Threading Your Needle: Ecclesiastes 11:7 – 12:8(Click Here for Audio)
On multiple occasions our family has enjoyed getting away to a place where there are distinct seasons. In the spring, the days are warm and nights are cool. The summers become very dry and hot with a plentiful harvest of fresh fruit and very long sunny days. The fall season sees the last fruit harvested, leaves begin to change color, and the days grow shorter, as a crispness overtakes the air. The winter snow then causes everything to die, as the orchards are left stripped barren of any greenery, the ground is frozen solid, and being outside becomes uncomfortable due to the high winds. In that area, the four seasons dominate life and how people live, there is no way to change the seasons, and if you do not accept and prepare for them you pay a high price.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 3, the theme of seasons was introduced, and here again it makes an appearance. In this instance, the seasons are parts of life that the elderly Solomon reflects back on in his life, with advice for those young enough to be his kids and grandkids. In Ecclesiastes 12, it helps to envision an elderly grandparent who was wildly successful, but also had some big failures in their life, and kept a journal of all the things they wanted to sit down and share with you from the heart. As the book winds to an end, Solomon pulls all the themes and threads together about how to live a meaningful life by making the most of the season you are in. Life is like a needle, and this section is about threading it.
Ecclesiastes 11:7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. 8 When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless. 9 Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.
Being young has some serious advantages. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, you are healthy, vibrant, abounding in energy, and a world of possibilities before you. If you are young, you may take this for granted. If you are older, it can be quite shocking to see the energy your kids have. I can still remember our three boys playing a combined ten plus baseball games in one day, coming home to eat a snack, and heading out to ride bikes and play whiffle ball for more hours. I sat in my chair and fell asleep – I was exhausted by watching them run around all day!
But, time moves fast. We established in the first week of our study in Ecclesiastes that the frequently used word “meaningless” can mean fleeting, in the original Hebrew language that this book was written in. The point is that life moves incredibly fast. When is the last time that you sat down to view photos of yourself and people you love? How surprised were you at how much everyone had changed and how quickly life moved forward? Wisdom is passed generationally, which is why young people need old people. This is the whole intent of this section of Scripture.
In light of the fast pace of life, Solomon encourages all people, but especially young people (those under 40 as a general rule), to take care of their health and prepare to stand before God. The result will be wellness in all areas – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially. It is not uncommon for young people to feel like they wake up with a red S on their chest everyday then eat bad, abuse drugs and alcohol, not mend injuries and ailments, only to discover the result is chronic pain and problems as they get older.
Young people are also encouraged to remember God. All of life is to be lived in light of the fact that we will each die and stand before God to give an account. Our life is not our own, but rather a gift entrusted to us by God that we must give an account for.
Here is some golden advice, “Do everything you want to do,” Solomon says. The will of God is a curious thing. Sometimes, God’s will is crystal clear because he gives us a particular word of clarity, such as when he told Abraham to move his family, or when he told Paul to go to a particular place to minister. On other occasions, God’s will is less clear, and we are left to follow the options set before us with wisdom but lacking a clear word from God. Also, in other occasions, we are relatively unsure what God’s will is for our life. Do we get degree A or B, take job A or B, marry person A or B, or buy house A or B? When we do not have a clear word from God I believe we are free to make a request to God and use wisdom to go do it.
God is our Father. And, as a dad I can assure you that there is a very short list of things that my kids can ask me that I will say no to. Those things tend to be foolish, dangerous, or sinful. Honestly, my kids don’t usually ask to do those kinds of things. There is also a very very very long list of things that my kids could ask me to do at any time, and I would say yes to anything on the list. In this way, my kids see me as a green light dad and not a red light dad. The light is always green, and only occasionally turns red. If you grew up in a heavy handed, rule based, and or legalistic religious home then you grew up in a red light home. In a red light home, the kids sneak around and sin trying not to get caught. In a green light home the kids feel free to bring their request to their mom or dad to see if it’s a good idea.
I believe God is a green light dad who prefers to say yes and wants us to ask for what we want from him. Sometimes, people who are used to red light living are paralyzed, unsure what to do in a life decision until God tells them what to do. They don’t feel free to make their requests known to God. God is not a vending machine that you can make demands to, but he also isn’t an overbearing Father that says no and makes rules constantly. His rules and answers are always for our good and his glory.
Perhaps some examples from the Bible will help. In Mark 10:51 Jesus asked a guy, “”What do you want me to do for you?”. Paul teaches us in Philippians 4:6, “…let your requests be made known to God.” Fear God and do what you want. That is the big idea Solomon and the rest of Scripture is driving at. If you fear God rightly, your desires will be aligned with God’s desires, so you will ask for things he wants to give. This is why sin is so evil, sin is not doing what we want at the deepest level of our desires as God’s children. Paul says it this way in Galatians 5:17, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
A Christian with a new nature and the Holy Spirit will live to fear God. As a result, their deepest desires will be godly, and temptations for other desires will keep them from doing what they really want. The result of this thinking is to live the most passionate and free life you can – which is a life lived in fear of God, asking him permission to do what you want. As long as he says yes, you can go for it wholeheartedly. This can be a marriage relationship, business venture, ministry service, family lifestyle, or many other things.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.”
