Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 12:8-14.
Ecclesiastes 12:11 The word of the wise are as goads, and as nails, fastened by the masters of assembly, which are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh.
In v. 11 Solomon describes the words of the wise as being like goads. The term refers to an object used to prod animals (Currid, Ecclesiastes, p. 153). It is that which nudges and moves one in the right direction.
And who of us does not need the goad? Slumbering as we are in cold formality—hearing the word as if we heard it not—what a mercy it is to feel the piercing point of the goad…. Is it not fearful to be under the power of the word and yet to continue insensible? As if the goad just touched the skin and did not penetrate the heart? (Ecclesiastes p. 306).
Then Solomon says they are also like nails. Nails are what holds a structure together. For the nomad they were stakes driven into the ground to hold fast a tent. For the ancients who lacked modern closets, the nail driven into the wall provided a place to hold or store things of value, that could be easily reached and drawn upon as needed.
They are nails drive by the masters of assemblies. Finally, he says these goads or nails are given by one shepherd. In Israel, the king was often described as being like a shepherd. So too the Lord was like a shepherd (cf. Psalm 23). Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Peter called Christ the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
On one hand, we might say that the Bible has many authors, but on the other it is right to say that it has but one author. We can say of any passage in God’s word, not only, The Bible says, but also, God says.
He adds, in v. 12, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished….” These are the instructions of a father to a well-beloved son. Solomon addresses us here as Paul did Timothy and Titus (1 Tim 1:2: “unto Timothy, my own son in the faith”; 2 Tim 1:2: “to Timothy, my dearly beloved son”; Titus 1;4: “to Titus, mine own son after the common faith”, as Peter did Mark (1 Peter 5:13; “so doth Marcus my son”).
Some of us had Christian fathers (imperfect though they might have been). Others did not. But all of us have father Solomon, and father Moses, and father John, and father Paul. These goads and all of Scriptural wisdom are as a surrogate father to the child of God.
The second half of v. 12 is the scholar’s verse or the student’s verse. There is no end of book-making. And this was written before the digital age! I think the point here is to contrast this with the inscripturated word. Yes, there are more and more books being made, always. But then there is the one book, that cannot be added to or taken away from.
Bridges cites Reynolds: “Other writings are useful in their order. These only are the rule of faith and life” (p. 308).
In the blurr of the many books, don’t forget the one book. It has been said of some Christians that they were walking Bibles. The missionary Hudson Taylor rose before daylight each morning to read the Bible, working his way through its pages scores of times throughout his life. The nutritionists used to say, You are what you eat. Solomon might say, You are what you read, or, You are what you allow your mind and your heart to be most saturated in and absorbed by. Are you being more shaped by popular entertainment, by sports, by politics, or by the nails fastened by the one Shepherd?
Bridges calls the Bible “a portable book,” noting that it contains all that is necessary to make a man wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15) “in so small compass” (p. 308). It is not exhaustive of all knowledge but selective of that which is essential (see John 20:30-31; 21:25). The Bible is large enough, expansive enough to challenge a man and give him life-long food for his journey. But it is also small enough that one can within a lifetime live in its pages and under its hearing so that it gets within his bones and shapes his living. It is a written John the Baptist meant to point us toward Christ.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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