Watch our Livestream 10am Sundays Give Online

The End of the Matter

June 23, 2024

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 12

The End of the Matter

Eccl 12 – Joy in the Toil: Ecclesiastes – Daniel J. Baker – June 23, 2024


“If you’re able, please stand.” Reading Eccl. 12. “Thanks be to God.”

Old age often makes it very clear what kind of life you’ve lived.

  • Your work life is finished, so it’s clearer what you become professionally—and what you didn’t become.
  • Your children are grown, and it becomes clearer how your parenting went and what kind of relationship you really have with them. Or don’t have.
  • Your decisions on what to eat and how to care for yourself physically sometimes come to light.
  • As your needs increase, it becomes clearer what kind of support network you really have.

The regrets or gratitude can be profound and sometimes overwhelming.

Paul Tripp in his book Lost in the Middle describes our world:

This is our world, a place where regret lives. It is the class that I blew off and learned nothing. It is the job that I never took seriously. ....It is the career that I allowed to command too much of my time and energy. It is the ministry opportunity that I let slip through my fingers....It is the conflict that I let grow and fester....It is being too tired and too busy ever to be consistent in personal worship of the Lord and study of his Word.
Paul Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Mid Life and the Grace of God[1]

A lot of us wish we could go back in time and give our younger self advice on priorities and life choices. Do this, don’t do that.

Our chapter in Ecclesiastes this morning is just that. An older saint looking back on life and giving counsel to his son. “My son” (Eccl. 12:12). But King Solomn’s advice in this chapter is more than just thoughtful words from an ancient father to his son. Solomon’s words are also God’s word to us.

This is the final section of Ecclesiastes, the literal “end of the matter” as it says in Eccl. 12:13. The final installment in this experiment in living.

Written by King Solomon, David’s most famous son. Who prayed for wisdom when he became king, and the Lord answered that prayer. Made him the wisest man who ever lived.

Somewhere in his reign of several decades he performed this experiment in living. An extended journey to figure out life and wisdom and joy. Throughout this exploration he has been brutally honest about life “under the sun.” Its “vanity.” Its “toil.” And he will do the same in our chapter this morning. Nothing has been sugar-coated.

But in his journey he called us to joy as well—joy in food and drink, joy in our marriages, joy in our work.

In this last chapter, his counsel to us gets more chiselled. More of a knife-edge to it. It’s got more of a life-and-death quality to it than some of the passages in Ecclesiastes.

His final advice boils down to three things, all having to do with God: (1) Remember your Creator, (2) Listen to the Shepherd, and (3) Fear God.


I. Remember Your Creator (12:1–8)

Our chapter opens with a command to “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl 12:1). This continues the joyful refrain at the end of chapter 11 where Solomon says to, “rejoice” all the years you’re given (Eccl 11:8) and follow your heart—but do this knowing you’ll be held accountable for all that you say and do (Eccl. 11:9).

In Eccl. 11:9 he addresses you, “O young man.” In Eccl. 12:1 he’s also speaking to a young man: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.”

His one exhortation in these opening 8 verses is to “Remember your Creator.” Remember the God who created you. He doesn’t use the noun for “Creator,” but a form of a verb, “the One who created you.”

It’s the verb bārāh, used in Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

He created the heavens and the earth—and he created you, “O young man.”

Solomon is saying, “Don’t live as if there is no creator or as if you have no creator.” Don’t live as if this world just appeared at some random point in history—without any plan or person behind it.

This world AND YOU are here because Someone created them. Live in light of that. He doesn’t tell us how in these opening verses.

There’s an urgency to his words, though. He doesn’t stop with the exhortation to “Remember your Creator.”

He says to do this before it’s too late. Do it “before...” (12:1), “before...” (12:2), “before...” (12:6). Do it “before” all these things happen.

But all these things are really one thing: your decline and death. He patiently and in great detail walks through the sobering reality of the aging process and the death at the end of it. There’s no really another passage like it in all the Bible.

Verse 1 – REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR BEFORE... “evil days” without pleasure

Verse 2 – REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR BEFORE... Darkness – eyesight fades. But also the buoyancy of youth fades. Whn you’re young and it’s raining, you know the sun’s going to come out. Solomon is saying with age there’s a sense in which it’s always cloudy and raining.

Verse 3 – Total breakdown of your body – hands “tremble,” teeth are missing (“sound of the grinding is low”), eyes fail.

Verse 4 – Things in the world you used to find pleasurable are no longer pleasurable. “The daughters of song” don’t do much for you. And while birds singing doesn’t either, the slightest sound seems to wake you up at night.

Verse 5 – New fears and anxieties, the loss of sexual desire. And finally DEATH: “man is going to his eternal home.” “The MOURNERS go about the streets.”

