Stephen Caswell © 2000
What is life all about? Is it worth living? That was the question the Preacher raised when he began the discourse that we call Ecclesiastes. After experimenting and investigating life under the sun, he concluded, No, life is not worth living! He gave four arguments to support his conclusion: the monotony of life, the vanity of wisdom, the futility of wealth, and the certainty of death. Being a wise man, Solomon reviewed his arguments and this time brought God into the picture. What a difference it made.
He realized that life was not monotonous but filled with challenging situations from God, each in its own time and each for its own purpose. He also learned that wealth could be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Though man’s wisdom couldn’t explain everything, Solomon concluded that it was better to follow God’s wisdom than to practice man’s folly. As for the certainty of death, there is no way to escape it; and it ought to motivate us to enjoy life now and make the most of the opportunities God gives us. In chapter 11 we have Solomon’s sixth and final admonition that we accept life as a gift and learn to enjoy all that God shares with us. In order to do this, we must obey 3 instructions:
I. Rejoice II. Remove III. Remember
Ecclesiastes 11:7-9a Truly the light is sweet, And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
What a joy it is to anticipate each new day and accept it as a fresh gift from God! Most people don't realize this truth. They live today as though life will go on forever. Often it is only through a near death experience that people realize how fragile life can be. We should rise each morning and thank God for the new day He has given us. Then we should ask Him to help us use it wisely for His glory and to enjoy it as His gift. Solomon commands young people to rejoice in their youth. It is a precious gift from God to be young. Young person, rejoice and have a cheerful heart. Life for you is exciting and holds so much promise.
Solomon especially instructed the young people to take advantage of the days of youth before the days of darkness would arrive. He was not suggesting that young people have no problems or that older people have no joys. He was simply making a generalization that youth is the time for enjoyment, before the problems of old age start to reveal themselves. Young people have so much going for them. Usually they are strong and energetic. They have the enthusiasm and time to take on projects older folk can only dream about. Life lies before them and they have so much potential. Each new day is an adventure to experience!
They have the opportunity to make friendships that can last a lifetime. They can travel and see the world. Young people can see clearly the beauty of creation. They can hear music more crisply. They have the health and fitness to enjoy sport and recreation to the full. Young people begin to experience the freedom of being adults without all of the responsibilities that come later. They have the joy and challenge of finding the right partner for life.
Falling in love and getting married bring some of the greatest joys in life. Serving the Lord is rewarding too! God wants people to enjoy their youth. He also wants us to seek Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. These days are some of the best that we ever have. But it doesn't last! Dark days come to all and they increase in number as we age. Youth doesn't last forever, so make yours count!
Application - Wendell P Loveless
Wendell lived a full life and accomplished much. He lived on well into his nineties and was alert to the very end. When his pastor visited with him at this time, Wendell said this, I don’t go out much now because my parents won’t let me ....... Mother Nature and Father Time!
Young person, are you enjoying the days of your youth? Do you play sport? Are you building lots of friendships? Are you visiting new places? Are you using your time wisely? Do you enjoy God's creation? Are you serving Him? Do you thank God for His goodness to you? You should rejoice in the Lord and commit your life to Him. Don't be in a hurry to grow up!
Ecclesiastes 11:7-9b Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.
Fatherly Advice For William Thomson
William Thomson who later became Lord Kelvin was one of the greatest physicists of nineteenth century England. When he was at college, his father wrote to him: You are young, take care that you are not led into what is wrong. A false step now, or the acquiring of an improper habit, might ruin you for life. Frequently look back on your conduct and thereby learn wisdom for the future.
Young people have to watch their hearts and their eyes, because either or both can lead them into sin. Walk in the ways of your heart, is not an encouragement to go on a youthful fling and satisfy the sinful desires within. It is rather a reminder for young people to enjoy the special pleasures that belong to youth and can never be experienced again in quite the same way. Those of us who are older need to remember that God expects young people to act like young people.
