“Fear God and Keep His Commandments” – Ecclesiastes 11:7–12:14
Hear the Word of the Lord from Ecclesiastes chapter 11, starting in verse seven through the end of the book.
7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.
9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.
1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 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— 5 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— 6 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, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:14, ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever.
My junior year in high school, I was required to take a physics course. Now, physics would not have been my choice, numbers and science, and all of that is not really my favorite thing to do, but it was a requirement and I took it. There were actually some interesting things in the class, one of which was an assignment. I was calculating, this would be 20 years ago right now I was gearing up to do. We had to do it over Christmas break my junior year there and we had to build a balsa wood bridge. So they gave us balsa wood sticks and some wood glue, and we had to take it home and to form a bridge that would hopefully be as strong and sturdy to bear up under as much weight as possible.
So I worked on this project with a friend. We went home and hung out, and kind of messed around if I'm really being honest, and put together a very basic bridge. We got a little concerned when we got there and we saw all the elaborate bridges that some of my other friends had put together and we were thinking, oh my goodness, ours looks so flimsy. What's going to happen here?
Actually, we ended up okay because it wasn't just how much weight can your bridge bear up under, but it was a ratio thing. So the lighter the bridge, the sort of the less weight you had to bear under if two bridges held the less or the same amount of weight, the lighter bridge because it held up weight under less material, would be deemed the winner. So because ours was so flimsy and very little went into it, our ratio was actually quite high.
What was interesting in that project was the way that they worked through bridge after bridge after bridge. They put it on this machine that my physics teacher had hooked up, that we he slowly poured water into the bucket so that he could know exactly how much weight this could bear up under. We watched bridge after bridge after bridge crack and collapse. There wasn't any bridge that stood the test of all the weight that was put on it. There was no bridge that got to the end and said, well, I guess that can withstand under any pressure. Eventually, every bridge broke.
Indeed, in life, ultimately, everything breaks. So what this means and what the preacher is trying to tell us in this passage is that if our identity, if our hope, if our confidence is in how we compare against others at some point in our lives, well, then we're ultimately building our foundation on a sinking sand. Even though you might be a little bit behind someone here or you might be a little ahead of someone tomorrow, the point is that ultimately even your bridge won't stand up. Eventually, everything is going to break. You need a firmer foundation, one that's not built on shifting sinking sand.
What the preacher says as he closes this book of wisdom is that you need to build your life on the rock solid foundation of God himself. In Jesus Christ and him crucified. You need to do this through all the days of your life, from when you were young to when you were old, for as many years as the Lord trusts you and trust to you until he calls you home. Afterwards, as the preacher reminds us, comes the judgment.
Our big idea then today is this Fear God and keep his commandments. This comes directly from Ecclesiastes 12 verse 13.
So this morning, three parts to the sermon as we look at it. First, fear God in youth, some of you young people today, this is a sermon for you. Second, fear God in old age. Those of you who are not young anymore, this is a sermon for you and for everyone in between. Then third, fear God in view of eternity.
1. Fear God in Youth
2. Fear God in Old Age
3. Fear God in View of Eternity
Fear God in Youth
So number one fear God in youth. Look again at 11:7, "Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun." Now the preacher's starting a comparison here, but it's not clear yet where he's going with this. So we have to peek ahead a little bit in the passage to see where he's going. He's talking about light and light is sweet, and he's talking about eyes that see, especially see the light of the sun. This is an image for youth, for the earlier years of our lives. We're going to see this as the preacher later talks about the dimmed eyes and the darkness of old age.
In fact, one of the main ways that the Bible talks about old age is as dimmed eyes. For example, Isaac in Genesis 27:1 is old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see. Jacob, in Genesis 48:1, again is old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see. Eli, the priest under whom the Prophet Samuel served, again when he was only reading in ` Samuel 3:2 was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see. Dimmed eyes are a product of old age. So the preacher is saying, enjoy light while you can see it. It's sweet, it's pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.
So verse eight, "So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity."
