Summary: The whole duty of man is a sermon based on the life of King Solomon. This blog looks into the various things Solomon tried and his final conclusion in life.
Every person in this world has a duty to perform. As a husband, I have duty to fulfill. I am supposed to love, submit, lead and provide for my wife. As a wife Glory will have to submit to me and my leadership. As parents we are to provide, train, nurture our children in the Lord. When it comes to the church, I have to pray, provide pastoral care, counsel, teach and preach God’s word. We all have duties and responsibilities in life.
So, being a child of God, what is your duty and responsibility toward God? What is the purpose of your life? What is the core reason for your existence? What is the whole duty of man.
I want to bring to a message entitled The Whole Duty of Man. Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Ecclesiastes, which was written by Solomon. It’s really a journal of Solomon’s search for what really matters in life.
Brief History: Solomon was an amazing man. We can call him a wise fool. He started well and ended weak. After King David’s death, Solomon took over as the King of Israel. Solomon loved the Lord and sacrificed regularly to Him. Once when Solomon was sacrificing to the Lord, the Lord appeared to him in a vision and said, “Solomon, what do you want?” 1 Kings 3:9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.
God heard this and answered Solomon’s prayer and made him the wisest person who has ever lived. In a very interesting twist, God then says, “Because you did not ask for wealth or for long life, I am going to give you wealth and a long life.” So Solomon reigned for another forty years. In some ways, Solomon was the greatest of all the Israelite kings. He certainly was legendary for his wisdom, and people would come from countries all around to hear his wisdom, including the queen of Sheba.
His reputation is known not just in the Bible, even secular historians are impressed with his unusual wisdom. He was a man who had wisdom, he had all the money, all the power, all the time, and all the energy to make his dreams come true. He could literally have and do anything he wanted.
But with what God had given, he was also restless. He wanted to figure out what life was all about. So he launched on a mission for success that cost him lots of money and years of his life. He was on a search for ultimate meaning and satisfaction.
I should tell you ahead of time that the journey he took, left him deflated, depressed and disillusioned. He felt empty. In fact, his experience from his learning appears right at the beginning: Ecclesiastes 1:2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” It’s like our exclamation point. It’s as if he was saying, “Life is super empty. No substance. There’s nothing to it. Everything is waste!”
The word for “Teacher” in this verse is the word, which literally means, “the one who gathers, assembles, or collects things.” The real translation is “the Searcher.”
When Solomon wanted to experiment with the different things that life had to offer, there was nothing to hold him back. As king, no one could question him. As the richest individuals in the world, money was not a problem. He was convinced that he could find something that would ultimately satisfy him, if he just looked hard enough.
Ecclesiastes 1:3 What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? The word, “gain” literally means, “that which is left over.” He had sucked the delight, joy, and pleasure out of everything. And now he wanted to know what would be left over, what would he have to show for himself when it was all said and done?
Solomon’s diary has a lot to say to us today. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, deep within most of us there is a restlessness to become successful and an adventuresome itch. We may want to experience all of life, but can’t seem to get hold of all that we want. There is a lot we can learn from the journey that Solomon the Searcher took.
1. Things that Solomon experimented.
a. Learning. Ecclesiastes 1:13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens.
b. Pleasure. He decided that life was just one big party. He thought if he could just laugh all the time, he would be happy. Listen to his admission in Ecclesiastes 2:2 “Laughter,” I said, :”is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
c. Alcohol. Ecclesiastes 2:3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly.
His next stop was the world of alcohol. He experimented with the finest wines and liquor available from all over the world. But, when the buzz wore off, and the hangover went away, he was still empty.
d. Massive Projects.
Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. He designed and constructed several cities and homes.
Solomon first builds the temple of God. It took totally 20 years for constructing the temple and his palace. 1 Kings 9:10 At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings—the temple of the Lord and the royal palace.
Solomon build his first palace. 1 Kings 7:1 It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. This palace became one of the 7 Wonders of the World!
Solomon builds another palace for his wife. 1 Kings 9:24 After Pharaoh’s daughter had come up from the City of David to the palace Solomon had built for her, he constructed the terraces.
Solomon undertook construction of great cities. 2 Chronicles 8 talks about it.
e. Servants and staff.
Ecclesiastes 2:7a I have gotten servants and maids, and had children born in the house.
Solomon had a lot of people working for him. He had a great office and people were at his disposal.
f. Flocks and herds.
Ecclesiastes 2:7b …also I had great Possession of beeves and sheep above all that were before me in Jerusalem.
g. Silver and Gold.
Ecclesiastes 2:8a I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.
Ecclesiastes 2:8b ….I acquired male and female singers… He even brought in the best musicians and soloists in the world to entertain him. He had the worlds best choir.
i. Intimate relationships.
Next, Solomon turned to the pleasures of intimate relationships. Ecclesiastes 2:8 I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.
Harem is a place reserved for wives and concubines. In fact, we know that he had 700 wives and 300 mistresses. They were available to him any time of the day or night. Yet his boredom could not be described. He was never satisfied.
Listen to these honest words from his journal in Ecclesiastes 2:10 I denied myself no thing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.
This is hard to comprehend! Everything he coveted, he eventually owned. Every fantasy was fulfilled on the spot! And yet, it still wasn’t enough. Ecclesiastes 2:11 When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
When none of this brought him lasting satisfaction, he turned to something that is still very popular today:
Ecclesiastes 2:18-20 18I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.
He threw himself into his job. Work became everything for him. He had national and international business. 1 Kings 9:26-28 26King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. 27And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. 28They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.
None of his 700 wives ever knew when he would be home! He was always on his smartphone, sending emails, or surfing the Net.
