Remember God in Your Youth
Verse 1 Remember God Who Created You
Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 is one of the most beautiful poems in the Bible. However the subject is sad as it describes how a young person becomes old. Of course this person’s life ends in death. The poems purpose if to teach the lesson that is stated in verse 1 and 6. People should remember God before it is too late to appreciate His goodness. Certainly they must remember Him before the day of their death.
Solomon’s use of the word remember does not mean to just think about God. God is our Creator and for this reason we should always be mindful of Him. From His creation He desires our love and thanks. By His creation all that we have comes from Him and that should affect every part of our lives.
There is an urgency in Solomon’s plea for people to not delay. The proper time to enter into a right relationship with God is now. Then we can walk in His providence for the rest of our life. We live in a world of troubles and they are always near to the future. There will be times that we can find no pleasure but we must not allow these troubles to cause us to forget God or neglect our relationship with Him.
When we become ill or weak we sometimes allow this distraction to become unaware of God’s goodness. In the days of our youth we should remember the kindness of God and give our lives to Him in the strength we have to serve Him. God created us, He loves us, and He cares for us.
Verses 2-5 The Problems of Old Age
People speak of old age as a wonderful thing. The say we wish you a long and prosperous life. Old age is often difficult and for those who remain strong and healthy is good reason to be grateful to God. But hat is not what most people experience. There are troubles throughout the whole of life but in old age these problems become more difficult.
Solomon describes these problem in his poetry using a word picture in every line. The meaning of these pictures is that the weaknesses of people increases with old age. They do not see or hear as well and they may seem more unaware of the things of the world. They face a decline as they prepare to leave this world.
The world and everything in it is temporary and will not last. People and their homes are temporary and it is only beyond death that we reach our permanent home. That home can be with God in His heaven or can be alone in hell. We are then to remember God and confess and repent from our evil deeds and give Him control of our lives. We are to cheerfully serve Him so that after death we will continue to know His joy and peace. This is the only way to prepare ourselves for the day when God is our judge.
Verse 6 Life and Death
Solomon describes life in a beautiful way but the reality is it is uncomfortable for us because the verse is about death. Life is a delicate thing, as a silver chain that has been made by hand. It is beautiful but is easily broken. Life is beautiful but it always ends suddenly.
Life is precious, as a gold bowel. Gold was the most desired and expensive metal in the day of Solomon. It takes a lot of gold to make a bowel. But if the bowel breaks none can repair it. Nothing on earth is more valuable to us than our life. When we die none can give it back to us.
People need water constantly especially in a dry land. If the supply of water is broken it will cause terrible effect upon life. If the supply cannot be repaired, then that life will end in death.
At any point in our lives death is only a moment away. All know that they will at some time die but no one knows when that time will be. Solomon gives sensible advice in these circumstances. We must always remember God. We must have a right relationship with Him now. After death, God will judge us.
Verse 7 What Happens After Death?
Solomon gives us a clear description of what happens at death. It is not mere opinion as the Bible clearly tells us in Scripture.
In life here in the world the body and the spirit remain together. It is easy to know the body from the spirit. The body is made from material things that come from the earth. Our bodies are made for the dust of the earth. (Genesis 2:7) The body cannot live without the spirit and that spirit comes from God. The spirit does not belong to this world and it does not come from the world.
When death comes the body and the spirit return to their proper places. The body returns to the dust and becomes a part of the earth from where it came. The spirit does not return to the earth, as it does not belong to the earth. The spirit returns to God who gave it to the body. God then judges the life of the spirit it had in the body and one of two judgments will be made. (Matthew 13:47-50)
God wants to forgive people of their sins and can because Jesus has paid that debt for their sin with His life. (John 3:16) If people accept Jesus for who He is and what He has done for them, then their spirits will go to Heaven. (John 14:2) People must believe on Jesus and invite Him into their lives as Lord and Savior. (John 1:12)
People who have not accepted the free offer from Jesus cannot benefit from the kindness of God. God will judge them guilty of their transgressions against His Word. This is the other side of God’s love, justice and it is unavoidable. (Luke 16:19-26; Revelation 20:11-15)
Verse 8 All is Vanity
Solomon began this book stating that all is vanity. His meaning of the word vanity is without proper purpose. Now near the end of the book we see that his opinion has not changed.
Here Solomon has described life and death as vanity. He has used this word constantly through his book in ways to describe people’s lives, their thoughts, and their work. His meaning is that people are very weak and they care about things that do not matter. Their labors are for things that have no real value and they love things that are not important. Their activities are without proper purpose and they achieve nothing really worthwhile. And of course they achieve nothing by their deaths.
Solomon’s thoughts of God are very different. People should respect God. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-4) All that God does is perfect. (Deuteronomy 32:4) God’s Word achieves its purpose. (Isaiah 55:11) God does nothing that is vain. Even God’s creation of man was perfect. (Ecclesiastes 7:29) For this reason people should think about their relationship to God. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
People’s life accomplishments amount to nothing because they do not care about their relationship with God. Instead they worry about their possessions, their desires, and their feelings. For people who have chosen to serve God it is different. They have a true relationship with God and He looks out for them. (Job 1:8-10) God’s people does God’s work so their efforts are not in vain.
