Read: Ecclesiastes 12:1–14.
Imagine with me the sixth day of creation, after God has called into existence both light and darkness, both space and time, both matter and energy, all the living herbs and grass, all the fish and creatures of the sea, all the bugs and the animals on the land. God Himself bends over and from the dust of the earth (הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה, ha adamah), He forms a human, a man, an Adam (הָֽאָדָ֗ם, ha adam). Adam is not just the name of the man. It means “man” or “human.” So let me refer to the human being as an Adam.
God formed the Adam with His own hands, a perfect human body — then He awakened him. God breathed into man. He filled his lungs with air, and He filled his soul with Himself. The human had lungs to receive breath and a soul to receive the Spirit of God. Being alive meant being filled in both ways.
If you can, climb inside of Adam’s brain, his mind. Adam awoke with a sense of awe. He had no memory, no sense of identity. What were his first thoughts? What were the first impulses that raced through his mind?
As he lay on the ground soaking in the sights, his eyes feasted on lush green and on gorgeous flowers. His ears pulsed with the rich array of bird songs and crickets chirping and animals moving about. The snort of a rhinoceros provided the bass and the parakeet the high soprano. Adam’s nose took in the fragrance of blossoms, the smell of fresh earth and a growing garden. His skin tingled with the kiss of the grass and his muscles were drenched with sunlight and warmth. His brand new mind began assembling an understanding of the blooming, buzzing cacophony around him. But deeper than that, his soul thrilled with the indwelling presence of the Almighty Lord God.
How did Adam develop his sense of identity? The same way a baby does. Adam learned about himself from what God thought and said about him, just as a baby looks into his mother’s eyes and learns that he is valuable because mother loves him, protected because mother provides for him. This world is a wonderful place because the baby is loved. Never did a human baby have a more wonderful awakening to identity than did the first Adam. Thus, without the presence of God, Adam would not have been conscious of being himself.
Then God gave him the project of naming all the animals. The man could think. His mind was equipped with categories and concepts. He could organize the world around him. He had insight to know what each animal was like so he gave each animal an appropriate name. But as he named the animals, he also learned something about himself. He noticed that many of the animals came in pairs. Each he had a she. Then Adam began wondering, “Where is my she?”
He rubbed his eyes, lay down to relax on the grass, and nodded off to sleep. Ever so gently, God administered the anesthesia, then opened up the man, took out some very special part, and made another adam — a she-adam, a Madam for Adam. What would Adam say when he awakened? He might have said, “Madam, I’m Adam”? But I think he said, “Wow! Who is this?” And instantly he knew, “This is my she!” He exclaimed: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Now Adam could not only learn about himself from God. He could also see his reflection in her eyes, and learn about himself from her unselfish, uncorrupted heart of love. Adam was learning what it meant to be a man—a real Adam. He could have sensed the truth that the psalmist celebrated, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
It is important for us to think carefully about Adam, because the way God made Adam helps us to see what real human nature was made to be. From Genesis to Revelation we have hints and exhortations for us to live as we were created to live: humans, indwelt and loved by God, loving God, loving other humans, being loved by other humans, stewards over the created order, accepting even loving ourselves while reflecting the character and the love of God. Humans were made to be filled with the Holy Spirit, with all the fullness of God! That is normal human nature!
Our human nature is like a glove, made for a Hand to be filling it. Only when you understand the Hand does the glove make sense! Otherwise, it looks like a useless piece of leather that could have been something, but has now been turned into trash. That’s why people can murder and mutilate other human beings. They don’t see the Hand, the Divine Nature, that is supposed to be indwelling humans!
Yet, the Bible is also faithful to tell us that Adam fell. Adam, as he was created, shows us what God intended people to be, but Adam failed, not because he was earthy (Adam was made from the adamah), but because he was rebellious. Ever since, with one exception, all humans have been born damaged severely in every part, in every capacity. Twisted. Distorted. The love that was intended to be focused on God and on each other, is twisted toward self. Luther believed the sin nature could be explained as exactly that, cor incurvatus ad se — a heart turned in upon itself.
Every human is born with this twist, this bent to sin and selfishness. That is why psychology, psychiatry, and sociology are often so contrary to biblical truth. These professionals, many of them very smart people, are studying damaged goods and trying to explain human nature and society. They do not understand human nature as God made it.
However, despite the rebellion that landed humanity in its twisted state, in Genesis 3, we have the promise that God would not abandon the human project.
14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
There will be a Deliverer! He will destroy the works of the Devil and restore all that was damaged! The great message of the Bible is that God sent His Son to set things right! He sent His Son to show us what true human nature is like. His Son is the Second Adam, sent to give the human race a new start!
In Romans 5, Paul explains this:
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. … 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 20 …where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
By grace, this Deliverer restores all that sin has destroyed! The second Adam would start a new race of grace. In 1 Corinthians 15:22 he sums it up: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The Adamic nature, as Adam was created, was not sinful. The original Adam, from the Hand of God, was perfect.
The True Adam and Ecclesiastes
Now come back to Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” The Hebrew reads, “This [is] the every/whole man.” (כָּל־הָאָדָֽם, kol ha adam). This (fearing God) is the way every man was made to live, what humans were made to be — real living.
Now let me talk about the book of Ecclesiastes. This twelve-chapter book was written by the wisest fool that ever lived. Solomon was the favored son of David, and he testified that his parents taught him the ways of God.
3 For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live (Prov. 4:3–4).
But he became so fascinated with his own wisdom, he decided that he had better not trust anyone else’s word and should carry out his own research, trusting only his own conclusions We see this in chapter 2 verse 3:
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.
