‘The conclusion of the matter’ Ecc. 11:7-10 & 12:1-14

Publié le 18 octobre 2020 dans Non classé

We are coming to the end of Ecclesiastes. The end of this book talks about the end of life. All philosophers agree: if we are looking for the meaning of life, if we are looking for wisdom in life, it means thinking about death.

Let’s read Ecclesiastes 

Chapter 11: 7 – 10

7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8 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.  9 You who are young, be happy while you are young, 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. 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.  

Chapter 12 1-14 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”— 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 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; 4 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; 5 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. 6 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, 7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” 9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Do you like riddles? I found this one on the internet: 

A car speeds off with no lights and arrives in a village with a power failure. A man, dressed all in black, is crossing a pedestrian crossing. The conductor breaks and stops just in time so as not to run the man over. How was he able to avoid hitting the pedestrian?

Ecclesiastes also loves riddles. This is one of the meanings of the translated word “vanity”. This book offers us all an enigma. And not the least. This is the great enigma of life, and it would be folly not to think about it. Here it is: if all is vanity, all turns to dust, whats the point? The point in living? What is the point of working? Why ?

As the famous Russian writer Tolstoi once said: Is there a meaning in life that would not be destroyed by the death that inevitably awaits me? (He took this question so seriously, and so much so he did not have a good answer during a period of his life: “I removed a rope from my room where I undressed myself every night, afraid to hang myself from the beam between the cupboards; and I gave up taking a gun with me on hunting trips so as not to be tempted to end my life too easily. ”!)

Most of us don’t take the matter this seriously, we move on to the next image on instagram, the next youtube video, etc, but God has gone so far as to give us this book of Ecclesiastes to make us think about the question and find an answer.

In his conclusion, the Ecclesiaste will give us a lead to solve the riddle of life. Ecclesiastes encourages us to take the one certain thing in the future – our death – and from that certainty, go back in time and see how to integrate this reality with the rest of life. In other words, we are ready to live when we are ready to die. To help us do this, he makes three appeals:

1) Rejoice, 2) remember, 3) prepare

1. Rejoice

In these verses, youth and old age are compared with day and night, dawn and dusk. The picture begins in 11v7-8 and continues in 12v1: Young man, rejoice in your youth.

(Good news this morning: the definition of youth in the Bible is more flexible than ours. You can be young at 40, 50, 60….!)

It is true that the Ecclesiaste often repeats that « All is vanity », all is incomprehensible, all is enigma, but that does not mean that all is bad. He himself recognizes that there are so many beautiful and good things in life, and he calls us to live fully, joyfully! Of course, this is easier to do when you are young, when you have better health, more time, mental faculty, etc. Let’s never forget the beauty of life and the privilege of being alive!

11v9 is even more amazing! “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see  …” (I feel as a pastor that I have to tell people the opposite …) “… but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.  ”

Sometimes we focus on God’s few prohibitions, but forget all that he gave for our joy. Yes, he says no to adultery, but he says yes to marriage, to nature, to music, to good meals, to art, to sport, etc. And God can also call us to judgment for not having rejoiced, for not having thanked him for the good things he gives. If my child steals a bike for fun, I will call him for judgment, but also, if I give him a quality bike for his birthday, and he never touches it, or takes care of it, or if he throws it in the trash, I might not be happy.

Some advice for young people, (and since we are all young!)

Do not waste your youth, and the health that God gives us. There is an energy, there is an availability, 11v4: « Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap ».  This means that if we wait for the perfect moment to do something, we won’t. A spiritual journey with God.

Don’t idolize youth. 11v10 “So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless”. You know all the heartache and pain that comes with getting old. Look at all that our society offers to slow down old age, with products and operations that can be harmful. Ecclesiastes advises us against this naive search for an eternal youthfulness of the body and its fleeting pleasures.

The joys of this world, the joys of youth will be better appreciated if you remember that they are fleeting, that they are not the ultimate reason for living.

2. Remember

Ecclesiastes 12: 1 « Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come » …

and then begins a description of the aging of the body, until death. a house that is falling apart. (guardians, strong men stoop might recall legs, bones, those who mold, teeth, those who look out of windows, eyes, almond blossoms, white horses, silver cord, the mud, the seal and the wheel, images taken from a well, water which often depicts life in the Bible.)

This certain future for us is sad but useful. For Ecclesiastes, it is almost good news that we are going to die, because it makes us think, He had already said in chapter 7: 2 « It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart ».  Not only take it to heart, but remember our Creator.

Remember that we are the creature, and not the Creator. The earlier in life you understand this, the better it is to make wise decisions. As Jacques Ellul says, « All the misfortunes, and I insist, all the misfortunes in the world, come from a man who considers himself as the Creator. » If there is one thing that reminds us that we are not God, it is the process of aging and death.

Remembering your Creator is not just remembering God as we remember birthdays. Tina’s baptism this morning, shows what it is to remember her Creator in the days of her youth … It is to put Him first. He created me for a reason, and I want to align my life with that reason, with His will.

When we are young this is not easy to do, because this is an age when it seems that you don’t need God, everything is fine. and in the later years of life it is not easy either, because the physical and mental faculties and the motivation are not there. Of course, one can turn to God at any time, even in his advanced old age, but it is still a rare step.

3. Prepare

In v10, the chorus is repeated one last time, and after that there is the conclusion of the matter. He will give the answer to his riddle. The answers to riddles often surprise us by their simplicity, their obviousness.

Everything that is written in the book is not just someone going through a moment of depression and screaming their frustration at the universe. It was calculated to make us think, to make us wise. Look at how the words of this book are described, v10-13 pleasant words (“a time for everything”, “vanity of vanities”, “silver cord”), goads (a stick with a point to advance the oxen), and nails firmly embedded … 

All this to fight against the great danger of indifference.

What is the meaning of life ? How do we escape his vanity? v13-14: « Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil ».   

You don’t need thousands of books, or thousands of years of study to figure that out. Otherwise, everything is vanity, and nothing makes sense. Ecclesiastes has shown us that without a Creator, God, without judgment, nothing matters. What gives meaning to our life is to live for God and prepare for his eternity. Faith and obedience to his Word.

The rest of the Bible shows that the great commandment of God is to believe in and love Jesus. It is he who prepares us for death, judgment and eternity. He took our judgment, our condemnation upon himself, and he rose from the dead. When he died there was darkness, when he rose again it was dawn. Jesus lived this chapter in reverse to lead us into life and light. If you have this truth in your heart, you are ready to live and ready to die.