The Book of Ecclesiastes takes the reader for a ride. You might find yourself lost in all the loops. For this reason, the divinely inspired editor gives a summary statement at the end: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humanity (Ecclesiastes 12:13).”
Many modern readers of the Bible struggle with the concept of fearing God. They conjure up in their minds a furiously mad God, flying off the handle, looking to pummel them. However, anyone who carefully reads the Bible will realize fearing God means something quite different.
Think of it like this. Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer? You would be foolish not to have at least a little fear rise up in you. I remember driving in Philadelphia with a friend some time ago. I was driving and got pulled over. My friend Mark began to debate with the police officer: “Well, don’t you know that the light is over there and where the line is? How are we supposed to see it?” As Mark said this, I was thinking: “This is a police officer. Do you not understand that she has the authority to give me a ticket and a huge fine, not to mention throw me into a holding cell!” I looked at Mark, as these thoughts flashed across my mind, and said, “Mark, it’s OK.” Mark got it and got quite real fast.
That police officer turned out to be one of the most benevolent and kindest people I have ever met. I did break the traffic rule. She took my driver’s license and registration, described what I had done wrong and how I could have hurt myself and injured others on the road, and then let me go with a warning.
Take that illustration and magnify it by infinity. If all you ever heard about God was his power, might, and sovereignty, you cannot grasp his full majesty. True, he does have power. He has power to not just to justly throw you into a holding cell but into hell. But, if you know who God is, you also realize his love, goodness, kindness, and forbearing patience with us. To fear God means to take who he is very seriously.
This fear leads to joyful obedience. Why honor your father and mother? Because you fear God and take his instruction seriously. Why, parents, do you not want to exasperate your child? Because you fear God and know his love for you as his child. Why ask God to make you kinder and more truthful? Because you fear God and make him the starting point. As the editor says, “Fear God and keep his commandments.”