Purpose of the Preacher
Verses 9-10 King Solomon the Great Teacher
King Solomon was a great and wise king. (1 Kings 4:29-34) His words of wisdom made him famous across the world. (2 Chronicles 9:1-8; 2 Chronicles 9:22-23) Solomon’s wisdom was a gift from God. (1 Kings 3:5-12) Solomon did not study to become wise but studied because he was wise. (Proverbs 9:9) Solomon did not acquire his knowledge just for His benefit but along with his duties he taught the people. It is possible that one of Solomon’s students put the book of Ecclesiastes into its present form. This student wanted to use the Wisdom of Solomon to teach people that they need to have a right relationship with God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Solomon studies the nature of people very carefully and he could see that people were wasting their lives in meaningless activity. His message was to get people to think seriously about their lives.
Like many great teachers the life of Solomon is disappointing to us. If he had followed his own advice, then he would not have carried out the evil acts of his life. (1 Kings 11:1-10) This fact alone teaches us that we should not place our faith and trust in man but in God alone. The wisdom that God gives is far superior to that of any man. God will give us that wisdom.
Verses 11-12 Advice About Books
Solomon now gives us his advice on books in general. In the earlier times of the Bible people did not buy books but copied old books. This was their method of study and it was hard work.
Even at that time there were many books and some were not worthwhile for the student to copy and study. The students would chose the books that would make them wise and the books of God’s commands, the Bible, was the best book.
Solomon compares books of wisdom to two sharp objects, goads and nails. The farmer would plough his land with a goad. This was a long stick with a sharp point. Large oxen would pull the plough across the land. If one of the oxen went the wrong way the farmer would use the goad to control it. The goad was painful to the oxen and it soon learned the lesson. Wise words are sometimes unpleasant but they teach correct behavior and attitudes when we are doing something wrong.
The nails are probably pegs. Pegs are sharp objects that hold a tent in its place. The pegs would be hammered deep into the ground so they would have a firm hold. Wise words are like something that fixes deep into our lives. They are not popular stories that have shallow effect on our emotions. Words of wisdom effects every part of our lives. The shepherd is God. (Psalm 23:1) A shepherd is one who looks after animals. God as a shepherd guides and directs our lives.
Verse 13 Respect God and obey his commands
Many find the book of Ecclesiastes hard to understand. Here at the end of the book Solomon gives his own explanation of the meaning of the book. If there is still confusion of other parts of the book this statement is clear.
We can see with this statement that the book of Ecclesiastes does not teach a different message from the rest of the Bible. In this book Solomon teaches us that we must have a right relationship with God and we must be loyal to Him. In our loyalty we must obey His commands. The commands of God can be found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The most important command is that people should love God with all their hearts. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
God wants to change the minds and hearts of people so they will love Him and His law. (Hebrews 8:10-12) God wants to forgive people so they will not have to suffer His wrath. We cannot build a relationship with God by obeying His commands because we will not succeed. (James 2:10) We need God to change our lives, (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17) This is why God sent His Son Jesus. (1 John 4:9-10) Jesus suffered our punishment so we can have a right relationship with God. (Isaiah 53:4-6; John 3:16-17; Galatians 3:10-14)
Verse 14 God Is the Judge of All Our Deeds
In the early chapters the subject of the book is the works that people do. In the later chapters the subject is the judgment of God. In the last verse of the book it is about both these subjects. It declares that God is the judge of all our deeds.
Solomon has insisted that people can labor their whole lives and receive no benefit. All of their life’s labors achieve nothing. That is nothing that really matters. They might become rich and live long lives. But if they do not have a right relationship with God all these things of life benefit nobody. They will never find satisfaction for their own desires and if they face God’s judgment unprepared they will be lost in eternity.
The judgment of God has never been a popular subject. Solomon knows that all people are guilty of evil deeds. People have neglected God’s Law and have done so on purpose. God knows all that we have done even the things we have done in secret.
Because all people are guilty some have tried to do things that will satisfy God. They try to please God by their weak works. But this is foolish behavior, as God’s judgment is certain. The only way to prepare for God’s judgment is to have a right relationship with God. We cannot earn this relationship by our works we must receive it as a free gift from God. (Romans 4:4-5) The free gift is for people who trust God and God forgives those people. (Romans 4:6-8) God then looks after them in a special way. Their lives on this earth will be much like the lives of others but their judgment will be completely different.
There is a difference in this world between foolish and wise behavior. Real wisdom is a gift from God. (Proverbs 2:1-6) Through that wisdom people can receive a right relationship with God. (Proverbs 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25) The person who serves God has no reason to fear God’s judgement. (2 Peter 3:10-13) The fact of God’s judgment for them will to be free from all that is evil. (Revelation 21:1-5)