Aug 14th
Audio Version Available LISTEN AUDIO VERSION

Introduction

I remember when I was young, I was always a little offended when people would refer to me as a kid.  I didn’t like being called a kid.  I suppose I knew I was, but I didn’t like being thought of that way.  It made me feel less important or irrelevant. So if you are wondering whether you are a kid or not, here’s a list of criteria. You are no longer a kid when . . .

You are too big for the slide at the McDonalds play land

Your parent’s jokes are now funny.

You have once said, “Whatch you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?”

When things go wrong, you can’t just yell, “Do over!”

You’ve bought an 8 track or a vinyl.

You watched the original Star Wars when it first came out.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective.  You know you are getting old when . . .

It takes twice as long to look half as good.

Many of your co-workers were born the same year that you got your last promotion.

The clothes you’ve put away until they come back in style have come back in style.

You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks in the room.

Your idea of a night out is sitting out on the patio

Happy hour is a nap

The little gray haired lady you help across the street is your wife.

Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.

Your ears are hairier than your head.

You enjoy hearing about other people’s operations.

You get into a heated argument about pension plans.

You have more patience; but actually, it’s just that you don’t care anymore.

Younger women start opening doors for you.

You and your teeth don’t sleep together.

You try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you aren’t wearing any.

You sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon offers us a similar type of list. He describes what it’s like to grow old. He does so in a much more poetic and classy way, but still he outlines what it’s like to grow old. He does this in chapter 12, but before he does that he charges the youth to take advantage of the opportunities they have before it’s too late.

Purpose Statement: You’re growing old.  Reckon with God now!

Seize the Opportunities of Youth (11:7-10)

Enjoy your life while you are young (11:8-9b).

The purpose of this passage is not to make a distinction between joy and happiness.  Rejoice in these verses speaks to happiness, not a spiritual joy that you find in walking with Christ, although it does not exclude that.  In this passage we are actually commanded to find happiness in life.

Rejoice. The root ś-m-ḥ denotes being glad or joyful with the whole disposition as indicated by its association with the heart (cf. Ex 4:14; Ps 19:8; 104:15; 105:3), the soul (Ps 86:4); and with the lighting up of the eyes (Prov 15:30)[1]

Consider Death and Judgment while you are young (11:9c).

Remember that Death is coming. The days following your death are going to be much longer than the days of your life.  The second part of Ecclesiastes 11:8 says, “let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything that is to come [will be] futility.”

Remember that God will judge.  In the context of enjoying life, we are to always fear God.  Ecclesiastes 11:9b says, “Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things.”

Remove sin from your life while you are young (11:10).

We find the principle to remove sin from your life in verse 10. We need to explain a little bit before we come to this conclusion though. The verse is a little challenging to understand.  This challenge is displayed in the various versions of the verse.

Ecclesiastes 11:10 (ESV) Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body

Ecclesiastes 11:10 (LXX) Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh

Ecclesiastes 11:10 (NIV) So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body

Ecclesiastes 11:10 (BBE) So put away trouble from your heart, and sorrow from your flesh

Remove or put away.  First, let’s deal with the concept of removal.  We find this idea of removal in two words in verse 10, remove and put away.  The primary meaning behind the word remove is to “turn aside from” or “depart.” The form in which we find the word in this verse most often means, to remove. As well this concept of removal is often in the context of removing evil things or influences.

Asa removes Maacah for her continued idolatry (2 Chr 15:16). Hezekiah removes the places and cult objects of idolatry (2 Kgs 18:4; 2 Chr 30:14). God’s people are urged to remove or “put away” those things that will do spiritual harm to them . . . in the wisdom literature . . . Godly wisdom and the fear of the Lord . . . turn one aside from the snares of death (Prov 13:14; 14:27). This is to be learned thoroughly in one’s youth so that it will become a pattern throughout life (Prov 22:6).[2]

As well, Solomon uses the words translated put away. The main idea of this verb is that of movement.  It refers to the movement of one thing in relation to some other object.  In this case we are directed to move away from vexation and pain.

Vexation and Pain.  What is it that we are to remove or put away?  In the verse we see two things we are to put away, vexation and pain. While the word for pain can be translated as such, the root word more often finds itself being contrasted to the idea of good, for instance, good and bad or “the tree of good and evil” or Moses statement in Deuteronomy 30:15, “I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” Not only is the word pain used but so is the word vexation.  Vexation carries with it the idea of being “indignant, angry, grieved, or provoked to anger and wrath.”