Verse 6 - REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR BEFORE... Now life is portrayed as the breaking and decaying of all the precious things we possess—“silver cord” (holding up a lamp), “golden bowl.” The pitcher shatters, the wheel at the well is broken.

Verse 7 – Until finally, we go back to being “dust” and our “spirit returns to God who gave it.” He’s picking up images from Genesis 2 (man made from dust, God breathed life/spirit into him; Gen 2:7).

He ends his meditation in a familiar way: Eccl. 12:8. “All is vanity.” Since he’s reflecting on aging and death, it seems that the meaning of “vanity” he has in mind is, “vapor, breath.” Short and almost inconsequential.

Life usually takes years to live out, but Solomon says it’s really just a “vapor,” a “breath.”


God says to us, remember your Creator in your youth before the onset of old age (Eccl. 12:1). Why?

If you don’t when you’re young, you may never do it. And the consequences of that are eternal and disastrous. But I know for some of you, you are here because you turned to God late in life—or the person who is part of your conversion turned to God late in life.

But also—life without knowing your Creator is disorienting and discouraging.
•    God is a sovereign Creator—your strengths/weaknesses, abilities and disabilities, doors open or closed for you.
•    The decline we’re experiencing is part of his plan
•    This builds faith

II. Listen to the Shepherd (12:9–12)

In the second section, Solomon describes his work as a “Preacher” of wisdom: Eccl. 12:9–12.

Careful work of studying and “arranging many proverbs with great care” (Eccl 12:9).

He “sought” “Words of delight” which were also “words of truth” (Eccl 12:10). He succeeded—as is true throughout the Bible.

“Delightful words” (CSB) or “just the right words” (NIV). Sometimes in a lofty and highly educated style (Hebrews, Acts; 1–2 Chronicles; Pentateuch). Sometimes in a style that’s deceptive, seeming to be a low or pedestrian writing. But then you dig into the literary and theological style and realize there’s a depth to it a casual or impatient or skeptical reader will miss. The apostle John’s writing is like that. And many Psalms.

But these also are “words of truth”:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Then in Eccl. 12:11 – Such true and beautiful words in their impact are like “goads” and “nails firmly fixed.” They spur us on to think rightly and live rightly.

But then he lets us in on a critical aspect of these words: “THEY ARE GIVEN BY ONE SHEPHERD” (Eccl 12:11). Notice “Shepherd” is capitalized.

Solomon is saying his words of wisdom have a source beyond himself. They come from God himself. It is the Lord who is the Shepherd of Israel:

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. (Ps 80:1)

That’s what we have in the Bible—writings which are the result of the hard work of men like Solomon, but which at the same time are “given (nātan) by one Shepherd.”

They are “words of delight” and “words of truth” (Eccl 12:10)—but most important of all, they are words “given by one Shepherd” (Eccl 12:11).

It is the big-A Author of the Bible that separates it from all other writings. Shakespeare wrote “words of delight.” But they aren’t “words of truth” in the same way the Bible is. Shakespeare had great insight. But not in the same way as the Bible.

Only of the Bible can it be said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16).

That’s why the warning in Eccl. 12:12: “My son, beware of anything beyond these.”

Solomon knows that “many books” and “much study” fills our world. And “much study” wears you out. All the effort he made to write these “words of delight” and “words of truth” took a toll on him.

The many books of his day is nothing compared to ours:

  • Library of Congress has over a 150 million items in all its collections.
  • And in one article titled, “10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing,” a publisher writes that over 2 million new titles are published each year.
  • And then there’s the perpetual onslaught of social media messages coming at us.
  • The books, articles, and messages in our lives are vast.

Solomon’s counsel is even more wise than when he wrote it.

Listen to the Shepherd: Beware of anything beyond these.

The words we have here are words from the Shepherd. Outside of these, “Beware!”


In Paul Tripp’s Lost in the Middle, his book on mid-life crises, he reminds us whywe need Solomon’s counsel. He writes,

Two things are true of every middle-aged person. First, we are aware that our lives have not worked according to our plan. You and I could not have written our own stories....Second,...we are always trying to figure our lives out....Sometimes we are acheologists, sifting through the pottery shards of personal civilizations gone by. Sometimes we are detectives looking for that one clue that will make it all make sense.
Paul Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Mid Life and the Grace of God[2]

Yes! “We are always trying to figure our lives out.” We work hard to come up with interpretations of what’s happening and what’s happened.

Solomon reminds us that the world is being filled endlessly with voices that can shape these interpretations. But he reminds us that it’s the Shepherd who gives true wisdom, true perspective, who can shape a right interpretation.

“My son, beware of anything beyond these” (Eccl. 12:12).

