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’–
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
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;
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;
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.
Remember him – before the silver cord is severed,(Eccl. 12:1-7 NIV)
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.
The Preacher tells the young person to remember their Creator. Notice he did not say, remember your God. Remembering God as Creator is to acknowledge that God created a good world, a wonderful place for His creatures to live. The world under the sun was created by God. Remember also that God is the Creator and you are not. The fool has not appreciated how he lacks control of the length of his life, or control of the events around him.
Remembering the Creator also points us back to the type of world that God made. We ought to seek to live in light of the fact that God made all things and God made us. The whole thrust of the Preacher’s message is to remind us that we are dependent creatures and that we should accept that and live accordingly. The hardest lesson to learn in life is that God is God, and we are not. Out loud we say things like ‘we are mere humble sinners in receipt of God’s grace and mercy’ but inside we feel we have a sense of entitlement, that God should bless our agenda and how dare God change anything without consulting me? If anything happens to me, my health, my wealth or my family, I expect God to tell me why this has happened and exactly what He is teaching me through this. Wisdom literature teaches us that that is not the way it works. To remember that God is our Creator involves a lot of climbing down on our part. What got humanity into trouble in the first place was the desire to be like God. The Fall has not removed all the goodness and beauty out of creation.
The creation is still in mind as the Preacher sees old age leading to death to be like the unmaking of creation.
before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
The sun, moon and stars no longer give their light. In old age the faculties begin to fade. Kidner adds a solemn and melancholy note, ‘All this will come at a stage when there is no longer the resilience of youth or the prospect of recovery to offset it. In one’s early years, and the greater part of life, troubles and illnesses are chiefly set-backs, not disasters. One expects the sky to clear eventually. It is hard to adjust to the closing of that long chapter: to know that now, in the final stretch , there will be no improvement: the clouds will always gather again, and time will no longer heal, but kill.’
I thought about that quote for a long time, wondering if it was too bleak to include. I decided to include it as this adequately describes the truth about our death that the Preacher wants us to face.
The Preacher then changes metaphor to speak about the tragic decline of a great house as it is neglected and falls into disrepair. The metaphor is used to describe the failing of the body as we get older. The keepers of the house that now tremble are your hands, once strong and capable. The strong men stooping are those whose legs struggle to bear the weight of their body. Grinders are teeth, windows are eyes, doors are ears. The faculties begin to fade. Old age also brings with it lighter sleep, earlier mornings and later night.
New fears come with old age, the fear of falling. There is a loss of desire. It is too much to make the trip that you looked forward to every year.
This is a shocking reality. The Preacher doesn’t want to hide this reality from us, but in the light of this, the question is how should we live today?
Softly, oh softly, the years have swept by thee,Beautiful Old Age
Touching thee lightly with tenderest care;
Sorrow and care did they often bring nigh thee,
Yet they have left thee but beauty to wear.
Lord our God You have placed some solemn thoughts in this book for us to read. Help us to live well in the light of coming old age and death. Help us to appreciate the many gifts that You have given. Help us to remember that You are the Creator. We thank You that You have made the creation around us, and in Jesus Christ You have made us part of the New Creation. In a little while we will enjoy the New Heavens and the New Earth. Lord help us to be occupied with all that You have given us because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.