1 Timothy 6:17 says that God gives us all things richly to enjoy, but it is always wrong to enjoy the pleasures of sin. Solomon’s warning is evidence that he doesn’t have sinful pleasures in mind: God will bring you into judgment. The young person who enjoys life in the will of God will have nothing to worry about when the Lord returns. Privileges must be balanced by personal responsibilities. Young people must remove anxiety out of their hearts and evil away from their flesh. The word translated sorrow means vexation, inner pain, anxiety. If we are living in the will of God, we will have the peace of God in our hearts. How do we remove sin from our lives? By obeying God's Word. Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
The sins of the flesh not only destroy the body they can also bring eternal judgment to the soul. Today temptation to sin abounds everywhere. Many people live to regret the sins of their youth. Jesus gave instruction about this in Matthew 5:27-29: You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Evil desires lead to sin. David looked at Bathsheba, then he desired her and then he committed adultery. Let us remove sinful desires and practices. We do this by confession and making good choices.
Drunkards curse the day that they started drinking when they were young. Smokers do the same. Drugs are bringing untold heartache to people today. Bad habits are hard to break and deliver terrible consequences later on. Thousands of single girls become pregnant and ruin their lives because they ignore God's Word. During the 80s in America 33,000 teenagers caught a sexually transmitted disease every day. Many of these are incurable and lead to death. Individuals living promiscuously are joined to everyone that their partner has had for the last ten years. These diseases can be caught so easily. If people sow sin they will reap the results. Yet God has ordained that the sex inside marriage should be rewarding. Sexual immorality only steals away your future joy from God. People's lives are often ruined when they yield to sinful pleasures in their youth. Sin always lead you further than you intend to go.
Probably the greatest tragedy in all of this is that sin hardens the heart. It is much harder for people ensnared by drugs, alcohol and immorality to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. Many of the choices you make now will affect the rest of your life. Therefore you must be careful to remove sin and sorrow from your life. Guard your eyes and hearts lest they lead you into sin. Matthew 6:22-23 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The phrase childhood and youth are vanity does not mean that these stages in life are unimportant and a waste of time. Quite the opposite is true! The phrase means childhood and youth are transient. The best way to have a happy adult life and a contented old age is to get a good start early in life and avoid the things that will bring trouble later on. Young people who take care of their minds and bodies, avoid the destructive sins of the flesh, and build good habits of health and holiness, have a better chance for happy adult years than those who sow their wild oats and pray for a crop failure.
These precious years go by so quickly, and we must not waste our opportunities for preparing for the future. The Hebrew word translated youth can mean the dawning or blackness of hair as opposed to gray hair. Youth is indeed the time of dawning; and before we know it, the sun will start to set. Therefore, make the most of those dawning years, because you will never see them again. Youthful sins lay a foundation for aged sorrows, said Charles Spurgeon.
The command to rejoice in the days of ones youth must be governed by God's Word. Solomon tells us to be careful of the lust of the eyes and desires of the heart. These desires can lead us into sin. Are you removing sinful practices from your life?
Are you careful what you watch on TV? Do you stand up against peer pressure to drink, smoke or take drugs? Are you keeping yourself pure for the person you will marry? Are you living in light of God's Word? Are you guarding the desires of your eyes and your heart? Solomon also commands us to know that God will judge our lives. He will punish sin.
Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, I have no pleasure in them: While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain;
Solomon's third command is to remember your Creator Now! His third instruction means more than think about God. It means pay attention to, consider with the intention of obeying. By referring to God as our Creator Solomon highlights the fact that we are accountable to Him. God made us and knows what is best for us! He made us in a wonderful way. God has a special plan for our lives. He wants what is best for us. Ps 139:14-17: I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
How easy it is to neglect the Lord when you are caught up in the enjoyments and opportunities of youth. We know that dark days lie ahead from Ecclesiastes 11:8 and 12:1 informs us that difficult days are coming. Therefore we had better lay a good spiritual foundation as early in life as possible. When we are young our days are carefree and happy. Everything seems rosy. During our youthful years, the sky is bright 11:7; but the time will come when there will be darkness and one storm after another. Let us remember God and seek Him now. Isaiah 55:6 says: Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let us remember our Creator now lest we forget Him later on to our own peril!
Start On Time
A man came rushing up to the ferry, breathless after running at a terrific pace, but he got there just as the gate man shut the door in his face. A bystander remarked, You didn't run fast enough. The disappointed man answered, I ran fast enough, but I didn't start on time. To accomplish the most for God in a lifetime, you must start in early -- In the days of your youth.
3-7 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low; Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 give us one of the most imaginative descriptions of old age and death found anywhere in literature. Students don’t agree on all the details of interpretation, but most of them do see here a picture of a house that is falling apart and finally turns to dust. A dwelling place is a biblical metaphor for the body. Taking it down is a picture of death. The meaning may be.
