The Scriptorium

The Whole of a Man

Here's the sum and substance of it all. Ecclesiastes 12.13, 14

Ecclesiastes 12 (7)

Pray Psalm 71.1.
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.

Read Ecclesiastes 12.13, 14.

1. What “matter” is Solomon bringing to conclusion here?

2. What motivation stands behind this conclusion?


What Solomon says – translated literally – is “Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole of a man.” It’s not a little bit of God and some of the world. It’s not as much of God as makes me feel OK, and then whatever else I choose. The whole of what it means to be a human being can be summed up in fearing God and keeping His commandments – loving God and loving our neighbor.

And count on it, son: God sees and knows everything about you, and He weighs it all on His eternal scale of justice. You will one day be judged by the God you have scorned. Does it not make more sense to seek the Lord, serve Him with gratitude and joy, and look forward to the day of judgment with confidence and peace?

So, in a sense, we’re all doomed. For who can fulfill what Solomon outlines here? Only One: Jesus. And in Him, we are all God intends for us to be.

In poetry, these verses would be called the envoi, or the summation of the whole poem. Here again we encounter two ideas which many believers today find rather distasteful: Fear God? What’s to fear? Well, God! We fear God when we truly know Him as He is, and for what He is capable of doing to wretched sinners. We rejoice in the mercy of God precisely because we know what we really deserve at His hand.

And keep the commandments? Bring up the subject of God’s Law to a contemporary believer, and the chances are he’ll listen politely, then inform you that he’s “not under law, but under grace”. That, however, is not a Biblical view. The Law is a means of grace to form us into the people God redeemed us to be – holy and righteous and good (Eph. 2.10, Rom. 7.12).

We don’t keep the Law to earn our salvation; Jesus has done that for us already. We keep the Law out of gratitude to God and in the desire to please and serve Him, and our neighbor, in love (Matt. 22.34-40). What Solomon says to his foolish son, hoping to bring him to his senses and lead him to embrace life as God intends it, he says to us as well.

The Good News is that, in Jesus, and because of Him, all of what God intends for us, we may increasingly know.

1. Would you say that your life reflects “the whole of the matter” as Solomon summarized it here? Explain.

2. Can we truly love God if we don’t fear Him? Explain.

3. The Law without Jesus is damning. Claiming Jesus without keeping the Law is misguided. How can these both be true?

What could be briefer, truer, better for the soul to know? For this is all a person is—a keeper of God’s commandments. Not being such, he is, so to say, nothing at all, because instead of being constantly reshaped to the image of the truth, he remains bogged down in the likeness of shadow.
Augustine (354-430), City of God 20.3

Thank You for Jesus, Father! Thank You for Your Law! Let Jesus and Your Law flourish in me today as I…

Pray Psalm 71.1-24.
Recall all the blessings of God, with which He has blessed you throughout your life. Renew your commitment to Him, and to declaring His Word. Praise Him for the privilege of knowing and serving Him, today and every day.

Sing Psalm 71.1-24.
Psalm 71.1-24 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
In You, O Lord, I refuge claim; O let me never be ashamed.
In righteousness deliver me; incline Your ear and hear my plea.
Refrain, v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me.
My Rock and Fortress ever be!

From wicked hands redeem me, Lord, from all who wrest and break Your Word.
My hope, my confidence from youth, my praise forever reaches You.

While many see in me a sign, I shelter in Your strength will find.
Lord, fill my mouth with endless praise and with Your glory all my days.

Lord, cast me not with age away; as strength decreases, with me stay.
My enemies against me speak; they lie in wait my soul to seek.

O God be not too far from me; my ever-present Helper be!
Consume and shame my enemies; let them reproached and humbled be.

But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise!
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.

O Lord, I praise Your righteousness Who me from youth have taught and blessed.
Forsake me not when I am old, ‘til I Your mercies all have told!

Your righteous deeds are great and true. O God, there is no one like You!
Though many troubles I have seen, You will revive my soul again!

Increase my greatness, comfort me, and unto You shall praises be.
Your truth I will exalt full well, O Holy One of Israel!

My lips with joy and praises ring; to You, Redeemer, praise I bring!
I praise Your goodness all day long; Lord, humble all who do me wrong.

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Ecclesiastes fit in the overall flow of Scripture? Our series of studies, God’s Covenant, can show you, and help you discover the great beauty of the unity and diversity of Scripture, and how it all points to Christ. To order your copy of this important workbook, click here.

You can download all the studies in this series on Ecclesiastes by clicking here. If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore