Daily Update #279

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

  1 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”-2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 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: 4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds,  but all their songs grow faint; 5 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.  6 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, 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 “Meaningless!   Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”

Ecclesiastes is not a book that fizzles out in its final chapter. It actually picks up pace and a sense of urgency! The best time to pay attention to the big questions of life is when we are still young enough to be energetic, ‘at the top of our game’ and able to serve other people. Such vital questions as who made this amazing universe?; what am I here for?; and what, if anything, happens after I die?; become even more relevant to us as we head into middle age and beyond. So the Teacher urges us to remember our Creator (v1) “before the days of trouble come” and we find less pleasure in life. He does not want younger people and children to waste their lives but to keep on questioning everything until they come to acknowledge and know God, our Creator. Such questioning at a time of deadly pandemic is especially relevant. Whenever a friend or a relative dies or we attend a funeral we are reminded that, whatever our age, we are all ‘living on borrowed time’, or more correctly, ‘living in God-given time.’

The Teacher is pushing everyone ‘under the sun’ to find real meaning in their lives. He knows that only if we come to know God in this life can we enjoy it to the full and be ready for life after death. Verses 2 to 5 are a poetic allegory of ageing. They describe progressive human deterioration with humour, but are very serious about what lies ahead! Let’s ‘break the code’:

verse 2 – the fading light reflects our lessening capacity for joy in this life as we grow older, especially if we neglect the love of our Creator and don’t entrust our futures to Him.

verse 3 – gives us a list of analogies that show aspects of declining vigour as old age creeps up on us – the ‘trembling keepers of the house’ are our arms; ‘stooping strong men’ relates to our legs; the reducing ‘grinders’ are our teeth; the ‘dimming windows’ are our eyes.

verse 4 – ‘closed doors’ may concern decreasing activity and a reduced capacity to socialise; ‘quieter birdsong’ is probably about both erratic sleep and impaired hearing.

verse 5 – here we have a fear of heights and of leaving the safety of home; pale ‘almond tree blossoms’ signify white hair; the stiff grasshopper is a picture of lost mobility; no longer stirred desire relates to human passions. However, there will be an “eternal home” after death.

In verse 6 The Teacher again tells us to remember our Creator. He gives two pictures of death. Firstly, of a gold hanging lamp suspended by a silver chain or cord – if only one link snaps everything will come crashing down. Life is similarly fragile and temporary. Secondly, we have a pitcher lowered down a well. If the wheel breaks and the pitcher plummets, life-giving water is no longer available. In verse 7, more explicitly than elsewhere in the Old Testament, we are told that when we die the human spirit leaves our earthly bodies and “returns to God who gave it.” The Teacher now repeats his warning in 1:2 that without God, life ‘under the sun’ is mere vanity and meaningless (v8). Only when we place our lives in the hands of God can they have purpose, fulfilment and eternal meaning. So “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come” (12:1) – and in old age too. Our lives depend on it!   

Today’s Prayer: We thank you Father that our days are in your hands whether we are young or old – and whether we are simply feeling young or old. May we remember always that you are our Creator and our loving Father in heaven. Amen.              (Mike W)