“Who Am I?”

Two of the burning questions that have filled human philosophies down through the years are, “Who am I, and what is my purpose?”  Interestingly enough, the more man’s philosophies study those questions, the further they seem to get from the truth.  Whether ancient Greeks, Romans, or Babylonians, the writings of men are filled with interesting answers to these questions that are ultimately incorrect.  Solomon – the wisest man on earth outside of Jesus – laid out the answer very plainly in Ecclesiastes 12.  The first several verses describe who we are with the ultimate conclusion coming in verse 13 when he succinctly lays out the course for our lives.

Looking at the opening verses, our condition of who we are is not a pleasant portrait to consider.  In some of the most illustrative language, Solomon describes our frame: keepers of the house shall tremble (nervous system fails), strong men bow themselves (we stoop with age), sound of the grinding is low (hearing fails), they that look out of the window are darkened (eyesight fails), grinders cease (teeth fall out), and then finally the end comes without any pleasantness whatsoever: fountain is broken at the cistern (bodily functions give out), golden bowl is broken (mind goes), silver cord is broken (back fails), until finally man goeth to his long sought home and the mourners go about in the street (die and have a funeral service).  Not just our physical frame is weak and fails, but our minds are victims as well: fear shall be in the way (anxious and afraid of the future) and we fear those things that are high (afraid of what we don’t understand).  Without verse 7, it’s not a pleasant picture is it?

Thankfully, verse 7 describes the immaterial portion of us – the spirit – that goes back to God which gave it.  Who we are by natural estimation is not a lot to be honest.  The idea that evolution holds any merit – things getting better and better – is absurd not just from Scripture but just regular observation.  My evil days (old age) are starting to plague my frame, and without what God has done in giving us a new soul and spirit, that would be the end and as Solomon described over and over again would all be vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit.  Without the work that God has done in and to us, there would be no purpose worthy of any consideration.  The world’s mentality of, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” would be applicable.  However, since God has done such a mighty work to His people in this world, what is our purpose?

Verse 13 says the whole duty of man is boiled down simply into: fear God and keep His commandments.  One thing about God’s practical teaching and commandments is that they are simple.  They may be hard to fulfill due to the weakness and frailty of this old flesh, but in concept, HIs commands are simple.  What He laid down in two tables of stone to Moses, it takes man and governments whole libraries to catalogue and describe.  Jesus boiled down the whole law into two principles: love God with all that we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.  What Solomon says is our whole duty is simple.

Fear God: The word “fear” here literally means respect.  We don’t fear God in slavish dread the way a beaten dog looks at a cruel master.  We respect and reverence Him for who He is and the position He holds.  Today, society is very slovenly and without much respect in any fashion.  The aged are not respected as they once were, positions of authority are scoffed instead of honored, and simple propriety is ignored or despised.  While we have a very close relationship with our God – Father, Husband, Brother, Friend – we should never forget that He is the potter, and we are the clay.  My adoration of Him should be coupled with the highest respect of the One who is deserving like no other.  How simple it is to simply acknowledge God for who He is and give unto Him what is due.  What is due unto Him?

Keep His Commandments: As we have already alluded, God’s commands are simple and not overly complicated.  However, man today looks at commandment keeping the way a lot of people look at dieting: where is a loophole to exploit?  It is a simple dietary proposition that if the body takes in less calories than it consumes, that body will lose weight.  Period.  It is a simple spiritual proposition that whatsoever He commands, just do it.  Period.  Rather than look for ways to serve Him less and de-obligate ourselves, we should joyfully look for ways to serve Him better in the future than we have in the past.  Over the years, I have often been asked, “How much should I read in the Bible?” “How often should I go to church?” “How much should I give?”  etc, etc.  My standard answer is, “More.”  Paul knew that he hadn’t attained to what he strove after, but he kept pressing to hit the mark he was shooting for. (Philippians 3:11-13) Joyful and thankful hearts for God’s kind grace seek out ways to be better.  Doing more.  Why?  Because no matter how much we learn about what He has done for us, the simple fact is He has done more: more than we can comprehend, more than we see, and more than we could ever repay.

When I look in the mirror, I see fading and dying every day.  Who am I?  A man born to die.  When I look through the Scriptures, I see grace and mercy on every page.  Who am I?  A sinner saved by grace.  When I look at the creation in contrast to God’s people, I see one that is crumbling every day while the other is being renewed day by day by the Holy Ghost.  I have no doubt that many of the philosophers of old who struggled to express what they felt were much like Paul when in darkness without the revelation that Paul had about who and what he was in Romans 7.  Part of us is dying all the time, while part of us is as fresh and vital as its ever been.  What to do?  Adore the one who rescued us from dark and stricken woe, and love Him so much that we keep His commandments.

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