Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
You who are young, be happy while you are young,(Eccl. 11:7-10 NIV)
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigour are meaningless.
Yesterday, in the car, on the way for our walk, Liz suddenly said, ‘Happy Anniversary!’ My first panic was, what have I forgotten, then I remembered we were married in July, so something cryptic must be going on, as it often does! Happy 40th anniversary. It was 40 years ago to the day that we went on our first date. Where did all that time go? ‘Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.’ There is not much that I can do about those 40 years that are past, I have only what is offered to me now.
However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.
Yes, there may well be many dark days up ahead,
But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many.
but there is nothing I can do about those, so I am going to stop pretending that I have any measure of control. In a simple way I’m going to have to enjoy the gifts that God has given me, right now.
Like the coffee I’m drinking just now, like one of Liz’s homemade biscuits I’m having as a mid- morning snack, like Nigel Kennedy and the English Chamber Orchestra playing Vivaldi and of course the wonderful commentators that I have read on Ecc over these past months and the wisdom that the Preacher is teaching us.
The Preacher wants us to know that our eventual return to dust is the reason to grab hold of life with both hands while the opportunity still exists.
Last week we saw the sun shining, and even though a cold wind still blew it was just great to stand outside and let the sun shine down on my face. It is very noticeable how the mood improves when the sun shines. The Preacher is right:
Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
A good God made the world to be a good place and even in this fallen world we can enjoy the heat and light coming from the sun, a gift that God has given us. This contradicts the view that argues that the Preacher is teaching that life under the sun is life without God. Life under the sun is the reality of what life is like. Life under the sun is pleasing, and the Preacher wants us to enjoy life under the sun by accepting the gifts that God has given us.
We had to travel to Tiptree on Saturday. One of the things we did was to take a few minutes to step into the woods to see how the bluebells are coming along. Just a carpet of green shoots at the moment. But in the large house at the edge of the woods their garden was a carpet of snowdrops. Even a few daffodils had made an appearance. The first promises of Spring. How often we can disregard those things, because we feel that we have more important things to do. But here in the Bible the Preacher is trying to get us to pay attention to the everyday fact of the rays of the sunshine.
The Preacher turns his attention to the young. They are the most difficult audience to convince about his teaching because they feel that they have an abundance of time.
William Hazlett wrote an essay entitled “On The Feeling of Immortality in Youth”. The opening paragraph says:
“No young man believes he shall ever die. It was a saying of my brother’s and a fine one. There is a feeling of Eternity in youth which makes amends for everything. To be young is to be as one of the Immortals. One half of time indeed is spent — the other half remains in store for us with all its countless treasures, for there is no line drawn, and we see no limit to our hopes and wishes. We make the coming age our own —
“The vast, the unbounded prospect lies before us.”
Death, old age, are words without a meaning, a dream, a fiction, with which we have nothing to do. Others may have undergone, or may still undergo them — we “bear a charmed life,” which laughs to scorn all such idle fancies. As, in setting out on a delightful journey, we strain our eager sight forward,
“Bidding the lovely scenes at distance hail,””
The Preacher is not scolding the young for being young. He is encouraging the youth to make the most of their days. You don’t have to encourage the really young to do this. They can have adventures every day. Our grandchildren are at a bug discovery age. The seven year old especially has acquired a vast amount of knowledge (if I’m exaggerating, forgive me, I’m the grandfather) about the types and habitats of bugs. They were especially interested in the video of the 2 inch (50mm) large coconut rhinoceros beetle that was sent from Myanmar. The problem is that we can so quickly leave that stage of life behind and the Preacher is warning the youth to enjoy the gifts that God has given them, because while they may feel it will last forever, it will come quickly to an end. Where did the past 40 years go?
We see how much God has invested in our happiness. God commands us to have joy, happiness and delight.
The Preacher knows what the human heart is like, so he warns us not to sin in our choices because God will surely bring us into judgement.
We need to be aware that there are both sins of commission and omission here. If we refuse to be happy and joyful that is a sin of omission and God will being us into judgement. If in trying to have joy and happiness we resort to sin, then we have committed sins of commission.
One commentator says, ‘the enjoyment of life is both the lot of humanity and a gift of God. Human beings are supposed to enjoy life to the full because that is their divinely assigned portion, and God calls one into account for failure to enjoy. Everyone must give an account before God of all good things one saw in life and did not enjoy. Enjoyment is not only permitted, it is commanded; it is not only an opportunity, it is a divine imperative.’
Lord forgive us for not enjoying the many gifts that You have given us. We mostly haven’t enjoyed them because we never stopped to notice them. We have taken for granted so many precious gifts and dismissed so many things as ordinary. Lord help us to open our eyes to see how You have surrounded us with so many gifts because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.