What he's saying here is that life is precious, life is sacred, every moment of your life from the beginning to the end is something that you should enjoy and savor because he says the days of darkness will be many. Now, what are these days of darkness? Well, this could refer to old age. Again, if old age is characterized by dimness of sight, then old age could be the darkness that it's referring to here. Or this dimness, this darkness could refer to death. Death is the final enveloping of darkness around us, as it's often talked about in the Bible. Or it may not refer to the lifespan of an individual human being, but it may be talking about the lifespan of the world itself. The end of the world, the day of the Lord, the final day of God, when God brings all of history to an end and brings everyone in judgment is described by the Prophet Amos in Amos 5:20 as a day of darkness, "is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light and gloom with no brightness in it."
So enjoy these years when there is light and enjoy all the years of your life, but remember the days of darkness will be many. There's a warning here, not to give too much attention to youthfulness.
Verse nine, once again, encouragement to enjoy youth. "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth." Enjoy this youth! But he says, be mindful of the coming judgment. He says walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes, but know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment.
Now what's interesting about this walk in the ways of your heart and the side of your eyes is how often we are told elsewhere in the Bible not to walk after the ways of our heart and not to walk after our sight. For example, a verse I quote often is 2 Corinthians 5:7,"We walk by faith and not by sight." The preacher isn't contradicting those verses. The preacher isn't contradicting the many places where we are told not to follow after the ways of our hearts. What he's saying here is not a contradiction because those passages talk about morality. Will you trust in your own wisdom or will you trust in your own insight? Will you trust in what you can see or will you trust in the Lord? Here the preacher is simply saying, enjoy this, enjoy life while you can see it and savor it. The warning says don't get too far afield is to know that for everything you do, God will eventually bring into judgment.
So in verse 10, the preacher really encourages us to enjoy youth, "Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity."
They are a mist. They are here and then they are gone. Enjoy this while it is here. Youth ends far too soon. Now I am not yet what I would consider to be old, my children might disagree, but I'm also probably not quite in the young category anymore. I'm at 37 years old, which means that I'm just a year or so shy of half the average age of life expectancy for a male living in the United States. I haven't had that many years on this Earth, but it's astonishing how much has changed, even in my short lifetime.
I want to give you a vivid example, some of you who are older will maybe remember some of this. My wife and I were this week at a shopping mall. Shopping malls are tremendously depressing places to go today. It's hard to explain to younger people how much fun and how much life and how much bustling there used to be at shopping malls. I have the most vivid memory as a child of being at a shopping mall and being in the food court, which was the best place to eat in town, and there were so many people they were just on top of each other. Then when you left the food court, people were just going in all kinds of different ways. There was life and energy and vitality there. I associated a lot with my childhood. But as I think about the childhood, my youth, I also know that that child or that mall in Hastings, Nebraska, has now been bulldozed to the ground because it couldn't sustain itself anymore.
As I went in a shopping mall that's sort of limping along, I won't name it. I don't want to offend anyone, but you can probably guess there aren't that many in Omaha. As I went to a shopping mall this week, it was amazing. The growth of that is how skillful they are in putting up walls where they used to be businesses. So I was looking at a wall that was tiled and there was sort of a makeshift library, a take a book, leave a book. I realized, wait a minute, this is where the pretzel vendor used to be. As these businesses are going away as life and the world changes, I think about these vivid childhood memories of things that were a big deal then and how quickly things change and move away.
That's a picture of a little bit of what happens in our youth. We have these vivid memories of when life is sweet and it's pleasant for the eyes to see the sun and the preacher says, enjoy this while you can. Children enjoy your childhood; you never get it back again. Young people enjoy the stage at which you are because you will never get it back again. Those of you with new babies enjoy that stage, they grow up so quickly. But everything eventually breaks. Nothing can withstand the test of time. It all eventually breaks down. Youth is but one season under heaven, there's a time to be born, but as the preacher is about to remind us, there is also a time to die. The preacher exhorts us to take seriously old age and death.
