<< Previous | Index | Next >>"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Epilogue & Conclusion (Ec 12:8-14) INTRODUCTION 1. With advice given to the young in Ec 11:9 thru Ec 12:7, The Book of Ecclesiastes (The "Preacher") then draws to a close - Ec 12:8-14 2. The book has often been misunderstood and abused... a. By taking passages out of context b. By drawing conclusions which ignore the author's own conclusion 3. But in the last seven verses, we find... a. A restatement of the result of the Preacher's search for meaning - Ec 12:8 b. An epilogue that describes the Preacher's continuing work, the value of wisdom, and a warning against the wrong kind of study - Ec 12:9-12 c. The grand conclusion drawn from the Preacher's search for meaning and purpose in life - Ec 12:13-14 [With the "Epilogue And Conclusion" before us, we can guard against the misapplications some have made of this book. Therefore let's begin with...] I. THE THEME RESTATED (Ec 12:8) A. A THEME REPEATED THROUGHOUT THE BOOK... 1. In the prologue - Ec 1:2 2. Prior to describing his search for meaning - Ec 1:14 3. Throughout the course of his search: a. The vanity of pleasure - Ec 2:1 b. The vanity of industry (labor) - Ec 2:11; Ec 2:22-23; Ec 4:4 c. The vanity of human wisdom - Ec 2:15 d. The vanity of all life - Ec 2:17 e. The vanity of leaving an inheritance - Ec 2:18-21 4. Throughout his words of counsel and wisdom: a. The vanity of earthly existence - Ec 3:19-21 b. The vanity of acquiring riches over family - Ec 4:7-8 c. The vanity of political popularity - Ec 4:16 d. The vanity of many dreams and many words - Ec 5:7 e. The vanity of loving abundance - Ec 5:10 f. The vanity of wealth without the gift of God to enjoy it - Ec 6:2 g. The vanity of wandering desire - Ec 6:9 h. The vanity of foolish laughter - Ec 7:6 i. The vanity of injustice in this life - Ec 8:14 j. The vanity of the days of darkness - Ec 11:8 k. The vanity of childhood and youth - Ec 11:10 B. WHICH MUST BE REMEMBERED IN ITS CONTEXT... 1. He is referring to the vanity of life "under the sun" a. As stated in the prologue - Ec 1:3; Ec 1:9; Ec 1:14 b. In describing the vanity of his labor - Ec 2:11; Ec 17-20; Ec 17:22 c. In relating the evil that he saw - Ec 3:16; Ec 4:1; Ec 12:3; Ec 5:13; Ec 8:9; Ec 9:3; Ec 10:5; Ec 12:6; d. In giving his counsel - Ec 5:18; Ec 6:12; Ec 8:15; Ec 8:17; Ec 9:9; Ec 9:13 2. I.e., when life is viewed solely from an earthly perspective a. Examining life solely on its own merits b. When God and the afterlife are not taken into the equation 3. When viewed from this perspective... a. There is no advantage of wisdom over folly - Ec 2:15-16 b. Man is no different than animals - Ec 3:19-21 c. The dead know nothing and they have no more reward - Ec 9:5-6 -- But it would be a misapplication to use these passages to deny life after death, or that there is no value in seeking after true wisdom [If life "under the sun" is all there is, then truly, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." But we have seen throughout the book that the Preacher gave wise counsel for dealing with the vanity of life. That he continued such work is evident from the next four verses...] II. THE EPILOGUE (Ec 12:9-12) A. THE PREACHER'S ONGOING WORK... 1. He continued to teach others, and to seek for knowledge, truth and righteousness - Ec 12:9-10 2. This certainly sounds like Solomon - 1 Kings 4:30-34; cf. Ec 1:1; Ec 1:12; Ec 1:16; Ec 2:9 -- Note that his conclusion about life's vanity did not lead him to despair or inactivity! B. THE VALUE OF THE RIGHT KIND OF STUDY... 1. The words of the wise are of great value - Ec 12:11-12a a. They are like "goads", prodding our thinking, moving us along in the right direction b. They are like "nails", that which can provide stability and steadfastness in our lives -- Especially those "given by One Shepherd" (i.e., inspired by God) 2. But not all knowledge is beneficial - Ec 12:12b a. There is no end to the making of books (with the printing press and the Internet, this is even more so!) b. Much study is wearisome to the flesh (cf. Ec 1:18) -- Since one can't study every book, one must be selective as to which "shepherd(s)" he will follow! [Since life "under the sun" is filled with so much vanity, we are admonished by the Preacher by both example and instruction to seek out the right kind of wisdom to guide our short sojourn here on earth. That leads us finally to...] III. THE GRAND CONCLUSION (Ec 12:13-14) A. FEAR GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS... 1. This is "the whole duty of man" (KJV, RSV) - Ec 12:13 a. This summarizes the answer to his own question - cf. Ec 2:3 b. This is man's reason for being, his "prime directive" for his existence 2. To "fear God" a. That is, to revere God, to hold Him in awe b. This is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge - Pr 1:7; Pr 9:10 c. This reverence will help prolong life, and protect one from much evil - Pr 10:27; Pr 14:26-27 3. To "keep His commandments" a. A charge given to the nation of Israel - Deu 13:4; Deu 30:16 b. A charge given to the disciples of Jesus - Jn 14:15 c. The basis by which we know that we know and love God - 1 Jn 2:3-4; 1 Jn 5:3 -- To reverently obey God, "walking in the fear of the Lord" Ac 9:31, this is the purpose of life and the key to true happiness! - Pro 22:4 B. THE BASIS FOR THIS CONCLUSION... 1. Having taken "everything" into consideration a. Not just from what may be observed in life "under the sun" b. But from wisdom given by revelation as well cf. Ecc 2:3; Ecc 2:9; 1 Kin 4:29 -- I.e., the conclusion of the "whole" matter! 2. In view of the coming Judgment - cf. Ec 3:17; 11:9; Ac 17:30-31 a. In which every work will be judged - Ro 2:16 b. Whether it be good or evil - 2 Co 5:10 CONCLUSION 1. People have often searched for the meaning of life... a. From philosopher to the common man b. Asking questions like: 1) "Why am I here?" 2) "What is my purpose for life?" -- Many have concluded that there is no purpose, and they have fallen into despair 2. But a search that begins with the wrong assumptions invariably leads to the wrong conclusion... a. Such as assuming that there is no God, nor life after death b. If what we see in this life is all there is, then truly "vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" 3. The Preacher with his own experiences, and his God-given wisdom... a. Has demonstrated that, yes, life from an earthly perspective alone is truly vanity! b. Has taught us that by fearing God and keeping His commandments, one can endure the vanities and perplexities of life, while enjoying the good things in life! c. As penned by the Psalmist: PSALM 112 The Blessed State of the Righteous Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked shall perish. May we be like the Preacher, then, and continue to seek out "acceptable words", "words of truth" Ec 12:10, especially those from the words of Jesus: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." 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