BEFORE ITíS TOO LATE

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

George Burns used to say, "Iím so old, all of my friends are already in heaven. Thatís not so bad, except they are sure I didnít make it." We donít talk a lot about old age; especially when we are young. There has grown up in this country a "generation gap" between the old and the young. That is unfortunate. It is unfortunate because the elderly are able to give words of wisdom on what you should do when you are young. That is what the Preacher does in this passage.

 

REMEMBER THE LORD WHILE YOU ARE YOUNG

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1a).

This verse contains a continuation of the thought that was begun in the previous chapter. The subject was the brevity of youth.

11:9

11:10

12:1

Rejoice...during your childhood. Let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood

Remove vexation from your heart and put away pain from your body...

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth

Know that God will bring you to judgment

Childhood and the prime of life are fleeting

Before the evil days come...

Because youth is brief, we are called to utilize the days of our youth in the best possible way. This involves remembering the Lord.

Christianity is a religion of remembrance. The primary feast of the Jews was the Passover. This was a feast of remembrance. It remembered two aspects concerning the Lord.

We also have a celebration of remembrance. It is the Lordís Supper. In partaking of this rite, we remember the same two aspects of God as the Creator of the New Creation and that He is the Redeemer.

We are called to remember. I would suggest that this means more than merely remembering the fact of Godís existence. This is a call to serve the Lord in oneís youth. There are several reasons for such a call.

  1. We are to Remember the Lord in the Days of our Youth because He is our Creator.
  2. God is our Sovereign. All that which comes into our lives comes from His hands. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. We owe Him a debt of gratitude for our very existence.

    We were made for worship. It is rooted in the very core of what we are. We are made so that we find our highest fulfillment in service that which we deem to hold the most important of all. There is no one more important than God.

  3. We are to Remember the Lord in the Days of our Youth because this Gives Him the Firstfruits of our Lives.
  4. The Lord always demands the firstfruits rather than the leftovers. He wants that which it first place in your life. He wants to BE first place in your life.

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  5. We are to Remember the Lord in the Days of our Youth because this may be all that there is.
  6. Life has no guarantees. You do not know for certain that you will achieve old age. Today could be the last day of your life. You ought to worship the Lord while it is today.

  7. We are to Remember the Lord in the Days of our Youth because this will form a Habit Pattern for the Days of our Old Age.
  8. The person who says, "Iím going to wait until I get older to begin serving the Lord" never does. Relatively few people turn to the Lord in their old age. It is like the sign at the beginning of the old country road that said, "Choose your rut carefully; youíll be in it for the next 20 miles."

  9. We are to Remember the Lord in the Days of our Youth because this will see us through to the Days of our Old Age.

That is the point the Preacher goes on to make. You are to serve the Lord today because bad times are coming tomorrow. These "bad times" are a reference to the evils of old age.

 

REMEMBER THE LORD BEFORE OLD AGE COMES

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them"; 2 before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; 3 in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim; 4 and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-4).

The Preacher goes on to describe in detail the conditions of these coming "evil days." He does this by using a series of double metaphors. Each of these metaphors has two pictures.

The first picture is that of a house that is in a growing condition of disrepair.

The second picture is of a person growing older.

  1. Before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain (12:2).
  2. This is a general picture of dark days. We speak similarly of entering the twilight of oneís life. At such a time, the lights of the mind are dimmed. Your thought processes are not what they used to be. More often than not, your mind feels as though it is in the clouds. As one person put it, "Just about the time that your face clears up, your mind begins to go."

    There are three things that mark the onset of old age. The first is the loss of memory... and I canít remember the other two.

  3. In the day that the watchmen of the house tremble (12:3).
  4. The "keepers of the house" are a reference to the ARMS and HANDS of the aged that begin to shake with the onset of old age.

  5. Mighty men stoop (12:3).
  6. One of the sings of old age is the stooped posture. We look at a young man and he is normally tall and straight. We look at an old person and his knees buckle while his belt wonít.

  7. The grinding ones stand idle because they are few (12:3).
  8. This is a humorous reference to TEETH. They donít chew as much as they used to because there are not that many of them left. This was before the era of false teeth.

  9. Those who look through windows grow dim (12:3).
  10. This speaks of failing EYESIGHT. The eyes are our windows to the world. One of the harsh realities of growing older is that our eyesight begins to fail.

    When I hit 40, I noticed that the print started to get smaller and a bit harder to read. But the time I hit 50, I couldnít even see the print without reading glasses.

  11. The doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low (12:4).
  12. This seems to be a reference to HEARING. The sounds that one hears are muffled as though they come from behind closed doors.

    There is another possibility. We have already seen that the "grinding ones" are a reference to teeth that have become fewer and fewer. As you lose your teeth, your face begins to sag around the mouth and, instead of the noise of chewing, there is the soft sound of gumming.

  13. One will arise at the sound of the bird (12:4).
  14. Although the older person might be hard of hearing, it also seems that it does not take much noise to awaken him. The aged generally find it increasingly difficult to sleep and what sleep they do attain is more easily interrupted.

  15. All the daughters of song will sing softly (12:4).
  16. Literally, this says, "All the daughters of song are brought down." This might be a reference of the ability to sing or even to speak. I can remember how my own fatherís ability to annunciate gradually degraded prior to his death. Likewise, Paula and I used to sit with her grandmother prior to her death and sing several favorite hymns. Her voice, once strong, was weak and she found it difficult to hold a note.

    This could also be a reference to the onset of deafness as sounds become increasingly muted.

    It is a grim picture. No one WANTS to get old. Of course, most of us arenít too excited about the alternative, either. Like the song says, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."

    Verse 5 continues the metaphorical description of advanced age, albeit without the double reference to an aging building.

  17. Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road (12:5).
  18. Old age brings with it certain fears. There is the fear of high places due to the fact that it is easier to take a spill and it now takes longer to heal from such a fall. There is also the fear of traveling. The elderly are less inclined to take risks, for they are more aware of the adverse consequences.

  19. The almond tree blossoms (12:5).
  20. It is my understanding that the almond tree blossoms in the winter when there are no leaves on the tree. When it blossoms, it produces a snowy white flower without any accompanying leaves so that the entire tree appears a withering blend of bare branches with a scattering of pale white. It is a picture of the sparse and thinning grey hair of the elderly.

  21. The grasshopper drags himself along (12:5).
  22. The Hebrew is a bit unclear in this phrase. If we accept the translation of the New American Standard Version, it would mean that there is no longer a spring to your step. Where there was once a spring and a bounce, now there is barely the energy to shuffle along.

    While the above translation is the normal rendering of the reflexive Hithpiíel stem, it has been suggested that this could also be translated to say that the grasshopper "shall be a burden." If this is the case, the point would be that as you get older, burdens seem heavier. The picture is of one carrying something as small as a grasshopper and finding it to be a heavy load.

  23. The caperberry is ineffective (12:5).

What is a "caperberry?" The word comes from the Vulgateís translation of capparis, a reference to the caper bush. This shrub has a flower, the bud of which was used as an aphrodisiac. This is the only time the word is used in the Old Testament. It seems to come from a root word, which meant literally "to breathe after" but which carried the figurative idea of a "desire."

Here is the point. There comes a time in old age when that which used to stimulate no longer works and when all of the aphrodisiacs in the world are powerless and when desire fades away.

It is true that modern technology has made it much easier to deal with many of these burdens of the elderly. We have eyeglasses and hearing aids and false teeth and dyed hair and all sorts of other technology to assist in dealing with the evils of aging. While these inventions are wonderful, they do not deal with the source of the problem -- the fact of a body that is wearing out from the inside out. They do not deal with the problem of eventual death.

The preacher concludes that this aging process only stops when man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street (12:5).

 

REMEMBER THE LORD WHILE YOU ARE STILL ALIVE

Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; 7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7).

This verse marks a return to the previous double allegory of the aging home with the aging person. Each of these allegories are describing DEATH.

Biblical Allegory

Possible Meaning

The silver cord is broken

That which binds our soul and spirit to our body is cut

The golden bowl is crushed

Our brain ceases to function

The pitcher by the well is shattered

Our heart stops beating

The wheel at the cistern is crushed

Our circulatory system ceases to function

The metaphor of a silver cord describes both the beauty as well as the frailty of life. It is a small thing that holds your life to your body and this cord is easily snapped.

At such a time, there is a dividing of the spirit from the body. James 2:26 says that the body without the spirit is dead. Each goes its own way.

The Body

The Spirit

Originally created from the dust of the ground.

Originally created by God who breathed in life.

Goes back to the earth.

Goes back to God.

The point of the passage is that you are called to remember the Lord and to serve Him and to worship Him TODAY while you have life.

It is hard to find the answers to life when you are old. It is true that there are exceptions to this rule and that there are those who find God when they are advanced in age, but such cases are rare. Most people who do not come to the Lord in their youth do not come to Him in their old age. I am told that 95% of all believers come to Christ before they are 50 years old and that most of those do so before they are 30. Youth is the time to find God. This is why the Preacher tells us, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth."

 

REMEMBER THE LORD BECAUSE ALL ELSE IS EMPTY

Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "all is vanity!" (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

This has now become a familiar refrain" "Emptiness of emptinesses!" Remember that when you repeat something in Hebrew, you are emphasizing that quality.

The Song of Songs which is Solomonís

Dying you shall die

Truly, truly, I say unto you...

The Preacher uses this same sort of repetition for emphasis. He does this in order to teach us a lesson -- actually three lessons:

  1. You arenít getting any Younger.
  2. If your life is not cut short, then you will eventually face the prospect of old age. You are on a journey and the descriptions of this chapter tell you all about the eventual destination.

    You may be like the man who jumped off the Empire State Building. As he passed the 50th floor, he was heard to mutter, "So far, so good." You may not have noticed, but there is an eventual end to this life.

  3. God has designed you to the Empty without Him.
  4. There is an emptiness that exists without God. Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." We could paraphrase his words to say that God has made us with an empty place within which only He can fill. The Preacher concludes that life without God is not only empty, it is resoundingly hollow.

    We have seen the oft repeated message of the emptiness of life. You need to know that this is not mere happenstance. It was designed to be that way in order to drive you to that which fills life with meaning and purpose.

  5. Now is the Time to Prepare for Eternity.

It is a good thing to prepare for retirement. That is merely being a good steward of the resources God has given. But that is, at best, only short term planning. Truly long-term planning takes the eternal view. If you do not have an eternal perspective, then you have become short-sighted in your outlook on life.


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