Fear God and Keep His Commandments
Updated: May 1, 2020
As King Solomon nears the end of his life, he gives his testimony in the book of Ecclesiastes, summarizing his many pursuits to find life’s meaning: vanity of vanities! Solomon pursued anything and everything to find happiness - money, sex, power – even the ridiculous – only to find the same end result: emptiness. These pursuits not only left Solomon empty of satisfaction, but filled him with shame, regret, and consequences of sin. In chapter five, he asks a rhetorical question, reminding us that we can chase for a lifetime after things that will never produce joy and satisfaction. He asks, “What profit hath he that hath labored for the wind?” (5:16).
Solomon eventually reflects upon his many mistakes with the proper perspective. Honestly, his final admonition seems too simple at the end of such a complex book. He sums it all up stating, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).
Can Solomon's statement,“Fear God, and keep his commandments” truly sum up the whole matter of life?
The commandment to fear God is seen all through scripture, with various implications based on its context, but its over all meaning is clear: live with a conscious awareness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, understanding that obeying his commands, through the empowering Holy Spirit, is the only way to find joy and satisfaction. This truth is not just a matter of the lips or words on a page, but they hold the meaning to life. The “whole duty of man” is to be completely surrendered to Jesus.
Jesus refers to this reality in a statement to his disciples in the Gospel of John 4, when they return from the city of Samaria with food. Jesus told his disciples that he had meat to eat that they were not aware of (4:32). This statement led to confusion and questions about who had already brought Jesus food. Jesus, with what Charles Spurgeon called the “golden sentence,” responds: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” This statement implies that Jesus’s satisfaction in life was doing and finishing the will of the Father. Before this scene, Jesus had just told a lost woman, empty of life, that if she would take a drink of the Water of Life (Him) she would never thirst again. Later, in John 6, Jesus tells his followers that he is the “bread of life” (v 34), proclaiming that those who follow him would never hunger or thirst again. Jesus promises to be everything that we need, not just the forgiveness of our sins, but the satisfaction of our souls.
Is Jesus all we need for all of life? The provision of our sin, the healing of our hurts, the direction for life’s choices, the peace for life’s storms, the joy that’s referred to in scripture as “unspeakable and full of glory”? In his final hours on earth, as he looks in to the eyes of the men who left all to follow him, and would suffer much in the coming days, Jesus says, “My peace I give unto you.” Was this a sales pitch? Merely inspirational words? A lie? No! It was a sovereign promise that the peace Jesus enjoyed was theirs through him! The Apostle Paul explains this more fully in Ephesians 1:3, noting that, in Jesus Christ, we currently possess all “spiritual blessings.”
Is Jesus and his gospel really Solomon’s “conclusion of the whole matter,” the “whole duty of man?” The short answer is yes! As the Apostle Peter asked of Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of life.” The whole duty of man is to spend a lifetime pursuing Jesus: spending daily time studying his Word and in prayer, submitting to His Word and will through obedience and confession of sin, worshipping corporately with His people, and serving others and sharing the Gospel.
In a life made up of many wonderful things that He, our loving Father, has given us to enjoy, let’s avoid the temptation to chase the wind. Let’s be reminded of the main thing – the whole duty of man. Let’s chase the glories that reside in the Gospel. Let’s chase, not the theology of the man, let’s chase the man – Jesus Christ, the righteous lover of my soul. He is and forever will be more than enough for me.
-Guy N. Roberts