9Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
(Ecclesiastes 12:9-12 ESV)
Today we begin the final passages in the book of Ecclesiastes. The author (likely King Solomon) summarizes his findings and gives us practical advice based on his life-long observations of life on earth. We’ll study his ultimate conclusion tomorrow.
Note that the author (the Preacher) moves from writing in the first person to writing in the third person. While some believe that this indicates that another author finished this work it is not necessarily so. Up until now the author has used his own observations to describe life and seeming useless of it all. Now he moves to the third person in order to deemphasize himself and to emphasize the global truths he has learned in his study.
Notice that the author didn’t just espouse his own ideas. He sought to find truth and took great care to teach the people what he had discovered. Such words of the wise are like goads. A goad is a long-handled instrument used to drive oxen while ploughing. Likewise wise words spur people on. They make people better. They raise the standard.
Similarly, wise words are also like nails. Nails firmly affix one thing to another. Wisdom should be a permanent part of our character.
Notice that the author of Ecclesiastes sought out truth. Wisdom can be attained. But it takes time and effort. And it is given by only one Shepherd – God Himself [James 1:5].
Furthermore, God’s truth is all the truth we need. We should beware of anything beyond what God says. There were apparently many books in Solomon’s day that claimed to contain truth. That is certainly even more true today where anyone and everyone can propagate their ideas and opinions via the Internet. But if such ideas and opinions do not align with what God says then they are false and useless.
Solomon is not talking here about getting an education. Of course we should study medicine and economics and other subjects. He is talking about those writings that claim to provide spiritual truth.
Such writings have always existed. In our day this includes the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and Darwin’s writings. It includes books on Scientology and Taoism.
And we can be sure that more books will be written on this subject. There will be no end to man’s search for spiritual enlightenment. And there is nothing that man will not be willing to believe – except God’s truth.
We can study all these writings as much as we want but all that will do is create weariness. It will get us nowhere. More than that, these false writings are dangerous. They are dead-ends that do not lead anyone to eternity with God. They lead people away from God and into hell.
God’s truth is the only truth. And only His truth can goad us on to better things in this life. Only His truth can lead us to heaven in the next life.
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