Solomon’s conclusion is not in the last chapter. It is in the center of the book, in the center of the major section of the worker. The heartbeat of the book pounds loudly here – Fear God and keep the covenant. The connection between this important piece of wisdom literature and its canonical context could not be more clear.
As is Solomon’s style, he uses the literary structure to build his argument and climax:
A 2 Imperatives/Reason (vs. 1)
A 2 Imperatives/Reason (vs. 2)
B Dream & Many Words (vs. 3)
A 2 Imperatives/Reason (vs. 4)
C Good (vs. 5)
A’ 2 Imperatives/Reason (vs. 6)
B’ Dreams & Many Words (vs. 7)
C’ Fear God (vs. 7)
“1 Guard (shamar) your feet as you walk to the house of God and draw near to hear than give the fools’ sacrifice, for they do not know they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth and your heart hasty to utter a word before God, for God in heaven and you on earth. So, let your words be few” (Ecc 5:1-2).
The word Solomon chooses, shamar, is reminiscent of the commission God gave Adam to guard (shamar) the garden as a priest (Gen 2:15) and the priests’ responsibility to guard (shamar) the holy temple. The wise man is reminded that his feet are to be holy as he comes into the temple of the King of Heaven. He is wise to refrain from a multitude of hasty words, for God is enthroned in heaven, and the wise man is a sinner on earth. God’s transcendence is not that he is removed from man on earth, but rather refers to His sovereign Lordship over all on earth; He is the King. He contrasts the fool and writes,
“For the dream comes in much occupation and the sound of a fool in many words” (Ecc 5:3).
The fool is occupied by the many cares of being occupied by life under the sun, and his nights are filled with dreams. When he is awake his mouth is filled with words as he struggles with the common curse.
Solomon then narrows his injunctions,
“4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to complete it, for He has no pleasure in fools. What you will vow, complete. 5 Good that you not make a vow than making a vow and not complete” (Ecc 5:4-5).
The covenant keeper fulfills his vows; he doesn’t make vows he will not keep. Again he moves through the three elements of the literary structure to the climax (A’, B’, C’). He exhorts,
“Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin nor say before the angel that it was an error. Why will God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hand. 7 For in many dreams in many words is vanity. But fear God! (Ecc 5:6-7).
Solomon calls the wise to covenant obedience and not make excuses for disobedience which would provoke God’s covenant wrath. Many dreams and anxious nights in this cursed world of vanity, but do not sin in the presence of the King’s court! Fear God and keep his covenant!
What is notable is that the point of obedience is self-imposed! Leviticus 27 and Deuteronomy 23:21-23 prescribe God’s Law regarding vows. The wise man is not obliged to make a vow, but if he does, he is obligated to fulfill it. In the pressures and occupations of the common curse, the wise man is called to covenant faithfulness under the Mosaic Covenant.
But Israel didn’t keep even the self-imposed requirements of the Law. This covenant will not bring the Kingdom that subdues the curse common to man. Ecclesiastes wisdom will not yield a wise man who would bring the eschatological Kingdom blessings. God’s promise to Abraham would have to look to a greater covenant keeper than the wise under the Old Covenant. Their obedience would not bring the new to replace life under the sun. Their obedience would not provide the comforter. They were covenant breakers. Solomon, subject to the curse, would only faintly picture the coming King of the Kingdom. His kingdom would only briefly picture the glorious Kingdom from Heaven. The Old Covenant provided no comforter. It did not provide a covenant keeper who would build the enduring Kingdom. But Solomon knew that the champion (Gen 3:15), the promised Seed (Gal 3:16), would come to bring the Kingdom.
This coming Wise Man would be the covenant keeper in the temple of the King’s court in heaven. His feet would be holy as He guarded (shamar) as the priest the things of His Father. He voluntarily took the covenant oath in eternity, the vow, to be the faithful vassal and bring the Kingdom of God on earth. He has overcome the common curse when He rose obedient victor from the grave. He brings cursed man to glory in the throne of the new heavens and new earth. His work endures forever. He has sent the Comforter. No longer are the wise subject to a conditional covenant of works; they are confirmed in His righteousness waiting the day of glory. They are sons of heaven living on earth. The common curse is still felt, but it no longer reigns over the redeemed. The frustrations yield to a new world hope and satisfaction. They live in joyful reverence of God and His Son who have done the enduring work! Their blessing is not contingent on their obedience; their obedience reflects their blessing. For the One has come who is the wisdom and power of God (1 Cor 1:21-31).
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
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