He was checking out the empirical evidence, trying things out personally, foolishly researching what God had already told him and what his own parents had taught him. The personal experience he describes in his writing is a good illustration that we do not have time and endurance to check out all the possible ways to live! Nor do we want to live through the hell it would take! We had better learn to investigate and then trust the word of dependable witnesses.
Solomon’s research question was, “What is good for the sons of men? What is Man? What is this Adam?” After a long, weary, disappointing search, he comes back to the truth his parents and God had tried to teach him when he was a child.
In this book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon reviews the many possibilities of life, and then shows us the weary end. In chapter 12, he graphically displays what it is like to become old: the dimming of delight, the wearing down of the eyes, the ears, the muscles and even the heart. Finally there is a funeral: “the mourners go about the streets,” because man (Adam) goeth to his long home. What is man’s “long home”? The Hebrew calls it, “the house of eternity” (בֵּ֣ית עוֹלָמ֔וֹ, beit olamow). The Jews still call their cemeteries the “House of Eternity” or the “House of Life.”
In a way, Solomon has fast-forwarded our lives until we zip past our own funeral and into the grave, only to realize that the grave is not a dead-end. The grave refers to more than a cave in a mountain, or a hole in the ground, or cremation. There is more to man than dust! There is more to this Adam!
The world would have us believe that life ends in a coffin, in a tomb. Have your body embalmed. Buy an expensive casket, make sure it is comfortable. Buy a costly, water-tight vault that will keep the body dry and protect it from the elements. A graveyard is where the bodies are sealed in vaults, never to return to this life that exists “under the sun.”
From the visible side of things, a tombstone punctuates every life—a final period.The end.
But no! The tomb is not a period—it is only a semicolon! Then there is a judgment and an eternal destiny. The last words of Solomon in this book are, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
You are destined for an eternal home. You will go to the place where you have prepared to be.
This then raises the question Solomon’s own father asked decades earlier in Psalm 8: “What is man?”
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [or rather a little lower than God], and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
What is Man? What is Adam? What does Man amount to? What does it mean to be human?
Man Is More Than Dust
Man is more than cells, tissues, bones, and organs. Humans are more than body parts. In the last few years, science has made tremendous progress in understanding the brain cells and the nervous system, but I wonder how many discoveries are yet beyond their reach.
Humans are more than DNA, as marvelous as that is. Do you know that, for a number of years, scientists were saying that 98% of the human DNA is junk, meaningless repetitions of mostly the same information? Well, their ignorance is being revealed as scientists begin to realize that instead of being leftover evolutionary debris, the junk just may have more value than they thought! I wonder how broadly God grinned when those earlier scientists spouted off in their ignorance.
The psalmist got to thinking about himself, he sang out to God, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
This is not something we do or achieve by our efforts. It is the way God made us. We are made. We are fearfully and wonderfully made! We are far more than dust, than the physical components that scientists can analyze.
Man is the “upward looking one.” Something inside looks up to home and the Father. That’s why Solomon told us “Fear God and keep His commandments. … This is [the bottom line for] every man.”
What does it mean to Fear God? Ray Stedman presents us with an acronym to help us remember what this fear means.
- F = “Faith in His existence.” Heb.11:6, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
- E = “Experience of His grace.” Know the terror of your guilt, the wonder of His mercy, the assurance of His forgiveness
- A = “Awe at the majesty, the wisdom, and the wonder of God.”
- R = “Resolve to do what He says, to ‘keep His commandments.’”
A man has never lived until he has come to fear God and keep His commandments.
Man Without God Is Fragmented
Because of Adam’s rebellion, humans are damaged in every part, fragmented, and alienated.
The most fragmented man I know of was the demoniac in Mark 5, who claimed his name was Legion (Mark 5:9). Talk about multiple personality disorder!
Man Can Be Restored by Grace
All that sin has damaged, grace can restore. And grace will restore us as we cooperate with God.
Man fully indwelt by God amounts to wholeness, even holiness! The whole person can be healed: inner harmony, inner unity, the whole person growing increasingly like Christ!
We are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Deuteronomy 6:4, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (מְאֹדֶֽךָ, meodka)
We are to love God with everything in us. This is real life. This is real living. This is real wholeness, real holiness.
Jesus asked the man at the pool of Bethesda, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man had been sick for 38 years, and now he had lain at the pool of Bethesda for a long time, hoping to be the first in the water when the angel stirred it. Why would Jesus ask him such a question?
Jesus was after more than a physical healing. After the healing, Jesus found the man and said, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” It was not enough for the man to be healed of a physical illness. He needed spiritual healing. He needed to be fully restored by grace!
This is what it means to be fully human. This is real self-actualization, not the kind the world is seeking. This is the hand in the glove of God’s image in man. We are made to be indwelt, not for a robotic, mechanical religion, but for a personal relationship of being filled with all the fullness of God.
In Revelation 3:20, Jesus spoke the invitation, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Jesus offers fellowship and freedom through an intimate relationship with Himself.
However, it does not stop with just the individual person. In Ephesians 4, Paul explained spiritual growth and church growth,
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
The personal unity (the release from fragmentation) that flows from being indwelt by Christ, is the foundation on which churchly unity is built.
In The End
Solomon’s closing exhortation to us is, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the bottom line for every man.”
If a man or woman has come to fear God and keep His commandments, life in this fallen world does not get any better. There is growth in this kind of life, but it is just more of this real life.
This is the way everyone was made to live. This is what humans were made to be! This is real living!