Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ecclesiastes 11 &12 The Conclusion of the Matter ...




TEXT:       Ecclesiastes   11  & 12
THEME:   The Conclusion of the Matter  
DATE:      25 /11/2012  

We have  come to the end of   Solomon’s sermon. Concluding  thoughts, last thoughts  are important thoughts. Solomon has taken us  through  a  breathtaking and often unsettling tour  of life’s realities under the sun. These realities arise from living in a fallen world. Thank God that  despite this  awful fact, His presence  saves  and empowers  those who are willing to listen and to submit to Him. And thank God  that He  also  restrains  the madness and the folly  of  evil   men  under the sun. It is a  profound   fact  that , sometimes  in God’s  providence  He  allows evil fools  to prosper  for a little while  to teach us just how debased mankind can be without  His  intervening  and restraining hand. I don’t  believe  that this world  really understands or appreciates how much  God  restrains evil  in this world! 
The main question for those who know and love God  is this: How shall we live under God  in such a  fallen world?  
Here  are  Solomon’s  remaining thoughts  in these last two chapters :

OUTLINE:

1.      11: 1-6    Take   God centered risks  in living, and trust God for the outcome.
2.      11:7-10   Enjoy the God –given sunlight seasons of your life, but remember  that  there will  also be  the  God –given  dark days.  
3.     12:  1-8   Remember your Creator  in your youth;  build   your  life  upon Him while you are young, so that when  you grow older  and  when  you  will face  the inevitable  facts of life under the sun, not at least   death, then you will  find  yourself  on a firm and realistic foundation.
4.      12:9- 14   Fear God and keep His commandments.

Solomon  clearly pursues a God centered solution  for living life  in a fallen  world !

THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER

1.                  11: 1-6       Take   God centered risks  in living, and trust God for the outcome. “Cast your bread upon the waters…” (v.1) . Exercise  your faith in God  by  making  godly investments  in the surrounding  into which God has placed you, without  too many concerns  about  what may or may not happen. The problem  with  being too analytical and  too cautious  about taking godly risks  means  that one may never start,  and so miss vital opportunities!   So, get going!  The danger with life  that is lived in an uncertain world  is that we  become ‘risk averse’. We  won’t invest our lives and resources  because we think that it is too risky.  The Bible  does not encourage such thinking whatsoever.
Jesus  has no good words  for   the servant who does not invest  the  talents given to him  to invest -  to gain more for his master, simply   because he was  afraid of  taking risks -   because he was afraid   of his master (Matt 25:14-30)  (see also parable of the 10 Minas in Luke  19 :11-27).
Solomon himself  knew about risk. He  had a fleet of commercial ships  (1 Ki. 9:26-28 ; 10:22) which may have travelled  as far as  India, Africa and Europe. The risk of sending ships out to sea in those days  was great. Pirates, storms and dishonest captains  were a real risk. Yet, did that prevent  Solomon from sending out the  ships – as ‘bread upon the water’  – as  ‘as income earning potential  upon the water?’  No!   Although many ships did perish and not return, there were also many ships   that went and returned heavily laden with desirable goods  after many days.
It is doubtful  whether Jesus or Solomon  in their respective  teaching  on risk taking were  focusing  on  material investment  for its own sake.  I believe that  they used it  illustratively! Jesus  was definitely thinking about the Kingdom of God  in the parables mentioned, and Solomon had  exposed  the vanity of chasing after  wealth, possessions and power, and  as he reaches the conclusion of his sermon he is definitely heading for a spiritual  application i.e. using our physical means obtained  from the hand of  God  for  the  glory of God. He is thinking about openhanded generosity; about giving  freely but wisely.
Again, Jesus encouraged  men in his day  to  use  material wealth   to make friends  (for  the sake of the gospel)  by means of  unrighteous wealth  (Parable of  dishonest manager – Lk  16: 1-13).  And Jesus  went beyond Solomon,  for He said, "Give to  the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matt 5:42)

Give a portion to seven  , or even to eight…”. In the light of eternity - what are you doing with your money? Are you willing by faith,  and   with godly wisdom and a sense of  responsibility, to spend less on your pleasures  and invest more into  the church’s work and testimony in the world? Are you willing to give  by faith, trusting God for the returns after many days? Are you willing to give more than the legalistic  10 percent? Are you prepared  to sow abundantly, not sparingly, giving  a portion to seven, even eight , investing in various  mission fields (Windhoek , Namibia ,  Africa , the world?)   and will you do it  even if the mission fields  have a ‘high risk portfolio‘, even if  it has seemingly  ‘low returns’   or ‘no returns’ ; even if  your missionary there is in danger of being  killed, or the church  building is in danger of being  burnt down? -  for you do not know what disaster  may occur on the earth.”  (v.2b)

Solomon warns us that in God’s work obstacles in this life  under the sun  are inevitable. Keep that in mind ! (v.3)  You don’t know the effects that rain  may have, in terms of a flood, washing away a church building that you and your church may have invested in  (v.3a)  , or  whether  a tree  falls on  a building (3b)  and destroys it….. “ you do not know !...(vv 2,5,6). But Solomon advises  us   not to let   future uncertainties rob us  of present opportunities.  Don’t spend your time  getting worried about the  weather  lest you  miss the opportunity to sow(v.4).  Don’t wait for the right time, procrastinating to  sow into the Kingdom of God. Act now in response  to  the imperative of the Great Commission ( Matt 28:18-20)! Jesus  said:  All authority is given unto me …  therefore go  and make  disciples”. Paul says  to Timothy: “ Preach the Word… in season and out of season…” (2 Tim  4:2) – whether  it is convenient  to you or men  or not. Preach if the pews are empty; preach if the pews are full!  God knows that over the years we have preached  to hostile hearts and to eager hearts, but the Word has never failed to go out from this pulpit. Our people  have been   encouraged to  flee to Christ  and  to  escape the terrors of hell, and on account of the gospel we have been loved and we have been hated, and it grieves my heart!