Fear God in Old Age
So what we're seeing in the next section in verses one through eight of chapter 12 is really the final word of the main part of this book. There's a main section. I'm going to show you how we find the end of that and a little bit, but this is the last main thing that the preacher says before the conclusion or the epilogue to this book. His main point is fear God in old age.
The second section is fear God in old age, and it starts in verse one. This is sort of the transition from the previous section to this one. "Remember also your creator in the days of your youth before the evil days come in the years draw, near of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them."
Now we read in verse nine of the previous chapter that we should remember our creator because judgment is coming, but here the preacher is reminding us that we should remember our creator in the days of our youth because of joy. Charles Bridge is one of the commentators on this passage. He writes this this line that really stood out to me, "Many have remembered their creator too late in life, but none too soon." As I look back on my life, I do not regret a single thing I gave up following Jesus. I don't regret any of the parties I missed. I don't regret any of the lifestyles that people around me were living. I don't regret missing out on any of that. My only regrets are when I did not follow Jesus as closely as I should have. My only regrets. Many people find their creator too late, but none find their creator too soon. You see, when you're young, you tend to think that you are invincible. The preacher reminds us here that the young invincibility very quickly fades away, far more quickly than we realize. The days are coming when you will say, I have no pleasure in them.
Then versus two through seven, the preacher turns to this extended metaphor or this sort of stream of images that sort of roll by us now. Sometimes he's building an extended metaphor where the details are very clear, you know, pretty much exactly what he's talking about. Other times, some people have tried to sort of press the details too far to say, well, this refers to that, and it's a little too hard to make some of those connections. Where the details are not always clear the general meaning is. He's giving us a tremendous range of imagery to remind us about what old age does to all of us.
So look at what he says in verse two. Here is where he brings back that comparison that he started in verse seven at the beginning of our passage of the last chapter, that youth is characterized by seeing the sweet light, whereas old age is characterized by darkness. So 12:2, "before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain." Not just clouds that come to bring the healthy life giving rains, but now these are clouds that come after the rain is over and they just hang and darken the sky.
Then there's verse three, "in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed,"
We have here at the beginning of a description of a house that's falling apart with age, and it begins with the keepers of the house probably talking about limbs, arms and legs that tremble. The keepers of the house tremble and the strong men are bent, what used to be as strong back is now bent over with age. The grinders ceased because they are few, probably referring to your teeth. The old age makes it difficult to chew. Those who look through the windows are dimmed again, we're having a sight imagery, someone's looking out of this house and you can't quite see through the windows anymore.
Verse four begins the discussion of hearing and the doors of the street are shut, "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—" When we shut the doors, we can't hear what's going on outside, and that's what happens to this house. Again, where the youth think that they are invincible, those who are old know fears.
"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— " in verse five. The almond tree blossoms, well, this sounds promising new life blossoms, but it's giving an image of if you think of an almond tree when it blossoms, it's whitened like hair. The grasshopper drags itself along, think of how spry and nimble a grasshopper is, but as the days creep on year after year in fall toward the colder seasons, you ever seen those grasshoppers that can barely move anymore? Grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home and all of a sudden, the house is no longer decaying. We find ourselves in the middle of a funeral. The end has come, the mourners go about the streets.
Then verse six, "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." Again, don't try to press the details of what the cord is and the bowl is and the pitcher is or the wheel is. This is an image of the fragility of life. In just a moment, it’s gone. Until verse seven, "and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."
When God first created Adam, he gathered together dust and mold it and shape that dust into Adam's body, and then God himself stooped down to breathe the breath of life into this man. When sin into the world when that same man rebelled against God, God told him that you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Our bodies returned to the dust, and the life breath that's been on loan to us has to be returned to God.
In verse eight, the preacher ends this main section of Ecclesiastes with, "Vanity of vanities, says the preacher. All is vanity." We know this is the end of the main section, because there's a this is the tail where there's a corresponding top at the very beginning of Ecclesiastes in 1:2. It says the exact same thing, "vanity of vanity, says the preacher, all is vanity." He began on that word, and now he ends on that word. Everything is a mist. It's a breath. It's a vapor. It's here, and then it's gone. Everything, even you young children one day are going to grow old and you are going to break down and die. Everything breaks down and dies. All is vanity.
