The Conclusion of the Matter
Ecclesiastes Series #5
“The Conclusion of the Matter”
A 4-year old boy was spending time with his dad one day when he up and declared, “Dad, I’m gonna get married.”
Of course, the dad said, “That’s great! Do you have a girl in mind?”
The boy said, “Yep! Grandma! She says she loves me, I love her, too... and she’s the best cook and story teller in the whole world!”
The dad said, “That’s nice, but we have a small problem here!
The boy said, “What problem?”
“Well,” said the dad, “she happens to be my mother. You can’t marry my mother?”
The boy said, “Why not?! You married mine!”
Perspective: it’s all about perspective.
In the final chapter of Ecclesiastes, we’re given an explicit command, a mandate, a foundational instruction from the Teacher: “Remember your Creator.”
The Teacher wasn’t just implying that you and I should give mental, cognitive recognition to the fact that God exists (even though we should). He’s calling us to actually live life as if God exists. To live as if it’s true.
The word “remember” is a constant in the Biblical narrative (it’s used over 230 times).
*“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20:8)
“The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:16)
I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well. (Lev. 26:42)
Jesus even said, “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
Remembering and Covenant are closely connected in God’s Word. To say God “remembers” isn’t to say he’s forgetful. It’s to say God has promised to act... and is in fact, acting! He’s keeping his Word... his Covenant... He’s remembering.
Of course, the calling for us to “remember” - is to acknowledge who and Whose we are... we’re followers of Christ & children of God. And that “remembrance” points to a lifestyle and posture, not merely an idea we keep tucked away in the back of our minds - to be pulled out when convenient... but a faith that’s lived, every day... every moment.
The Teacher is speaking from the perspective of old age - which has for time eternal, been associated with wisdom. And the wise Teacher knows his time “under the sun” is limited... so he encourages us to keep God the focus of life...
We live in restless times, don’t we? Of course, the Teacher would say “that’s nothing new...” because all times lived “under the sun” have been restless.
But we understand restlessness (we relate) because we’ve all experienced it! I feel restless all the time... Physically. It leaves you unable to stay still - you kinda feel like your nerves are all firing on all cylinders and you just have to move.
Of course, spiritually, and emotionally, restlessness is the feeling of being unsettled, unable to commit to one idea or decision.
Kids are usually great examples of restlessness... running through the house, with unlimited energy, pulling out every toy they own in the process... and playing with none. Just moving for the sake of moving, I suppose. They don’t know where they’re going or what they’re looking for... they just have to keep moving.
Adults are a lot like children... more so than we’d happily admit.
In his “Confessions” Saint Augustine famously wrote that “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
For those living from the perspective of “under the sun” or apart from God: their hearts (maybe our hearts) are still looking for the right place to land, the right place to find rest. And Ecclesiastes, the whole book, deals with that unrest (that longing to fill the void, the desire to find satisfaction and peace in this life).
And in this final chapter, the answer to all the despair and turmoil and restlessness... is this: Remember your Creator. Remember God, in every circumstance and moment of life.
The Teacher says the words of the wise “are like goads” - what’s a goad? It’s a prod - like a cattle prod. The words of the Teacher are meant to sting and to convict... they’re intended to move us in the right direction.
Ecclesiastes can be a unsettling book. It’s raw... it’s brutally honest... and never attempts to preserve our feelings or guard our sensibilities. The Teacher’s intent is to push us forward... to bring us to the place (mentally and spiritually) of contentment with God, above all else.
The Teacher sounds an awful lot like Paul (Phil 4:11-13), who said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
With Christ, Through Christ, In Christ...
A lot of us today, are concerned with privacy. And with good reason. Tammy and I have simply talked about things we’d like to have (or something we were thinking about pricing) and immediately Ads start appearing on our phones or social media apps! I wouldn’t necessarily believe it if I hadn’t experienced it for myself, countless times now. It’s seems way more than coincidence.
In fact, it happens so often, that we have to keep asking ourselves what privacy look like...
After all, we live in a world where people post, pretty much everything they do to social media. From the banana pancakes they made for their twins, to their deepest, darkest insecurities and fears - the internet’s wide open!
For some of us, verse 14 is a frightening thought: “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it’s good or evil.” The same thought’s carried over into the New Testament, as Jesus himself said, “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)
That’s a pretty scary thought: In the end... everything will be out in the open.
Of course, whether we take that as a threat or a promise depends on our perspective.
Our assurance, as followers of Christ, is, when that time comes... our faith in Jesus will cover our sins... as the One who took on all the evil of this life... while living without sin himself... and died the death we deserved. Jesus work on the cross, and his victory over the grave, makes verse 14, Good News! Everything will come to light, but we have nothing to fear.
Death, meaninglessness, and the coming judgment of sin - are the major realities that haunted the Teacher. He calls out for justice, lamenting death and sin... while longing for something better than just what happens “under the sun.”
Romans 8:18-21 is a powerful reminder of our longing for something better... We’re a creation that longs for the curse to be overthrown, a creation that longs for resurrection... a fallen humanity that cries out alongside all creation, for peace, and happiness and satisfaction... for redemption.
As Christians... we can find hope in our longing, because we know that it all, as meaningless as it seems, leads us back to God... “All things work together for good.”
So... “now all has been heard; [and this is] the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”
In doing so, we’ll always find what we’re looking for...