September 8, 2019
I have been going through the book of Ecclesiastes on Friday nights for Bible study. And I thought it would be good for us to think about today’s text as we celebrate another year here at Highland.
The book of Ecclesiastes is about life on earth - life under the sun. And it is not a good life.
It is a life that is full of vanity. It is a life that is full of meaninglessness and toil and sorrow and evil and sin and death and nothing new. It is a life after the fall of Adam. It is a life apart from the tree of life and the final blessedness of God.
The human author of Ecclesiastes faces all of this to the best of his ability. But thanks be to God. For God, who is the ultimate author of Ecclesiastes, sweetly anticipates a life that is better than this life under the sun.
The human author basically encourages us to do two things. We are to be careful with our words before God. And we are to be keepers of our vows to God.
We are encouraged to listen to God and hear his words carefully. We are to let our words be few. God’s words must increase. And our words must decrease. It is better to listen than to be rash or hasty or foolish or evil. We must fear the Lord.
And we are encouraged to keep our vows to God and consider our promises to him carefully. We are to pay what we vow. In this sense, our words must actually increase. And the taking of God’s name in vain must greatly decrease. It is better to fulfill our vows than to delay or sin or be a fool or have the work of your hands destroyed. We must fear the Lord.
But why? Why should we do all of this? Why are we encouraged to be careful with our words before God? And why are we are to be keepers of our vows to God? There are two ways to answer this question. The first way is to answer the question as people who are under the sun for now. The second way is to answer the question as people who will be under the heavens soon and very soon.
First, as people who are under the sun, we remember that God is in heaven and that we are on earth. God is holy and majestic and glorious. And we are not God. Therefore, who are we to speak carelessly to God? Furthermore, as people under the sun, we remember that God is abundant in goodness and truth. Therefore, who are we to break our vows before God?
But we are not just people who live life under the sun. We are people who have something better. Instead of just going to the house of God, we have now become the house of God. Instead of just drawing near to listen, we will one day see the King face to face. Instead of bad dreams, there are now good dreams. Instead of God being in heaven and us being on earth, God is now with us. For there was condescension and incarnation and humiliation. And now we are seated with our King in the heavenly places.
And that makes us more than just people who are under the sun. That makes us people who will be under the heavens.
As people who will be under the heavens, we remember that all of our salvation is based on the fact that God keeps his word and fulfills his promises. Our God promised to us that those who are justified will also be glorified. Our God promised to Abraham as a sure and steadfast anchor for his soul that he would bless him and multiply him.
Our God made a covenant of redemption for our salvation before time even began.
And our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate Son of David and the ultimate reader of Ecclesiastes… he paid what he vowed. He lived a perfect life under the sun for us. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. His dreams were good. His person and work was not in vain.
Brothers and sisters, remember this. The only reason why you are a Christian is because God keeps his word and fulfills his promises.
This is why we must be careful with our words before God. This is why we are to be keepers of our vows to God. Because we are not just people who are under the sun. We are people who are under the heavens. Because we have better.
Dear Highland, let us therefore fear the Lord more and more as we see the Day approaching. I think we need to hear this as a church that at the age of 42 is about ready to enter an Ecclesiastes-style midlife crisis stage in life.
Like the human author of Ecclesiastes, we might wonder why things are so vain. We might be tempted to reflect upon Highland’s time under the sun and then be rash or hasty with our words toward God. We might go the way of Job, who talked way too much. We might want to walk away from our vows.
There are so many things in this life under the sun that we do not know or understand. But that’s okay. Because this is God’s church. And he is the best.
So instead of having our words be many, let us have our words be few. Instead of carelessness, let there be carefulness. When in worship, may God’s words to us be greater than our words to God. In our lives under the sun, let us listen and obey God above offering the sacrifices of fools.
Let us remember the vows that we have made. Membership vows. Infant baptism vows. Marriage vows. Vows for pastors and elders and deacons. And any other vows that you have personally made to God.
All in all, may we as a church fear the Lord more and more as we look forward to a new and better life in the new heavens and new earth. The Lord has spoken. Thanks be to our God for his words and how promises. Come Lord Jesus, come soon.