In our study of Ecclesiastes chapter twelve, we look at the difference between growing old with faith in God and growing old without Jesus. At the end of chapter 11, we looked at the fact that our youth does not last forever. Now, we will look at the progression to what is commonly called the golden years. When most of us think of these "retirement years" we think of good times where we do what we want to do instead of going to work every day just to survive. Visions of grandchildren and permanent vacations come to mind but, as we shall see, without God they are far different.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them' -
The Hebrew word for "remember" is "zakhor" and it roughly means to call something to mind or to think on something. Solomon begins with this in the hope that we will accept Jesus Christ when we are young. He goes on to give us the reason to do so now instead of waiting to have a "deathbed conversion". He describes the last days of our lives on this earth (our golden years) as days of trouble instead of pleasurable years (not so golden years).
before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
Solomon reminds us that, at the end of these days on earth, there is physical death waiting for us all. He also alludes to the fact that the final days before that death happens are usually not very productive (without sun or rain to make things grow). Today, there are many people who give a fortune for a few more days, months, or years on this earth. An entire industry (gerontological medicine) rakes in billions of dollars each year and employs thousands of people to do this. We might ask why older folks would want to do this and the simple fact is that they either do not know Jesus or have lost sight of His promises. With Jesus, the physical death of this body leads to a much better life with a brand new body. Without Jesus, death is a door to judgment by our Creator. If you are getting older and facing that prospect, we invite you to accept Jesus now!
when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;
We cannot stop the passage of time and the strength of our youth will fade. The things that we once did with ease become a chore. It does not matter how much you take care of this earthly physical body; in the end it will fail you. In our world today, there is much emphasis on the physical training of our bodies and staying in shape. This is good for us but some people make this like an idol in their lives.
when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of the grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
Our world is full of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. People going to and fro to get ahead in this world. A part of this aging is the fact that we have to move slower. It often seems like we are falling behind and being left in the dust by the pace of the world around us. In our youth, many will work long hours (getting up with the birds) to do more and more. In our golden years, we may still get up with the first sound of the birds but our strength (songs) is gone and we cannot keep up this earthly pace anymore. Many will spend their youth running as fast as they can to get ahead in this world but, in the end, the world will pass us all by.
when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
Without Christ in our golden years, fear creeps in and the courage of our youth fades with the time. We all have the feeling of invincibility while we are young but, in the end, we are all subject to physical death. Without Christ, the thought of death will bring stress and fear but, with the prospect of joining our Lord forever, we do not have the fear.
Remember him - before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Physical death comes to us all no matter what our position is in this life. The rich, the poor, the big, the small; all their bodies will be buried in the ground while the spirit returns to its giver for judgment. With this in mind, we want to think of this meeting with our Creator in advance.
'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Everything is meaningless!'
For those who do not have a restored relationship with their Creator in this life, there really is no point in living at all. As we age and all of the pursuits of this world pass by, there is nothing that is more important than our relationship with God.
Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
The Teacher (Solomon) was faithful with his gift of wisdom. He did not keep it to himself but passed it on by sharing his life experiences with proverbs. Although his study of the things of life was indepth, he presented his wisdom in short phrases (proverbs) that were easy to understand and remember.
The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails - given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
We are reminded that wisdom is a gift from God and its purpose is to guide others onto the right path as set by God. We must be careful as many want to mix knowledge gained by other means with the words of God. Some people can take a simple fact and twist it many ways to get their desired result. This is not of God and we must only seek after the things of God.
Of making many books there is no end and much study wearies the body. 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.
Solomon sums up the pursuit of knowledge with the fact that books cannot preserve your soul. After all of Solomon's efforts to study the meaning of life, it all comes down to our relationship with God. The "fear" of God is acknowledging who He is and setting Him apart in our worship.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Solomon concludes with the reason that we serve God. We know that He is good and so everything that we do in service to Him must be good as well. On the last day, we will be judged on whether we had accepted the payment for our sins through Jesus Christ. If we have, then our service to Him (the good) will be rewarded. Those that did not accept Him will have to pay the price for their own sins. That is the judgment of the "evil". In reminding us of this, Solomon is urging us to live our earthly lives with eternity in mind.