From the second lecture in the audio seminar Abounding Emptiness, Abundant Living
The first point that Ecclesiastes, Koheleth, is making is that the good things in life are gifts from God. Don’t ever forget that. Never take it for granted. What you have: the strength, the knowledge, the skill - God has given you to make your way in the world. To have food to eat, to have a home to live in, shelter, food and clothing. They are gifts from God, if you have the right perspective. And therefore -- point number two -- not only do we have these gifts from God but he also will give us the ability to enjoy them. He will give us the ability to live abundantly. Not to give into the meaningless of this age or the despair of our times. But to enjoy the most simple activity of eating and drinking. Even the ceaseless activity of working, if it is rendered unto God, can be meaningful and joyful. He is the one who gives us the ability, as well as the things to enjoy.
And, point number three, to whom does God give both the things and the gift to enjoy the good things of life? Well, let’s return to our text and see what he says. Chapter 2:25, he says, “Without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” In other words, apart from God, you do not even have the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. But to the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and joy. But to sinner, he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth just to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This activity of the sinner, of the one under the sun, is meaningless. It is chasing after the wind. To whom does God give the gift to enjoy life? To those who please Him. How do we please God? Well, Chapter 7:26, we please God by avoiding sin. Chapter 12:13, what does it says? We please God by fearing Him and keeping His commandments. Observing God’s commandments pleases our Father in heaven. So the fear of God is the key to pleasing Him. Now let me close by clarifying this vital concept: fear of God, or the fear of the Lord - a concept much maligned and misunderstood. It’s a theme that reoccurs throughout Ecclesiastes at several crucial points. For example, chapter 5:7, 7:18, 8:12, and 12:13. The fear of the Lord, the fear of God is what Wisdom brings us into. What is it?
It is not as Koheleth speaks of the subject. It is not an attitude of terror. This text literally says to the man of chapter 12:13, who has fear before Him... fear before the Lord. It is not that you are in terror or in great anxiety about God. It is rather that you have an attitude of appreciation, an awareness of the awesomeness of God - it’s a reverence, it’s an honoring. By implication, in the Scriptures of the fear of God, what you are speaking of in a sense is simply the total commitment of yourself unto God. The fear of God is a commitment of one’s total being to wholeheartedly trust and obey God. That truly is the feat of God, not some attitude in which you are afraid to approach and you’re scared to death because you are being dangled over the fires of hell. No, the fear of God is an attitude of honoring and respecting in which you commit your whole being to trust God and to obey Him. Proverbs 8:13 says that the fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Our fear of God is reflected in our faithfulness to do His Will. The fear of God is the acknowledging that God is Lord, King of the Universe. That His absolute Lordship reigns forever and ever as it says in Exodus 15: Adonai filch la lam vied “The Lord God reins forever and ever over the whole earth.” That is the fear of God, that awareness and affirmation. And it is in this attitude, this faith, this believing, that there is the beginning of wisdom, according to Proverbs. “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” In other words, the beginning is an all-out commitment of yourself to submit to God’s authority and to obey his will. That is the beginning of the process of learning the skill of wisdom. The skill in living is to get into a totally right relationship with God. The fear of the Lord is the desire to know God above all else. To serve God at all times and to honor God in every way. And with this attitude, fear of God comes knowledge of God.
What is the point of all of this of Ecclesiastes? The point is simply this: He is trying to tell us how we are to enjoy life as a gift from God. Ecclesiastes is not primarily above the vanity of life, it’s about the abundance of life to those who fear God. And we’ll see this expounded and expanded further in our study. God, not things, is what gives meaning and satisfaction to our existence. It’s God, not pleasure, not wealth, not drugs, not power, not money, not building, not farming, not toiling. None of that -- God alone can give enduring satisfaction and meaning to your existence and to mine -- to the extent that we are striving after things. Pleasure, food, drink, happiness, apart from God, it’s endless and it is meaningless. There is endless toil. There is no gain. We are fishing in other words, for stones and snakes. But if you fish with the fisherman, Jesus, you get an abundant harvest. The fear of God, being faithful to him, in that he gives us the good things of life and the ability to enjoy them. And therefore, it promises here in verse 26, to the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. He gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. What is wisdom? The skill to live abundantly.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.