Yesterday, in our evening service, I was privileged to preach the final sermon in our Ecclesiastes study from Ecclesiastes 12:8-14. The study was a challenge to preach, and that is the consensus of all of our elders. Three of our elders engaged in a rotation through our study on Sunday evenings which was enriching and profitable. As we looked into the book of Ecclesiastes once again as a church family, it was as if we could hear the wise old man named Solomon calling out to avoid the broken roads of sin as he pointed us to the whole duty of man.
Is Everything Vanity of Vanities?
All throughout the study of Ecclesiastes, it seemed at times as if Solomon was merely pessimistic. He looked into the world in his day and described it as vanity. But, is that what Solomon was doing? Was he really just being negative? Was Solomon merely seeking to be a big killjoy?
It seems that the thrust of Solomon’s voice and the tone of the Preacher was focused on avoiding a certain kind of life that is nothing but vanity. In other words, it is possible to waste your life. Before John Piper preached his sermon about boasting only in the cross and wrote his now famous book titled, Don’t Waste Your Life, there was Solomon thundering in his day about the vain life that must be avoided.
A Challenge to Avoid Wasting Your Mind
If James Montgomery Boice described the evangelical church in his day as “mindless times,” how would he describe our present church culture? Solomon pointed out in Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 the value of Scripture that has been given to us by the Shepherd Himself. These words are valuable and have been put before us for correction and stability. Solomon uses the illustration of a goad and firmly fixed nails as a means of describing the profitability of Scripture.
Solomon also provided a warning regarding aimless learning. This world is filled with libraries. One such library is the Bodleian Library in Oxford England. This historic library was the first library and remains the most famous and perhaps the most useful library in Oxford. The Bodleian Library’s claim to fame rests in the fact that every printed book – every published book – gets catalogued into the Bodleian’s system. To date, they have over 12 million printed items. In the Bodleian, there is a copy of the 1455 Gutenberg Bible and four original Magna Carta manuscripts. Due to limited space on new volumes, the library has a storage facility 30 miles away from the Oxford campus where 8.4 million volumes are stored on 153 miles of shelving units. The historic and antiquarian section of the library has been used in the Harry Potter films because of the ancient look and feel.
There is no end to the making of books, the building of libraries, and the organization of information technology (blogs, websites, and online digitized libraries). However, the world is not gaining ground with all of this knowledge and learning. The world, in many ways, continues to grow in futility as the unbelieving world is overtaken by the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. Solomon hangs a massive warning sign here. Be careful of all of the other books. It’s as if he is pressing upon his readers – upon us – the necessity to major on God’s Word.
A Warning to Avoid Dying with Regrets
Solomon took twelve chapters to point out the dangers of the vain life, and he ends with a sobering reminder and a solemn warning in verses 13-14. The sobering reminder is the entire focus of the book itself—fear God and keep His commandments. There must be a desire to fear God and obey Him. If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the best way to accomplish this is by fearing Him and obeying Him. This, according to Solomon, is the whole duty of man.
Finally, Solomon brings it all to an end with a solemn warning. This warning should be considered by the child of God and the unbeliever. To all of God’s children, there will be a time of judgment where we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives. According to Solomon, on that day God will bring out every secret thing, whether good or evil. This should cause us to fear God and such fear should lead us to faithful obedience.
For the unbeliever, this scene of judgment will be far different. Perhaps we can get a glimpse of it from Revelation 20:11-15. Every deed brought out before the throne of God and as the holy Judge – Christ Himself – judges sinners, there will be no excuses valid, no holes deep enough to hide from Him, no hills high enough to evade Him, and His judgment will be final.
Don’t die with regrets. Don’t end your life with the knowledge that it was all vanity of vanities. There is ultimate fulfillment and purpose of living and dying found in Jesus Christ—the Savior of sinners. Repent and cast yourself upon the mercy of God.