He was the richest man in the world, and was also the most brilliant man who had ever lived. Combine that with absolute political and military power, and you have a man who was literally living the dream of every human, and especially every male, on earth. So what do you get the man who has everything? Well, this particular man wanted happiness, fulfillment, a sense of purpose. He wanted his life to count. So he used his riches and power to woo beautiful, desirable women. He could have literally any woman he wanted, and took full advantage of that fact. He embarked on huge building projects. He designed cities and conscripted workers to build these majestic monuments to his greatness. He enjoyed the best food, wine and entertainment money could buy. He pursued greater knowledge in every field of learning available at that time, and then made himself famous. People came from other nations to listen to his wisdom and knowledge, and they showered him with gifts, making him even richer than before. Then he reached that point in life when he began to assess things. He decided to write a memoir, something that would offer the lessons of his life to future generations. That memoir is what we call the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s the diary of an old man who regrets most of his life. It is unique among all the books of the Bible, because it focuses primarily on what NOT to do. Ecclesiastes was written by a man who calls himself The Teacher (Qoheleth in Hebrew), but it’s obvious from the way he describes himself that this is Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. Nothing brought him the happiness and fulfillment he sought, not sex, achievements, power, pleasure, riches, fame or knowledge. But note how Solomon ends his depressing diary:
Now all has been concluded, here is the end of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Let’s put this another way: Imagine you had lunch with a man who has the power of a president, the lifestyle of a rock star, the riches of Warren Buffet, the knowledge of Stephen Hawking. He’s done everything there is to do, owned everything there is to own, and learned everything there is to learn. And you say to him, “What can I do to live the best life possible?” He says, “Fear God.” Then he hands you a Bible. You open it to find that he has highlighted over 300 references to the fear of God. As you read, you find that, according to Scripture, a person who fears God lives a life full of delight, joy and increasing knowledge. He becomes the person he was created to be, and steers clear of the self-destructive choices that others make. He influences the people around him as well as the generations who come along after him, for good. In other words, the person who fears the Lord truly lives a life worth living. But you’re still confused. You say, “Fear God? What does that even mean? I believe in God, but how do I know if I truly fear Him? And if I don’t, how I can learn to fear Him as I should?” We’ve been talking since the first Sunday of the year about the holiness of God. Scripture makes it clear that the only proper way to relate to a God this holy is in holy fear. But we don’t tend to talk about that in churches these days. So this Sunday I want to answer those three questions I asked earlier: What is the fear of God? How do I know when I have it? And what can I do to get it?