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What does it mean to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)?

fear God and keep His commandments

The book of Ecclesiastes ends with this call to fear God, obey His Word, and live with a sobering respect for His imminent judgment: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

Fearing God and keeping His commandments are repeated themes throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:2; 10:12; John 14:15). Fear is something most of us want to avoid. But “fear of the Lord” is good and right for believers. The Hebrew word translated as “fear” in Ecclesiastes 12:13 refers to a genuine reverence and respect for the Lord. To “fear God” is to realize His absolute greatness, immutable power, and justice: “And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, NLT). When we fear God, we acknowledge He is holy and highly exalted (Exodus 3:5–6; Isaiah 8:13; 1 Timothy 1:17), the only One worthy of our worship and complete obedience.

Those who fear God naturally want to obey Him and keep His commands. Many people see God’s commandments as heavy burdens—negative rules that keep us from doing what we want and having fun. But believers who fear God keep His commandments. Our actions conform to His instructions because we trust He loves us and wants what is best for us (1 John 5:2–3). We have come to understand that His commands are loving instructions from a good and caring Father. God says, “Keep my commandments,” because He wants to bless us and keep us from trouble (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 16:11; James 1:17).

Through the Old Testament commandments, God laid out a set of boundaries for His people. These commands included the promise of a good long life (Deuteronomy 17:20), success and prosperity (Deuteronomy 30:9), and rich blessings (Deuteronomy 11:27). The Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words asserts that genuine fear of God (demonstrated through keeping His commands) “results in spiritual, moral and ethical health and wealth before both God and people” (Carpenter, E. E., and Comfort, P. W., Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000, p. 60).

Jesus said that, when we keep His commandments, we prove that we love Him (John 14:15, 21, 23–24; 15:10). Our obedience also demonstrates the genuineness of our faith (1 John 2:3–5). We obey Him because we are fully convinced that God is watching us and evaluating how we think, speak, and live (Matthew 12:36; Psalm 139:2; Jeremiah 12:3).

At the close of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up every piece of wisdom he has acquired in all his life experiences. Nothing else matters more in this life than to fear God and keep His commandments because, in the end, we will all face God’s judgment (Hebrews 9:27; Ecclesiastes 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Death is not the end of the matter; it is only the beginning. “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). There is resurrection life after death (see 1 Corinthians 15).

When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, returns, He will judge every person, living and dead (Matthew 25:31–33; 2 Thessalonians 1:6–7; 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Peter 3:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Acts 10:42; 17:31). All who are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ will be saved and spend eternity with God in heaven (Matthew 25:34; John 5:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Corinthians 9:25; Revelation 11:18). But the ungodly “will go away to eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:41, 46; see also 2 Peter 3:7; Romans 2:5; Hebrews 10:26–28; 2 Peter 2:4, 9).

If we fear God and keep His commandments, we’ve tapped into true wisdom that will guide us on the right path through life. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him,” promises the psalmist (Psalm 128:1). We fear God by worshiping Him with the utmost loyalty, respect, and honor; we obey His Word; and we keep an eternal perspective—these three pursuits define the ultimate purpose of our existence and our chief ambition in life.

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What does it mean to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)?
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This page last updated: February 27, 2023