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Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. (NKJV)

A goad. Why didn’t I think of that…. What’s a goad? And what are nails “given by one shepherd”?

A goad is a sharp, pointed stick used to “motivate” an animal in not very pleasant or subtle manner. A nice poke from the goad encouraged the farm beast to move in the desired direction. Nowadays, to “goad” someone, means to prod or influence them in some way into doing what we want.

The “well-driven nails” were probably more like spikes that were driven in to the hard ground to secure a shelter amidst the wind and weather. They were equivalent to our modern day tent stakes.

The words of the wise are like goads.

My Dad must of have been very wise because I can remember vividly the words that would get me moving. When Dad said “I’m gonna whip the tar out you if you don’t quit goofing off and get busy”, I can distinctly remember that I would “goad do exactly what he toad me to do”. (Now for you younger folks, getting a “whippin” meant getting a spanking, not being abused. If anything, we didn’t get as many “whippin’s” as we deserved).

Any verbal poke from Dad that might have resulted in some father-son bonding time “out in the woodshed” had no problem goading me into moving in the right direction. What were some of the wise words from Solomon meant to goad us towards the truth?

  • Everything about life goes round and round with nothing new, and no end, so you better find purpose outside of it. (Ecc 1.15)
  • What are you going to do after working hard your whole life just to have your wealth end up squandered in a fools hands? (Ecc 2.18)
  • Why do you obey the law and seek justice when authorities constantly abuse power, jail innocents and set the guilty free for their own purposes? (Ecc 3.16)
  • What are you living for when death comes to you no differently than a common dog? (Ecc 3.19)
  • How will you deal with the fact that no matter what you do in life, it will quickly be forgotten? (Ecc 4.16)

On the surface, most people think of Ecclesiastes as a depressing, dark book – good only for a quick philosophical skim. In 25 years I have heard well less than a dozen good lessons on Ecclesiastes. That’s ashamed.

Far from being pessimistic, Ecclesiastes is REALISTIC.
And rightly discerned, it goads you towards God.

Ecclesiastes is a goad. It contains the brutal truth about life apart from God. These truths poke and prod us towards God who offers purpose and meaning to this life. Apart from God, life is depressing, monotonous and futile.

Let’s talk about nails. The nails of truth from the Shepherd are strong anchors, firmly holding us in the midst of the gusting turmoil that threaten to blow despair and hopelessness through our lives. What are some of the Shepherd’s nails in Ecclesiastes?

  • Food, drink and work are from the hand of God; and are a gift to be enjoyed (Ecc. 2.24)
  • God has put eternity in our hearts that we may enjoy life, do good and rejoice in God’s gifts (Ecc. 3.12)
  • Friends are a gift from God and are there to support and comfort us (Ecc 4.9)
  • Good, hard, honest work is a gift from God that allows us to have a sense of purpose and a clear conscience (Ecc 5.12)

Solomon finishes Ecclesiastes with perhaps the strongest nail which fastens us securely to God, able to withstand all that life can throw at us:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (NKJV)

Fear God and keep His commandments… six words that goad us to move away from the entrapments of the world and nail us securely to God. The wisdom of the Scripture is not always pleasant. Sometimes its like getting poked real hard, but it should getting us moving in the right direction.

God’s love anchors us until that day when the winds of trouble will cease and we can rest eternally in the calmness of His presence.

Great God, may we accept the goad as well as we accept the blessing. Grant us that we may be responsive to Your prodding and secure in the Truth you have nailed down for us, both literally and figuratively. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Contemplation: How do you feel when you get poked with some wisdom? Do you respond by moving in the right direction? Or do you buck up and kick back? Do you meditate on the Shepherd’s nails in times of trouble?

Application: Wisdom pokes, prods and directs us towards God. God’s promises sustain us through the turmoil of life. Ask God to help you discern wise words, and to give you a soft and responsive heart when the goad is felt.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?