Ÿ keepers of the house—Your arms and hands tremble.
Ÿ strong men—Your legs, knees, and shoulders weaken and you walk bent over.
Ÿ grinders—You start to lose your teeth.
Ÿ windows—Your vision begins to deteriorate.
Ÿ doors—Either your hearing fails, or you close your mouth because you’ve lost your teeth.
Ÿ grinding—You can’t chew your food, or your ears can’t pick up the sounds outdoors.
Ÿ rise up -You wake up with the birds early each morning, and wish you could sleep longer.
Ÿ music—Your voice starts to quaver and weaken.
Ÿ afraid—You are terrified of heights and afraid of falling while you walk down the street.
Ÿ almond tree—If you have any hair left, it turns white, like almond blossoms.
Ÿ grasshopper—You just drag yourself along, like a grasshopper at the close of summer.
Ÿ desire—You lose your appetite, or perhaps your sexual desire.
Ÿ long home—You go to your eternal or long home and people mourn your death.
Verse 6 describes a golden bowl, a lamp, and a silver chain. The chain breaks and the bowl breaks. The golden bowl pictures the body and the lamp is the soul and spirit. The fragile cord of life is snapped and the light of life goes out. Many believe that the silver cord ties the spirit and soul to the body. At the point of death this cord is broken allowing the spirit to depart. Solomon also pictures life as a well with a pulley for bringing up a pitcher filled with water. One day the wheel breaks, the pitcher is shattered, and the end comes. The fountain of water was an ancient image for life. When the machinery of life stops working, the water of life stops flowing. The heart stops pumping, the blood stops circulating, and death has come.
Verse 7 describes the events immediately following death. The spirit leaves the body, the body begins to decay, and eventually it turns into dust. This of course harmonizes with the narrative from Genesis 2:7 & 3:19: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return. At death our body decays and our spirit is in God's hands. How we have responded to our Creator will determine where we spend eternity. If we reject the Lord Jesus Christ who made us and died for us our long home will be hell. If we receive Him it will be heaven! What long home are you headed for?
Ecclesiastes 12:8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, All is vanity.
For the last time in his discourse, the Preacher said, Vanity of vanities ... all is vanity. The Book of Ecclesiastes can be compared to pieces of broken glass. Each piece of glass is like one of the aspects of life mentioned by the Preacher, Solomon. He sees life as empty, meaningless, confusing -- like bits of glass in a pile on the table. But at the end he sees that life can take on meaning, and its pieces can form beautiful and meaningful patterns when seen from the right perspective -- like small pieces of colored glass viewed through a kaleidoscope. Life under the sun without God is vain or meaningless. But life lived in a right relationship with God is both fulfilling and rewarding and a prelude to a wonderful eternity!
Solomon's final command is to remember your Creator in the days of our youth. Don't take for granted God's goodness! Don't think that you can get right with God later on. We don't know how long or short we will live. Are you remembering your creator now? Are you building a good relationship with God now? Do you want to know Him better? Are you living to please Him by obeying His word? In which long home have you made a reservation?
Solomon's first command is to rejoice in the days of our youth. This is a special time of life. Young people have the health and energy to enjoy life to the full. Life lies before you and it should be exciting. God wants you to make the most of it. To build friendships and see God's beautiful creation. It is a time to dream dreams and be joyful. But remember the Lord in all that you do. Commit your ways unto Him and seek God's guidance in your plans. Are you rejoicing in your youth? Are you serving Him and seeking His will? God wants you too!
Solomon's second command is to remove sin and sorrow from our lives. Sin causes sorrow and brings us under God's judgment. So Solomon wisely instructs us to rejoice in life but make sure that we avoid sinful practices. Sin not only ruins our lives now it can also lead us to eternal destruction. Therefore we must give heed to God's Word and live righteously. Are you removing sinful desires and practices from your life? It is wise to before they become a habit that ruins your life!
Solomon's third command is to remember God our Creator in the days of our youth. The Lord made us in a wonderful way. He knows how we tick. He has a wonderful plan for your life. He knows what is best for us. Therefore we should seek Him while we are young, before sin can harden our hearts. Are you remembering your Creator while you are young? He may not always be this close to you!
Jude 24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.