Passage: Ecclesiastes 12:8-14
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
At the end of Ecclesiastes, the narrator (a separate writer from the Preacher) reemerges, commenting on and summing up the Preacher’s attempts to find the key to life “under the sun”.
First, the narrator affirms that even in this broken, hevel-filled world, there is still value in pursuing wisdom. Indeed, this is what the Preacher himself pursued throughout the book, “weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care” (12:9). We would do well, then, to pay attention to the Preacher’s proverbial wisdom about how to live in a broken world, and to cultivate this wisdom ourselves—a challenging task that is only gained through observation, reflection, and experience. In the end, the Preacher’s words are like “goads”—painful reminders meant to prick us away from our false hopes and towards God (12:11).
Second, the narrator affirms that there is value in fearing God. In fact, “fearing God and keeping his commands” is “the end of the matter” (12:13)—it’s what life boils down to. Though life presents us with many enigmas, and unsolved questions, we can know that fearing God is our “whole duty”. To fear God is to walk through life with a sense of reverent awe for him, and the awareness that we are living all of life before his gaze—performing for an “audience of one”. God sees all, and he will “bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:14).
Naturally, this sense of being watched—of living before the “eye” of God—might seem oppressive, or suffocating. As Christians, however, we know the character of the God who sees us. He is the God made known in Jesus Christ, a God who knows us to the bottom, yet loves us to the top. Jesus lived his life with a conscious awareness of being seen by his Father—in fact, his whole life was a mission for “an audience of one”. And yet, in his life’s final act on the cross, he “performed” before an empty audience, as his Father turned his face away from him, rejecting him in judgment, so that we who trust in Christ could forever be justified, knowing that we will stand up under God’s judgment on the last day, and that we enjoy his loving gaze every day before then.
We respond to this loving God by “keeping his commands”—obeying him in whatever he sends our way, in whatever we do, in whatever he asks, and whatever the cost.
• The Value in Pursuing Wisdom (12:8-12)
• The Value of Fearing God (12:13)
• Remembering God’s Judgment (12:14)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage(s): Ecclesiastes 12:8-14
The Value in Pursuing Wisdom (12:8-12)
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:8-10, where the narrator comments on the Preacher’s search for wisdom. What adjectives would you use to describe the Preacher’s search? How might this impact the way we read the book of Ecclesiastes?
Q) Ecclesiastes 12:9 says the Preacher “arranged many proverbs with great care”—that is, he wrote “proverbial” sayings about how to live wisely in a fallen world. As you think back on Ecclesiastes, what elements of the Preacher’s wisdom have been most helpful for you and why?
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:11-12. What does the narrator mean when he cautions us that “of the making of many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh”? How are we to apply this today? (NOTE: Keep in mind the context in which he is saying this…the context is that he’s affirming the value of the Preacher’s search, while also seeking to bring the letter to a close).
Q) In Ecclesiastes 12:11, the narrator compares the words of the wise to “goads”. That is, they are meant to prick us away from our false hopes, and towards our “shepherd”. What painful truth in Ecclesiastes has acted like a “goad” for you? How so? Is a painful life experience functioning like a “goad” for you right now? What is it and how do you sense God using it in your life?
The Value of Fearing God (12:13)
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:13. What does it mean to “fear God”? What doesn’t it mean? Why is fearing God and keeping his commandments described as the “whole duty” of man?
Q) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that when we fear God, we live with the conscious awareness that God sees our every action and knows our every deed. What do you think would change about your life if you were more consciously aware of the truth that we live our lives “before the eye” of God? Try to be specific.
Q) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that we live our lives before “an audience of one” (God). What other “audiences” do you find yourself living before? Whose approval do you sense mattering to you more than it should? What would it look like to repent of this, and live for God only?
Q) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that “keeping God’s commandments” (which is how we express our fear of God), involves obeying God:
• Whatever he says
• In whatever we do
• In whatever circumstance he sends our way
Where are you struggling to “keep God’s commandments”? How can your small group pray for you and support you in this?
Remembering God’s Judgment (12:14)
Q) Re-read Ecclesiastes 12:14. What thoughts come to mind when you think of “God bringing every deed into judgment?” How does knowing Jesus change the way you react to God “bringing every deed into judgment”?
Q) What is your one main takeaway from the sermon series in Ecclesiastes? It could be:
• A thought you’d like to keep considering
• An attitude you’d like to embrace
• An action you feel called to take
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.