One of the first things you learn when buying a car is that, as the miles increase, the systems start to break down. I learned this the hard way as a poor teenager and young adult who could only afford older cars with high mileage. I spent more time under the hood than driving the car. And, I got pretty good at push starting a vehicle with a clutch, and compression starting it by jumping in the rolling vehicle and popping the clutch. Our driveway was also regularly covered in oil and antifreeze, thanks to my cars.
Our bodies are like our cars. They need good fuel and regular maintenance, but no matter how well we tend to them, they inevitably start falling apart and breaking down. In fact, if you’ve spent much time with old folks, you know that they spend a lot of their time talking about their aches and pains, medications, surgeries, and the like. As an old man who is feeling this very thing, Solomon has a rather humorous explanation to young people of some serious disadvantages to growing old.
2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky.
Being young is like living in spring. Everything is alive and vibrant. Being old is like living in winter. Things grow dark and dim, and death is foreboding and on its way one day.
3Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble;
Old people have shaky legs. They get the shakes and start trembling. Things get so bad they want a one level house, because even going up and down stairs is too risky.
and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop.
Old people hunch over. This will be doubly true of a generation that lives on their phone and computer, hunched over, looking at a screen all day.
Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding;
Old people have soft teeth and missing teeth. Subsequently, caramel apples and kettle corn are off limits, as you are left gnawing on soft food like you did when you were a baby.
and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.
Old people have bad eyesight. Everything seems dark, dim, and out of focus like a cloudy day after sunset. I can affirm this is true. At the age of 19 I was saved reading a Bible, and this section was one of my favorites as a young man. So, I put notes in the margins. Today, at the age of 45, I am typing this Bible study and trying to read my notes in the margin, but they are so small I cannot read them without squinting and moving the page around.
4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades.
Opportunities abound for young people. But, for old people the door of opportunity closes. This is why in an economic downturn older workers struggle to make ends meet. Also, when a person who has given their life to a career sees that career dry up, they are left in a difficult place trying to reinvent themselves professionally by starting over.
Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.
Young people tend to sleep well. Even on an uncomfortable bed, the lights on, and enough noise for a rock concert they can just sleep. But, when you get older things change. Your sleep is easily disturbed by any noise, you get up a lot to go to the bathroom, morning light awakens you, and you are up early every day for no reason because you have nowhere to go and nothing to do.
5 Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets
Young men rarely consider their safety, and as a result can to do reckless and dangerous things. Conversely, their grandparents always feel somewhat unsafe. Getting on a ladder is something you start paying someone else to do, and even going out from the house is a scary proposition – especially at night. Old people cannot physically defend themselves or run from harm like they used to. This fact, combined with living alone, makes them vulnerable.
before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom,
When you are young, you tend to have a lot of hair. As you grow old, you tend to lose your hair, and the hair you do have gets thinner and whiter. For men, the joke is not that funny as you get hairy feet, a hairy back, and your nose looks like you snorted a cat, but you cannot keep a good head of hair on your head.
and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire.
When a dog is a puppy they will play fetch all day with their tail wagging and tongue dragging. As a dog gets older, they won’t even get up from their nap for a treat. Their owners are the same way.
As you age, your energy just simply plummets. This can include sexual desire, which explains the growing medical gold rush to return energy to aging people in and out of the bedroom.
Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.
I’ve never met a young person who had a plan of what they wanted for their funeral. On the other hand, most old people have a life insurance policy, will, and full funeral plan complete with a casket and service order. That day is coming for each of us. When we are young it seems an eternity away, but as we age it gets closer every day.
6 Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. 7 For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
At some point, our body simply breaks because of sin and death in our world. This can include a broken spine (the silver cord of life), crushed skull (golden bowl), heart problems (water jar), and failing joints and arteries (spring and pulley). In time, your body goes back to the ground, which God used to make our first father Adam, and our spirit returns to God’s presence for our eternal fate.
8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
Death is coming soon, so LIVE!!!
That’s old Grandpa Solomon’s advice.
Questions For Personal and Group Study Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8
- What season of life are you in (spring, summer, fall, winter)?
- What older person has spoken the most wisdom into your life?
- Which young person do you need to speak wisdom to?
- Do you tend to see God as a red light or a green light dad?
- What things are opportunities for you to pursue right now in life, that if you do not they may likely be gone forever?
- What does it mean practically for you to live a life that fears God?