Israel's king has taught us much about the vanity of life lived under the sun. We have been challenged with its brevity - it is but a "puff" - and honestly with the ultimate meaninglessness of it if it is lived only with a horizontal, here and now understanding.
Finally, in verse 13 the preacher's prime and powerful purpose is proclaimed. Life is to be lived veritally if it is to have any lasting meaning horizontally and Solomon is about to give a thumbnail sketch of what vertical, religious living looks like. Here the succinct summary of lifegiving religion is revealed and its foundational root and rule are exposed.
What is the bottom line according to Solomon?
"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man."
Do you want to cut to the chase? Well, here it is.
The true way to live well, the ultimate pathway to peace, the home of happiness, the essence of our chief end is found in godliness. Here is the summary of true religion...
"Setting aside all matters of doubtful disputation, to be religious is to fear God and keep His commandments. The root of religion is the fear of God reigning in the heart - a reverence of His majesty, a deference to His authority, and a dread of His wrath. The rule of religion is the Law of God revealed in the Scriptures. Our fear towards God must be taught by His commandments and those we must carefully observe. This is of vast importance - it is the whole duty of man, it is all his business and all his blessedness. Our whole duty is summed up in this and our whole comfort is bound up in this." (Matthew Henry)
When all has been said and heard this is what it all boils down to: the fear of God and the keeping of His commandments.
Looking at that which is left in the pot of life's purpose I find myself saying: " But...but..but can't do this!!" Oh, how I need God's grace, for who IS able to do that? No one! Not you! Not me! No not one! (Romans 3:10-12)
We are not by nature God fearers. We are by nature self pleasers.
We are not by nature Law keepers. We are by nature rule breakers.
As I have meditated this morning on the "conclusion of the matter" I am overwhelmed by the absolute impossibility of the task before me and it has made my thoughts turn to the true story of Christ's encounter with the rich young ruler. (Luke 18:18-27)
This gentleman came to Jesus wanting to know what he must do to inherit eternal life? He wanted to get to the bottom line and the succinct sum, root and rule of religion.
"Let's cut to the chase good Teacher, what must I do to be saved?"
Jesus, in infinite wisdom, cut to the chase of this young ruler's chase cutting question. In a matter of moments Christ undoes this proud fellow's thinking about his own goodness - "No one is good except God alone" and about his personal ability to keep the Law perfectly.
"So, you want to know what you must DO - well, you know the commandments of the One Good God, so keep them." (Read between the lines "Fear God and keep His commandments.")
"Oh, Teacher, that I have done since my youth!! Whew!! Thanks for the info. Glad that's settled."
But it was NOT settled. Not by a long shot.
Christ went for the heart and He pressed this man with the hypocrisy of his proud assessment regarding his own character and ability to perfectly keep the Law.
Jesus said to him, "One thing you lack, sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me."
This fellow hadn't really kept the law. He had other god's before God and he was controlled by covetousness!
This rich young man relished his riches. This young ruler was ruled by them. This leader was led by his own lusts. And Christ showed him that ultimately he feared losing his things more than he feared God and that he obeyed the desires of his flesh much more than the Law of his God.
Friends, are we not really in the same boat? I know that I am. When backed into a corner with this different twist on Solomon's same bottom line the rich young ruler failed at the conclusion of the matter. He didn't fear God and keep His commandments. We fail as well - every time!
"When the rich young ruler heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich.... And they who heard it said, 'Then who can be saved?' But Jesus said, 'The things impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:23-27)
The ultimate bottom line, the dutiful conclusion of the matter is that the things which are required of us - fearing God and keeping His commandments - are impossible for us.
"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
That is why we need a Savior and that is why our God sent One.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
We cannot keep the Law of God perfectly, but Christ did!!
The Lord Jesus came and lived that life that we could not live, died the death that we deserved to die, and rose again from the dead that we might live in newness of life during our days here under the sun and for all eternity with Him in the Celestial City beyond the sun!
Christ came to redeem us from the Law and to justify us by grace through faith in Him.
God made "Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21)
Do you long for the bottom line of the bottom line? It is Jesus!
Christ has done for you what you cannot do for yourself. He has fully fulfilled the "conclusion of the matter." Jesus has done it for you and if you will rest in Him as your only hope and help He will even now do it through you. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" "Apart from Him you can do nothing."
Christ's obedience to the bottom line of fearing God and keeping His commandments is the root of your salvation. It is impossible for you. All things are possible for God!
Rest in the root of His righteousness. Be clothed in the coat His character. Your own garments are but filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
"The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments." Christ has conquered the conclusion and calls you to merely come to Him in repentance and faith. Even that He enables you to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).
He, Himself is the succint sum, root, and rule of religion. May we, by grace through faith, rest in the Root and through Him bear much fruit! That's the bottom line of the bottom line!
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
"And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Acts 2:21)