One of the most stunning object lessons of the relentless, vicious work of time, I think, is to see whenever they have a big reunion for something, a big reunion of people who are famous. So this year was the 50th anniversary of a really famous football game, the game of the century, between Nebraska and Oklahoma in 1971. Children, 50 years ago, Nebraska won games. In that in that game, it was a really big game against, against a really big team, and it was an epic battle. You can pull this up on YouTube. The fittest, the fastest, the strongest men who are youthful in their vigor and their vitality fighting it out like gladiators on the field. It was an epic game. That's why it's called the game of the century. When this reunion has happened, those same young, vibrant men are now bent with age and their limbs tremble. Age has taken a significant toil on the best and the fittest and the strongest of their generation.
Even more cruel, perhaps, or when you see reunion episodes of sitcoms, especially the sitcoms that that glamorize and idealize and idolize youth. Where you see these people who are living it up for their youth and their beauty, and that's everything to them. You see them 20 years later and age has not been kind. You say if they were living for their youth, if that was everything to them, if that's what that show was about, their lives have already peaked. How tragic to live that way. How tragic to live clinging to what cannot be retained. If youth is everything, what do you do when it's gone?
Youth is a time of light, and it is and it is a time of joy, but it is so fleeting. Old age is a time of darkness and fragility. No one likes it better. The preacher acknowledges that these are years you are going to say, I have no pleasure in them. You will have pleasure in them, but not of the kind that you had, which is everywhere, all around you in your youth. As I remember my grandmother so vividly saying at the death of my grandfather, death comes to us all. Death comes to us all.
The preacher wants us to know life under the sun is so fragile, it is so fickle, it is so fleeting to cling to, it is futile and foolish. Wisdom insists, then, that we must remember our creator because he is the eternal one who stands outside time. Time does not age God because he is the ageless one. He is neither older nor younger. He has never been before. He is always before. He is, and he always will be. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. There is no before and after with God. He simply is.
Fear God in View of Eternity
So the preacher concludes all of this book in verses nine through fourteen. With an exhortation to remember this creator. So now we come to section three, fear God in view of eternity. Again, some commentators call this the epilogue or conclusion, but the point is this stands outside of the main body of the work. The preachers surveyed everything, and now he comes to his final conclusions. What should we take from this? This is the application section of his sermon.
So in verses nine through ten, part of this is tracing the preacher's work in life and ministry. Besides being wise, the preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The preacher sought to find words of delight and uprightly he wrote words of truth. We're told in 1 Kings 4:32 that Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs and his songs were one thousand and five.
You see we value in our day access to information. We want to be able to Google something at the drop of a hat and figure out an answer to anything or look it up on Wikipedia. Figure that kind of thing out. The ancients had a very different perspective. They valued not mere access just to know that I can look it up, and they didn't value mere information. They wanted mastery of wisdom. For someone to memorize 3000 proverbs and one thousand five songs is an extraordinary feat of wisdom. He mastered this great wisdom over the course of his life and he tried to pass it on. He was a teacher. He tried to find words of delight and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
Then verses eleven and twelve, he talks about what these words did. He says, "The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh."
Goads prod livestock. If you're trying to get a cow or a sheep to go in a certain direction, a goad was a big stick that you would poke him to get him to go in the direction that you wanted to go. We need these in our own lives to be goaded by these words of wisdom.
But he says words of wisdom are also like nails. You think of what nails do? They fix something down, particularly for a shepherd, that's what's in view here. The shepherd who's goading, the shepherd who has nails firmly fixed down, the one shepherd from whom on wisdom comes. This is shepherding imagery. The shepherd would have used these nails to fix down his tent from site to site. Wisdom teaches us to know when we need to move and when we need to remain steadfast and fixed and steady.
