Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
‘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.’ (KJV)
‘The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.’ (NASB)
King Solomon wrote three books of our Bible. Some believe Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon in his youth (a book of passion and beauty), the books of Proverbs in his middle age (a book of wisdom), and the book of Ecclesiastes when he was old. 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 describes the beauty of marriage; Song of Solo¬mon is a wonderful book for a couple to read together on their honeymoon, or on their anniversary. The book of Proverbs 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 sum up his entire life. If there is any person who has lived the fulness of life, it is definitely Solomon. According to biblical account, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, totally 1000. And he made this astonishing statement in Ecclesiastics 7:27-28, ‘This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! He is saying among all his 1000 wives and concubine he cannot find one to be wise. 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, to what should we devote our lives? He mentioned three things we must do.
When God speaks to us, when we receive instruction, through reading the scripture, hearing the message of God from the pulpit, even hearing the inner voice of God speaking to us to our spirit or even in 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, but at times it is also to admonish us, to give us clear information, with hard truth to warn of us sins and hazard ahead of us. There were two members in my church, both born again, but by nature, were willful and does things that is totally contrary to God’s way. Then life became hard for them. One of them in the midst of the pain asked why God punish her and it is so hurtful and it is so hard and she had no rest. Of course, she remembers 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 declares confidently: ‘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 this three?
1. Fear God
In the year 2002 there was a worldwide demonstration against the death penalty. Held in Paris, governments and campaigners 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 that month. It was the first demonstrations to mark what is called, ‘World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.’ The then 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.” Demonstrations were held in Asia, Europe, and the Americas on that same date. 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.
The day is coming where there will be no more death penalty in every single country of the world. And the world government is asking why they are facing great difficulties implementing good moral governance. Concerning every issue in life, there is so much questioning and discussions and they add to a lot of doubts and perplexities. Marijuana is legalized in United State and even in South East Asian countries, like Thailand. 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. Just yesterday, the Malaysian government is very angry that the government of Singapore just executed one of their citizens for being a mule for drug. They said why the Singapore Government showed no mercy. This is where Ecclesiastes comes in to guide the duty of man. This duty of man, God says, is to be plain, simple and unchanging. 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, fears 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 describing human attitudes toward Deity: awe, respect or honor. It is a lifestyle relationship, and it flows out of respect for God. It means that your fear of God is demonstrated by your habitual lifestyle. It is to view everything in relation to God who is holy, wise, just and good. It Is to obey what is written in the Word of God for humankind. 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.” 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 fears 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. I am not to fear man who is made of dust but stand still in the confidence of God.
2. Obey His Commandment
Someone describes keeping the commandment of God, like entering the gate of a beautiful avenue (boulevard) which conducts 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.’ I remembered the first time we receive our Nissan Navarra and Joy and Jan were inside the car with us. I do not know how to set the time clock for the car. Joy in her usual self, took out the instrument manual inside the car, read the instruction and easily set the time clock. At another time, the light on the 4-wheel drive were lighted up and we panicked. Again, she took the instruction manual, told us to switch off the engine and start again. This time the light for the 4-wheel drive is no more there. Just read the instruction. Concerning any issues of life, read the bible and obey His commandments. Thee are many issues in this world that confuses us whether it is right or wrong. Well God’s teachings are always very clear and simple. Just read the instruction and choose to follow the word and abstain and avoid and abhor the voice of the world.
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 possible when one is grounded on the word of God. For Cain it meant bringing a lamb to God to worship him. For you it meant paying your tithes. Do you know why the first man created was told to eat of every tree except the one tree. Do you know why the first-born man on earth was told to bring the firstling of his cattle? It is to say that everything we have belongs to God and the tithes (the one tree and the firstling) is an acknowledgment of the sovereign and lordship of God in our lives. When we pay our tithes, we acknowledge the LORDSHIP of Christ. We all know about the fast food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken but we do not know much about its founder Colonel Harland Sanders. In his autobiography, Col Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried chicken said 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 Louisville, Kentucky, when Rev Waymon Rodgers of Louisville’s Evangel Tabernacle invited him to some evangelistic services (the same name as our church and probably we should follow the same principle he learned from God. Several days later, Sanders went. At age 79 he claimed the promises of Romans 10:9. He said, ‘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. Because you acknowledged the sovereignty of God. I have yet to see a man sincerely pay his tithes and still go to hell. For Abraham it meant believing the promises of God. Just recently God told me specifically that I must believe in the promises of God that he has given me. He says He will fulfill all his promises to me. What is keeping his commandments? For me the commandment of God is to stay in Iloilo City and pastor this church and don’t run away. Many years 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. I remembered we came over here to have our service and laid the foundation. Today we have this church building. 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). God told me very clearly that a leader and priest are not allowed to drink strong wine. Don’t challenge the word of God. 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. Police told the News network 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.
I strongly believe that the most important commandment that God has for you is something that you are very strongly convicted, that you constantly break and struggled a lot. That is the commandment God wants you to obey. It is different thing for different people. For some it is coming to Church on Sunday, or strong drink, or paying tithes, or watching pornographic movies, or drugs or cyber sins, or having an ungodly boyfriend or girlfriend. 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 expressing is that obeying the commandment of God is better than any youthful passions and desires.
3. Live in the light of God’s Impending Judgment
Why are we enjoined to keep the first two instructions; that is 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. Firstly, we don’t own our lives, because life is a gift of God. That is why we are not allowed to take our own lives or commit suicide. 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. It like the translation of NASB. It says, ‘this applies to every person’. No one is excluded from the judgment of God. And God is going to set things straight, if not in this life, then in the next life.
Because God 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, we looked forward for our payday. We all look forward to receiving what we have earned, what we deserve. 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. Ecc 12:13 says, he will bring every secret thing whether good or bad to light. 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 you 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.’
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 shouldn’t 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. 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. Recenlty 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.