After keeping up the frenzied pace of workaholism Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
The Futility of it All: As the Searcher neared the end of his extravagant excursion, he realized that many of his fantasies had turned out to be nothing more than bad dreams.
Now, Solomon was looking for something of substance in life. Nothing ultimately satisfied. It’s as if he woke up one day and looked around. There were beer bottles all over the floor of his beautiful home. Philosophical books were lying on his coffee tables. Women were everywhere. Each room of his house was full of artifacts from around the world. As he looked out the window over his immaculately landscaped yard, he said to himself, “This is crazy. There has to be more to this life. I’m on a dead-end road here. Still not satisfied.”
I suspect that some people of the present world feel same way that Solomon did. As you look back on your life, you realize that your life lacks meaning and purpose. Those things that you always thought would bring you happiness — laughter, alcohol, partying, hobbies, buying things, relationships, and work will leave you feeling empty. It’s like chasing after the wind. You can’t seem to get hold of that which will ultimately provide your life with meaning. Everything that you’ve tried has left you feeling blah and unfulfilled.
The good thing about Solomon’s journal is that it doesn’t end on a note of despair. After experimenting with everything he could think of, he realized that there had to be more to life. If life is only lived on the horizontal level we will be empty. In his wisdom, Solomon concluded that life is also meant to be lived on the vertical level. To use Solomon’s expression, nothing under the sun will satisfy because we have been created to live in an interactive relationship with the loving and faithful God of the universe.
Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 11The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. 12Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Let’s see this in detail.
Solomon concludes by saying that only Scripture can point us in the right direction: Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are like goads… A goad was a rod about 8-foot long, with a sharp point on it that was used for guiding oxen. Scripture is like a goad. It prods us and pokes us; we cannot get it out of our mind. Sometimes it guides us gently; other times it stings a bit, yet other times it stops us from wrong.
Ecclesiastes 12:11 ..their collected sayings are like firmly embedded nails – given by one Shepherd. Like a nail that is hammered deeply into wall, you can hang onto Scripture and hold fast in times of danger and temptation. When we read His word, it sinks deeply into our minds and hearts like a sharp nail that is embedded in the wall. God’s Word is trustworthy and dependable because it is given by one Shepherd.
The Bible is inspired and God-breathed. The heart of God is the heart of a shepherd; He sees us as wandering sheep in need of a shepherd’s care. He knows we need a fresh start and He will give us one if we ask Him.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Verse 12 challenges us to not go beyond the Bible. While there are books everywhere, and they will never end.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that God is the secret of life, and He is the answer to the reason for existence. Until we discover God, our study and the reading of many books will never be of any lasting value to us.
Solomon’s bottom line is really just a simple statement recorded at the end of his diary. Take a look at Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard: here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
2. The Whole Duty of Man
a. Take God seriously.
In other words fear God. The meaning here is this: Respect God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. “This is what man was made for.” None of us want to be easily upset, unstable, wigged out, maxed out, or stressed out. Who wants to go through life being unsatisfied and unfulfilled? The whole duty of man is to honor God for who He is and obey what He tells us to do.
To fear God is not to be afraid of Him. Rather, we are to stand in awe of Him. Remember when Israel crossed the Red Sea? Listen to how they responded in Exodus 14:31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him…
This fear was not a sense of panic or terror of God. Instead it was awe, respect, and reverence for Him. And because they feared God, the text says that they put their trust in Him. A proper understanding of God always leads to greater faith and trust and obedience.
When you shake everything down, there are really only two things that are the whole duty of man.
We need to hold Him in the highest regard, to respect and revere Him because He is holy, majestic and awesome. Hebrews 12:28-29 28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Friends, God expects us to give Him the rightful place He deserves in our lives because He knows that if we don’t worship Him we will find something else to worship — whether it be a job, a family, money, a sport, or ourselves.
Scripture is full of examples of how fearing God is a positive rather than a negative thing.
For example in Genesis 42:18, Joseph wins his brothers’ trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man.
It was because the midwives feared God that they obeyed him instead of the authorities by sparing the Hebrew babies. Pharaoh brought disaster on his nation because he did not fear God Exodus 9:29-31. Moses chose leaders to help him on the basis that they feared God and wouldn’t take bribes Exodus 18:21. And lest you think this is only an Old Testament idea, note that Jesus states this stronger than anyone when he says: Matthew 10:28 Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. And Paul says to work toward complete holiness because we fear God in 2 Corinthians 7:11.
So it’s clear from these passages, that fearing God is good because it saves us from caving into our own sinful nature.
b. Obey God.
Solomon’s second conclusion is that we need to do what God says. Because He is God, we need to obey Him. Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Friends, let’s learn from Solomon’s experience. We need to revere God and respond to Him. We are to honor Him and obey Him.
It is time to refocus our lives and do the whole duty of man. It is time for a restart. “Do you remember when you used to play ball as a kid? Sometimes when you fouled things up, you would get a “restart.” It was a second chance to swing at the ball. That’s what is happening to you now. You’re getting a “restart” in life.”
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have a second chance? Some of you might want to undo your past decisions again. Others of you may want to do your life over again.
I have good news for you this morning. You can have a fresh start, a new beginning through Christ. George Sweeting, the former president of Moody Bible Institute, said: “The Christian life is a series of new beginnings.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
You matter to God more than you can ever know. He cares deeply for you. No matter what you’ve said, what you’ve thought, or what you’ve done. You and I can count on His consistent faithfulness. With His enablement, and with your resolve, 2018 can be one of the most significant years of your life fulfilling the whole duty of man.
The most important thing we need to do is to get to know God. If you’ve been busy looking to other things for your satisfaction, and have hit bottom like Solomon did, you need to know that God will give you a second chance. Do you want to get to know Him like you’ve never known Him before?