What the preacher warns us is that too much information, too many books, can obscure the clarity of God's wisdom, the wisdom that comes from one shepherd. Of course, this one shepherd is God. As Psalm 23:1 says, "The Lord is my shepherd". Particularly when Jesus Christ came into the world de declared, "I am the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11. That's where wisdom comes from. It comes from the timeless one, the eternal one, the one who is not affected by time because he created it and encompasses it all before him in his eternal wisdom and power.
Well, in verse 13, this is the conclusion. He says, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." He has surveyed everything under the sun and what does he say? Fear God and keep his commandments. After considering everything under the sun, everything in this world, the preacher says there's nothing in here that's going to satisfy you like you're looking for. Instead of looking under the sun, look above the sun, look to the creator of the sun. Fear God and keep his commandments.
Now we've talked about what the fear of God is. It means, on the one hand, acknowledging your vulnerability and your helplessness and your hopelessness and your guilt because of sin. To be truthful about that. Not to try to hide it, not to try to make justifications or excuses. It's to acknowledge them before the judge of all the Earth you stand guilty. It's to go to that same judge and recognize that he is your only hope, because he has loved you so much that he has sent his son, Jesus Christ, into this world to die for you in your place so that you may be reconciled to him by grace through faith. It's to trust in this same Lord because of his promises, anyway, even though you are guilty. The fear of God, the fear of the Lord is another word, then for faith. As the Bible everywhere declares, we are justified, we are made righteous before God by faith. We are counted as righteous before him by faith.
So the preacher says fear God, but he adds this line, he says, keep the commandments. Now this isn't to atone for your guilt. This isn't to earn something before God. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone and not by works. Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear about this. "For by grace, you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not by work so that no one may boast." We are not saved by keeping the commandments, rather, when the Bible talks about keeping the commandments, it's always as a loving response of gratitude. Knowing that even as we seek to keep his commandments, we're still dependent upon him upon his grace, upon his power to obey. To keep the commandments as another word for what the Bible calls sanctification, to grow in the holiness without which no one would see the Lord. We are justified by faith, by the fear of God, and we are sanctified as by God's power. It's by God's grace through faith, we seek to keep his commandments.
So, in verse 14, the preacher closes with this word. He says, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." A life lived for the fleeting pleasures of this world is its own reward in full and those pleasures are so quickly fading away. Nothing lasts, everything ultimately breaks down. A life lived for the glory of God, who is not under the sun, he is above the sun, he is the one who created this, and the life lived for his glory will not be in vain.
How do we apply then? Well our application then is just what the preacher tells us, fear God and keep his commandments. Ecclesiastes is a difficult book. There are blunt words, grim outlooks and despairing conclusions. Forgive me if you were offended by the preacher's description of old age today, for example. As I said in my first sermon in this Ecclesiastes series. Martin Luther considered this to be a most optimistic book. Martin Luther was the great reformer who began the Reformation in 1517, and he considered this to be the most optimistic book. What he saw in Ecclesiastes is a book that has explored all the possible rabbit trails that we might pursue all the possible avenues under the sun to find happiness and satisfaction and joy. He exposes them all as a fraud. He shows that every single one of these cannot provide what we are looking for.
So what he's doing is to clear away the debris, to get rid of what may cloud our vision, to get rid of what may be a confusion. Much study and much anticipation and attempts to find satisfaction in this life is a weariness to the flesh. He's done that for us, and he's cleared away these false ideas about how to live, especially by clinging to the vanity of this world. So that once that debris is cleared away, the gospel then can shine all the more radiantly.
The gospel tells us not about a life hack, not about a quick fix, not about how to have your best life now. The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ came into this world, the one who is above the sun, who came down from heaven into this earth, so that he could lift us up to God. Fear God and keep his commandments.
Well, let's unpack what that means, because it gets at what the gospel is. Again, the idea of fearing God is to believe, it's faith. It's to have faith in God and what the Bible tells us after everything else has been cleared away, and we can see the gospel in its radiance, is that we are to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with the promise that all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. There are so many proposals in life for how to find salvation. You can find anywhere all kinds of ideas about how to do the right good works, about how to sacrifice personally in your own life, about how to do the right collection of religious practices to appease God.
