*Every week during our 12 week series in the book of Ecclesiastes we will post a devotional guide that week for the passage that was preached on the most recent Sunday. We encourage you to engage this book of the Bible more fully by walking through this devotional each week after having listened to the sermon on Sunday.*
Week 11- Ecclesiastes 12:9-14
How would you characterize your relationship to wisdom? Wisdom can be defined as knowledge of God’s truth rightly applied to all of life. Being truly wise means that we will be rightly related to God and to the world He has created. Considering knowledge of the truth is necessary for wisdom, maybe your pursuit of wisdom looks like constantly devouring the newest philosophies and ideologies. You feel like you must know everything about everything under the sun in order to acquire wisdom, so you are constantly reading and studying. You boast of your personal library and how many of those books you have actually read. Maybe you have looked to God and His word for wisdom and genuinely possess it, but you are more of an armchair sage who doesn’t actually live out the knowledge you have
acquired—your wisdom is more theoretical than practical. Whatever measure of wisdom you have is passive, not active. Or maybe you do not pursue wisdom at all. You may or may not commend such a pursuit, but when you look at your life you see that knowledge and understanding about the things of God do not really matter to you. Regardless of which camp you fall in to, Solomon has something to say to all of us in Ecclesiastes 12:9-14.
Solomon has already endorsed the pursuit of wisdom as a worthwhile endeavor throughout Ecclesiastes, so it is no surprise that his final verdict after his long journey to find meaning and satisfaction ends in a commendation of the wise lifestyle. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). He said in Proverbs 1:7 that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” So, he of course praises fear once more since it is a prerequisite for wisdom. And godly wisdom will always result in right action and obedience to God’s commands. A passive wisdom is missing the critical component of actively living out the knowledge one possesses. Knowledge of God’s truth should lead to reverence, honor, and worship of God (the fear of the Lord) and humble obedience because of who God is and what He’s done. “This is the whole duty of man”—this applies to every single person. The one who heeds these words will gain a perspective “beyond the sun” and will find meaning, hope, and satisfaction in this life that far surpasses the offers of counterfeit gods “under the sun.”
But it is easy to struggle in our pursuit of wisdom. Solomon says that “much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12). We can sometimes think that reading every book under the sun will give us the genuine wisdom we seek, but it is easy to become the type of person who is “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Like the Athenians of Acts 17 we spend all of our time in hearing new and novel philosophies to briefly think on and discuss before moving on, but we don’t settle on genuine knowledge of the truth. Not only does this practice betray wisdom, it is reliant on self because we think that we can find all of the answers on our own apart from God. But true wisdom comes from the “one Shepherd” (Eccl. 12:11). Wisdom comes from God because He is the Source of all truth and wisdom, and He has revealed these to us in His word. So, while reading books other than the Bible can help us to better grasp God’s truth (and it is wise to glean from knowledgable men and women who are also earnestly pursuing truth), we ultimately need to come to our one Shepherd, learn from Him by studying His word, and follow Him.
Another common struggle is to fail to act upon the godly wisdom we acquire. But wisdom by definition is applied knowledge of the truth. So, to claim to have godly wisdom based on genuine knowledge of God’s truth, but to not live differently as a result, is incomplete at best. “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings” (Eccl. 12:11). Wisdom should be firmly fixed in our hearts as it provides us a strong foundation rooted in God’s word. And like a cattle prod it encourages us down the path we should walk. But in our culture where everyone has a voice online and no one has to back up their positions with action it is easy to be an armchair expert, telling everyone else how one should wisely live from the comfort of our living room. But godly wisdom leads to godly actions.
So, after Solomon’s long journey to find meaning and satisfaction “under the sun,” he ends by saying we must attain wisdom and an eternal perspective “beyond the sun” because it is truly the best thing for us and it brings God glory. It is the duty of every person to honor God in this way (Eccl. 12:13). After coming to faith in Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) and being reconciled to the Father, we honor, revere, and submit to God’s will and ways. This is what it means to fear the Lord and obey His commandments. And when we are satisfied in Christ alone we see that this way of living is not some grudging obligation but a joy that honors the name of Jesus and brings us the true meaning and fulfillment that our hearts long for!
Are you satisfied with your current pursuit of godly wisdom? Why or why not?
How can you pursue the wisdom found in Christ more earnestly?
How can you better live out the gospel-centered wisdom you have?
Do you feel you have a healthy fear (awe, reverence, honor, respect) of God? How can the fear of God better inform your daily life?
How are you doing at humbly submitting to and obeying God’s truth as revealed in His word? Where are the areas in your life that you have yet to bring into submission to God’s word?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Micah 6:8; Luke 10:27
Read the first three questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism with the accompanying Scripture references. Meditate on these truths and consider memorizing the questions and answers.