My dear brother  and sister, if  God calls you today  to  cast your bread upon the waters’  - if He says  to you , “do something   with gospel according to your spiritual gift”  (a commission that He has  put before each Christian), then   do not disobey. You will receive your promised reward, not many days from now!  Don’t wait for ideal circumstances. Don’t first bury your father; don’t  spend a lot of time saying goodbye’s  (Matt 8:21 ; Lk  9:59-62). Go now  and do  what  He calls you to do!  
Don’t try to figure out the  unknowable  (v5). Trust God  to  bring  forth the harvest ! Trust God to bring forth fruit. You, in faith  and obedience go and do your work in the morning, and in the evening (v.6)  trusting God  for fruit in your evangelistic work (whatever form that may take) , in teaching, discipling , giving out tracts, mentoring  the younger, teaching children,  or   going to  the unreached  people of the world  as  a missionary.

2.                  11:7-10:   Enjoy the sunlight seasons of your life , but remember  that  there will  also be  the inevitable dark days.  While there is light, enjoy the light  but remember that life under the sun  is also filled with days of darkness and vanity. (v.7,8) Young people   must enjoy their youth by all means.  Pursue your dreams   walk in the ways of your heart” (v.9). These are unrepeatable, unique times, but  you must know that   this does not give you license to sin – for  God  holds  you  accountable  for all you  do. (v.9) Those of us who are older need to  constantly remember that God expects young people to act like young people. The tragedy is that too many older people are trying to act like young people!
Young people need to know that life passes away very swiftly; so it is not  wise  to let vexation (anxiety –NIV ; sorrow –KJV)  rule your hearts. Don’t allow the negatives  to  rule your  young lives. Don’t heap up sins  in your life, so  that you will  enter  later life as a burdened man or woman. 

3.                  12:1-8 Remember your Creator  in your youth;  build   your  life  upon Him while you are young , so that when  you grow older  and  when  you  will face  the inevitable  facts of life under the sun, not at least  - death , then you will  find  yourself  on a firm and realistic foundation.   
Young people continue to be addressed in Ch 12. Solomon says: Now is the time to remember  God,   while your  life is still relatively carefree and unencumbered, “ before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (v.1). The  picture that Solomon paints of the future is graphic and realistic . This is what you will face  after your youth.   All too soon  a storm will  cloud the present noonday of your life: “ (v.2) … before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain ; Very soon  hands and arms begin to tremble; legs grow weak; teeth (grinders) will be few  and the eyes  grow weak, and the ears  become deaf (vv.3- 4)  “… in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders ( the teeth)  cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; The days will also come when  you will dread walking up the  hills, and you will actually become afraid  of going out; your sexual desire fades away and at last you will go to your eternal home (vv 5-7)    they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity”. 
I want to remind you  that this is not morbid. This is reality! This is life under the sun  and if it doesn’t  sound great , isn’t it time that we began to think about heavenly realities , and  to look for that city  whose designer and builder is God ? (Hebr. 11:10). Remember that you can only reach that city by first  entering  the narrow gate (Christ)  that leads to life ! (Matt 7:13)

4.                  12 :9-14 -  Solomon’s ultimate  words (How then shall we live?): Fear God and keep His commandments.
Please note – the ultimate  words of this sermon  are not “vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”  That is, of course  a true  observation   regarding life under the sun. But, thank God  that our future  does not  hang on vanity , but on the fact  that  God remains in control of this world  so filled with vanity.

The purpose   of this book  has been to communicate wisdom  in a memorable, frank, open  and honest way.  Solomon  did not try  to paint a rosy picture of life under the sun ; but neither  does he want us to despair. He wants us to live realistically – something that we do not always do, nor appreciate… and that is why he  reminds us that “the words of the wise are like goads, and like nails  firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd  (The Lord Jesus Christ). My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”   Life is exhausting – particularly, if you want to try and figure it all out  through much reading and studying philosophy.   He is not discouraging study – but he warns against  overdoing  it. The answer for which we are searching is ‘ here’, in this divinely inspired, human transmitted  book – the Bible!

 THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. The entire teaching of this book is now gathered into two  weighty sentences which may be easily remembered  :
(i)            The fear of the Lord- the keeping of His commands is the duty of every man.
(ii)            The certainty of judgment  - is  the  destiny of every  man. This is  an invitation to live honestly and transparently , unhypocritically – a life of worship and of giving honour and glory to God – this is what we are created for ! Amen

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