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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


 

Daily Boost

May 13, 2011 - The Whole Duty of Man

By George Paul Wood

Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 is a summary of all that the Preacher has tried to teach us in the previous chapters. His lessons can be summed up simply enough: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (v. 13, ESV).

By what authority does the Preacher sum up our whole duty in this way? It is not by means of prophetic authority, for the Preacher does not claim to be a prophet. It is not by means of priestly interpretation of the Law, for the Preacher is not a priest. Although the Preacher is a king (1:1), he does not use his royal power to promulgate his message.

No, the authority of the Preacher’s message is the authority of common sense. He is “wise,” “weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care” (12:9). His authority is the authority of reason. Many people mistakenly try to oppose faith to facts, revelation to reason. But the Bible teaches us that both can be avenues to truth, if our hearts are pure. Both reason and revelation are “given by one Shepherd,” that is, God (v. 11).

Wisdom such as the Preacher displays is an inherently good thing. It is a “goad,” encouraging us through “words of delight” (v. 10) to live well and truly before God. It is like “nails firmly fixed” (v. 11), providing an indispensable, unchanging support for the good life. Wisdom both initiates change, in other words, and conserves blessings.

Wisdom also is simple and eternal. The Preacher contrasts wisdom and “making many books” (v. 12). Making many books refers to man’s ongoing effort to understand himself and the world he lives in. Such learning is necessary. Often, as with the realm of the hard sciences, we make many new and exciting discoveries. But while knowledge of our DNA changes (thus requiring new books), knowledge of our moral nature does not. It would be foolish to go to a doctor who studied only 17th-century medical textbooks. It would be even greater folly to ignore a moral writer like the Preacher, though he has been dead for millennia. Scientific knowledge changes; moral wisdom does not.

So, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” The notion of fearing God frightens us. We like to think of God as the God of love, not fear, and in a certain sense, He is. But God is so great and majestic, so holy and awe-inspiring, that we small creatures would do well to remember our place in the universe and show due respect for Him and for His Word. Why? “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (v. 14). A wise person always keeps this truth in mind.

The Book of Ecclesiastes begins with a statement about the world that is “vanity of vanities” (1:2), and ends with a statement about the world to come, the “judgment.” We live between these worlds and must make choices in the former to prepare us for the latter, so choose well. If you follow the Preacher’s common-sense advice, you will.

— George Paul Wood is director of Ministerial Resourcing for the Assemblies of God and author of The Daily Word online devotionals.

 

 

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