As we conclude our study of Ecclesiastes, consider this final reflection on the last verses of chapter twelve from Douglas Sean O’Donnell. He wrote:
Ecclesiastes compares the words of the wise to “nails firmly fixed” (12:11). With that image, I imagine the book of Ecclesiastes, and especially these last two verses, like two nails firmly fixed to an ancient synagogue’s stone wall. There these truths have hung for thousands of years.
I imagine then an apostle of the new covenant—let’s say, Matthew—coming along to this wall. And instead of removing these old nails, he has a better idea. He paints a picture, frames it, and then hangs it upon them. Oh, it fits perfectly and looks just right with limestone. It was as if those two nails were made to hold it.
Like part of a medieval church mosaic, Matthew’s painting has two scenes. In the first scene Jesus is depicted as the powerful judge who denounces those who heard his words of wisdom and saw his mighty deed yet rejected him. “Woe to you,” he thunders. “I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:20-24). Jesus himself will bring “every deed”—every sin of commission and omission—“into judgement.”
The second scene, which is directly next to the first, is quite different. Jesus’s fist is no longer clenched, and he has discarded his judicial robes. Now as savior he opens wide his arms to any and all who would run to him like “little children” (v. 25): “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls.” (vv. 28-29)
You see, when this picture of Matthew 11:20-30 rests upon the nails of Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, we are to see Jesus, the holy judge and loving savior. And we are to embrace him—the very embodiment of divine wisdom (Col. 2:3) and meaningful life (John 10:10). For only in doing so shall we find rest for our restless souls. (pgs. 88-89)
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” –Ecclesiastes 12:13-14