Sermon Notes

May 21, 2023

Advice to an Arrow

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

There is a tendency to cherry-pick scriptures to fit our needs without bothering to read the scripture in context.  We see verses like Philippians 4:13 cherry-picked when talking about our potential in anything we try. When reading the verse in context we see it is really about our contentment in all situations we find ourselves in no matter how bad they might be.  We can also look at how people use Matthew 7:1, many think this verse means no one can judge them. However as we read it in context we see that Jesus is saying we need to take care of a particular sin in our lives before we point it out in another's life.  There are many other examples that we could talk about, but I think you understand that we need to read everything in context in order to understand what scripture is really saying.  Today's text is part of one of those misunderstood texts. Instead of it just being the usual verse or two that’s taken out of context this might be the largest piece of text that is taken out of context because it’s almost an entire book.  It’s the book of Ecclesiastes and this morning I’d like to look at the very last two verses in the book as I bring a sermon entitled “Advice for an Arrow”.

Last week I referenced one of my favorite verses on parenting and it is found in Psalms 127:4, in which children were compared to arrows. We talked a little last week about parents and their job to shape and mold that arrow, aim that arrow, and let that arrow fly.  Since this week is graduation week for many students here at FBC Bloomfield I wanted to take a moment and address the arrows. Don’t worry this is not only for recently fired arrows, but for arrows no matter how long you have been in flight.

Fear God - Ecclesiastes 12:13a
13a That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God

Solomon starts off these last few verses with the phrase, “That’s the whole story”, so what exactly is he talking about?  This is where we can get mixed up on the message of this book.  When we only read bits and pieces this “whole story” (as Solomon refers to it) seems pretty bleak and depressing.  I’ve heard some people say that this book is something that is only used for funerals, and when you only look at a single piece you might see it that way as well.  He starts off the book by saying that everything is useless and there is nothing new under the sun.  He speaks of the futility of knowledge (Ecc. 1:16-18), pleasure (Ecc. 2:1-3), work (Ecc. 2:18-20), power (Ecc, 4:13-16), possessions (Ecc. 2:4-7, 5:10-11), and the futility of relationships (Ecc. 2:8), by just reading 99.1% of the book you’d think that Solomon was having a breakdown, or at best he at least needed a Snickers. It’s that 0.9% of the book of Ecclesiastes that makes all the difference and turns Solomon's writings from a sad and discouraging book to the best piece of guidance you will ever receive in your life.

After reflecting upon his life and his struggles, this is the advice that he first shares - Fear God! While we see the idea of fearing God all throughout the Old Testament it can mean different things each time we see it. It’s used as a literal fear in Genesis 3:10, or can be used to mean awe and respect like in Proverbs 1:7, but here it means to put your faith and trust in God exclusively.  Exclusivity is the big issue here for Solomon.  He had put his trust in everything else in his life - he’d trusted his heart, his strength, his wisdom, and his wealth. Solomon had trusted everything else, but found out that nothing this world has to offer can bring him joy. That is because joy in the present is dependent on your security in the future.  Solomon saw (in his wisdom) that chasing things of this world is like chasing the wind. It’s pointless because no matter what you accomplish death will come and mock all of your worldly gains.  You have to put your trust in something that will not pass away. That’s why he says to fear God.

Solomon had everything. Everything you could humanly want, but even he knew that there was something greater that he needed.  If the wisest man struggled with this, how do you think we will do?  Trusting in God exclusively is extremely hard because we like to add something else to our trust in Him.  We want to trust in God plus our knowledge, our strength, our wisdom, and our plans.  If the wisest, richest, most powerful man struggled, so will we.  The Psalmist in Psalms 62:1-2 states that it’s in God alone that they find their salvation. He is their fortress, and their rock.  This is the same truth we know - salvation is in God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), our protection is in God alone (2 Timothy 4:18), and our foundation is in God alone (1 Corinthians 3:11).  So we must know not to put our trust in anything else, but Fear God!

