Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) … “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Here is a two-fold maxim for true joy on earth and in heaven—that stresses the greatness and majesty of God, ‘Fear God’—and the unchanging authority of his Word, ‘And keep his commandments’. In the end, nothing else matters, ‘For this is the whole duty of man’ (v. 13).
Godly fear is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7). It is not the cowering fear of someone who has been abandoned in a meaningless life ‘under the sun’, but the reverent submissiveness of one who has truly found reconciliation with his Creator. As Charles Bridges puts it, ‘Here we walk with our Father, humbly, acceptably, securely—looking at an offended God with terror—but at a reconciled God with reverential love. All the gracious influences on the soul—cherished under the power of the Spirit—all flow out in godly fear towards him.’
Throughout the book, the Preacher has majored on the problem of life and only occasionally offered a solution. Now he nails his colours to the mast. His wisdom is no match for God’s—his recorded conclusions and even the secrets of his own heart will be judged by God, ‘who alone is wise’ (1 Tim. 1:17). It is in the keeping of God’s commandments that a man knows true wisdom, and in such is the solution to the meaning and purpose of life. ‘To fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ (Deut. 10:12)—this is the ultimate purpose of our being and our chief end. Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God personified: ‘And this is his commandment: that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 3:23).