Therefore, verse 10 is the conclusion to or the logical implication of verse 9. The end of verse nine says, “Know that God will bring you to judgment.”  Therefore, based on the understanding that God will bring man into judgment, put away from yourself evil or sin.  And do this soon, because your youth will only last for a short time. This task is accomplished by doing two things. (1) Take those things that are now on your heart and agitating you and put them off. Take areas of sin in your life and remove them from you. (2) Those evil things which could cause you pain and lead you to sin, pass them by.  Don’t be a part of them.  Sin that is already within you – get rid of it.  Things that could lead you to sin – remove them from around you.

Remember Your Creator Before You Grow Old (12:1-8)

Why should we remove and put away from us areas of sin in our life and things which will lead us to sin? There are two reasons in the passage.  The first one given is that God is going to judge us all in the future, therefore put off those things now.  There is as well a second reason.  We are getting old, so take care of these issues now.  By the way, we are getting old sooner than we may think, so don’t wait because you think you’ll have time.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 (ESV) Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

Remember your Creator before it’s too late (12:1).

To remember is a command in this verse.  It carries the idea of thinking about, meditating on, or paying attention to. We are told to remember our Creator. Why are we encouraged to remember our Creator?  Why is this word used instead of YHWH or Elohim?  Why are we not told to remember God?  Possibly, Solomon is reminding us that the person who created us has rights over us. We will be held accountable to Him. Therefore, consider Him now before you live a life of evil and are held accountable for it later.

Acknowledge the inevitability of aging (12:2-8).

This remembering is to be done before we grow old. Solomon delivers this command and then he goes on to outline what it looks like or feels like to grow old.

2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened The eyes begin to fail.
and the clouds return after the rain Unlike when the clouds dissipate after a storm, your eyes will not become more clear once they begin to cloud.
3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, Hands tremble in old age
and the strong men are bent, Major muscle groups of the legs and back weaken.
and the grinders cease because they are few, Teeth don’t chew as much because there are fewer
and those who look through the windows are dimmed, The eyes lose their sparkle.
4 and the doors on the street are shut- when the sound of the grinding is low, Deafness comes upon the ears.
and one rises up at the sound of a bird, A cruel paradox of old age is that the effectiveness of the ears fade, but in the night anything seems to wake them.
and all the daughters of song are brought low-  Similar to “the grinding is low.”
5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; A loss of comfort and surety in doing normal daily task.
the almond tree blossoms, Hair turning white.
the grasshopper drags itself along, Things typically light to pick up have become heavy.
and desire fails, Sexual desire is no longer stirred.
because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets- Death comes and people go on with their lives.
6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, Consider these items as necessary tools for drawing water for life.  The ability to continue drinking in life is gone. Death has come.
7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Death has come and the soul returns to its maker.

Conclusion

The problem of Ecclesiastes: Life (under the sun) is Vanity.

This reality is reiterated in today’s passage (Ecclesiastes 12:8). The problem is first stated in Ecclesiastes 1:2. Throughout Ecclesiastes this word carries three nuances:

  • Brief: considers the brevity of an activity (the primary activity being life)
  • Absurd: considers the pointlessness of a diligent attempt in an activity
  • Meaningless: This could be viewed as the result of the absurd (because life is so often absurd, life seems to be unfulfilling)

The problem is all encompassing.

  • A search for satisfaction in wisdom (under the sun) is vanity. (1:13)
  • A search for satisfaction in pleasure (apart from fearing God) is vanity. (2:1-11)
  • A search for satisfaction in labor is vanity. (2:18-26)
  • A search for satisfaction in wealth is vanity (5:10-20)

The problem is magnified.

  • Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. (3:1-15; 8:10-9:1)
  • God is sovereign and man has no control over his own circumstances. (3:16-22)
  • A sovereign God will judge all men in the future (3:17)

The problem must be confronted wisely, not ignored.

  • Wisdom confronts reality instead of living in ignorant bliss. (7:1-7)
  • Wisdom focuses on the future while not neglecting the present. (7:8-14)
  • Wisdom accepts the reality of death. (2:16; 3:2; 5:16; 9:2-6)
  • Wisdom allows someone to enjoy the present while planning for the future. (2:24; 5:18; 9:7-10; 11:7-10)

The problem must be confronted as soon as possible.

  • Enjoy your life while you are young. (11:7-10)
  • Accept the reality of death while you are young. (11:9)
  • Run from sin while you are young. (11:10)
  • Remember your Creator while you are young. (12:1)

 

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, “2268 שָׂמַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 879.

[2] R. D. Patterson, “1480 סוּר,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 621.

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