III. Fear God (12:13–14)

And then we get to the final two verses: Eccl. 12:13–14.

Now we get to the real conclusion. Solomon announces it clearly: “The end of the matter; all has been heard” (Eccl 12:13).

His great experiment is complete. His reseach is finished. He has concluded all the interviews and talked to all the witnesses. He’s read all the books. He’s had all the experiences. The closing arguments have been given. The lawyers have all rested their cases.

Now he’s ready to state his conclusion. If you have an overly pessimistic view of Ecclesiastes, you’d expect him to say, “All is vanity.” But he doesn’t.

From beginning to end Solomon writes with an awareness of the God above all the vanity, the God who will endure when all the vanity disappears.

He’s giving us the perspective of the Shepherd himself. The Shepherd is speaking through Solomon. The Shepherd breaks through the noise

An illustration. Everyone speak...

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Notice that “THIS” is singular. To “fear God” and “keep his commandments” are not two different things we do. They’re the same thing.

  • “Fearing God” is MEANINGLESS if you don’t “keep his commandments.”
  • “Keeping his commandments” is IMPOSSIBLE if you don’t “fear God.”
  • “Fearing God” in this chain is the first link. But the second link of keeping God’s commandments is ALWAYS present if the first is there.

Solomon has already told us in this book that fearing God is vital (Eccl. 3:14; 5:7; 8:12–13). But now we see just how important it is. It’s “the whole duty of man.”

What is it to “fear God”?

The great Westminster theologian John Murray helps us:

The fear of God is the soul of godliness….The fear of God which is the soul of godliness does not consist, however, in the dread which is produced by the apprehension of God’s wrath….The fear of God in which godliness consists is the fear which constrains adoration and love. It is the fear which consists in awe, reverence, honor, and worship, and all of these on the highest level of exercise.
John Murray, Principles of Conduct[3]

Not in “dread” but something that overflows into “adoration and love...awe, reverence, honor, and worship.”

It’s an awareness of God’s greatness, power, and glory—but an awareness that leads us to him, that makes us want to be near him.

The philosopher atheist Bertrand Russell didn’t get that. He thought religion was all about fear and that this fear was like a childish superstition. He thought science was superior since it delivered us from fear.

Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian:

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear….Fear is the basis of the whole thing—fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death….Science can help us get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations.
Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian[4]

That’s just not true, though, is it? As our society gets more and more anti-religious and anti-Christianity, it isn’t getting less fearful. It’s getting more fearful. Anxieties are multiplying, not disappearing.

Michael Reeves in his book on the fear of God reflecting on Russell: “Anxiety grows best in the soil of unbelief.”[5]

So, let’s go back to John Murray again:

The fear of God is the soul of godliness….The fear of God which is the soul of godliness does not consist, however, in the dread which is produced by the apprehension of God’s wrath….The fear of God in which godliness consists is the fear which constrains adoration and love. It is the fear which consists in awe, reverence, honor, and worship, and all of these on the highest level of exercise.
John Murray, Principles of Conduct[6]


Remember your Creator, Listen to the Shepherd, Fear God and keep his commandments.

But this assumes you know that God is “your Creator.” He is your Creator whether you know him or not. But Solomon is assuming you know this God who has created you.

The world around us, our conscience inside us, all proclaim that this God is your Creator.

But to know him you must believe in his Son.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

To know your Creator, you need to believe in Christ and repent of your sins. Turn away from them.

The power of knowing this Creator is now you have a place to go with those REGRETS Paul Tripp talked about.

  • God’s grace in the gospel is big enough for all regrets.
  • God’s grace in the gospel is big enough for fresh starts—no matter how late in life.

Solomon told us that God is the Shepherd who speaks to us in his Word.

Jesus reminds us that is the Good Shepherd:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

And Jesus reminds that obedience is still true:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)


  • Pray through the Ten Commandments over the next two weeks or so, one commandment per day (Exodus 20).
  • Pray through Luke 6.

Prayer and song

[1] Paul Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Mid Life and the Grace of God (Shepherd Press, 2004), 108.

[2] Paul Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Mid Life and the Grace of God (Shepherd Press, 2004), 31, 33.

[3] John Murray, Principals of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (Eerdmans, 1957), 236, 237.

[4] Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (George Allen & Unwin, 1957), 22.

[5] Michael Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble, 25.

[6] John Murray, Principals of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics (Eerdmans, 1957), 236, 237.

Recent Messages

Here are some other recent messages.

Cornerstone Fellowship Church logo

We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.

Email Updates & Newsletter

Times & Location

10am on Sundays

401 Upchurch St, Apex, NC 27502

© 2024 Cornerstone Fellowship Church of Apex