God seriously, do what He says which is actually obeying his commandments and thirdly live life in the light of eternity in view. Let’s study these three musts.
(1) Fear God
We live in a world of difficulties of the moral government. Just last Sunday there was a worldwide demonstration against the death penalty. In Paris, governments and campaigners on Sunday urged a worldwide end to the death penalty, singling out the United States, Iran, and China. Japan, which counted 107 prisoners on death row as of last month, saw one of the first demonstrations to mark Sunday’s action called by the Paris-based World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged “all countries where the death penalty is still in force to abolish it and meanwhile set up a moratorium (suspension) on executions and death sentences.” It is hoped that this world day will strengthen the trend toward abolition in the USA and also the trend toward universal abolition,” the coalition said on its website, listing protests planned for Sunday in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Britain added its voice to the protest in a statement by Jeremy Browne, a junior foreign minister. “The death penalty fundamentally undermines human dignity. There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it holds any value as a deterrent,” he said. God have mercy on this world. I put myself into the mind of a criminal. If I know that whatever I do, I won’t face the death penalty, I will have more courage to carry out crimes.
I feel that one day it is possible that there will be no more death penalty in every single country of the world. And the world government is facing great difficulties implementing good moral governance. Concerning every issue in life, there is so much questioning and discussions that they add to a lot of doubts and perplexities. And to be honest in this world, there are so many things which we cannot fathom, many things which we cannot reconcile with our convictions even. Then we have the complication of society with opposing claims and interests until we become confused actually by what is right and what is wrong. Because in this world there are good people and bad people. There are so many gray areas in life; it is no more black or white. This is where Ecclesiastes comes in to guide the duty of man. This duty of man, God says, is to be plain and unchanging. Man is made and placed in the world by God. His obligation is put in the most general terms and is applicable to the whole human family. God is not the God of just the Jews but also the Gentiles. Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 is for everyone. It is not only the whole duty, but the whole honor, and interest and happiness of man. The man will come forth with honor, happiness and his interest taken care off, when he performs his duty. What is his duty? Firstly, fear God. Fear God is the message of the book of Proverbs, the book of wisdom. The wise thing is to fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
To ‘fear God’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Ha-Elohim’. The fear of God is the reverence, the respect for the Divine character and attributes of God. It is to view everything in relation to God who is holy, wise, just and good. We must not mistake this ‘fear’ for a very different thing. It is not a servile dread (a slavery type of submission and extreme apprehension of God), an abject (miserable) dread of the malignant (evil, wicked) spiritual power. That is an unholy fear and it makes people run away from God.
We have all kinds of wrong fear today. Mysophobia is fear of “dirt.” Hydrophobia is fear of “water.” Nyclophobia is the fear of “darkness.” Acrophobia is fear of “high places.” Taxophobia is fear of being “buried alive.” Xenophobia is fear of “strangers.” Necrophobia is fear of the “dead.” Claustrophobia is fear of “confined places.” Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the “number 13.” Unfortunately, many people who have learned to fear things that they probably shouldn’t have, never learned the fear of the God. Too few who have acrophobia have learned to fear God and to keep his commandments. Many who have some of these fears give no heed to the words of Christ: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Many fear what man can do to them but not what God will do at the judgment day if they do not repent and turn to Him in faith.
The common way of defining this godly fear is to have a healthy respect for God. The fear of the Lord is that attitude of reverence and awe that His people show to Him because they love Him and respect His power and His greatness. The person who fears the Lord will pay attention to His Word and obey it. He or she will not tempt the Lord by deliberately disobeying or by playing with sin. Oswald Chambers says ‘the remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.’ I notice this thing about my own life. When I don’t fear God, meaning I deliberately disobey God or play with sin, I become fearful of men, what they can do to me, fearful of my future, fearful for my children that something bad will happen to them, fearful that my sins will be found out, fearful of financial lack, fearful for the church, fearful even for my own life. But when I am right with God and fear God, I am no more afraid of men, what they will do to me, I have more faith and confidence in the safety of my children of the future of this church, laugh more, have confident when I am performing any task. Fear of God delivers the soul from every other fear – from the anxieties of restless inquiry, from distrust and suspicion of God, from murmuring and discontent. To fear God is in our hearts to serve and honor Him.
(2) Obey His Commandments
Someone describes keeping the commandment of God as like entering the gate of a beautiful avenue (boulevard) which leads a person to a splendid mansion. But the avenue is long, and in some places it skirts the edge of dangerous cliffs, and therefore to save the traveler from falling over where he would be dashed to pieces, it is fenced all the way by a hedge. That hedge is the commandments. They are planted there that we may do ourselves no harm.
