Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

It isn't an easy thing to follow directions. One Christmas tradition that grew up through the early years of our family was that of the Christmas Eve Assembly Project. It involved my wife constructing all of the Christmas presents that required assembly. It is something for which she is extraordinarily talented. It isn't that she is so good with tools. It is that she knows how to read and follow the directions.

To tell you the truth, I'm not that good at following directions. I have a tendency to try things my own way; to try to puzzle things out for myself. Only when all else had failed do I resort to reading the directions.

Throughout Ecclesiastes we have been provided with some directions for life. In this chapter particularly, we are given the wise direction to fear the Lord and to follow Him in our youth.



In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10).

Throughout this book, we have followed the Preacher in his quest for meaning and purpose to life. We saw him try all sorts of experiences and attitudes. But the relating of this quest was not for his benefit. It was for our own.

The Preacher was the possessor of wisdom. He was also the dispenser of wisdom. It is possible to have wisdom and to keep it to yourself. What made him a Preacher is that he preached -- he proclaimed words of wisdom to others in a way that made it understandable. Notice the means by which he operated:

  1. He Taught the People Knowledge (12:9).

Notice that there are two aspects to this teaching. They are two aspects that are always present when real teaching is going on.

The Preacher knew people. He knew what made them "tick." He spoke to where they were.

  1. He pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs (12:9).
  2. This implies a labor of study. The Preacher did not merely share with people the first thing that came into his head. He thought before he spoke. He spent time searching out that which he was going to teach. He set his wisdom in order, arranging "many proverbs."

  3. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. (12:10).
  4. It was not enough to have knowledge. It was not even enough to have it arranged intelligently. The Preacher also labored to speak in a pleasing manner. The NIV says that he picked "just the right words." He gave thought and effort to communicating in a way that would capture the attention of his readers.

  5. The Preacher sought... to write words of truth correctly (12:10).

Finally and most importantly, the Preacher was on a quest to communicate TRUTH. We live in a relativistic age. People have long since bought into the idea that truth is only relative. We hear that something might be "true" to one person but not true to another. The Bible knows nothing of such a concept. Truth IS.

A style of teaching means nothing without truth. A lie all dressed up in eloquence is still a lie.

This tells me something important about the book of Ecclesiastes. In spite of its often dark and gloomy view, it is a book that teaches TRUTH. It should not be understood as the outlook of a skeptic or as an advocate of a hedonistic lifestyle. It is written to give us a realistic view of life that, as a result, we might live for the Lord.



The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. (Ecclesiastes 12:11).

This verse is given in the form of a parallel. The Hebrew text gives a chiastic order to the words. This parallel is seen by contrasting two images.

The words of wise men

...are like goads

They are given by one Shepherd

Masters of these collections

...are like well-driven nails

A goad is a pointed stick used for driving oxen and other animals. It poked at the animal to make him move in the desired direction. Nails have a different use. They are hammered to keep something in place. The first is temporary. The second is permanent.





Used to bring movement

Used to hold in place

Represent the words of the wise

Represent those who learn the lessons from the words

Both are sharp and penetrating.

Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.

The Word of God accomplishes both of these purposes. It afflicts the comfortable and it comforts the afflicted.



But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

This is a warning. In the midst of a soliloquy of the value of words and of wisdom, the warning is given that words themselves can be both endless and wearisome.

We are living in the information age. What was true in the days of Solomon is even more true today. A teacher has been defined as someone who talks in other people's sleep. While we are called to take heed to words of wisdom, we are NOT called to excessive devotion to books. Such a devotion is wearisome to the body. The reason it is wearisome is because it is never put into PRACTICE. It only remains theoretical.

Our problem is not generally that we do not KNOW enough. Our problem is in APPLYING that which we do know. The most simple truths become profound when put into practice.



The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Wisdom teaches us to do two things. The first of these things is based upon the second.

  1. Wisdom Teaches us to Fear God.
  2. This is the conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes. It is also the same "big idea" that is found in the other Wisdom Literature.


    Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
    And to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28).


    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
    A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
    His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10).


    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
    Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7).

  3. Keep His Commandments.

This injunction flows out of the first. The principle is simple. If you truly fear the Lord, then you will desire to keep His commandments. If you really fear God, then you will also fear sin and its consequences.

After Moses had delivered the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, the people were frightened at the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the smoking mountain. They went to Moses and asked that he might serve as an intermediary so that God would not speak directly to them.

Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."

And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." (Exodus 20:19-20).

The fear of the Lord is a good thing. This is not a paralyzing fear or a morbid fear. It is a fear that God is very big and that He is sovereign and that He is able to do as He pleases. It is a fear that recognizes our own sin and which therefore drives us to the grace of God.

The reason for this double conclusion is because this applies to every person. This phrase literally reads, "because this is all of man" or "because this is the all of man." The implication is that "this is the whole duty of man." The Westminster Confession captures the same essence of this statement when it says, "This is the chief end of man."



For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

The reason that we are to fear God is because He is ultimately our Judge. He is not only our Judge, He is also our Sovereign Judge. The aspect of His sovereignty means that there is nothing that shall escape His judgment. Nothing shall remain hidden, whether good or evil. All shall be judged.

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5).

We are going to stand before God one day and we sill give an accounting of both our deeds as well as of the intents of our hearts.

The good news for the Christian is that this judgment took place upon the cross. It was there that God's perfect and righteous judgment was poured out upon His only Son. The evil deeds we committed and the evil thoughts we harbored were accounted to Him. While our sins shall not remain hidden, their penalty has been paid.

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered!

How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2).

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