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.
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,
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.
‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher.(Eccl. 12:1-8 NIV)
‘Everything is meaningless!’
Ch 11: 7-10 is part of the same section as Ch 12:1-7. The Preacher exhorts us in Ch 11 to be happy and have joy. Why do we need to be told this? The answer is that most of us are not naturally joyful people. Men especially need to take this on board because as we get older, we can be inclined to be angry and grumpy. Victor Meldrew in ‘One foot in the grave’ made us laugh because we perhaps could see something of ourselves in his character. If you are blessed to have grandchildren, they help you maintain your joy in life. I feel that you have more time to notice the development of your grandchildren than you had with your own children. My grandchildren aren’t with me at the moment, but just writing about them made me think of each of them and a smile broke out on my face and I could feel a great sense of joy. To observe life helps us to be so thankful to God for the blessings He has given us. To be happy and joyful is a command from God and we need to pause and think about what we can do to enable ourselves to be more joyful.
The house metaphor in chapter 12 is helpful because throughout life we build a dwelling that we will live in in our old age. That can be either a palace or a prison. How we live today will affect how we live tomorrow. I studied in Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. I became friends with the librarian there and I stayed at his house each January and July that I travelled there. He was a kind of helper to the retired theologian Roger Nicole. Because of the librarian’s friendship with Roger, I got invited over to Roger’s home. He and his wife had retired to a 2 bedroom apartment. His library was stored as a special collection at the Seminary. It was the largest private collection of reformed books in the world. I watched Roger grow old and more frail as I visited twice a year. I had read much of his writing and he was an acknowledged authority on the subject of the atonement. He had a collection of over 5000 crime novels, and he had a large collection of stamps and his expertise extended beyond his knowledge of theology. It was sad to watch his mind decline as he got older, and the last time I saw him he was in a private hospital where he would eventually die. It was a pleasure to listen to his tales about how he found many of his books. He was Swiss French and many of his books were in French and had still not been translated into English. He was also a hoarder and had spent considerable time exploring junk shops and purchasing stuff that he would never need.
All that had to go when they downsized to their new apartment. He had enjoyed life and had a wealth of stories to tell. It was a pleasure to know him and observe this man who had lived a good long life, the kind of life the Preacher was advocating.
Remember your Creator. That means more than just an intellectual acknowledgement that God is the Creator. The evangelical world is so obsessed with discussions on evolution, and six literal day creation that I think Moses wouldn’t recognise that these comments referred to the book of Genesis that he wrote. Much more important than any discussion about fossils and dinosaurs is the realisation that acknowledging God as the Creator should shape our attitude about ourselves and about life. When I think about God as my Creator I realise how wrong I am to have any notion that I am my own man. God can do with me what He wants because He created me. I have no vote, or valuable opinion on the matter, I am merely a creature. It is the implications of this that the Preacher wants us to think about.
When I was working as an engineer, one of my projects was to design a missile container. British Aerospace was the design authority, and my company was a sub-contractor to a sub-contractor. Every step I made had to be documented, every component that was used had to have a detailed specification and verification procedure. The manufacturing method had to be described in detail. The amount of paperwork for that project far exceeded any paperwork I had to generate for all the designs that I completed. That was just one small part of a grander project. I read an article in the Times about the money that the Ministry of Defence spent on a screw, something that you could pick up in any DIY store for a few pence. What the author of the article failed to understand is that the MOD don’t just pop down town to buy a packet of screws. There is a specification, the number of threads per centimetre, the testing of the screw to ensure the proper number of threads. There is a specification for the exact material and the testing to ensure that that the manufacturer has used the proper grade of material. There is the coating of the screw to consider, the type of coating, the thickness of the coating and the method of testing to ensure that it complies with the specification. A complete handbook will be issued to define the screw they want to buy. Think of the paperwork required to specify all the parts of an aircraft carrier. Think of all the time and energy that goes into any creative project and then relate that to the scale of the creation – the plants, the flowers, the trees, the animals and humans, the intellectual energy involved in designing and creating a universe with its variety and harmony. ‘Remember your Creator’ takes on new dimensions. No human mind could grasp the entirety of the creation. To start with a blank canvas to create everything that exists in the world can only be the work of God. We are deeply indebted to the work of scientists who have developed a vaccine for Covid 19. But there is so much that is still unknown about a simple virus. We are still very limited in what we can achieve. Think about your Creator and what God has achieved. How preposterous for us to think that we could be like God.
Almighty God, we have many reasons to repent. It is marvellous to be made in Your image, but we have overreached in our estimation of ourselves. We are not as humble as we should really be. We remember that You are our Creator and as creatures it is only by Your permission that we can come before You in worship. Lord thank You for Your grace and mercy, we are so unworthy, but yet so loved. Receive our worship and thanksgiving in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.