The second part of Ecclesiastes 10:8 says ‘whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.’ How true is it that when we walk out of the commandment of God, the devil bites us. God created life and He alone knows how it should be managed. He wrote the manual of instructions for life and wise is the person who reads and obeys the command, ‘When all else fails, read the instructions.’ To keep his commandment is actually to live a life of obedience. We must abstain from those particular transgressions which he has forbidden. We must practice those virtues which he has positively enjoined. We must carefully study his holy will in regard to all things, and strive earnestly and patiently to do it. Keeping God’s commandment is grounded on the word of God. For Cain it meant bringing a lamb to God worship him. For you it meant paying your tithes. In his autobiography, Col Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried chicken fame says that he was always a God fearing man. In every venture he gave God a tenth of the profits. Yet he knew that if he died, God probably wouldn’t take him to heaven (because of the lifestyle he lived). One day, Sanders was walking down a street in Louiville, Kentucky, when Rev Waymon Rodgers of Louiville’s Evangel Tabernacle invited him to some evangelistic services. Several days later, Sanders went. At age 79 he claimed the promises of Romans 10:9. ‘When I walked out of that church that night I knew I was a different man. Tithing saved Col Sanders his soul. Tithing is a commandment to Col Sanders. Personally I believe that tithing will save your soul. I have yet to see a man sincerely paying his tithes and still go to hell. For Abraham it meant believing the promises of God. When I believe what God has promised me in spite of all odds, that is keeping God’s commandment. For me the commandment of God is to stay in Iloilo City and pastor this church and don’t run away.
One week ago, while on my bed, I was suddenly stricken with a foreboding apprehension that God was getting angry with me that I have still not yet lay the foundation of the church in Tabuc Subac. That is God’s commandment for me. I have to obey what He says. For the people of Israel it meant approaching God through sacrifice in the tabernacle and in the temple. For today’s Christian, it means coming to the house of God and not have other interest on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. That is keeping the commandment of God. I just read in the book of Jeremiah 17 which emphasized the importance of the Sabbath Day, a type of the Lord’s Day or Sunday. Jeremiah 17:21 says ‘Thus saith the Lord; “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden (don’t work) on the Sabbath day…. Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers’. So for many of you the commandment of God is faithfully without fail, coming to the house of God on Sunday. It is a very important commandment. For some it is to abstain from excessive drinking. Isaiah 28:7 says ‘But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment (through strong drink). If you are still not convinced that strong wine has never done anyone good except harm, you must listen to this story that happened just recently in Australia, a nation of drinkers. In Sydney, an Australian woman woke up terrified after a drunken neighbor walked into her house and took a shower, mistakenly thinking he was home, a report said on Friday. Police told the NT News that the man blundered into the wrong house in Katherine, in Australia’s far north, and jumped into the shower to sober up before he realized his error. ‘He was very apologetic,’ Superintendent Daniel Shean said. ‘The woman was just happy for us to take him away. She thought he was a burglar.’ The 42-year-old man was dressed and sitting on the woman’s verandah when police arrived, the NT News said. The report said a couple in the Outback region once caught a man cooking breakfast in their kitchen in the small hours, and that a Darwin woman was watching TV when a drunk strolled into her house, thinking he was home and cooking breakfast.
I strongly believe the most important commandment that God has for you is something that you are very strongly convicted, that you constantly break and struggle a lot. That is the commandment God wants you to obey. It is different thing for different people. But all in line with the Word of God. For some it is coming to Church on Sunday, or strong drink, or paying tithes, or watching pornographic movies, or drugs or cyber sins. The commandment of God is the revealed will of God for you. And you already know what is the commandment of God for you. Jim Elliot says ‘In my own experience I have found that the most extravagant dreams of boyhood have not surpassed the great experience of being in the Will of God, and I believe nothing could be better.’ What Jim Elliot is saying to express is that obeying the commandment of God is better than any youthful passions and desires.
(3) Live in the Light of God’s Impending Judgement
Why are we enjoined to keep these two instructions; which are, take God seriously or fear God and obey what He tells you to do? Because it is in God we live and move and have our being. We don’t own our lives, because life is a gift of God. We are stewards of our lives, and one day we must give an account to God of what we have done with His gift of life. Because it is the ultimate source of all our blessings and of all our powers. Because he has poured out upon us an immeasurable wealth of pure and patient love. The second reason is that God will bring all things to judgment. Every one of us here today is interested in “payday”. Whether you are making 100,000.00 pesos per year, waiting patiently for a social security retirement check, or if you get 1000 pesos a week for a job. Pastor Andrew is also waiting for the time he reached the age of 55. Well he is already 51. Four more years to go. Because at the age of 55, the Central Provident Fund of Singapore will allow him to withdraw a big amount of money. I wonder what is he going to do with it but it makes him happy because that is his payday. We all look forward to receiving what we have earned, we deserve it! This is a law of life. If a person works for another they are supposed to get payment for that work. That same law of payment applies in the spiritual realm. God also pays off! He pays in two ways: if you serve sin: judgment! If you serve Him, rewards. Judgment is one of the biggest topics in the Scriptures. But God does not always wait until the end of life to pay off. We often face judgment right here.