The scriptures are so clear you are dead in your sins and trespasses. You are a child of wrath. You are without hope and without God in the world. There is nothing you can do to counteract this. You cannot do enough community service hours to overcome the wrath of God against you because of your sins. You need nothing less than the death and resurrection of God's only Son, the Lord of Glory. Fear God, then. He is the judge of the living and the dead, the judge of all the Earth, and he will surely do what was right. He will bring every deed in a judgment on the last day and he will by no means clear the guilty. Fear him, the Bible commands.
Again, the other part of fearing him is not just to cower before him, not just to acknowledge your helplessness and hopelessness and vulnerability and guilt before him. It means to take him at his word. To believe the promises that he makes. The promise of salvation for all those who turn from their sins in sorrow. As we heard earlier today to consider his word, to confess our sins and to hear the assurance of God's pardon through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The question is, will you believe his promises? We turn to Christ for salvation. That's what this book is driving at. Clear away everything else that's getting in the way and turn to Jesus Christ, whom the rest of the scriptures hold out as your only hope and comfort in life and in death. Fear God. But also keep his commandments.
In addition to the saving grace of justification by faith alone, another one of God's saving graces is as the Westminster Larger Catechism question thirty-two, puts it, "To enable us unto all holy obedience as the evidence of the truth of our faith and thankfulness to God and as the way which he hath appointed us to salvation."
Now, listen to that God's commandments are the way to salvation. Now, not the way to gain salvation. We don't keep commandments to gain salvation. This is rather the way that God has appointed for those whom he has saved. It's not how we are saved, by keeping the commandments, it's what we are saved for. Again, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not by works", not by keeping the commandments well enough". so that no one may boast." But in verse 10, the very next verse, he says, "for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works", for keeping the commandments, "which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in." We are saved not by keeping the commandments, we are saved for keeping the commandments. God has appointed these good works that we should walk in them as a people whom God has brought out of death and into life.
You see, for the believer, God's commandments are no longer a thundering word of condemnation against our sin. That's the warning of the Bible if you have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ, God's word sounds as a thunder blast from heaven, declaring that you are guilty and in danger of the wrath of God for all of eternity. For believers, in the words of John Newton, the man who wrote Amazing Grace, "Christ has hushed the laws loud thunder", and he has done this, "so that justice smiles and asks no more." There's nothing else that you need to do because Christ has done everything that justice demands.
The law then is transformed from our enemy, our persecutor, our oppressor, our condemning agent into a friend. Not by anything that we have done, but through Christ. Christ reorient us to the law through Christ, we relate to the law in a new way. He makes that introduction in a friendly way. The commandments of God then teaches how to please God through holy lives.
So as we've seen all of the false ways to live and as the preacher has exhorted us at many points toward the wisdom of the fear of God, the wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord. I want to ask you, do you long for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord? Do you delight in the law of God in your inner man and your inner person? Do you pray that God would conform you to the image of Christ and to righteousness, holiness and knowledge?
The only alternative to Christ is this vain world where everything ultimately breaks. Don't put your trust there. Put your trust instead in Christ. As the apostle John writes in 1 John 2:17, "this world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." "Vanity of vanity, says the preacher, all is vanity." In a view of that and in view of eternity. Fear God, looking to Jesus Christ in faith, and keep his commandments.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we pray for a heart of wisdom, wisdom that comes from above that is first pure and peaceable, not wisdom that is from below and is earthly and spiritual and demonic. We pray that you would give us the wisdom of Jesus Christ crucified that we would look to him as our alone confidence, our alone assurance, our alone hope and comfort of salvation. That through Christ, you might relate us to the law in new way, not to gain something, because we can gain nothing before you, we can earn nothing from you. But to live a life that's really related to you as your children, as your people who are growing in the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Who are being conformed to the image of Christ, by your grace, by your mercy, by your power. We pray that this would all be to your glory through Jesus Christ name we pray. Amen.