Be Obedient to His Commands - Ecclesiastes 12:13
13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.

Solomon's sentiment to end this verse I think is summed up perfectly in the Hymn, “Trust and Obey”.
Trust and Obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Than to trust and obey

Solomon says trust and obedience is the way and it’s not just something necessary for him but necessary for everyone. Throughout this entire book he looked at man’s attempts to find happiness and to fix the brokenness all around him. All he saw was more and more brokenness and chaos.  He saw that man could not pick up the pieces and make something useful using his own ways. He knew that God could, but it had to be God’s way not man's way.  He’d tried all those ways and knew they would all fail - only making things worse.  God is the one who could put the pieces back together again.  Fearing God without obedience is a lie. It’s impossible to trust without obedience.  You can’t say God I trust you and you alone then when He asks you to do something you say, “No, I think I know better”.  These two things have to be mutually inclusive, we must follow God in EVERYTHING and be obedient in all parts of our lives - not just the ones we choose because it’s convenient.  We trust God with all the pieces and He takes them to make them into something beautiful but it’s only when we do it His way.  He’s the creator and He knows how the pieces all fit together.  Do things God’s way.

Be Ready for the Next Test - Ecclesiastes 12:14
14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

Everyone will be judged by God.  We don’t really like talking about this, but it’s the truth.  It doesn’t matter whether you are saved or not, you will be judged.  The judgements for a believer and an unbeliever are very different.  For an unbeliever they will stand at the Great White Throne and be judged as laid out in Revelation 20:11-15. Those whose names are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire. For those who have put their faith in Christ, there is a different judgment seat that we will stand before and that’s the “Bema Seat”.  Bema is the Greek word used for judgement seat in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10. It’s not a throne of punishment but a throne of reward. It’s the same word that describes a podium in which an athlete receives his reward after a race. Paul loved to talk about the Christian walk as a race and that’s what’s happening here. We will be rewarded for how we run our race.  Specifically it’s our works that will be judged and rewarded.  1 Corinthians 3:10 states that Jesus is our foundation. It’s the foundation that will never give way, but it’s up to us to build upon that foundation the works of our lives.  Corrie Ten Boom said, “Life is measured not by duration but by its donation.” That’s what’s being judged here - what have we done that has eternal value.  Paul tells the church in Corinth that we can build with a variety of materials such as gold, silver, jewels, wood, and hay, but on that day of judgment that we will see if anything we have built has any lasting value.  It’s not that our salvation is at stake here - NO!  It was secured once and for all on the cross. It’s a test to see what survives the fire. This is what Solomon is passing along - don’t forget everything you do will be tested by fire. Make sure what you put your efforts into here on earth has eternal significance.

When we look at the book as a whole, we see that it’s not that pursuing knowledge is wrong, but you are to do it for the glory of God.  It’s not that pleasure is wrong, but you do it in obedience. It’s not that searching for purpose and meaning in life is bad, but you have to not search using worldly means but rather Godly means.  This world is a bad and seemingly unfair place. It’s broken and there is a lot of hurt and pain that is in every part of it. With Christ as our foundation and the object of our total faith, when we are obedient to Him in all things, and we make sure what we are working for what will stand the fires of judgment, we start to live life with joy.  It took Solomon a lifetime to figure out the truth he shared here in this book. It’s a truth he wants all the readers to know much earlier than he did.  He starts out by lamenting that there is nothing new under the sun, but through this book (as well as in light of the Gospel), we see that true life isn’t found under the sun, rather in the Son.  So Arrows, your target is Jesus. Not just Jesus on Sunday or Jesus as your 911, but Jesus as your everything.  Now correct your course, aim for the target, and fly arrows, fly!

Gathering, Growing, Serving, Sharing.

We are an active and vibrant church in Bloomfield, New Mexico, serving all of San Juan County. While providing a great atmosphere to worship and serve in at our campus, we are always looking for ways to impact our communities.
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