In a book entitled “Down to Earth”, John Lawrence tells the story of a city that dared God to show Himself and paid a terrible price. It seems that the city of Messina, Sicily, was home to many wicked, irreligious people. On December 25, 1908, a newspaper published in Messina printed a parody against God, daring Him to make Himself known by sending an earthquake. Three days later, on December 28, the city and its surrounding district was devastated by a terrible quake that killed 84,000 people. But the worst judgment which is actually referring to here is when life is over.
There is a great solemn truth and that is, there is judgment. There is the certainty of judgment. This judgment is by God. He is the Judge of all the earth. He is the Judge of all, who will yet judge the world in righteousness and in the future. He will not only judge the earth but also hereafter in the world to come. It includes the secret things of good and evil, the secret deeds of shame. The Septuagint renders ‘every secret thing’ as ‘everything that has been overlooked.’ I want to talk about secret things. Blessed is the man who has his secrets deeds exposed before God and repent than he who keeps it until he dies to meet his creator. The secret things are the hidden things. Man may seem to get away with sin but their sins will eventually be exposed and judged righteously. Those who kept secret sins will be doomed forever. Somehow in God’s own timing and in God’s own way, He will cause there to be a replay of our lives. Dr Wilbur Penfield, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, said in a report: ‘Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single continuous strip of moving film, complete with sound track. The film library records your whole waking life from childhood on. You can live again those scenes from your past, one at a time, when a surgeon places a gentle electrical current and applies it to a certain point on the temporal cortex of your brain. As your relive the scenes from your past, you feel exactly the same emotions you did during the original scene.
God here guarantee its just reward in his process of judgment. Charles Spurgeon says ‘the eternity of punishment is a thought which crushes the heart. The Lord is slow to anger, but when he is once aroused to it, as he will be against those who finally rejects his teaching, he will put forth all his omnipotence to crush his enemies.’
In The Chronicles of Narnia, an allegory by C.S. Lewis, the author has two girls, Susan and Lucy, getting ready to meet Aslan the lion, who represents Christ. Two talking animals, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, prepare the children for the encounter. “Ooh,” said Susan, “I though he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie.” said Mrs. Beaver. “And make no mistake, if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knee’s knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then isn’t he safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you!” That is God. He is good. But when you meet Him unprepared, you will see your knee knocking and perhaps pee in your pants.
One time many years ago, the king of Hungary found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, “I am a great sinner; I fear to meet God.” But the prince only laughed at him. This didn’t help the king’s disposition any. Though he was a believer, the king had gotten a glimpse of his guilt for the way he’d been living lately, and he seriously wanted help. In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man’s door at any hour, it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother’s door. The prince realized with horror what was happening. Quickly dressing, he stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner, and dragged pale and trembling into the king’s presence. In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother and begged to know how he had offended him. “My brother,” answered the king, “if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ.
So what will you do with your life? Six times Solomon told us to enjoy life while we can, but at no time did he advise us to enjoy sin. Today’s culture idolizes and idealizes youth. Actually I should even use the word youth. The right word is tween; those age between 12 and 16 years old. Tween is the word of this generation. Don’t belittle them because they can achieve great things. Pastor Lily has been mentioning about this book entitled ‘No Hard Thing’. It is about teens who can accomplish very difficult task at their young age. I believe this is their generation. We already read about how this 16 years old girl, alone, an Australian girl, makes history by going round the world in a small boat. I look at the HOF last Friday. Many of you are especially impressed with a Rzone that makes moves that even the older youth couldn’t do anymore. This is their generation. Channel News Asia has a program entitled “Tweens” (age 8-12) that attracted a lot of attention. Because they know that this age is their age, their culture and their time. And if Channel News Asia concentrated on them they could make a lot of money. But here God is even talking to this group of people. He is saying that acting on your knowledge of God, especially as a young person will yield good fruit later in life. Even as we enjoy our season of life, we must maintain a sober attitude about human frailty. The joys of the present depend on the security of the future.
End of Sermon