FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS
Following directions. It’s a concept that is taught in kindergarten, and ignored every year after that. Following directions is not easy for many, or so it seems…Many of you probably have memories of buying your kids some kind of toy for Christmas. And instead of following the directions that are provided, we usually just wing it…ending up with several parts left over.
Following directions is how we learn. It’s how we learn to do things like tying our shoes or driving a car. Maybe it’s just a lost art. I tell you though, sometimes people’s inability to follow directions really frustrates me. Things like people who use the passing lane to drive 10 miles under the speed limit, or people who think that 30 items are close enough to 10 at the express check-out line at Wal-Mart, or people who allow their kids to cut in line at the concession stand and then pretend not to notice. Following directions. It seems so easy, yet it baffles so many.
Throughout this series in Ecclesiastes, we have been provided with some directions for life. And in this chapter that we are looking at this morning, we are given the wise direction to fear God and follow His commandments.
THE DELIVERY OF WISDOM’S TREASURE (Vv. 9-10)
Throughout this series, we’ve followed Solomon in his search for meaning and purpose to life. We’ve seen him try all sorts of experiences and attitudes. But I don’t think Solomon’s search was included in this book for his benefit, I think it was included for our benefit. Not only was Solomon the possessor of wisdom, he was also the dispenser of wisdom as well. It’s quite possible to have a lot of wisdom and keep it to yourself, but Solomon didn't do that. He’s referred to as “The Preacher” over and over again because he shared his wisdom with others in a way that anyone can understand. Let’s look at the different ways he did this:
1.) He taught the people knowledge (v. 9)
I want you to notice that there are two aspects to Solomon’s teaching:
a.) He taught knowledge: There has to be some sort of subject when you’re teaching. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.
b.) He taught the people: A teacher doesn’t really teach unless they are teaching other people. It’s not enough to simply teach a particular subject. You can know everything there is to know about that subject, but if you’re not teaching it to other people in way they can understand it then your teaching is in vain.
A little girl was sitting beside her mom in church when she asked, “Mommy, why does the preacher always pray before his sermon?” Her mom replied, “Well, he’s asking God to help him preach a good sermon in way that people can understand.” “Mommy,” came a second question, “Why doesn’t God answer his prayer?”
Well, Solomon knew people. He knew what made them “tick”, therefore he was able to relate to where they were in life.
2.) He pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. (v. 9)
This implies a labor of study. People ask me all the time, “Preacher, what do you do all week?” Well, much like Solomon, I don’t just show up on Sunday morning and say the first thing that pops in my head. I have to think and pray and study about what I’m going to preach, and that takes time.
3.) The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright. (v. 10)
Again, it’s not enough to just have knowledge. It’s not even enough to have it all arranged intelligently. Solomon also labored to speak in an acceptable manner. He looked for the right words. He gave thought and put in an effort to communicate in way that would capture the attention of his audience.
4.) The Preacher sought…words of truth. (v.10)
Finally, and most importantly, Solomon sought to communicate TRUTH. We live in a relativistic age. People have long since bought into the idea that truth is only relative. We hear that something might be "true" to one person but not true to another. The Bible knows nothing of such a concept. According to God’s Word, truth IS.
A particular style of teaching means nothing without truth. A lie all dressed up in eloquence is still a lie.
This tells me something important about the book of Ecclesiastes. In spite of its often dark and gloomy view, it’s a book that teaches TRUTH. It shouldn’t be understood as the outlook of a skeptic, or as an advocate of a comfortable lifestyle. It was written to give us a realistic view of life in the hope that we might live it for the Lord.
THE VALUE OF WISDOM’S CORRECTION (v. 11)
This verse is given to us in a parallel form, contrasting two images. A goad is a pointed stick used to move stubborn animals in a particular direction. A nail, on the other hand, has a different purpose. They are hammered into something in order to keep it into place. One is temporary, the other is permanent. Both are sharp and penetrating.
Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.
The Word of God accomplishes both of these purposes. It afflicts the comfortable, and comforts the afflicted. To the one who is comfortable with their life, the Bible acts as a goad to move them out of their comfort zone. It pushes us to do the things that we should be doing. To the one who is burdened by the trials of this life, it provides a place of stability. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28)
THE WEARINESS OF WISDOM’S QUEST (v. 12)
This is a warning. In the middle of Solomon’s teaching on the value of words and wisdom, he warns us that words themselves can be both endless and wearisome. We live in the age of information. What was true in Solomon’s day is just as true for us today. While we are called to pay attention to words of wisdom, we are NOT called to be overly devoted to information. Such devotion is only wearisome to the body. The reason it is wearisome is because it’s never put into practice. Our problem isn’t that we don’t KNOW enough, our problem is that we’re not APPLYING what we do know.
THE SUMMARY OF WISDOM’S END (v. 13)
Wisdom teaches us two things; the first one is based on the second one.
1.) Wisdom teaches us to fear God.
This is the conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes; it’s also the same “big idea” that is found in other wisdom literature:
And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. (Ps. 111:10)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
2.) Keep His Commandments.
This is the principle that flows from the first. If you truly fear the Lord, then you will want to keep His commandments. If you truly fear God, then you will also fear sin and the consequences of sin. Just after Moses delivered the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, the people were frightened by the voice of God. And so they went to Moses and asked that he serve as a mediator so that God wouldn’t speak directly to them.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20)
To fear God is actually a good thing. It’s not a paralyzing fear or the kind of fear we usually think of today. It’s a fear that demonstrates to us how big God really is and that He is sovereign and that He is able to do as He pleases. It’s a fear in which we recognize our sin, driving us to God’s grace. I honestly believe that the reason we face so many problems in the world, and in our nation and the even the church today is because there is no fear of God. There is no fear of the consequences of our sin.
Now the reason that Solomon offers us a double conclusion is because what he’s teaching applies to everyone. The text literally reads, “this is man’s all”. It implies that it is our duty as Christians is to fear God and keep His commandments.
THE SOURCE OF WISDOM’S MOTIVATION (v. 14)
The reason we are to fear God is because ultimately, He is our Judge. And He’s not just simply our Judge, He’s our sovereign Judge. Nothing we do with our time here on earth will escape His judgement.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Cor. 4:5)
Like it or not, one day we will stand before God and give an account for our actions, whether they are good or bad. The good news is that, as Christians, the punishment for our evil actions were paid in full by the blood of Christ.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Ps. 32:1-2)
We’ve been blessed by God because we’ve been given the map which points us to the Savior. How good are you at following directions? Have your sins been covered by the blood of Christ? Do you fear God and are you obeying His commands. Now is the opportunity to set all that straight by responding to the invitation that is about to be given. In whatever way the Lord is dealing with you this morning, you come as He leads.
Altars have been around since the beginning, and in biblical times, the altar is where you would go to bring your sacrifice. Altars are still in existence today, and they are still a place of sacrifice. Sadly, many altars remain empty because people aren’t willing to sacrifice. They’re not willing to sacrifice their pride; they’re not willing to sacrifice their comfort, and as a result…they leave church each and every week unchanged. Don’t let that be you this morning, come to the altar and offer your sacrifice unto the Lord.