The Conclusion of the Matter

Reflection on Ecclesiastes 12:13

The book of Ecclesiastes begins:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2

And it ends:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13

And what do the twelve chapters of “wisdom” between these verses have to say about life?

Basically that all the pursuits you can possibly think of that may prove fulfilling are ultimately “meaningless,” “vanity,” or literally “breath/vapour [Hebrew: havel]” (ie. temporal, fleeting, fragile)—without God. In chapter 2 he lists many of those things: pleasure (v.1-2), wine (v.3), great works/accomplishments (v.4-6), wealth and women (v.7-8), aesthetic and artistic pleasures (v.8), fame (v.9), indulging in every desire (v.10), and wisdom and folly (v.12-16). He sums it up as “everything under the sun.”

Solomon finds only one thing to commend: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (2:24-25‬) After twelve chapters of expounding all the ways he sought out what is truly good, meaningful, and satisfying, the Teacher’s conclusion is this: fear God and obey His commands. That is wisdom.

Let us live in the holy fear of God, as obedient children. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15, 23-24). With love and wisdom, seek to walk in obedience today.

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