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 :
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